Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Extremeophiles, Radioactive Waste and Swelling Mica

Light box imagery (one of sixty lightboxes with images of genome maps superimposed on images of cells, extremophiles, and baskets.
Lightbox with moveable lenses, photo/text imagery.
I am researching microorganisms, enzymes, and proteins (natural or genetically modified), as well as inorganic materials that have the ability to break-down radioactive waste, and thus could be deployed to clean up contaminated areas. The most "promising" microorganism is a bacteria called deinococcus radiodurans, which can be found growing in pools of water in which spent fuel rods from nuclear reactors are stored, and also in the hot springs and geisers of Yellowstone. Bioremediation, especially those proposals involving genetically modified organisms opens up another potential "can of worms." I am also researching a synthetic clay (Na-4) developed at Penn State U, called "swelling mica" which is currently being tested as a remediation agent to separate out radioactive isotopes from polluted water. A question is raised as to what happens to the clay once it has absorbed the radiation.
I am working with two research assistants, Chelsea Noggle (a MICA alum) and Emma Greenberg (an Emory Student). Another MICA Alum, Courtney "scrap" Wrenn, is my studio assistant.

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