highly absorbent material that separates oil film from water could be a new
tool to clean water. After removing oil, the silylated nanocellulose sponge
keeps its shape enough to be removed with pincers from water, according to an
Empa Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology
(Dübendorf, Switzerland) news release.
Tanja Zimmermann and Philippe Tingaut, in collaboration with University of
Bordeaux (Bordeaux, France) researcher Gilles Sebe, developed the material. In
laboratory tests, the sponges absorbed up to 50 times their weight in mineral
oil or engine oil, the news release says.
cellulose, the basic material for the sponges, is extracted from
cellulose-containing materials such as wood pulp, agricultural byproducts such
as straw, or waste materials such as recycled paper. Water is added to these
materials and the aqueous pulp is pressed through several narrow nozzles at a
high pressure. The process produces a suspension with gel-like properties
containing long and interconnected cellulose nanofibres. When water from the
gel is replaced with air by freeze-drying, a nanocellulose sponge is formed,
the news release says.
modified the chemical properties of the nanocellulose by mixing a reactive
alkoxysilane molecule into the gel before freeze-drying, ensuring the sponge
only binds with oily substances, the news release says.
In the laboratory,
the sponge absorbed test substances of engine oil, silicone oil, ethanol,
acetone, or chloroform within seconds. The researchers plan on fine-tuning the
sponges so they can be used in real disasters, the news release says.
moonlight as scientific vessels
cruise lines are aiding the pursuit of science. Through the University of
Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science’s OceanScope
Program, monitoring equipment installed on Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (Miami)
ships and now the Celebrity Cruises (Miami) Celebrity Equinox, tracks ocean
circulation dynamics and measures atmospheric and oceanographic conditions,
according to a university news release.
equipment transmits data gathered from around the world hourly through a
satellite link. Larger data sets are transferred by Internet connection when
the ships are at ports, the news release says.
record ocean temperature, salinity, and chlorophyll concentration, as well as
properties of the ocean’s surface such as reflectance and absorbance. In
addition, they measure meteorological properties such as wind speed, wind
direction, barometric pressure, and humidity. The data will help scientists
monitor, understand, and forecast climate change, and its effects on marine
ecosystems, the news release says.
As dust settles in
the Gulf, bacteria levels rise
temperatures rise, landscapes dry and dust rises. The dust plumes from the
Saharan and Sahel deserts in Africa travel far, eventually being deposited in
the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico, according to a Texas
A&M University–Corpus Christi news release.
assistant professor of Marine Biology at Texas A&M University–Corpus
Christi is studying the effects of global climate change on the growth of such
marine bacteria as vibrio. Bacteria absorb nutrients from dust that falls in
oceans and use these nutrients to survive and multiply. More dust in oceans
could trigger a population explosion of bacteria, the news release says.
Wetz is working to
understand how climate and human-driver environmental change affects coastal
water quality, he said in the news release. He will collaborate with Erin Lipp
and Liz Ottesen from the University of Georgia (Athens), Bill Landing from
Florida State University (Tallahassee), Dale Griffin from the U.S. Geological
Society, and Blair Sterba-Boatwright from Texas A&M–Corpus Christi. The
project is set to take place in the Florida Keys, the news release says.
Tracking local drug
use through wastewater
now can track trends in illicit drug use by sampling wastewater. The Sewage
Analysis CORe group Europe (Oslo, Norway) network analyzed wastewater in more
than 40 cities to explore the drug-taking habits of residents, according to a
European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (Lisbon, Portugal) news
was conducted to assess geographical differences and temporal changes in
illicit drug use in metropolitan settings. By sampling a known source of
wastewater, such as influent to a water resource recovery facility, scientists
now can estimate the quantity of drugs used in a community by measuring the
levels of illicit drugs and their metabolites excreted in urine, the news
The study analyzed daily wastewater samples in the catchment areas of
facilities from London to Nicosia, Greece, and Stockholm to Lisbon during one
week in April 2012 and March 2013. In 2012, the study involved 23 cities in 11
countries. In 2013, the study broadened to include 42 cities in 21 countries.
Wastewater from approximately 8 million people was analyzed for traces of
amphetamines, cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy, and methamphetamine, the news release
Findings showed marked regional variations in drug use patterns. For
example, traces of cocaine were higher in western and some southern cities.
Weekly patterns also were identified. Cocaine and ecstasy levels rose sharply
during weekends in most cities while methamphetamine and cannabis use appeared
to be more evenly distributed throughout the week, the news release says.
Findings from the study were published in the journal Addiction.
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