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Watermeal

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

Source: WION

 Context: Scientists are conducting research on watermeal, the world’s smallest flowering plant, to explore its potential as a source of nutrition and oxygen for astronauts.

  • The study, conducted at the European Space Agency’s (ESA) ESTEC technical centre in the Netherlands, involves subjecting watermeal to hypergravity conditions using ESA’s Large Diameter Centrifuge (LDC), which can replicate gravity levels up to 20 times that of Earth.
  • The researchers placed watermeal samples in specially designed boxes equipped with LED lighting to mimic natural sunlight and subjected them to hypergravity conditions within the LDC. After two weeks of experimentation, they will examine the watermeal plants and conduct chemical analyses on solid pellet extracts to understand how hypergravity affects their growth and development.

 

Watermeal, known for its tiny size and floating habit on water bodies, offers a unique subject for this research due to its simplicity and rapid growth rate. It lacks roots, stems, or leaves, making it an ideal candidate for studying the effects of altered gravity on plant development.

Watermeal is not only scientifically intriguing but also has practical benefits. It is a prolific producer of oxygen through photosynthesis and a rich source of protein. In Thailand, it has been part of the local diet for generations.