Ramen-loving researcher mixes business with pleasure.

Among types of ramen, one of the most popular is the variety with pork bone broth known as “tonkotsu.” Although not the healthiest of the bunch, it certainly packs a punch in the flavor department.

But it was the brilliant mind of researcher and self-proclaimed ramen-lover Yurina Sekine with the Japan Atomic Energy Agency who thought that tonkotsu ramen was so delicious, you could even clean up radioactive spills with it. So she borrowed some bones from her local ramen restaurant and started experimenting.

It was already established knowledge that pigs bones, as well as cow bones, are particularly good at absorbing radioactive substances. However, no one had really put this knowledge to use until now.

Sekine first thoroughly boiled the bones to remove all the fat and collagen. Then, she soaked them in a solution of baking soda. The end result is something like a loofah with high amounts of carbonic acid that draws in radioactive strontium found in nuclear waste and the heavy metals cadmium and lead.

▼ News report showing Sekine and her amazing pile of bones

These pig-bone loofahs can be easily placed into contaminated water or soil, such as that around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant, and help speed up the purifying process by rapidly soaking up some of the most harmful elements found in nuclear waste.

If all that wasn’t good enough, this method of decontamination also helps reduce food waste. It’s said that the food industry worldwide generates about 7.5 billion tons of bone waste per year. This also comes at a cost to businesses like ramen shops who spend between 500,000 and 1 million yen (US$4,500 and $9,500) each in a single year to dispose of their bones.

The combination of delicious ramen and scientific discovery naturally got many readers excited and a little hungry.

“Wow, ramen might one day save the world.”
“Pork bone and baking soda… She’s an alchemist!”
“This is amazing, and making me hungry.”
“I’m glad I always choose tonkotsu ramen now.”
“Achievements like this remind us that sometimes solutions to problems are hiding right out in the open.”
“Ramen is truly the strongest food in the world. It will save us all.”
“I’m glad there’s a use for all those used bones.”

Not only can these treated bones do the job, but according to Sekine’s research it is about 20 times as effective as natural zeolite, which is currently commonly used to absorb nuclear waste. However, one setback is that they can’t pick up the entire spectrum of radioactive elements found in nuclear waste.

Sekine is currently looking at ways to clean up other materials such as caesium. Perhaps a kind of miso or soy sauce pumice stone with extra bean sprouts might do the trick.

Source: TV Asahi
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