Segments in this Video

Discovering Super Plants (03:07)


Super plants can be used to extract metals from the soil and to clean up contaminated areas.

Hyperaccumulator Plants (04:01)

A scientist in New Caledonia is researching plants that can extract heavy metals from the ground, including nickel, which is toxic to plants. The scientist is collecting these plants and preserving them by freezing them in liquid nitrogen.

Super Plants at Nickel Mines (02:40)

The mining companies are also investing in environmental programs. The land around the mines is to be rehabilitated with the help of the super plants. The plants are about a year old and they will probably cover the surface of the ground in about three to four years.

New Caledonian Super Plants (04:04)

Researchers are testing the feasibility of planting hyper-accumulator plants on waste dumps contaminated with heavy metals in order to harvest the metal-saturated leaves and obtain nickel from them.

Analyzing Super Plants in Australia (04:20)

The fundamental research on topics relating to super plants takes place in Melbourne, Australia. Located here is the Australian Synchrotron, a state of the art particle accelerator. Here, Anthony van der Ent analyses the plants that he has collected in the jungle of New Caledonia.

How Super Plants Work (04:41)

A retired professor of biology in England discovered plants that can hyperaccumulate heavy metals in abandoned lead mines in the Peak District. The research was stymied for a long time because no university was willing to fund it, but the work has now really got going again because the patents on the technical processes used to make money from the plants have expired.

Yellow Tuft in Albania (03:38)

A plant called Alyssum morale, or yellow tuft, can solve urgent problems in Albania. The farmers here are pioneers and will be the first farmers in the world to cultivate plants in order to harvest not food but nickel.

Nickel Harvest Quality (02:25)

The team is investigating whether the quality of the harvest has improved now that the soil has been tilled with a tractor. The researcher is also checking the nickel content in different plant parts. The team is pleased with the results of the experiment.

Alyssum Smolikanum (03:16)

Alyssum smolikanumm is a close relative of yellow tuft, a hyperaccumulator plant that can extract nickel from the soil. Scientists are studying these plants in their natural environment to learn more about their ability to accumulate nickel and other metals.

Alyssum Murale Production (02:34)

The plant is harvested and either baled or put into bags. The ground biomass is burned in a furnace, and the nickel becomes concentrated in the ash. The ash is further processed in the chemistry laboratory of the University of Nancy, where the nickel is finally obtained from the ashes.

Uses for Nickel Compounds (02:52)

Some plants can extract nickel from the ground and produce a nickel compound.These compounds are found in many products that we use every day.

Phytomining Breakthrough (05:21)

Scientists in Nancy, France are researching the potential of hyperaccumulator plants to extract precious metals from the ground. These metals include platinum, palladium, and cobalt, which are expensive and used in catalytic converters and medical technology. The scientists are also investigating how to optimize the cultivation of known hyperaccumulator plants in order to improve their ability to extract metals from the soil.

Contamination in Germany (03:08)

In the German town of Bestwig, lead and cadmium are so heavily polluted in the soil that food should not be grown there. However, one plant, meadow rock cress, Arabidopsis halleri, flourishes in Beswig even in places where nothing else grows. In future, it could be used for the decontamination of industrial sites.

Cadmium Pollution in Germany (04:17)

Some plants are able to accumulate metals in their leaves to the point where they can be harvested and sold for profit. These plants may eventually be used to clean up pollution while earning money at the same time.

Credits (01:14)


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Superplants – Or How to Make Money from Saving the Environment

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Some discoveries sound almost too fantastic to be credible. Did you know that there are plants that can suck heavy metals out of the ground? And to such an extent that they can be used to clean contaminated soils or to cultivate valuable commodities in a field as easily as grain or vegetables. Phytomining is one of the most exciting scientific discoveries in years and the field is still in its infancy. Since the discovery of these super plants, scientists around the world have been engaged in a race for the most spectacular potential applications. On the Pacific island of New Caledonia, they are being used to make contaminated soils fertile again. In Albania, farmers are now growing nickel plants on formerly barren land. And in a French laboratory, researchers are testing an even more startling variant: what if, one could use these plants to not only extract poisonous heavy metals from the ground but expensive precious metals too? It is already working for platinum - and there are even plants that can enrich themselves with gold. The possibilities seem endless. And the research has only just begun, because for many long years the potential of super plants has been completely underestimated; the stories about trees whose sap comprises 25% nickel, or of plants that can extract highly poisonous cadmium from the ground sounded completely incredible. Now we have a unique opportunity to see a scientific revolution as it develops.

Length: 52 minutes

Item#: BVL207042

ISBN: 978-1-64867-833-2

Copyright date: ©2016

Closed Captioned

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