(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 end-of-semester concert will feature the 3rd through 8th grade students who have participated in the UTSA String Project this year. The event is free and open to the public.
Buena Vista Theater, Downtown Campus
The UTSA Department of Physics and Astronomy, Curtis Vaughan Observatory invites everyone to join them for their monthly stargazing event on top of the Flawn Science Building.
Curtis Vaughan Observatory, Main Campus
May’s Free Second Sunday at the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures features "Accordions Across Cultures," with performances of Mexican, German and Czech accordion music, a documentary screening and crafts for the kids.
UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures
This three-day event will focus on the tools, tactics and motives involved in computer and network attacks. Attendees from around the world will take part in world-class hands-on trainings and technical discussions.
H-E-B University Center Ballroom, Main Campus
Visit with faculty, alumni and students to discuss the benefits of and requirements for a Master Degree in Public Administration and/or the Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Administration & Leadership.
Meeting Assembly Room (BVB 1.338), Downtown Campus
UTSA Spring Commencement ceremony for the College of Architecture, Construction and Planning, the College of Education and Human Development and the College of Sciences.
UTSA Spring Commencement ceremony for the College of Business, the College of Public Policy and University College.
UTSA Spring Commencement ceremony for the College of Engineering and the College of Liberal and Fine Arts.
The UTSA community is invited to honor the roughly 2,600 UTSA staff members who contribute to the success of the university and its students.
H-E-B University Center Ballroom, Main Campus
Join UTSA faculty and staff, current students, and area central office administrators/program alumni to learn about this exciting accelerated and web-enhanced program leading to Texas Superintendent Certification. The event is free and open to the public.
BVB 1.322, Downtown Campus
Indonesian native follows his dream and returns to UTSA to earn a Ph.D.
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