STTR Phase I: Feasibility of Generating Electricity Using Thermal Energy Extracted From Existing Underground Coal & Waste Bank Fires

Award Information
National Science Foundation
Award Year:
Phase I
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Small Business Information
Drakon Energy LLC
1064 Vali Road, Powell, WY, 82435
Hubzone Owned:
Minority Owned:
Woman Owned:
Principal Investigator:
Lance Stebner
() -
Business Contact:
() -
Research Institution:
US Air Force Academy

2354 Fairchild Drive
Colorado Springs, CO, 80907

Nonprofit college or university
This Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase I project is to develop an innovative, cost-effective, real time biosensor system that uses plants to monitor water and soil quality. Monitoring heavy metal contaminants in the environment, particularly in large or remote areas, is often cost-prohibitive due to the expense of the extensive sampling required to adequately assess heterogeneous distribution of the contaminants. The development of plant biosensors that indicate the presence of heavy metals could offer high spatial resolution, standoff reporting, ready scaling to large treatment areas, and continuous operation of an in-situ monitoring approach. The system could be used to detect and monitor metal concentrations in contaminated soil, water, or landfill leachate, before, during and after remedial activities, and used for risk assessment by monitoring the levels of bioavailable metals in the environment. This Phase I project seeks to take advantage of recent discoveries of a metal responsive promoter in Brassica juncea and link it to overexpression of anthocyanin production. The production of anthocyanins in response to metal uptake by the plant will create a visible (i.e., purple coloration) indicator of metal accumulation. By transforming plants with the anthocyanin regulatory gene, B, which activates anthocyanin production under the control of a metal responsive promoter (MRP) element, this project will develop plants that express high levels of anthocyanins only in the presence of certain metal ions. Such plants could then be used to monitor the concentration of pollutant metal ions. The development would also provide a valuable research tool for studying heavy metal accumulation in plants. The commercial application of this project is in the area of detection of heavy metal contaminants in soil. Improving the ability to accurately monitor and assess heavy metal contamination will improve awareness of contaminated areas and provide a low cost assessment of private sites by homeowners, farmers, and industry. Of particular usefulness would be the ability of farmers to detect the potential bioavailability of heavy metals to food crops.

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