Graphene-based Seawater Sieve

A UK-based team of researchers has created a graphene-based sieve capable of removing salt from seawater.

The sought-after development could aid the millions of people without ready access to clean drinking water.

The promising graphene oxide sieve could be highly efficient at filtering salts, and will now be tested against existing desalination membranes.

It has previously been difficult to manufacture graphene-based barriers on an industrial scale.

Reporting their results in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, scientists from the University of Manchester, led by Dr Rahul Nair, show how they solved some of the challenges by using a chemical derivative called graphene oxide.

Isolated and characterised by a University of Manchester-led team in 2004, graphene comprises a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice. Its unusual properties, such as extraordinary tensile strength and electrical conductivity, have earmarked it as one of the most promising materials for future applications.

But it has been difficult to produce large quantities of single-layer graphene using existing methods, such as chemical vapour deposition (CVD). Current production routes are also quite costly.

On the other hand, said Dr Nair, “graphene oxide can be produced by simple oxidation in the lab”.

He told BBC News: “As an ink or solution, we can compose it on a substrate or porous material. Then we can use it as a membrane.

“In terms of scalability and the cost of the material, graphene oxide has a potential advantage over single-layered graphene.”

(Visit the source article via BBC news online!)

Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE

 

The last time the ocean was as acidic as it is now was 50 million years ago and the change occurred over millennia, not over decades.  We now know that the oceans cannot take infinite abuse.

The Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE is a 2 year competition worth $2 million dollars for team to create radical breakthroughs in measurement technology, namely ocean acidification (pH levels). The point of the competition is to accurately measure acidification for the first time. This alerts people to the fact that we’ve got a problem that is so important that someone is willing to put up private resources as a reward. One of the goals of this prize is to bring more instruments to the problem. There has been an ongoing dearth of data on the state of the health of the oceans. This is an opportunity to start fresh with new tools to share with the public what is really going on.

Measuring the pH in the oceans efficiently and effectively is no easy task. It isn’t only a challenge of accurate measurement but also the depth with which the sensors are able to sink and still perform.

Check out the source link at xprize.org for a video and to find out which team won the prize!

The ocean is critical for the planet and all living species. If competitions like this bring passionate endeavoring people together to make leaps, then what an amazing thing it would be for more such innovation-driven events to emerge.

Plastic-eating Caterpillar

Yet again, we find ourselves turning back to “mother-nature” for answers with regards to environmental restoration.

Announced on BBC news only days ago, we’ve now discovered a caterpillar that munches on plastic bags could hold the key to tackling plastic pollution, scientists say.

Researchers at Cambridge University have discovered that the larvae of the moth, which eats wax in bee hives, can also degrade plastic.

Experiments show the insect can break down the chemical bonds of plastic in a similar way to digesting beeswax.

Each year, about 80 million tonnes of the plastic polyethylene are produced around the world.

The plastic is used to make shopping bags and food packaging, among other things, but it can take hundreds of years to decompose completely.

However, caterpillars of the moth (Galleria mellonella) can make holes in a plastic bag in under an hour.

Dr Paolo Bombelli is a biochemist at the University of Cambridge and one of the researchers on the study.

“The caterpillar will be the starting point,” he told BBC News.

“We need to understand the details under which this process operates.

“We hope to provide the technical solution for minimizing the problem of plastic waste.”

Visit the source link on BBC News for more information!

Kirigami-inspired Solar Cells

Researchers at the University of Michigan have developed solar cells that are lighter than ever before, modeled after “kirigami,” the ancient Japanese art of paper cutting.

A team of engineers and an artist developed an array of small solar cells that can tilt within a larger panel, keeping their surfaces more perpendicular to the sun’s rays.

“The beauty of our design is, from the standpoint of the person who’s putting this panel up, nothing would really change,” said Max Shtein, associate professor of materials science and engineering. “But inside, it would be doing something remarkable on a tiny scale: the solar cell would split into tiny segments that would follow the position of the sun in unison.”

(Source link: University of Michigan)