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Skoltech experts unlock secret to purifying soil contaminated with heavy metals

Russian and Czech scientists fine-tuned the in-situ technology for restoring soil contaminated with heavy metals

MOSCOW, June 26. /TASS/. An agent for restoring soil contaminated with heavy metals, which stimulates the soil microbiome to repair itself and reduces the level of toxicity of organisms, has been cultivated by scientists from Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech) together with their Czech colleagues, Skoltech’s press office reported.

The search for the most effective remediation agents (substances that repair soil after pollution by heavy metals) is now a pressing issue across the globe because of the continuing growth of areas contaminated by heavy metals. One of the most environmentally safe and affordable remediation technologies is applying natural carbon-containing substances to the soil, which absorb heavy metals and enable the microbial community’s self-recovery.

Russian and Czech scientists fine-tuned the in-situ technology for restoring soil contaminated with heavy metals. They managed to experimentally select the type and concentration of substances that upon being introduced into the contaminated soil not only seriously immobilize the heavy metals, but also induce the soil biome to repair itself and create a healthier environment for soil organisms by lowering toxicity.

Researchers from the Skoltech Center for Computational and Data-Intensive Science and Engineering (CDISE) and their colleagues from the Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague (CULS) studied three types of low-cost and affordable samples such as biochar (coal after special treatment), humic agent (organic substances formed from protein degradation) and ash. During the course of the experiments, they found out that different amounts of these substances influence the state of contaminated soil and picked the most effective agent, which not only fights pollution but also stimulates the process of soil repairing itself.

"We believe that humic substances hold the best promise because they exerted the most positive effect on the whole range of indicators that were studied, but of course further research is needed," said Skoltech Researcher Maria Pukalchik, who is also the study’s co-author. The results of the research were published in the journal Chemosphere.