Introduction to Detergents and Plants
Detergents have only been around for about 85 years, even
though soaps have been around for about 3,000 years. Detergents
were first produces in Germany about the beginning of World War I.
Plants are one of four families in scientific classification. They
differ from animals in that they have chlorophyll and cell walls in their
Detergent is defined as "a cleansing substance that acts similarly
to soap but is made from chemical compounds rather than fats and lye."
by the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. Modern
detergents contain a chemical called a surfactant, which, defined by WordNet
1.6 is "A substance capable of reducing the surface tension of a liquid
in which it is dissolved." This allows the detergent to spread further,
penetrate better and clean much more efficiently. With the addition
of "builders," which make the surfactants work much better. Detergents
are used mainly for four different things: personal cleansing, laundry,
dish washing and house cleaning.
Detergents are far from being as old as soap, but today they
are the best selling method of washing clothes and dishes.
Detergent popularity has grown exponentially since around 1950. In
between 1940 and 1972 the sales of detergents went from about 4,500 tons
per year to around 4,448,000 tons per year. At the same time, soap
sales went from 1,410,000 tons a year to 587,000 tons per years, decreasing
almost 30%, although sales in soap rose 4,000 tons per year from 1960 to
1972. Detergent sales surpassed the sales of soaps in 1953.
Detergents, as was stated, were first seen around the beginning
of W.W.I. The exact year is 1916. They were first used Because
of the war related shortage of fats. It were sold under the general
name Nekal. The discovery of detergents was in part because the people
where looking for a cleaning substance, that, unlike soaps, would not mix
with the minerals in water to make a wax like residue called "soap curd."
They were not as high quality detergents as we have now, and were used
mostly as wetting agents in textile work. The quality didn't change
much in the 20's and 30's, with only minor enhancements. The sales
for detergents really skyrocketed around the beginning of W.W.II,
with a shortage of fats and oils needed to produce soap. The military
badly needed a cleaning agent that wouldn't mix with the mineral rich waters
to make soap curd. The breakthrough came at the end of the war in
1946. Up to then detergents were used for hand dish washing and washing
sensitive clothing. The first all-purpose laundry detergent had surfactants
and builders. The builders greatly improved the efficiency of the
surfactants. By the end of 1950, soaps had almost been forgotten
as a way to wash clothes and dishes, but were still used at the same time
as detergents. Through the years, detergents have changed a lot.
In the 50ís detergents were used in dishwashers and for the laundry.
They were adapted to be bleaches. Fabric softeners were also developed.
In the 70ís they manufactured liquid hand soap. In the 80ís they
made liquid dishwasher detergent, detergents for colder water washing and
concentrated detergents. In the 90ís they manufactured super-concentrated
detergents and dishwasher gels.
Wisconsin Fast Plants
Wisconsin Fast Plant's scientific name is Brassica rapa, and is
commonly referred to as a Rapid Cycling Brassica rapa, or RCBr for short.
There are six other plants in the Brassicaea family, and are in the same
family as cabbage, mustard and turnips. All plants go from seed to
seed and RCBr go from seed to seed in less than 40 days and are in premium
growing conditions in twenty-four hour cool fluorescent light. This
is why they are often called the perfect classroom plant. Seeds can
be planted in a 2 cm pot and can grow to a height of 15 cm. The seed
is supposed to break the surface after 3 days. They are very easy
to manage and do not require much water per day. The current RCBr
grow about five times faster than its ancestors, but thanks to efforts
by Dr. Paul H. Williams they now grow much faster. Dr. Williams
teaches as a professor of plant pathology at the University of Wisconsin,
hence the name Wisconsin Fast Plants. Wisconsin Fast plants started
when Dr. Williams was trying to improve disease resistance in the Brassicaea
family. He spent almost 20 years breeding Brassica rapa until it
had developed into a small, fast growing plant. His result greatly
improve methods of cellular reasearch. He had many goals for the
plants. They had to grow quickly and start growing immidiatly.
They had to be small and have a high seed crop in high denstity.
They also had to grow well in potting soil.
Detergent are a relatively recent innovation that greatly improved
almost all kinds of cleaning. Wisconsin Fast Plants are a fast growing
plant that are very useful in classroom experiments.
DeMichele, William D. "Plants" World Book Encyclopedia,
Carter, Joseph L. Life Science: A Problem Solving Approach,
Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, 1996
Hershey, David R. Plant Biology Science Projects,
Reed, Catherine. Environment, 1992
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Third
WordNet ® 1.6, © 1997