The researchers hope to develop a no-trace plastic to curtail marine pollution and ghost fishing.
- Cornell University chemists have developed a polymer with the strength of industrial-grade plastics but degrades quickly in sunlight.
- They hope the plastic will one day be used to make fishing nets that leave no environmental trace.
- Their research joins other programs and initiatives aimed at restoring our oceans.
A lot of hard work for (hopefully) nothing<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzE2MjMyNi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2NDIxOTI2N30.sNuhGWLlXUayYhfuw8yb8lllGjOmPkXEedeCvzOSwTw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C96%2C0%2C0&height=700" id="faa6d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="33853c60e6f3be3fecdb198dd5351282" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Commercial fishing nets are made of polymers that are strong but take hundreds of years to degrade.
The deadliest catch<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzE2MjMyOC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNzQ5MzY2MX0.6_DlCIrKzb7CIqE2-ZDPXYYsV7ao2xtko0ME9odJOj4/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C763%2C0%2C519&height=700" id="0cbe4" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d49eebe85430d3668ed4483c7ef5ecfb" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
A sea turtle caught in ghost gear.
Not too late<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzE2MjMyMi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTA3MDcxNn0.bzbtBMEFpS7L-2E5g2K4IdLc0qnxgVrJdf1ajZRlWnc/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C0%2C0%2C579&height=700" id="03101" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fce6646a76e0266715a4bc334e11d44c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Volunteers collect rubbish from the Aegean sea to protect biodiversity.
These compostable espresso pods are the eco-friendly way to get your caffeine fix.
- The coffee pod revolution saved us time and effort but has been horrible for the environment.
- The single-use plastics used in most pods sit in landfills for years.
- Fortunately, a new wave of eco-friendly compostable pods is coming to the market.
A new study says that it could be centuries before millions of the classic toys submerged in the Earth's seas disintegrate.
- A new study by researchers from the University of Plymouth estimates that it could be up to 1,300 years before LEGO pieces lost to the sea disintegrate.
- Researchers collected fifty LEGO pieces washed up on beaches in southwest England and compared them to archived blocks in their original condition.
- The classic children's toy is made of an incredibly durable material called acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), a rock-solid polymer.
Research findings<p>In a study published in <em>Environmental Pollution</em>, researchers from the University of Plymouth collected fifty LEGO pieces from beaches in southwest England. The chemicals in the weathered samples were then compared to archived LEGO pieces in their original forms. </p><p>"Using measured mass loss of paired (weathered versus unweathered) equivalents and the age of blocks obtained from storage we estimate residence times of between about 100 and 1300 years for this type and thickness of plastic, with variations reflecting differences in precise additive composition and modes of weathering," the authors write.</p>
How did so many LEGO’s get in the ocean?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="13b8b58c6b99ed94749f5993dcddeebe"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/RoKYTPcc1ik?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>So, why are there so many LEGOs at sea anyways? Well, kids, being kids, tend to flush them down the toilet. It's estimated that 2 million bits of LEGO have been lost to the sewage system. There was also the unfortunate <a href="https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/59913/18-years-after-spill-ocean-lego-pieces-still-wash-ashore" target="_blank">LEGO-spill incident of 1997</a>, when nearly 5 million pieces of the toy fell overboard on a container ship.</p><p>Organizations in the United Kingdom like Rame Peninsula Beach Care and the LEGO Lost at Sea Project have done their part to save thousands of the tiny plastic toys from beaches. But if you've ever had the experience of stepping on a LEGO brick, you know how sturdy they feel. This new research suggests that their mass and chemical make-up is truly close to indestructible. More likely than not, these blocks will be washing up on shores centuries from now. It's not entirely clear how these recently discovered LEGOs entered the ocean, but they do match up with toys sold in the 1970s and 80s. And although they have spent decades being weathered, weakened, and yellowed by the sea, researchers were shocked to find them still relatively intact. </p><p>"Lego is one of the most popular children's toys in history and part of its appeal has always been its durability," said the study's leader<a href="https://phys.org/news/2020-03-lego-bricks-survive-ocean-years.html" target="_blank"> Andrew Turner</a> from the University of Plymouth who studies the chemical properties of marine litter. </p><p>"It is specifically designed to be played with and handled, so it may not be especially surprising that despite potentially being in the sea for decades it isn't significantly worn down. However, the full extent of its durability was even a surprise to us."</p>
The indestructible LEGO material<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjg4NzE3OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2NDE4MTMyOH0.VOzCulUGLVzMR2_BcvFUozYGD6ad2C-94Ws0lFiOsis/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C315%2C0%2C316&height=700" id="5f6eb" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e67b45a3da8d60a04f387a7679fb5060" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Graphene is insanely useful, but very difficult to produce — until now.
- Graphene is a lattice of carbon atoms arranged in a chicken-wire formation, a structure that makes it very useful for a wide range of applications.
- However, it's been very difficult and expensive to make.
- This new technique cuts down on the cost and difficulty by flash heating any carbon-based material, such as used coffee grounds or plastic waste.
What is graphene?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzU3NjI2OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMDE3MDE3Nn0.19iLtxjgp8DSw39fkK4XRzymAuliRqablEpKQGsSmHU/img.jpg?width=980" id="16362" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="50c393511cc3e408c5ffdcf1959142d4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
A rendering of graphene.
What is 'flash graphene'?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1bdd2f2519b4534119724f0b210531d3"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/hzm5AMPFMqs?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Despite its high utility, graphene isn't a part of our everyday lives yet. Part of the reason why is because of its prohibitive cost. Graphene is difficult to produce in bulk, with "the present commercial price of graphene being $67,000 to $200,000 per ton," said Tour. Common techniques include exfoliation, in which sheets of graphene are stripped away from graphite, or chemical vapor deposition, in which methane (CH4) is vaporized in the presence of a copper substrate that grabs the methane's carbon atoms, arranging them as graphene.</p><p>The new technique, called <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-1938-0" target="_blank">flash Joule heating</a>, is far simpler, cheaper, and doesn't rely on any hazardous solvents or chemical additives. Simply put, a carbon-based material is exposed to a 2,760°C (5,000°F) heat for just 10 milliseconds. This breaks every chemical bond in the input material. All atoms aside from carbon turn into gas, which escape in this proof-of-concept device but could be captured in industrial applications. The carbon, however, reassembles itself as flakes of graphene.</p><p>What's more, this technique produces so-called turbostatic graphene. Other processes produce what's known as A-B stacked graphene, in which half of the atoms in one sheet of graphene lie over the atoms of another sheet of graphene. This results in a tighter bond between the two sheets, making them harder to separate. Turbostatic graphene has no such order between sheets, so they're easier to remove from one another.</p><p>The most obvious use case for what the researchers have termed "flash graphene" is to use these graphene flakes as a component in concrete. "By strengthening concrete with graphene," said Tour, "we could use less concrete for building, and it would cost less to manufacture and less to transport. Essentially, we're trapping greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane that waste food would have emitted in landfills. We are converting those carbons into graphene and adding that graphene to concrete, thereby lowering the amount of carbon dioxide generated in concrete manufacture. It's a win-win environmental scenario using graphene."</p><p>Concrete is a major application for this material, one that would both be economically and environmentally sound, but many others exist too. As this method and others for producing graphene in bulk mature, we can hope to see a future with increasingly stronger, more lightweight, more advanced, and less environmentally destructive materials and technologies.</p>
A new method of measuring human exposure to the potentially toxic chemical calls into question regulatory policy.
- Bisphenol A, or BPA, is produced at a massive scale in order to manufacture plastics.
- It's been linked to a wide variety of negative health effects, but regulatory agencies have mainly left the chemical alone due to its usefulness and the low exposure levels found in humans.
- However, a new study found that the method that most researchers have used to measure BPA exposure in humans drastically underestimates the actual exposure.