Everything You Need to Know About Solar and The Urban Heat Island Effect

As cities grow, open spaces, trees and other greenery, and other naturally occurring surfaces diminish, replaced by concrete and asphalt surfaces. When this happens, the heat absorbed by these surfaces has nowhere to go, and so is radiated and reflected into the immediate surrounding areas. This creates an urban heat island.

This leads to an increase in heat in the immediately surrounding areas, making temperatures a few degrees hotter than the actual weather. This causes discomfort to residents of the area and can also incur damage in the form of heat-damaged structures.

There is also a human cost associated with urban heat islands. Heat-related medical emergencies such as heat stroke become more prevalent in such areas as the heat can go up to dangerous levels. The EPA has taken stock of this phenomenon and is now advising cities to take steps to mitigate it. One such way is the use of Los Angeles solar as a means of making cities cooler and more comfortable to live in.

How does solar minimize this effect?

Cool Roof Strategy

A cool roof strategy is a one that seeks to use heat absorbing and/or dissipating roofing materials and technologies. Typical roofs use materials that either reflect or absorb and radiate back heat. Conversely, cool roofs, like solar, can help absorb sun rays and convert them into beneficial energy.

Solar excels at this because of the way the cells are designed and organized to absorb the maximum amount of sunlight. Solar roofs are also designed to trap this heat rather than radiate it back into the environment, something that can help reduce the amount of secondary heat being released into the environment.

Reduced Construction

When solar roofs are implemented, there is usually a reduced need to construct structures that support the traditional electric grid. Such a scenario can play out in several ways. If a new estate is being built with nothing but solar power, there is a possibility that some open spaces can be retained as fallow ground in places where utility implements would have been installed.

While the gains at this level would be marginal, implementation of this strategy across several thousand estates can help move the needle in reducing the urban heat island effect.

Combination Approach

This approach offers the greatest promise of reducing heat in urban settings. By combining the cool roof strategy with other strategies like green roofing, planting more trees and vegetation, cool paving and general smart city growth, a lot of ground can be covered.

Planting more trees and vegetation will go a long way in reducing heat in urban settings.

All these strategies have one thing in common in that they all absorb and dissipate heat in an efficient and sustainable manner. The EPA recommends these measures, among others, to cities grappling with the urban heat island effect or anticipating it as open spaces and greenery levels go down.

Many cities have a high incentive to deal with this issue because of its effect on residents and visitors to the area. If street-level temperatures are unbearable, it is possible that tourists and potential new residents may shy away from the area in favor of other cooler cities.

Dyne Testing and its Usefulness

Dyne Testing is a technology, a method to measure surface wettability. The low surface wettability of polymer-based substrates is the sign of poor adhesion of inks, glues and coatings. Thus, to obtain the optimum amount of adhesive it is necessary to increase the surface energy of the substrate which can be done by surface treatment with either Corona or Plasma. It will result in good wetting of the material over the surface of the substrate and hence, it improves adhesion.

For the optimum adhesion, while printing, gluing, or coating the various substrates, it is necessary to obtain high surface energy which can be obtained by Dyne Testing Markers. The fluid that is present in the Dyne Testing markers is based on ISO 8296 method for measuring the surface energy of polythene film.

When the Dyne Testing Pens are being applied to the surface, the liquid will form a continues film or will form a small trail of droplets. If it is being stretched as a film for at least 3 seconds, the substrate will have a minimum surface energy of that ink value which will be expressed in mN/m (Dynes).

The exact surface energy (Dyne level) can be determined by applying a range of increasing or decreasing values of Dyne test pens thereby taking the steps to improve its condition.

The Dyne Test Pen may lose its accuracy for which there are 3 reasons:

  1. It could get contaminated with the foreign substance
  2. It could evaporate quicker than it is expected to be
  3. And the third reason is ageing, during which chemical reactions take place among the constituents.

The experts have also faced the problem with the ageing of Dyne Testing Equipment. If their hue or color density are almost past their expiration date, it is advisable to replace them as stated by experts. The lower Dyne value states that the value stated on the bottle does not match true surface tension. You must be sure that retains the substrate used for the measurements are to be kept well sealed, free from contamination, and stored under laboratory conditions.

The ideal Dyne Testing Pen should be:

  • easy to handle,
  • perfect for the quick spot checks on the production floor,
  • very easy to read,
  • no subjectivity for this type of test,
  • no wiping off necessary,
  • lasting display of result, and
  • very striking coloring.

Conclusion

The Dyne Testing Kit by Ice-equipment.com is based on valve tip applicator and not the magic marker type. The quick test 38 pen is our most popular product amongst all and it is available in a bright red ink. This is the quick test pen which serves to check the surface treatment of all plastic substrates.

It has a shown an effect onto the material such that a stroke of the pens leaves a full line on the material if the material’s surface energy is below 38 Dynes/cm. Also, as mentioned above if the materials surface energy is below 38 Dynes/cm, the fluid will form small drops on the surface. The fluid applied to the surface will dry within seconds; it does not need to be wiped off anymore.

Synthetic Biology – A Catalyst to Revolutionize Biogas Industry

Essentially a process operating by living organisms, the biogas industry is a natural target for synthetic biology. Synthetic biology combines biology and engineering to design and construct biological devices. Contrary to traditional genetic engineering that only alters an already existing DNA sequence, synthetic biology allows us to build entirely new sequences of DNA and put them to work in cells. This allows us to build novel biological devices that would never exist in nature.

Constructions and operations of devices that do not exist in nature, such as tools, vehicles, computers and the internet, have crafted modern civilization. Now, it is synthetic biology that is challenging nature’s limitations and advancing civilization to a higher level.

Generating biogas via anaerobic digestion of biomass and organic waste is one of the few proven, cost-effective, scalable biomass energy strategies. Biogas consists of mainly methane and carbon dioxide, and combustion of methane with air generates energy which can be used for many purposes such as cooking, heating, producing electricity and vehicle fuel. As a result, countless biogas plants are operating around the globe helping to clean up waste and generate energy. With more plants being built, they come in all sizes ranging from household to factory scales.

Anaerobic digestion is a process where extremely complex microbial communities degrade organic matter, such as sugars, fats and proteins, resulting in biogas as the primary end-product. Such inherent complexity makes this process very difficult to optimize. Mechanical engineers have made tremendous progress to optimize this process, but in many places it still requires government subsidies to be profitable.

Synthetic Biology and Biogas Industry

Essentially a process operating by living organisms, the biogas industry is a natural target for synthetic biology. In terms of their genetic content, organisms are classified into three natural groups, Archaea, Bacteria and Eukarya. Most microbes are Archaea and Bacteria, while humans are Eukarya.

In an anaerobic digester, many different types of Bacteria convert the complex organic matter in waste or biomass to hydrogen gas, carbon dioxide, formate and acetate. A unique group of methanogenic Archaea then produces the invaluable part of biogas, methane, by eating hydrogen and carbon dioxide, formate or acetate.

One can imagine creating a super microbe to convert the complex organic matter directly into biogas, thus making anaerobic digestion faster, more efficient and easier-to-manipulate. Making a synthetic microbial community by reprogramming key microbes may also help them work together when a tough job (i.e., eating extremely complex waste) needs to be done.

Among numerous microbes in anaerobic digester, methanogenic Archaea are one of a few microbial groups that have been extensively studied, and a number of genetic tools are available for engineering via synthetic biology. Therefore, scientists have begun to reprogram methanogenic archaea, allowing them to eat organic matter such as sugars and directly produce methane. If they succeed, they may engineer a super microbe that never existed in nature and revolutionize the biogas industry by making anaerobic digestion much simpler and more efficient.

There is also the possibility of more applications downstream. For instance, upgrading biogas by removal of carbon dioxide improves its combustibility. A super microbe could be made to upgrade biogas using hydrogen gas or even electricity to form more methane from carbon dioxide.

Conceptualized super cell that converts idealized organic matter (2CH2O) directly into biogas.

Grand Challenges

However promising, grand challenges remain when it comes to applying synthetic biology to the biogas industry. About 10,000 moving parts are needed to make an automobile, millions of parts for an airplane, and all the parts are standardized.

Similar to those engineering sectors, synthetic biology also needs many standardized genetic parts and modules to be able to create biological devices that can really revolutionize an industry. Sophisticated genetic tools are needed as well to assemble these parts and put them to work. However, few such parts, modules and tools are at disposal for engineering microbes in an anaerobic digester.

Take methanogenic Archaea for example, only three parts are available in the iGEM registry, the world largest collection of biological parts for synthetic biology. Another challenge is an apparent neglect of synthetic biology by the biogas industry. Symposiums bringing professionals from biogas industry and synthetic biology together for discussions are rare, as are major investments for promoting synthetic biology.

As a result, few research groups are developing synthetic tools and parts for the biogas industry. For example, the aforementioned three iGEM parts were all contributed by only one group, the UGA-iGEM team at the University of Georgia.

Future Perspectives

Synthetic biology is developing faster than ever, and its cost continues to fall. Thanks to prompt actions of many industrial pioneers in embracing and supporting synthetic biology, it is already starting to revolutionize a few fields.

Synthetic biology also holds great potentials to revolutionize the biogas industry. To achieve this goal, joint efforts between the biogas industry and academia must be made. The former side needs to understand what synthetic biology can achieve, while the latter side should identify which parts of the process in the biogas industry can be re-designed and optimized by synthetic biology.

Once the two sides start to work together, novel synthetic parts and tools are bound to be invented, and they will make anaerobic digestion a better process for the biogas industry.

How An Increase in Demand of Epoxy Resin Can Fuel the Need for Clean Energy

Epoxy resin is a kind of reactive prepolymer and polymer that contains epoxide groups. It is important to note that epoxy resin is different from other polyester resins in terms of curing. Unlike other resins, instead of using a catalyst as a curing agent, it is cured by an agent known as the hardener. It possesses many desirable properties such as high tensile strength, high adhesive strength, high corrosion resistance, and excellent moisture & chemical resistance. It is also resistant to fatigue, has a long shelf life, and has good electrical and insulating properties. The ability of epoxy resins to be used in various combinations and reinforcements makes it the foundation of a plethora of industries, including clean energy systems.

Applications of Epoxy Resins

Because of the versatile properties of epoxy resins, it is used widely in adhesives, potting, encapsulating electronics, and printed circuit boards. It is also used in the form of matrices for composites in the aerospace industries. Epoxy composite laminates are commonly used for repairing both composite as well as steel structures in marine applications.

Due to its high reactivity, epoxy resin is preferred in repairing boats that have been damaged by impact. Its low shrinking properties and ease of fabrication make it well suited for many tooling applications such as metal-shaping molds, vacuum-forming molds, jigs, patterns etc.

Use of Epoxy Resins in Clean Energy

A variety of industries have been actively trying to find a path that’s moving towards a society that puts less load on the the environment and also contributes towards reducing the carbon footprint. The accelerated use of epoxy resins in generating renewable energy has lead to a rise in its production demand. This is why the epoxy resin market is projected to witness a high demand and growth rate by 2022. Here are some of the sectors contributing to the production of clean energy and how they utilize epoxy resin for their functioning:

  • Solar Energy

The harnessing of solar energy dates back to 700 B.C, when people used a magnifying glass to focus the sun’s rays to produce fire. Today solar power is a vigorously developing energy source around the globe. It not only caters to the rising energy requirements but also the need to protect the environment from the exploitation of exhaustible energy resources.

A piece of average solar equipment endures intense environmental conditions such as scorching heat, UV radiations, bitter cold,  pouring rain, hail, storms, and turbulent winds. To withstand such conditions, the sealing and mounting application of epoxy resins increase the environmental tolerance of the solar equipment.

With their high mechanical strength, impressive dimensional stability and excellent adhesion properties, they are used to protect the solar panels from a wide range of temperatures. Epoxies are cheap, less labor-intensive and easy to apply.

  • Wind Energy

The global wind industry has quickly emerged as one of the largest sources of renewable energy around the world. The wind energy in the U.S. alone grew by 9% in 2017 and today is the largest source for generating clean energy in the country. With such a tremendous demand for wind power, the need for fabricating bigger and better wind turbine blades is also rising. The industry is in a dearth of long-lasting blades, that endure the harsh climatic conditions and wear tear and are able to collect more wind energy at a time.

Sealing and mounting application of epoxy resins increase the environmental tolerance of the solar equipment

Epoxy thermosets are used for making the blades more durable because of their high tensile strength and high creep resistance. Mixing of epoxy resins with various toughening agents and using them on the blades have shown positive results towards making the blades corrosion resistant and fatigue-proof.

  • Hydropower

Hydropower is an essential source of renewable and clean energy. As the hydropower industry is developing rapidly, the solution for protecting the hydropower concrete surfaces against low temperatures and lashing water flow has also been looked into.

As a solution to this issue, epoxy mortar, a mixture of epoxy resins, binder, solvent, mineral fillers, and some additives has proven to be the most effective material used for surface protection. Owing to the properties like non-permeability, adhesive strength, anti-erosive nature, and non-abrasiveness, epoxy mortar paste has been used as a repairing paste in the hydropower industry.

Over the last few decades, epoxy resins have contributed immensely in the maintenance and protection of clean energy sources, helping them to become more efficient and productive.

Final Thoughts

While many argue that factors like a relatively high cost when compared to petroleum-based resins and conventional cement-mortar alternatives has affected the epoxy resin market growth, the fact remains that epoxy resin never fails to deliver top-notch and unmatchable results in the areas of application.

3 Ways Zero Valent Iron Can Help in Environment Protection

Zero Valent Iron (ZVI) was developed to eliminate chlorinated hydrocarbon solvents in the soil. Industrial solvents are replete with chlorinated hydrocarbon, so much toxic and bad for the environment. They get disposed in the soil along with other toxic elements to cause harm to our surrounding. In the current years, significant improvements have taken place in the realm of iron-based technology.

Zero Valent Iron can be effectively used in soil remediation

The result of years of research and significant improvement in the iron-based technology is the advent of nanoscale or polymer-supported iron-containing nanoparticles to remove contaminants from solvents and soil. This is all due to the high surface area to the volume ratio of such nanoscale particles that favor the reaction kinetics and sorption.

But, know one thing that high pressure drops may restrict fixed-bed column application. This is why we now have modified nanosized ferrous particles to facilitate arsenic removal. The fabulous reducing agent helps in pollution recovery, and thus it benefits our environment.

Applications of Zero Valent Iron

ZVI in recent times is used widely for wastewater treatment, groundwater, and soil treatment. If made through the physico-chemical process in combination, the ZVI may be very small particles, having a large surface area. ZVI is beneficial for the environment, for it has a strong reductibility, great purity, long aging property, and similar features.

Zerovalent Iron can boost the chlorine removal efficiency of the soil, groundwater, and six valent chromium. Thus, it reduces the time required for environmental remediation. Acting as a fabulous reducing agent, it facilitates pollution recovery. Indeed, you may also combine it to bioremediation to further improve the efficacy of environment pollution recovery. Use it in the soil, solvents and industrial wastewater confidently to get rid of the contaminants. The use of ZVI paves the way for pure water and soil.

What you should look for in ZVI?

Are you planning to procure zero valent elemental metallic ions for wastewater treatment or soil remediation? Zerovalent metals or ZVI has a wide range of applications that range from electrodes and trenches to filters. Yes! It helps in the water filtration process, and thus we have pure drinking water. It gets rid of every trace of impurity or contaminant from the solvent or soil. It is important to look for a reliable company to procure ZVI.

Watch out for the following properties of ZVI

  • The particles must be fine enough to be customized as per your application
  • Look for the great adsorption performance and sound chemical activity
  • A large surface area for that very strong reductibility
  • Make sure the duration of its effect is very long to reduce the injections
  • Very fine ZVI particles to remediate pollution and to save remediation time and effort
  • Must be environment-friendly, deprived of any toxic compound

Enhanced nitrate-removing potential

Zero-valent metal has an enhanced nitrate removal capacity. It eliminates nitrate from the groundwater to facilitate remediation. Hence, biochar-supported ZVI can facilitate nitrate removal while the ones with wider pH can remove larger nitrates. Biochar composite eliminates nitrate from the groundwater without leaving any harmful by-products. But, biochar has a variable nitrate-removal capacity.

ZVI biochar has a potential to reduce nitrate by mediating the redox potential, the electron transfer, pH and thus facilitates enhanced removal or reduction of nitrate from the solvent or soil. Everything revolves around the logic of intensifying chemical reduction in order to eliminate nitrate from the soil or groundwater.

Nitrate and How it Accumulates

Nitrate is the form of nitrogen, which lies beneath the cultivable land. Nitrate is water soluble and may move through the soil quite easily. Owing to its high mobility, it moves to the groundwater table. Once it has moved to the groundwater table, it persists there and deposits to a very high level.

Thus, shallow groundwater is also at a risk of contamination from chemicals of land surfaces. This is a matter of concern, and indeed, nitrate in water may harm human health, aquatic life, livestock life and contaminate the surface water. We can say that it is not that harmful to adult humans, but it can significantly affect the health of the infants. It may reduce the level of oxygen in the blood to cause ‘blue baby’ disorder.

Hence, biological denitrification, ion exchange, and reverse osmosis are the treatment processes to handle this issue. The use of ZVI is a way to denitrification and the key to attaining a safe nitrate level in the water. A zero-valent metallic reduction is an effective way to refine dirty and polluted water. As soon as ZVI is placed in the flowing water or is added to the flowing water, there starts the process of oxidizing. The resultant chain reaction will purify water or remove the contaminants.

A Tool to Remediate Acid Mine Drainage

AMD or Acid Mine Drainage is the most common source of metal in places like the Appalachians, Tennessee, and Kentucky. It is important to remediate acid mine drainage for it is highly acidic and toxic. It is the major contributor to the arsenic environment and something needs to be done. AMD is a rich source of heavy and corrosive metals, acidic in nature. Biological treatment of Acid Mine Drainage is cost-effective, efficient and environment-friendly.

Biotechnological processes are an asset when it comes to treating Acid Mine Drainage in an effective manner. ZVI is environmentally sustainable. When it is very complicated and difficult to treat or remediate Acid Mine Drainage, ZVI eases the process. It gets rid of harmful elements or potentially hazardous substances from AMD to separate metal from acid and toxic compounds. There isn’t a need to abandon a mine site just because there are acidic metal deposits. Mine metals can be reclaimed with ZVI, and herein lays the environmental benefit.

Recycling of metallurgical waste

It is important to treat AMD or Acid Mine Drainage. The ecological solution to separate toxic metals, to reclaim water in large quantities is gaining a lot of attention. ZVI and zero valent metals save our natural resources and prepare the toxic metals for the recycling process. This is only possible through the separation of the acidic part.

We can recycle gallons of water that lay in the pond and other water bodies. It drops the acid level in the water and metal while also prevents heavy metallic reactions. When Acid Mine Drainage is one of the serious concerns in the realm of coal mining, zero valent metals prevent any exposure of sulfur-rich mineral to the water and atmospheric oxygen.

Final Thoughts

Zero-valent metals can help in the treatment of contaminated zones through the process of remediation. Zero valent iron is the highly reactive powder for remediation of wastewater and soil and works fabulously on environmentally contaminated areas. This remediation solution is highly efficient and benefits our environment in multiple ways.

What Are The Common Food Emulsifiers?

In the food industry, the process of making new products involves combining all the necessary ingredients more than anything else. Due to the need for concoction, other operations such as grinding, particle size reduction, emulsification, etc would take place.

Successful food manufacturing requires equipment like Ginhong mixers that will help mill, grind, reduce particle size, homogenize, disperse, and emulsify. Once done, manufacturers need to make sure that fused molecules of ingredients will no longer depart from one another. In order to do this, emulsifying agents must be added to the overall compound to stabilize it.

Source: The Spruce

What is an emulsifier?

First, let’s define what an emulsifier is. As soon as stirring halts, the emulsion starts to separate again. To maintain the even mixture, an emulsifier is essential. An emulsifier acts as a bond that holds the particles of the ingredients altogether. It makes the finished product soft and smooth in texture, improves the quality of the mixture, and keeps it firm and stabilized.

Water spattering in food preparation or cooking is also reduced by an emulsifier. It leads to better dispersion, solubilization, crystal modification, foaming, creaming ability, etc. Emulsions have many functions in food processing, even in other industries as well.

The Common Food Emulsifiers

Now that we have understood the definition and functions of an emulsifier in processed foods, it’s time to jump into the enumerated and expounded common food emulsifiers. Let’s begin!

  1. Lecithin

Lecithin is widely used in the commercial baking industry. This emulsifier, composed of fatty compounds, is present in eggs. Emulsifying properties are stored in the phospholipids existing in lecithin. It actually prevents the split of water and oil particles.

Good HDL cholesterol content is increased when lecithin is added to the food mixture, as stated by scientists. The droplets of oil in water are kept safe by this emulsifier, increasing the stability and shelf life of the food.

Lecithin is overflowing with health benefits too. It prevents high cholesterol and cirrhosis caused by drinking alcohol. Also, it improves nerve, brain and muscle functions.

  1. Fatty Acid Derivatives

There are different emulsifiers that can be derived from fatty acids. To name a few, polyglycerol esters (PGE), polysorbates, stearoyl lactylates, propylene glycol esters (PGMS), and sucrose esters are commonly known. In desserts like cakes and their icings, PGE is famously used. For toppings that are whippable, PGMS is mainly applied. Other products like gums, coffee, sauces, etc need sucrose esters in holding their particles.

  1. Polyglycerol Polyricinoleate (PGPR)

Baking is an appealing activity, especially for moms. We all can’t deny that cookies are tasty that’s why our sweet tooths would always go for it anytime. In manufacturing chocolates for applications such as baking, polyglycerol polyricinoleate (PGPR) works in enhancing the thickness and volume of the product. Chocolate coatings flow satisfactorily when PGPR is added unto its mixture. It also complements lecithin when combined.

Factories find PGPR as a helpful agent in maintaining the good quality of the chocolate or other products that require certain smoothness and viscosity. With that, baking will be much fun for everybody who loves doing it.

  1. Ammonium Phosphatide (AMP)

Ammonium phosphatide (AMP) is sunflower-based. The use of AMP has been most triumphant in chocolate and confectionery manufacturing. It is chiefly efficacious in achieving uniformity and steadiness of the mixture, leading to high-quality food products. It does pretty well in keeping the right attributes of the food. The size, texture, smell, texture, thickness, etc.

AMP can be used as a good alternative of lecithin but it can also be applied with it plus the PGPR.

  1. Mono and Diglycerides

Monoglycerides stay firm in the so-called ‘apha crystalline formation’. As it is very versatile, it works well in foams that are whippable while managing the agglomeration of fats. When water molecules need to be dispersed in a fat phase, monoglycerides serve as an instrument that fairly distributes water into the oil.

For products like chocolates, it gives the sensation that feels like the food product is melting inside your mouth – adding the tastiness of the food. It prompts the smoothness and consistency of the processed bulk. The crystalline structure of the food becomes balanced through its help.

These are the most used food emulsifiers from the early times until today. They are produced when palatable oils are blended with glycerin. Aside from chocolates, baked and dairy products are the ones to consume them most as well.

Conclusion

Aside from holding the ingredients altogether, emulsifiers make the food you eat much more appealing in taste and in appearance. Preservation is also important in prolonging the shelf lives of different products. An emulsifier helps in maintaining the freshness as well as good quality of goods for varying times of consumption. Low fat spreads are prone to mold growth. Hence, an emulsifier as an accessible solution.

There is an appropriate emulsifier for every application. Make sure you’re using the right one!

CRISPR Gene Editing Set to Revolutionize Waste Management

When people think of waste management, gene editing probably does not come to most people’s minds. Yet the innovative CRISPR genome modification technology fits well within the confines of managing pollution and waste on the planet. In particular, scientists are looking at how CRISPR can help with bioremediation, or pollutant neutralization.

Why Neutralize Pollutants?

The planet is in dire need of help as the negative impact of climate change hovers on the horizon. One of the ways that researchers are revolutionizing waste management and environmentalism is by neutralizing the pollutants that are taking up space in our landfills and oceans.

Scientists have noticed that certain organisms are particularly good at removing toxins from pollutants while others have the advantage of immobilizing toxins. Researchers are connecting the dots in order to figure out how CRISPR can help make these processes more efficient.

CRISPR-Aided Bioremediation

While it is great that scientists have discovered microorganisms that can metabolize pollutants and produce less toxic matter, what if those properties could be expanded?

CRISPR researchers are trying to do just that by using genetic editing to transfer more advantageous genes to other organisms, thus giving them even more power over toxic pollutants. This would speed up the process of natural bioremediation techniques without adding high costs and dangers.

An Edge Over Traditional Techniques

Using CRISPR technology, especially the promising CRISPR/Cas9 lentiviral system, will not only speed up the process but it will do a better job than traditional methods of bioremediation. By using the gene editing technique, scientists can create more chemically superior microorganisms that have more advantageous enzymes. That results in better neutrality of harmful pollutants in the planet’s soil and oceans. In turn, this also ramps up molecular biodiversity, which improves the cleanup process.

Speaking of molecules, the CRISPR method targets different molecular processes within a microorganism’s cells, either to regulate an existing gene or to create an entirely new one. When looking at a particular gene, scientists analyze its ability to target pollutants as well as its process for remediation.

Enhancing Bioremediation with CRISPR

Experts need to keep several aspects in mind when improving the abilities of a remediating organism and ramping up its efficiency. First of all, they need to look at the molecular pathways that lead an organism to remediate or neutralize a pollutant. Are there changes or improvements scientists that can make to these pathways? What can they add or take away?

They do a similar thing with the organism’s enzymes. Next comes bioprocessing and biosensor development, which allows scientists to test the microbial cells for chemical testing and removal efficiency.

Removing Harmful Pollutants

Take mercury, for example, which is a metal that is harmful to the planet as well as those who live on it. The E. coli bacteria has a removal efficiency of 96 when it comes to eradicating mercury.

Scientists can take that Hg2 gene and transporter and perhaps transport it to another microorganism that can metabolize and neutralize another type of pollutant. Researchers continue to look at how this technique can help us clean up the growing number of pollutants in the environment.

It is not just microorganisms that they’re working on, either. Genetic manipulation in plants is another exciting endeavor that could help out in the bioremediation field. By looking at the detoxification processes in certain plants, scientists are trying to figure out how to use CRISPR technology to amp up bioremediation or, rather, phytoremediation efforts.

Some human genes could be especially useful to certain plants that can target heavy metals in the soil. Whether they enhance existing plant species or generate completely new ones, this is an exciting development in remediation efforts against pollutants.

Summer Activity! Start an Indoor Garden!

If you’re worried about your kids losing academic skills over the summer, you might be searching for activities to keep them mentally stimulated. You might have already signed up for a summer reading program or researched some fun math activities. However, throwing in some hands-on science activities can also be fun and educational for kids!

bees-garden

Kids learn best when they’re actively engaged in an activity. If you’re looking for a fun hands-on science activity that you can start this summer and continue into the school year, consider growing your own indoor garden!

Benefits

Aside from providing a fun activity, there are additional benefits to starting an indoor garden.

  • Having plants around your house improves your air quality because they aid in air filtration.
  • If you opt for herbs, veggies, or fruits, you can use what you grow in your cooking
  • Plants are aesthetically pleasing
  • A garden will attract birds, bees, butterflies etc.
  • Taking care of plants can provide your child with a sense of responsibility

Gardening options

An indoor garden doesn’t have to be overwhelming. You can make it as large or as little as you would like.

A small garden can be as simple as getting a few small pots and placing them in your windowsill. Even watching a single seed grow can provide some good educational talking points. If you opt for this option, you’ll want to make sure you choose a window that gets a good amount of sunlight.

If you want to take your indoor level to the next level, you can invest in an indoor garden box to put near your windows. These are raised boxes specifically designed for indoor gardening. Most gardening stores sell them, or you can build your own. A bonus of building your own is that you can build it at the perfect height for your tiny gardener!

If you have older children who already have a good understanding of gardening basics or if you’re living in a small space, you might want to consider a hydroponic system. Hydroponics involves growing plants using a nutrient-rich solution instead of soil. You can find a number of hydroponic kits to get started available online, or you can build your own system.

What you’ll need

Plants

Decide if you want to grow flowers, fruits, vegetables, or herbs. After you pick what you want to grow, decide if you want seeds or cuttings. Starting with seeds is a great option if you have kids because they’ll get to see the entire life cycle of a plant. Seeds also tend to be less expensive, which can be useful if some of your plants end up not making it.

Containers

You can use almost anything for a container as long as there is proper drainage. You can buy plastic or clay pots meant for gardening. These pots will have drainage holes at the bottom.

For a less expensive option, you can dig through your recycling bin for old milk cartons, butter containers, or egg cartons. Just make sure to punch holes in the bottom of your recycled container for drainage!

Grow lights

If you live in a house or apartment that doesn’t receive a lot of natural sunlight, you’ll either need to invest in plants that don’t need a lot of sunlight or invest in grow lights. Grow lights are a great option because they are specifically designed to provide indoor plants with the light they need. Even if you live in the darkest of homes, a grow light will have you saying “Look at our new indoor garden”!

Growing medium

You’ll, of course, need something for your plants to grow in. If you’re going with the traditional container or the garden box approach, you’ll want to invest in a quality potting mix. If going for the hydroponic approach, you’ll want to choose a medium that works well with your chosen system.

Child-size gardening tools

Your child will enjoy having their own tools to garden with! Invest in shovels, trowels, and watering cans that are the right size for your child.

Connecting it to learning

The best way to connect your new garden to learning is by taking your child’s lead. Children are naturally curious, so wait for your child to ask questions. You and your child can then research the questions together, either on the computer or at the library.

Possible topics you’ll explore together include why do plants need sunlight, what the life cycle of a plant is, and how can you tell if a plant is healthy.

Remember — keep it fun! The whole point of your new indoor garden is to allow your child to explore the world around them. A great indoor learning environment creates happy and healthy kids.

Is Aquaculture the Answer to World Hunger?

aquaculture-fish-farmsFeeding a growing world population could become problematic, but aquaculture might hold the key. If humans are anything, we are resourceful. We see a problem with the world, and we do what we can to fix it.  When being nomadic and following food sources was no longer sustainable, we solved the problem by developing agriculture.  Currently, as the population continues to grow and our taste for seafood increases, we’re trying to find ways to meet demand and, at the same time, sustain wild populations of fishes.

Aquaculture is the answer to this current dilemma. Farming fish for food has been around since about 2000 B.C. Since then, technology has helped it advanced and developed better techniques to raise fish for food.

Benefits of Aquaculture

Fish is a great source of protein, and it also contains essential minerals including potassium, zinc, iodine and magnesium. Fish are also rich in phosphorus and calcium. For a healthy heart, the American Heart Association recommends eating fish twice a week.

The health benefits of fish are more than enough reason to eat them, but they are also a delicious meal. There is a large variety of fish to choose from, including freshwater and saltwater varieties. However, the increased amount of people eating fish has had an impact on wild populations. To prevent certain species from being overfished, it is important to find an alternative to providing fish to people, and that includes aquaculture.

Different types of aquaculture must be used to raise different species of fish. Large companies can engage in aquaculture on an industrial scale with fish held in tanks or in pens in lakes, ponds or even the ocean. Families can even perform aquaculture in their backyard.  The variety of fish that you can raise for food includes catfish, bait minnow, trout, carp and tilapia, among others.  It’s also possible to raise shellfish, including oysters and shrimp. Want to try your hand at growing water plants?  You can also use aquaculture principles for water chestnuts and red and brown algae.

Studies have shown that marine aquaculture has the potential to produce 16.5 billion tons of fish per year, which is more than enough to feed the growing population and meet nutritional needs.

Different types of aquaculture must be used to raise different species of fish.

Different types of aquaculture must be used to raise different species of fish.

In some areas, such as parts of Africa, aquaculture has made an enormous impact on the local community’s economy and employment as well. The food produced helps to sustain Africa’s growing population and provides local jobs with steady income.

The Downside of Aquaculture

While it has the potential to feed hungry communities and contribute to local economies, there are some problems associated with aquaculture. Having too many fish in a tank can lead to the spread of disease.  Also, the type of feed the fish eat can impact how healthy they are for humans. Keeping fish in pens in lakes, ponds or the ocean might cause the spread of parasites to wild populations.  Farmed fish could also escape their enclosure and, as a result, alter the natural ecosystem.

Recognizing the shortcomings of aquaculture is the first step to remedying its problems. As technology and farming practices advance and techniques improve, it’s possible that we will resolve many of these issues. This will lead to greater benefits for the human population that depends on fish for food.

Humans have the ingenuity and drive to make the world a better place for themselves and others. Population growth isn’t going to slow down any time soon, and we need to make sure everyone is taken care of and has enough to eat. While aquaculture has its pros and cons, it can be a sustainable and economic way to feed hungry people.  In time, it may even be the answer to world hunger.

How Artificial Intelligence is Saving Our Planet

It takes a high level of data analysis to predict the effects of climate change and the implications of our actions to stop and adapt to it. Often, scientists have terabytes of data, but not the computing power to make sense of climate issues like hurricanes. But this level of analysis is possible with artificial intelligence (AI). In fact, AI may be the best weapon we have to combat and adapt to the effects of climate change. That’s because it can analyze large chunks of data from past events and make accurate predictions about future ones.

Today, AI is helping to monitor and predict everything from glacier retreat to commercial waste management. As innovations in “deep learning” march on, AI’s prescience will help inform scientists about climate impacts and policymakers on the most prudent steps for adaptation. Here are some critical ways AI is helping to preserve our planet.

Smarter Home Energy Use

AI is helping save the planet by assisting homeowners through energy-efficient smart homes. The Internet of Things and today’s “smart devices” let homeowners control their energy use and lower their monthly bills. Smart thermostats can adjust temperature settings for specific rooms in a house. Smart water sprinklers can change water usage based on weather forecasts. And smart security systems can cut down on false alarms calls — so fewer gas-guzzling trips by first responders. The automation, connection, and prediction power built into these smart devices allow homeowners to lower their carbon footprint.

But smart energy use is not just about conservation — it’s also about the best time to use energy. Peak energy hours like evenings are higher-demand, higher-cost times. Smart devices can automate energy use for low-demand hours. Plus, off-peak times like mid-day are when alternative energy sources like solar and wind contribute the most. Therefore, smart technology promotes renewable energy.

Soil Conservation

Soil degradation is a problem often overlooked in the media. But it has serious consequences for humanity’s ability to adapt to and survive climate change. It takes a millennium to generate only three centimeters of topsoil, and soil degradation is happening at a much faster rate. Chemicals, deforestation, erosion, and global warming are major contributors to soil degradation. And if the current rate of degradation continues, the planet’s farmable land could disappear within 60 years, according to United Nations officials.

But farmers and scientists are using AI to help conserve the soil by marshaling complex algorithms along with robots and drones to detect erosion and monitor soil health. For example, one company has developed an agricultural app to help farmers identify nutrient deficiencies within their soil. And farmers are using machine learning to predict the best times to plant, irrigate, and harvest crops based on weather changes. Accurate predictions mean less need for pesticides and fertilizers, which degrade the soil.

Exploring and Protecting Oceans

Scientists watch and test the health of oceans because they’re the best indicators of Earth’s health. Microplastics, increased CO2 levels, and ocean acidification are changing the surface of the planet. The key to protecting oceans is exploring and monitoring them for changes. Climate scientists and oceanographers are using AI technology to drive autonomous marine vehicles to the deepest depths. And some companies are developing autonomous garbage collection systems that would help remove plastics and floating debris.

Another emerging technology — blockchain — is helping to track fishing and identify illegal behavior. Blockchain is the same technology that powers cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. The technology acts as a transparent ledger for transactions. Blockchain is a decentralized system, which means it operates autonomously and isn’t subject to misuse and abuse. Trust is critical to international treaties that regulate fishing quotas and manage overfishing. Blockchain technology can record each fish (e.g., tuna) with a scannable code uploaded to the ledger. Therefore, retailers, customers, and regulators can confirm that fish are legally caught.

Air Pollution Detection

AI is becoming an invaluable tool for tracking our air quality and identifying sources of pollution. During accidental emissions, city air quality officials need to identify and respond quickly. Some European cities are using leak sensors and AI to help create emission maps, predict mortality rates, and estimate financial costs of emergency responses. These data points give decision makers a more accurate view of the air pollution along with more targeted remediation.

In addition to monitoring air pollution, AI is also cutting tailpipe emissions. AI manages self-driving cars to make getting from point A-to-B more efficient. Self-driving automobiles can cut oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by 2% to 4% annually. AI and global positioning systems operating driverless tractor-trailer rigs will make deliveries non-stop, faster, and less costly to the planet. Complex algorithms, sensors, and traffic lights are directing traffic flow in some cities. These systems are currently reducing travel time by 25%, braking by 30%, and idling time by 40%.

Evaluating the Efficacy of Action

AI is bringing powerful ways to monitor and predict threats to our environment. Synthetic thinking adds value for scientists, officials, and policymakers by giving them deeper looks into current environmental situations. Perhaps, more than anything, AI’s biggest potential lies in figuring out where solutions hit the mark and where they miss. It’s counterproductive to invest resources and time into bad solutions. But that’s highly likely, given the complexity of climate change and adaptation.

Where do we invest? Which coastline needs saving the most? What communities are at a higher risk? With dwindling resources and bigger dangers, we will face some hard decisions in the future about where to deploy our efforts. At some point, those decisions will mean life or death. We will need quick thinking and accurate data. Evaluating our options and predicting their implications is where AI will bring the most value.