New system to detect mercury in water systems

A new ultra-sensitive, low-cost and portable system for detecting mercury in environmental water has been developed by University of Adelaide researchers.

mercury_in_waterPublished in the journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, the research team outlined its innovative optical sensing system suitable for detecting low levels of mercury at the site of interest.

“Mercury has been accumulating in the natural environment since the start of industrialization and there are worldwide concerns about potential human health and environmental effects,” says project leader Dr Abel Santos, Australian Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow with the University’s School of Chemical Engineering.

“Recently, these concerns have seen the introduction of a global convention aimed at controlling, monitoring and reducing mercury pollution at a world scale.

“There are current systems capable of monitoring mercury at trace levels, but they are huge machines that can’t be easily moved, are very expensive and complicated to use and require comprehensive training. Samples also require chemical treatment before analysis.
“Our system is very cost-competitive, only as big as a mobile phone and easy to use. With very basic training, someone could take it to a river or lake and do a mercury reading on the spot.” Read more

Synthetic Gas Made From Air And Water: Too Good To Be True?

Given the rising prices at the pumps, odds are most people have wished at one time or another that they could create gasoline out of thin air. Now, one British firm claims to have done just that.

Synthetic-GasAccording to Reuters reporter Alice Baghdjian, engineers at Air Fuel Synthesis (AFS) in Teesside, England said that they have managed to produce synthetic gasoline using carbon dioxide extracted from air and hydrogen extracted from water. Read more

Naked Jets Of Water Is A Better Way To Detect Pollutants

Optical Society

Novel design for microfluidic sensor uses streams of unconfined water for a simpler and cheaper way to test for dangerous chemicals and bacteria

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A close-up of the liquid jet sensor with the liquid jet (left) and without it (right). The jet of water is less than a millimeter in diameter.

When you shine ultraviolet light (UV) through water polluted with certain organic chemicals and bacteria, the contaminants measurably absorb the UV light and then re-emit it as visible light. Many of today’s more advanced devices for testing water are built to make use of this fluorescent property of pollutants; but the walls of the channels through which the water travels in these devices can produce background noise that makes it difficult to get a clear reading. Reported today, in The Optical Society’s (OSA) open-access journal, Optics Express, researchers in Italy have developed a pollutant detector that forgoes the channels in favor of a narrow stream of water unconfined by tubes or pipes. The naked jet of water doubles as both the sample and the collection equipment, providing a simple, cheap, and portable new tool to analyze liquids developed in the framework of the research project ACQUASENSE. Read more

Genetic Mix Of Bacterial Diversity Found In One Milliliter Of Sea Water

Countless marine microbes called Prochlorococcus are the primary basis for most ocean food webs, yet microbiologists know very little about the diversity with this group of photosynthetic bacteria.

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Prochlorococcus in freeform, an artist’s rendering of microbes in the ocean.

A new study, published in the journal Science, describes hundreds of subpopulations of these essential marine bacteria. An international team of researchers were able to identify the different subgroups through a comprehensive genomic analysis of microbes found in a milliliter of ocean water. Read more

Is There Salt Water On Mars?

For decades, scientists have been on a quest to find liquid water on the surface of Mars and new images from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter may finally provide that evidence.

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This image includes an especially long example of a type of dark marking that advances down some Martian slopes in warmer months and fades away in cooler months.

Newly released images from NASA clearly show dark streaks seasonally advancing down slopes close to the Martian equator, which space agency scientists say could be due to salty water.

“The equatorial surface region of Mars has been regarded as dry, free of liquid or frozen water, but we may need to rethink that,” said Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona in Tucson, principal investigator for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera. Read more