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How Can A Tumbleweed Prevent The Spread Of Deserts Across The World?

Desertification, for those of you who don't know, is a catch-all term used to refer to the process that occurs when a particular environment becomes increasingly arid, eventually losing bodies of water, vegetation, and wildlife. It's troublesome, it's serious, and it's effectively irreversible. Although we have general ideas of what causes it - human beings being irresponsible with their resources is a big factor - it's actually an incredibly complex environmental issue. 

That's probably why no one has actually found a solution...yet. 

Industrial designer Shlomi Mir is intimately familiar with desertification and its impact. He's based in Jerusalem, which is situated in a region not exactly known for having a damp climate. The trouble, of course, is that the environment there seems to become more arid with each passing year - and no one's quite sure how to stop it. 

"We don't know how deserts spread and how dunes move," noted Mir. "We need more information in order to develop algorithms to predict where the next problems will be -- and how it's possible to fix them." The problem, of course, is that gathering this information isn't exactly an easy task.

"Land-based autonomous systems have always been the biggest challenge," Mir explained. "It's much harder for something to get around on land. Traversal requires more power, and there are many more obstacles one might encounter. 

With this in mind, Mir - after spending a bit of time studying the desertification issue - came up with the concept of Tumbleweed: a round, autonomous wind-powered robot designed to roll along the desert sands, gathering information as it went. Originally, Mir also intended to pack the robot with seeds, as well; it would drop seeds into the desert sands as it rolled along, eventually allowing plant life to return to the region. After a bit more research, he realized that such a concept wasn't really workable.

"It's not like if you spread seeds in the desert, it will become green; it's much more complicated than that," he explained to Wired. "There's no real silver bullet in an ecological problem like desertification, and gathering information would be far more beneficial to scientists than a TED-esque solution." 

"I think we have to be really honest with ourselves about what an idea can and cannot do," he added. 

Since his realization, he's been working closely with researchers to modify his Tumbleweeds in order to make them smaller and nimbler. The idea is that a swarm of these little robots could be released into a desert region, recording each others' motion across the sands and allowing scientists to map out wind patterns across the dune. This in turn could help them figure out how the dunes move - and how to prevent the sand from spreading. 

So how exactly does the Tumbleweed accomplish this?

Well...it pretty much moves just like a real tumbleweed. The robot's structure is composed of robust steel, and relies on tension. What this means is that Tumbleweed can adapt its shape based on what path it wants to take; onboard computer systems and sensors are powered using a kinetic motor. Although it can't actually control its direct path, Mir designed the robot so that it will respond to favorable wind conditions; until a gust comes along, Tumbleweed can simply flatten itself out and play the waiting game. 

Desertification is a serious environmental problem, and far too complicated for a simple, catch-all solution. While the Tumbleweed might not be the ultimate answer to the encroaching sands, it's definitely a good start. Equipped with new information gathered by a fleet of Tumbleweed drones, scientists might finally come to understand desertification...and how to halt it. 

Comments
Feb 7, 2014
by Anonymous

Dear all, We have to be

Dear all,
We have to be practical no dreams. We are facing aggressive desertification. We have to force it to slow down and stop it from making more damage and more sufferings for mankind and sustainable environment as soon as we can..
We are ready to help.
We are working for many years in this and large trails of planting sugarcane report is in our hand reducing irrigation instead of every 3 days to 6 days and large increase in production and the population of the sugar cane plants per feddan using 500 Kg/H.

Super Absorbent Polymer (SAP) Experiment
From Polykem
crop season 2013/2014
(second season)
crop cycle = Plant cane
Variety = Co 6806
Location = 32116

Simple & Brief Data Analysis table
Parameters
Treatment (ton Ha) Cane yield (TCF) Stalk Height (cm) Population/feddan
control 42.3 279 40320
0.5 49.95 302 44800
1.0 44.35 273 40320
1.5 43.15 271 43120
2.0 47.15 305.5 42840
2.5 44.35 295.5 43680
Mean 45.15 287.7 42513
Cv% 11.22 7.2 7.4

Notes:
1. TCF = Ton Cane per Feddan
2. Population means number of plants per feddan.

Dr. Saleh bin Abbas Al-Ghamdi Baha, Saudi Arabia, for planting first forest in the globe of olive trees using minimal amount of water, which began production of olives from the first year from planting planted 7000 olive trees and some fruit trees produced from the first year 13 Tones of olives from 7 deferent kind and produced from it 3 tones of excellent oil.
Mango trees and Jawafa and Laymen started production from the first year with very little amount of water.
Kindly see these pictures: started production on 21 days.

We can minimize desertification use less water for irrigation and increase production of food and improve economics and land degradation
In a very short time naturally using The Agriculture Super Absorbent polymer invented by Polykem Sarl from Switzerland.
Application of super chemistry for degraded or polluted lands
Prof. Dr. Aloys Huttermann from Gottingen University in Germany with his scientific paper published at the world respected and leading Journal in environment (www.clean-journal.com) July 2009 concerning Applications of Super Absorbent Polymer for improving ecological chemistry of degraded or polluted lands reached the conclusion:
“SAP amendment to degraded soils could be indeed the only possible answer to both global food and energy demand”.
We recommend: www.oeconomicae.com
http://www.oeconomicae.com/survey
Anja Anastasja Keller

Short video/film a YouTube links:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdq7KEJQHSo
http://www.oeconomicae.com/survey
Praugh Energy Globe Award For Agriculture Sustainability - YouTube
Chairman of Polykem Sarl & Estefa Group
Technology Development Director
Mob: Saudi Arabia:+ 9665 04117242
Mob . Switzerland: + 41 799542909
Ibrahim.alalim@polykem.com
www.polykem.com
info@polykem.com