Saturday, September 17, 2016

Six technologies that produce clean, safe drinking water

Source: https://www.engadget.com/2016/09/17/six-technologies-that-produce-clean-safe-drinking-water/

By Cat DiStasio

One in 10 people worldwide lack regular access to safe drinking water. In an effort to tackle this most basic humanitarian problem, engineers around the globe have developed a wide array of devices, large and small, that generate clean water. Each year, a slew of innovations aim to make the process easier, cheaper and more portable, as well as produce a yield high enough to make a real impact for some of the 663 million people who suffer from water shortages. Solutions range from using condensation methods to pull water from thin air, turning salty seawater into fresh water, or distributing UV light purification chips affordable enough for people to use at home. Only a few of these technologies are working outside the lab, but the ones that do have so far generated billions of gallons of clean water.

The Warka Water Tower

It took several years for the design of the Warka Water Tower to become a reality, but its first pilot program in a rural Ethiopian village was finally built earlier this year and began pulling clean water from thin air. The award-winning design is based on fog harvesting concepts, and it takes the form of an enormous cylinder constructed from bamboo and wrapped in recycled mesh. The tower is skirted by a canopy that provides shade for local residents to rest under while they funnel off condensed water from the tower's base. The Tower's makers plan to put it into mass production by 2019.

Tiny UV water purifier

Not all of the people lacking clean water live in drought-affected areas. Oftentimes, there is "water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink" due to contamination from pollution or other environmental issues. Water purification systems are often expensive and time-consuming, but researchers at Stanford University and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory recently developed a UV water purifier housed in a tiny black rectangle that cuts the lengthy process down from 48 hours to around 20 minutes. Although the device is a long way from mass production, lab tests on the prototype suggest that it could be the first step toward a new generation of water purification methods that help make dirty water drinkable.

The Pipe is floating solar-powered desalination plant

A new desalination project planned for California, dubbed The Pipe, made a splash this summer with its promise of providing 1.5 billion gallons of clean drinking water for the drought-stricken state. The solar-powered plant relies on electromagnetic desalination methods to turn seawater into clean water, filters the salty byproduct through thermal baths, and then flushes it back into the Pacific Ocean. The Pipe is also getting attention for its eye appeal, as it was designed to look more like a giant glittering sculpture than a piece of industrial equipment.

The World's largest fog harvester

The world's largest fog harvester uses giant mesh fences to trap dense fog in the Moroccan desert and turn it into clean, fresh water. With a surface area over 600 square meters, the contraption takes advantage of the fog blanketing the drought-stricken Aït Baâmrane region for six months out of the year. The fog harvester reportedly produces as much as 17 gallons of clean, safe drinking water per square yard of net. Solar-powered pumps, along with a system of pipes, deliver the clean water to 400 local residents, who ordinarily struggle to gain access to safe water in the arid region.

Nano Water Chip

The cost of clean water is a major obstacle for many thirsty people on Earth, so researchers look for affordable solutions for small scale, personal water purification. In 2014, a join research team from the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Marburg in Germany developed a low-drain "water chip" which generates a small electrical field to desalinate seawater. Early in its development, the water chip promised to offer a portable clean water solution capable of running on a regular battery. The startup Okeanos Technology was founded to further the product's research and development, which is still underway.

Carnegie Perth Wave Energy Project

The Carnegie Perth Wave Energy Project does double duty, generating renewable energy from the motion of the ocean while simultaneously desalinating seawater. The buoy-like floating device operates off the coast of Perth in Western Australia, where environmentally friendly electricity production methods are a priority. The submerged 240-kilowatt buoys work together in a trio, tethered to the seabed with hydraulic pumps that push water through power turbines as the system bobs with the waves. A built-in desalination system uses some of the electricity produced to create clean drinking water, and the rest of the electricity is fed back to shore and added to the grid. The utility-scale project is part of Perth's larger plan to lean on desalination as a long-term source of clean drinking water for the local community.

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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Scientists Baffled as Hundreds of Dead Horseshoe Crabs Wash Ashore in Japan

Source: http://gizmodo.com/scientists-baffled-as-hundreds-of-dead-horseshoe-crabs-1786662373

Horseshoe crabs are known as “living fossils” and for good reason. The blue-blooded, side-walking arthropods have been around for 200 million years, surviving the last five mass extinctions. But something appears to be wrong as hundreds of dead horseshoe crabs have recently washed ashore in southern Japan, leaving scientists confounded.

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Monday, May 16, 2016

Thousands of tiny red crabs have taken over Orange County beaches

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/tiny-red-crabs-orange-county-beaches-2016-5

crabsThousands of tiny red crabs are carpeting beaches in Orange County and creating an amazing spectacle for swimmers and surfers.

Lifeguards estimate that hundreds of thousands of the tiny crustaceans washed up Friday on beaches in Newport Beach.

crabsAP

Others were spotted in Laguna Beach.

The Orange County Register reports that pelagic red crabs are usually found off Baja California, but currents that are part of the El Nino weather pattern are sweeping them north.

crabsAP

The 1- to 3-inch-long crabs have washed up for several years along the Orange County coastline.

Before that, they hadn't been seen in the area for decades.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Thousands of dead fish washed up on Rio de Janeiro's Olympic shore

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/r-dead-fish-wash-up-on-shores-of-rio-bay-near-olympic-venue-2016-1

Rio Brazil Dead FishREUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Thousands of dead fish washed up on the shores of Rio's Guanabara Bay on Wednesday, not far from where events are being held at this year's Olympic Games, environmental officials said.

The incident was the latest involving water quality in the bay, where sailing, open water swimming, and triathlon races are due to take place at the Games in August.

"Officials found rubbish in the water and on the beach as well as a considerable number of dead fish all from the same species of sardine," the government's State Environmental Institute said in a statement.

"These fish because of their low commercial value are often thrown overboard by trawlers as we have seen on other occasions in this same area."

Other than floating garbage the officials saw no "visual abnormalities" in the water. They took samples and will report back in five days.

When Rio bid to host the 2016 Olympics, the city said it would cut the amount of raw sewage flowing into the bay by 80 percent but has since confirmed it will not meet that target.

An independent report last year found there were dangerously high levels of viruses and bacteria in the water.

(Reporting by Andrew Downie, editing by Ed Osmond)

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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

In massive stranding, 337 whales beached on Chilean coast

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/ap-in-massive-stranding-337-whales-beached-on-chilean-coast-2015-12

In this photo taken on April 21, 2015, and released on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, by the Huinay Scientific Center, Sei whales lie dead at Caleta Buena, in the southern Aysen region of Chile. The coast of southern Chile has turned into a grave for 337 sei whales that were found beached in what scientists say is one of the biggest whale strandings ever recorded. (Vreni Haussermann/Huinay Scientific Center via AP)

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — The coast of southern Chile has become a grave for 337 sei whales that were found beached in what scientists say is one of the biggest whale strandings ever recorded.

Biologist Vreni Haussermann told The Associated Press Tuesday that she made the discovery along with other scientists in June during an observation flight over fjords in Chile's southern Patagonia region. The team has been collecting samples since then.

"This is one of the largest strandings worldwide," said Haussermann, the director of the Huinay Scientific Field Station, which focuses on marine research. She declined to disclose the conclusions, which will be published by a scientific journal later this year.

The scientific expedition counted 305 bodies and 32 skeletons of whales through aerial and satellite photography in the remote Aysen area between the Gulf of Penas and Puerto Natales. The cause of death of the sei whales is unknown, but human intervention has been ruled out.

Whale strandings are common in Aysen, a region of southern Patagonia where rainfall is nearly constant and rivers plunge from Andean glaciers to the Pacific Ocean through green valleys and fjords.

"They probably died at sea, we don't know exactly where, but they didn't just die by stranding," said Carolina Simon Gutstein, a paleontologist at University of Chile who was part of the team.

Sei, humpback and blue whales, which belong to the rorquals family, are the largest group of baleen whales, and "are not normally seen gathering in large groups," Gutstein said.

Scientists say the whale die-off might help them find out more about their habits and develop policies to protect them, including the creation of a whale sanctuary in the Gulf of Penas.

The first 37 beached whales were found in April by a team led by Haussermann. They alerted the National Fisheries Service, which launched an investigation in May together with environmental police and the Chilean Navy.

Since the Fisheries Service did not carry out observation flights, the scientists got funding for their own flights in June and August. They were unable to examine the whales because the area is so remote, the coast is so steep and the sea is so rough that it makes it nearly impossible to land. But they were still able to take the photographs to confirm the deaths.

Based on their size and location, scientists believe they are all sei whales. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the sei as an endangered species. Also called pollack, adults can be longer than 50 feet (15 meters) and weigh 20 tons or more.

Between 1999 and 2001, about 600 gray whales were stranded on the North American Pacific Coast from Alaska to Mexico. But scientists say it happened over a longer period of time and in a larger area.

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Eva Vergara on Twitter: https://mobile.twitter.com/evergaraap

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Thursday, October 1, 2015

Scientists are developing an invisibility cloak for solar panels

Source: http://www.engadget.com/2015/10/01/scientists-are-developing-an-invisibility-cloak-for-solar-panels/

Current solar panel technology has enough trouble as it is converting sunlight into useable current, what with their paltry 20 percent average efficiencies. And it certainly doesn't help matters that up to a tenth of every solar panel's active collection areas are obscured from the sun by electrical leads called "contact fingers." But researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have developed a novel workaround: they're wrapping the finger contacts in little invisibility cloaks.

Like other invisibility cloaks, this system works to wrap light around the object. The fingers are still visible to the human eye -- I mean, they're not really invisible -- but the light that hits the top of the contacts is redirected to the solar panel underneath through some tricky physics. The team is currently looking at two alternative methods for accomplishing this feat. The first method involves wrapping the fingers in a polymer coating with a precisely tuned refractive index. The other involves etching grooves into the fingers themselves that refract light around the components. Current computer models of both methods suggest that panel efficiencies would increase by about 10 percent should the contact fingers be made to disappear.

[Image Credit: KIT]

Source: KIT

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Monday, August 24, 2015

Something mysterious is killing off whales in Alaska

Source: http://www.techinsider.io/why-are-whales-dying-off-the-coast-of-alaska-2015-8

dead in whale carcass bears

The event began with reports of a dead fin whale calf in Marmot Bay, by Kodiak Island, Alaska.

Since then, ten more fin whale bodies have been discovered, along 14 dead humpbacks, one gray whale, and four unidentified cetacean carcasses.

Whales die and their bodies wash up or are discovered floating in oceans around the world — that's not unusual.

But in this case, there have been far more dead whales in the Pacific Northwest than would be expected — about three times as many — making this what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration calls an "unusual mortality event."

This is a significant enough event that NOAA says that it "demands immediate response."

Canadian researchers on the West Coast have found another six dead whales between August 7 and 13, including a fin whale (that seems to have been hit by a ship); four humpbacks; and one sperm whale — an unusual and above average number, though not as strikingly high as the number of dead whales in Alaska.

whale stranding deaths alaskaSo far, researchers have not been able to figure out what's killing them off.

dead fin whale"NOAA Fisheries scientists and partners are very concerned about the large number of whales stranding" — and dying — "in the western Gulf of Alaska," Dr. Teri Rowles, NOAA Fisheries' marine mammal health and stranding response coordinator said in a press release. "[W]e do not yet know the cause of these strandings."

dead whale mapResearchers in Alaska have only been able to examine one of the dead whales, and they haven't yet determined a cause of death. Most of the rest have been unreachable. As you can see in the image at the top of this article, wildlife can — and does — get in the way of examinations.

Canadian scientists examined two of the humpback bodies they found, but are still waiting on results.

fin whale carcassPotential explanations include the toxic algae bloom raging in the warm waters off the West Coast, or perhaps an outbreak of some kind of infectious disease, but until researchers are able to analyze more samples, they won't know for sure.

They do say that a connection to the Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown is "highly unlikely."

If you come across a dead or stranded whale, NOAA would like to hear from you.

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