The concentration of certain toxic organic chemicals in waterway sediments can be reduced by 83 percent using electron beams—the same technology already used to decontaminate mail—scientists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Maryland will report in the Sept. 1 issue of Environmental Science & Technology. In an additional series of laboratory experiments, the team found that ultraviolet light also can substantially reduce the concentration of these chemicals.
The results are significant because sediments, soupy mixtures of water and particles of various sizes, arenotoriously difficult and expensive to decontaminate. Further, electron beams and ultraviolet light effectively detoxified the banned chemicals known collectively as polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, which can get into the food chain and increase the risk of cancer in humans. Waterways such as the Hudson River have bottom sediments heavily contaminated with PCBs. However, whether electron beams and ultraviolet light are practical decontamination techniques will depend on cost-effectiveness comparisons to existing methods, such as chemical treatment and incineration. In addition, issues such as availability of electron beams will need to be resolved. The scientists used a beam at the University of Maryland for the recent studies.
Electron beams and ultraviolet light remove chlorine ions (charged atoms) from PCBs, which reduces toxic-ity and enhances prospects for biodegradation of the remaining material by living organisms. The scientists evaluated the effectiveness of the treatment methods in removing PCBs from a NIST Standard Reference Material containing sediments with carefully measured amounts of contaminants. Research continues on additives and conditions that might enhance the decontamination processes. The research is funded by NIST, the university, and the Maryland Water Resources Center.
Laura Ost, | NIST
Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen
A new indicator for marine ecosystem changes: the diatom/dinoflagellate index
21.08.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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