We’re here with another issue of bioresearch of the week, updating you on the most recent innovative investigations that have been going on around the world.
Electronic nose on a drone sniffs out wastewater treatment plant stink:
While we have heard of e-everything, an e-nose is not something we see very often. Researchers from Spain created a portable electronic nose that’s almost as accurate as the human nose. The reason for their engineering efforts is to sniff out the pungent odors from wastewater treatment plants, which could aid in the management of the plants by giving important data such as concentration of different smells, prediction of odor intensity, and produce a real-time odor map. The researchers trained the e-nose to sniff out pungent chemicals such as hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, and sulfur dioxide. The e-nose is also equipped with a sensor for carbon dioxide, an indicator of bacterial activity. This would radically change the conventional method used today: a human panel that smells and analyzes bags of air collected from the plant. Read more details here.
Solar energy with an ‘ironclad future’
Researchers at the University of Basel in Switzerland have dedicated their efforts to looking further into dye-sensitized solar cells, which have the potential to be a low-cost supplement to the photovoltaic systems currently used. The team has inves the performance of these cells using iron. Until now, the sensitizers used in the dye-sensitized solar cells have either been relatively short-lived or demanded the use of very rare and expensive metals. Using iron, however, would be a more efficient method, seeing that it’s the most abundant transition metal. The prototypes are still in the early stages, achieving an overall efficiency of 1%, while current commercially available solar cells reach around 20%. You can find more information here.
Liquid fuels from carbon dioxide
A team from Foshan University, the University of Science and Technology of China, and Xi’an Shiyou University have developed an electrocatalyst that efficiently converts CO2 to liquid fuels with multiple carbon atoms. The primary products of the process are ethanol, acetone, and n-butanol. The electrocatalyst, named a-CuTi@Cu, seeks to be a solution to the big amounts of GHG emitted by burning fossil fuels. Using the novel electrocatalyst would mean a renewable energy, a climate-neutral, artificial carbon cycle. According to the researchers, “excess energy produced by photovoltaics and wind energy could be stored through the electrocatalytic production of fuels from CO2. These could then be burned as needed. Conversion into liquid fuels would be advantageous because they have high energy density and are safe to store and transport.” Read more here.
Coal creation mechanism uncovered
Researchers from Penn State University have made a major discovery that essentially changes the way we thought about the initial stages of coal creation. The team discovered that microbes were actually responsible for coal formation and production of methane. “If you polled geochemists, most would say that coal was created by temperature, acids or catalysts,” said Max K. Lloyd, assistant research professor of geosciences, Penn State. “But our results are inconsistent with those mechanisms. They show that microbes are directly consuming coal methoxyl groups, transforming coal and making methane.” Find more detailed information on the discovery here.