Washington, August 22 : Tel Aviv University researchers have joined forces with a company to see the possibility of growing trees in such a manner that they provide all civic amenities like homes, playgrounds, and bus stops, among others.
Professors Yoav Waisel and Amram Eshel have revealed that pilot projects of 'eco-architecture' underway in the U.S., Australia, and Israel include benches for hospitals, playground structures, streetlamps and gates.
"The approach is a new application of the well-known botanical phenomenon of aerial root development. Instead of using plant branches, this patented approach takes malleable roots and shapes them into useful objects for indoors and out," says Prof. Eshel.
Commercial applications of the research are being developed by Plantware, a company founded in 2002.
Collaborative research by TAU and Plantware researchers revealed that certain species of trees grown aeroponically-in air instead of soil and water-do not harden, and that developed into a new method for growing "soft roots" that could easily turn living trees into useful structures.
The researchers believe that it may be possible to construct entire homes with the eco-friendly technology in the near future.
Plantware's CEO Gordon Glazer reckons that the first home prototype may be ready in about a decade, though the method of "growing your own home" can take years.
The research team is also investigating a latex-producing shrub, Euphoria tirucalii, which can be grown easily in the desert, as a source for biofuel.
Besides, the researcher are also genetically engineering plant roots to ensure "more crop per drop", an innovative approach to irrigation.