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A device that produces endless energy from soil

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A device that produces endless energy from soil

A new fuel cell harnesses energy from soil-dwelling microbes to power sensors, harvesting nearly unlimited energy from the soil. In this article we will talk about a device that produces endless energy from soil.

A device that produces endless energy from soil

A team from Northwestern University has demonstrated a new way to generate electricity. They introduced a device the size of a book that sits on top of the soil and collects the force generated by microbes breaking down the soil (as long as there is carbon in the soil).

According to New Atlas, microbial fuel cells, as their name suggests, have been around for over 100 years. They work a bit like a battery, with an anode, cathode, and electrolyte, but instead of taking electricity from a chemical source, they work with bacteria that naturally donate electrons to nearby conductors.

This newly invented fuel cell relies on the ubiquitous natural microbes in the soil to generate energy.

Powered by soil, this device is a viable alternative to batteries in underground sensors used for precision agriculture.

A microbial fuel cell (MFC) or biological fuel cell is a biochemical system that produces electric current by mimicking the activity of bacteria that occurs in nature. A microbial fuel cell is a type of biochemical fuel cell system that generates electric current by diverting electrons produced from the microbial oxidation of reduced compounds (also known as fuel or electron donors) on the anode to oxidizing compounds (known as oxidizing agents or also known as electron acceptor) on the cathode through an external electrical circuit.

Fuel cells can be divided into two general categories “mediated and non-mediated”. The first fuel cells, introduced in the early 20th century, used a mediator, a chemical substance that transfers electrons from the bacteria in the cell to the anode. Non-intermediate fuel cells emerged in the 1970s. In this type of fuel cell, bacteria usually have electrochemically active proteins such as cytochromes on their outer membrane that can transfer electrons directly to the anode.

Read More: What if all the fish in the ocean disappeared?

Northwestern University researchers note the durability of their powerful fuel cell and have shown its ability to withstand various environmental conditions, including dry soil and flood-prone areas.

The issue so far has been to supply them with water and oxygen while they are buried in the soil. Although these devices have existed as a concept for more than a century, their uncertain performance and low power output have hampered efforts to put them into practice, especially in low-power conditions, says Northwestern University graduate student Bill Yen, who led the project. The humidity had stopped.

So the team set out to create several new designs aimed at providing cells with continuous access to oxygen and water and succeeded with a cartridge-shaped design that sits vertically on a horizontal disk.

A disk-shaped carbon-felt anode sits horizontally at the bottom of the device and goes deep into the soil, where it can capture electrons as microbes break down the soil.

Meanwhile, the conductive metal cathode is placed vertically above the anode. So the lower part goes deep enough to access the deep soil moisture, while the upper part is flush with the ground and a fresh air gap runs the entire length of the electrode, and a protective cap on top prevents soil from falling and It becomes waste and cuts off the cathode’s access to oxygen. Part of the cathode is also covered with a water-insulating material so that when water is present, a hydrophobic part of the cathode is still in contact with oxygen for the fuel cell to work.

The researchers used a waterproof material on the surface of the cathode, which allows it to work even during flooding and ensures gradual drying after immersion in water.

“These microbes are everywhere,” says George Wells, lead author of the study. They live in the soil everywhere now and we can use very simple engineered systems to get electricity from them. We’re not going to power entire cities with this energy, but we can capture very small amounts of energy to fuel essential, low-consumption applications.

Also, chemicals left over from batteries can potentially seep into the soil. This new technology is an environmentally friendly alternative that reduces environmental concerns associated with hazardous battery components and is also non-combustible.
The design performed consistently well in tests at varying levels of soil moisture, from completely waterlogged to relatively dry, and produced, on average, about 68 times more energy than its sensors needed to operate. It was also strong enough to survive extreme changes in soil moisture.

As with other sources of long-term electricity generation, such as diamond beta-voltaic batteries made from nuclear waste, the amount of electricity produced here is not enough to start a car or power a smartphone, but rather to power small sensors that can be used for long periods. work for a long time without needing to replace the battery regularly.

In addition, the researchers attached the soil sensor to a small antenna to enable wireless communication. This allowed the fuel cell to transmit data to a nearby station by reflecting existing radio frequency signals.

It is noteworthy that this soil fuel cell has a 120% better performance than similar technology.
Bill Yen says: “If we imagine a future with trillions of devices, we can’t make them all out of lithium, heavy metals, and toxins that are dangerous to the environment.” We need to find alternatives that can provide small amounts of energy to power a decentralized network of devices. In our search for a solution, we turned to soil microbial fuel cells, which use special microbes to break down soil and use that small amount of energy. As long as there is organic carbon in the soil for microbes to break down, our fuel cells can potentially survive.

Therefore, sensors like these can be very useful for farmers looking to monitor various soil elements including moisture, nutrients, pollutants, etc., and to use a technology-based precision agriculture approach. So if you put several of these devices around your farm, they can generate data for you for years, maybe even decades.

It should be mentioned that according to the research team, all the components of this device can be purchased from hardware stores. Therefore, there is no problem in the supply chain or materials for the widespread commercialization of this product.

This research was published in the ACM Journal on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable, and Ubiquitous Technologies.​

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What if all the fish in the ocean disappeared?

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What if all the fish in the ocean disappeared?

Earth’s vast oceans cover most of our planet’s surface and are teeming with life, hosting an amazing variety of plants, microbes, worms, corals, crabs and fish, whales, and more. So what if all the fish in the ocean disappeared?

What if all the fish in the ocean disappeared?

The ocean is full of fish so they account for the second largest amount of carbon (the stuff that makes up living things) in the entire animal kingdom. They are right behind the group of insects and crustaceans. So what if all the fish in the ocean disappeared?

Most people only interact with the ocean from a beach or a boat, so it’s difficult to estimate how many fish there are across the oceans, but the oceans are teeming with fish from the surface to their depths, says SA.

These fish exist in different types and sizes. From the tiny sardines, guppies, and blennies you might see in coral reefs to the tuna and whale sharks you find in the open ocean.

These fish play a variety of roles in their ecosystem that support the lives of other creatures around them, and if they were to disappear one day, the ocean would look very different.

This article was written by Corey Evans, a scientist at Rice University who studies fish, their diversity, and all the ways they contribute to ocean environments.

Fish as food

Fishes play an important role in ocean ecosystems as both predators and prey. Thousands of species across ocean and terrestrial ecosystems, including humans, rely on fish for food.

In coral reef ecosystems, small fish are eaten by larger fish and other marine animals. This means that small fish form the base of the food web. They provide energy for larger fish and other organisms.

In the aquatic world, many birds, mammals, and reptiles eat fish and rely on them as an essential source of protein.

Even land plants can benefit from the presence of fish. On the West Coast of the United States, salmon returning to small rivers after spending several years at sea act as a conveyor belt of nutrients.

Salmon not only feed the animals that catch them, such as bears but also provide nutrients to the plants that line the rivers.

Studies have shown that some plants get up to 70% of their nitrogen from salmon that die on or near river banks.

Humans also depend on fish as a food source. Fish and other seafood are an important source of protein for nearly three billion people on Earth. The human population around the world has been eating fish for thousands of years.

Read More: How does nanobubble technology help to save lakes?

Conservation of habitats by fish

Fish do more than just feed. Because fish themselves forage, they can create and maintain important habitats for other organisms. In coral reef ecosystems, herbivorous fish control the growth of algae by continuously feeding on them.

Without the help of these herbivorous fish, the algae would grow rapidly and suffocate the coral, effectively destroying it.

One of the types of herbivorous fish is the parrot fish, which feeds directly on corals. At first, this may seem bad for corals, but parrotfish feeding on them can actually increase the growth rate of a coral colony.

In addition, parrotfish excrement is especially nutritious for corals. Parrotfish poop also forms part of the beautiful white sand beaches you may have enjoyed on family vacations.

Other fish also create habitats for other animals and affect their environment by stirring up the sand as they feed. By moving the sand around, they expose small creatures hidden in the sand that other animals can eat.

Despite the fact that many types of fish are confined to the ocean, their presence can be felt in many habitats. They can directly and indirectly affect the lives of organisms that depend on them for food and shelter.

So if it weren’t for fish, the earth would gradually lose its beautiful white sand beaches, coral reef ecosystems would become overrun with algae, many people would run out of food to eat, and we would lose some of the most fascinating creatures on our beautiful planet.

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How does nanobubble technology help to save lakes?

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nanobubble technology help to save lakes

How does nanobubble technology help to save lakes? Nanobubble technology can have positive environmental effects. One of the applications of this technology is to aerate lakes with nanobubbles and help save lakes and remove algae from them.

How does nanobubble technology help to save lakes?

The sediment layer in lakes contains organic and mineral substances that have accumulated on the bottom of the lake over time. These sediments can be obtained from various sources, including eroded soil, runoff from nearby lands, and decaying plant and animal matter. Over time, these materials can accumulate on the bottom of the lake and form a layer of sediment that can be several meters thick in some lakes.

This sedimentary layer can have important consequences for the health and ecology of the lake. This layer can provide an important habitat for deep-sea organisms such as worms, snail larvae, and insects and be useful as a food source for aquatic plants and other organisms. However, this same sediment layer may act as a reservoir for contaminants such as heavy metals and organic pollutants, which can accumulate over time and potentially harm aquatic life and human health. Under certain conditions, the sediment layer at the bottom of the lake can be resuspended, negatively affecting the health of the lake and causing the death of aquatic life. The reduction of dissolved oxygen in the sedimentary layer leads to unhealthy lakes and makes these layers susceptible to problems such as mud, algae, foul odors, and disturbing insects.

Factors affecting the sediment layer of lakes

Studying the sediment layer in lakes can provide valuable information about the history of the lake and its surroundings, as well as information about the current and future health of the lake. Sediment cores can be collected from the lake bottom and analyzed to determine composition, age, and potential contaminants in the sediment layer. This information can help management decisions aimed at protecting and preserving the lake and its ecosystem.

The health of the sedimentary layer of the lake can be affected by various factors:

Input of nutrients: The amount and type of nutrients input to the lake can affect the quality and composition of the sediment layer. Excessive intake of nutrients, especially nitrogen and phosphorus, can lead to increased growth of algae and deposition of organic matter, which changes the sediment layer and affects its health.

Water chemistry: pH, temperature, and dissolved oxygen level of water can also affect the health of the sediment layer. Changes in water chemistry can affect the microbial communities that live in the sediment layer, which in turn can affect the composition and health of the sediment layer.

Sediment formation speed: The speed of sediment accumulation on the bottom of the lake can also affect the health of the sediment layer. Rapid sedimentation can bury and suffocate benthic organisms, while slowly forming sediments can lead to organic matter accumulation and anoxic conditions in the sediment layer. Benthic organisms are organisms that live on or in the sediments of the lake bottom and play an important role in the lake ecosystem by recycling nutrients, providing food for other organisms, and maintaining the health and function of the sediment layer.

Surrounding land use: Land use in the watershed around the lake can affect the quality and composition of the sediment layer. Land use practices that increase erosion, such as agriculture or deforestation, can lead to increased sediment input to a lake, which can alter the sediment layer and negatively affect its health.

Pollutants: The presence of pollutants such as heavy metals, pesticides, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) can affect the health of the sediment layer. Contaminants can accumulate in the sediment layer and potentially harm benthic organisms and other aquatic life.

Overall, the health of a lake’s sediment layer is affected by a complex set of factors that interact with each other in ways that are difficult to predict. Understanding the factors that affect sediment health can help make management decisions aimed at protecting the lake and its ecosystem.

Read More: Microplastic storms are coming

Ensuring a healthy sediment layer with dissolved oxygen

Getting dissolved oxygen into the sediment layer of the lake is very important because it supports the growth and survival of benthic organisms and other aquatic life that live in the sediment layer.

Oxygen is essential for the respiration of benthic organisms, allowing them to break down organic matter and return nutrients to the water. Without sufficient oxygen, the sediment layer becomes anoxic or hypoxic, meaning that the concentration of dissolved oxygen in the sediment is low or absent. This leads to the accumulation of toxic compounds such as hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and changes in the microbial communities that live in the sediment layer.

Therefore, introducing oxygen into the sediment layer of a lake is important to maintain a healthy ecosystem and promote the growth and survival of benthic and other aquatic organisms. Management strategies aimed at improving oxygen levels in the sediment layer may include reducing nutrient input, injecting nanobubbles, and helping the growth of submerged aquatic vegetation.

nanobubble technology help to save lakes

Before (left image) and after (right image) the use of nanobubble technology in a lake

Using nanobubble technology to effectively deliver dissolved oxygen to the sediment layer

Nanobubble technology can be used to deliver more dissolved oxygen to the sediment layer of the lake by producing and delivering very small bubbles of oxygen into the water. These bubbles are so small that they are neutrally buoyant and remain suspended in the water for long periods, allowing oxygen to diffuse into the sediment layer.

Common aeration systems, such as mechanical aerators, create large bubbles that quickly rise to the surface of the water and release oxygen into the atmosphere. While these traditional systems can improve oxygen levels in water in some cases, they do not effectively reach the sediment layer, where oxygen is often limited. Nanobubble technology has in some cases achieved oxygen transfer efficiency (OTE) of up to 85%, while many conventional closed aeration systems have only 40-1% OTE.

By introducing more oxygen into the sediment layer using nanobubble technology, the microbial communities living within the sediment can grow and cause organic matter decomposition and nutrient cycling. This helps to improve water quality and clarity and promotes a healthy ecosystem in the lake. Additionally, promoting a healthy sediment layer can help reduce algal impacts and improve habitat for benthic and other aquatic life.

According to the Nano Headquarters, there are currently companies in Iran that produce and market equipment related to nanobubbles.

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Microplastic storms are coming

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Microplastic storms are coming

Microplastic storms are coming. When Hurricane Larry made landfall two years ago, more than 100,000 microplastics were dumped per square meter per day. This is another indication that the environment is full of plastic.

Microplastic storms are coming

As Hurricane Larry curved northward in the Atlantic Ocean in 2021 and the East Coast of the United States was spared, a special tool was waiting on the coast of Newfoundland, according to Wired.

Because hurricanes feed on warm ocean water, scientists wondered if such a storm could pick up microplastics from the sea surface and deposit them as they make landfall. “Larry” was literally a perfect storm, and since it hadn’t touched land before reaching the island, anything that fell from it would have come from water or air, contrary to what one would expect from major cities. in which large amounts of microplastics are found.

As Larry passed through Newfoundland, the instrument on board picked up what was falling from the sky, including rain and pieces of microplastics smaller than five millimeters.

In an article recently published in the journal Communications Earth and Environment, researchers wrote that at the peak of its activity, Hurricane Larry dumped more than 100,000 microplastics per square meter on the ground every day. With this in mind, hurricanes should be added to the growing list of ways by which microplastic particles not only penetrate every corner of the environment, but are also easily transported between land, sea, and air.

As humanity in general produces exponentially more plastic, the environment becomes exponentially more polluted with microplastics. The prevailing belief was that microplastics end up in the ocean and stay there. For example, washing polyester clothes releases millions of microfibers in each wash, which are washed into the sea with the sewage. However recent research has shown that the seas actually bring particles into the atmosphere to return to land. This happens both when waves form and when bubbles rise to the surface of the water.

The device, located in a Newfoundland compound, was very simple, consisting of a glass cylinder holding a small amount of ultrapure water, attached to the ground with sturdy sticks. Every six hours, during and after the storm, researchers would come in and dump water to collect every drop that fell in Newfoundland, with or without rain.

Read More: Climate changes will continue for 50 thousand years

“This is a place that experiences a lot of extreme weather events,” said Anna Ryan, a geoscientist at Dalhousie University and lead author of the paper. Also, it is relatively remote and has a very low population density. So there’s not a bunch of microplastic sources nearby.

The group found that even before and after Hurricane Larry, tens of thousands of microplastics per square meter were dumped on the ground every day. But when the storm hit, this number increased to 113,000. “We found a lot of microplastics that were deposited at the height of the storm, and the overall sediment was relatively high compared to previous studies,” Ryan says. He says that these studies have been done under normal conditions, but also in more remote locations.

The researchers also used a method called return path modeling, which basically simulates where the air entering the device has been before. This work confirms that Hurricane Larry picked up microplastics from the sea, carried them into the air, and deposited them in Newfoundland.

In fact, previous research has estimated that anywhere from 12 to 21 million tons of microplastics are circulating just 200 meters above the Atlantic Ocean. The Newfoundland study notes that Hurricane Larry passed over a polluted area in the North Atlantic, where currents piled up floating plastic.

These new figures from Newfoundland are probably underestimated. Searching for the smallest particles of plastic is difficult and expensive. The research looked at particles as small as 1.2 microns (1.2 millionths of a meter), but there are likely plastic particles much smaller than what falls into the device.

Researchers can also determine what type of plastic fell from the sky. “We didn’t see a lot of a particular polymer, and there’s real variation,” Ryan says.

Microplastic pollution comes from many sources, including clothes, car tires, paint chips, broken bottles, and bags, all of which mix into a multi-polymer soup in the ocean. This happens both in the oceans and in the sky. In remote areas of the American West, microplastic sampling tools like the one in Newfoundland collect large numbers of particles that fall as plastic rain. Microplastics are not only airborne but have become an essential component of the Earth’s atmosphere.

So microplastics don’t just end up in the sea and stay there, they move through the atmosphere and back to land and are picked up again by the winds and out to sea. “It’s becoming clear that ocean-atmosphere exchange is a very real thing,” Allen says. The numbers in this article are staggering. The microplastics arrive in Newfoundland just at the time of year when all the living things in the ponds are trying to fatten up and reproduce for the winter.
Because microplastics move so easily on winds and ocean currents, places that were once pristine are no longer the same as before. Scientists are trying to find out how these particles affect the organisms in these places.

For example, microplastics from Europe have contaminated the Arctic, contaminating the algae Melosira arctica that grows on the underside of sea ice. Algae are the mainstay of the Arctic food chain, meaning that all kinds of organisms consume them, along with the microplastics that accumulate in them.

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