Project Summary




"Remediation of Perchlorates Using Sunflowers"



Video Transcript:

I experimented with the sunflower, and its uses to makes our lives healthier.

You see, sunflowers absorb nutrients and water through their roots. They are unique in their ability to absorb toxic metals as well, removing soil impurities.

This is called phytoremediation.

My question was if sunflowers could remediate perchlorate, which is a chemical that has caused problems in the water supply of California. 

During the aerospace boom, perchlorate were used in rockets and dissolved into groundwater, making its way up into the ecosystem.

The problem has been so drastic that mulitple areas have shut down their water supply, and the we've lost millions to filter them.

I proposed that sunflowers could absorb perchlorate into its tissues, and then neutralize it through metabolic processes. This would let us harvest these sunflowers as a crop and food source.

Using hydroponics, I grew several seedlings over a period of a month, and then added a perchlorate solution directly for the roots to absorb. I hoped for the sunflower to continue growth and the perchlorate levels to drop. 

Using a control which did not receive the solution, I hoped to find correlations between levels of perchlorate and health of the organism. 

So what were the results?

SUCCESS!

Analysis showed that levels of this chemical dropped drastically, and the sunflower grew despite wind and low temp, absorbing perchlorate through the roots into its tissue.

My hypothesis was proven, but I still have questions to answer:

like if the root system can reach down into groundwater supplies.

If the perchlorate was destroyed in the sunflower

and if the plant is hardy enough to grow yearlong.

But like a seed, my results could grow into something much grander.

Plants play a vital role in how we breathe, eat, and live.

Perhaps with sunflowers, we can add another role: saving our planet, one bloom at a time.

Thank you for watching.


Note: My project uses a 0.05% sodium perchlorate solution to replace the more toxic potassium and ammonium perchlorates used in the aerospace industry.