(July 30, 2012) -- After three years of research, scholars at The University of Texas at San Antonio have created a process for injecting plants with polymers to develop a synthetic root system that stabilizes soil.
Once optimized, the composite material can be applied to structures and roadways, where soil stability is critical, and to dams, levees, embankments, landfills and other soil structures that are prone to landslides and erosion.
"The roots of plants and trees help keep soil in place," said Drew Johnson, associate professor in the UTSA Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. "However, plants are prone to diseases, drought, ageing and animal grazing, and when the plants die, their root systems weaken. This leaves the soil less stable and prone erosion or shifting. We thought that if we could fill the roots with a plastic that has a low biodegradability factor, we would get the benefits of the root system even after the plant dies."
Funded by a $354,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, Johnson, with help from Mark Appleford, UTSA assistant professor of biomedical engineering; Valerie Sponsel, UTSA professor of biology; and UTSA graduate student Karl Eisenacher, developed the composite material and tested it on the roots of Artemisia annual (Sweet Annie), a hardy plant that grows rapidly and has a dense root structure. The plant also has a single stem, making it ideal for polymer injections.
A series of tests comparing natural Sweet Annie roots to the same roots injected with the polymer suggest that the infusion of the polymer increased the root strength.
When the NSF reviewed the team's 2009 proposal, one reviewer noted, "This research is a beginning, in its infancy, high-risk, highly innovative, but with tremendous future potential."
The scholars now are seeking to optimize the process so the polymer permeates the outer parts of a root system, once it is injected.
>> Their article, "Strength Enhancement of Plant Roots through Polymer Infusions," was published recently in the Journal of Composite Materials.
This high school student exhibit features images, videos, interviews and writings that the students learned about while participating in "The Will to Adorn: African American Dress and the Aesthetics of Identity."
Institute of Texan Cultures, Hemisfair Campus
UTSA has a greater focus in 2018 to serve the local community. Learn the many opportunities you can get involved.
Student Union, 1st floor corridor, Main Campus
Dr. Ricky Jones, professor and chair of the Department of Pan-African studies at the University of Louisville. He will share his expertise on the impact of African American history on today’s society.
Student Union, Retama Auditorium (UC 2.02.02), Main Campus
Come meet STEM recruiters in person from companies across the nation that have full-time, part-time and/or internship opportunities.
Convocation Center, Main Campus
The summit is an opportunity to create an open forum for the community to share ideas and perspectives on civic engagement.
H-E-B University Center Ballroom (HUC 1.104), Main Campus
Meet recruiters in person from companies across the nation that have full-time and/or internship opportunities. Professional dress required.
Convocation Center, Main Campus
New exhibit of Latino and Latina artists is curated by Arturo Infante Almeida, art specialist and curator for the UTSA Art Collection. Opening Reception is Feb. 8; exhibit runs through June 10.
Centro de Artes Gallery, 102 S. Santa Rosa, San Antonio
The UTSA commnity is encouraged to get involved in this city-wide initiative to clean up the San Antonio area waterways. Roadsrunners will be cleaning up Maverick Creek on the west side of Main Campus.
Maverick Creek, Main Campus
The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.
To be a premier public research university, providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.
We encourage an environment of dialogue and discovery, where integrity, excellence, inclusiveness, respect, collaboration and innovation are fostered.