Sunday 21 December, 2014

Scientist to spend 48-hrs in airtight container with 160 plants to keep him alive

Published On: Fri, Sep 9th, 2011 | Plant Sciences | By BioNews

A scientist is set to lock himself up in an airtight box for two days and use only the oxygen generated by plants to keep him breathing.

Professor Iain Stewart will conduct the experiment next week at the Eden Project, a “plant zoo” near St Austell, Cornwall, to underline the importance of photosynthesis.

The box measures 2m by 6m by 2.5m (6ft 6in by 20ft by 8ft) and will contain plants known to produce large quantities of oxygen, such as miscanthus grass, zea mays maize and banana trees.

The experiment has been tried before with a mouse, when eighteenth-century scientist Joseph Priestly showed that the creatures were able to survive in a box full of plants, but perished without them.

The Eden Project”s curator of horticulture is hoping that the human version of the test will drive home just how important Earth”s vegetation is.

“Plants produce the oxygen we need to breathe. They are just there in the background, but most people don”t give them a second thought,” the Daily Mail quoted him as telling the Times.

“We don”t know exactly how it is going to work out because it is an experiment that hasn”t been done before,” he revealed.

The experiment carries some risk, because the volume of plant life in the box is calculated to be the bare minimum needed to survive.

What”s more, the oxygen levels will be “scrubbed” beforehand so that Professor Stewart, who lectures in Geoscience at the University of Plymouth, is extra-reliant on the oxygen the plants will produce from the carbon dioxide he breathes.

However, the air will be constantly monitored to make sure he doesn”t suffer from oxygen starvation.

The experiment is being filmed for the BBC show ”How Plants Made The World”, which will be aired next March.

The programme aims to remind us how without oxygen-producing plants, it would be impossible to survive as we wouldn”t be able to breathe or grow crops.

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