Some new lab equipment arrived that will allow us to start on other experimental research. We received tube ends for our quartz furnace and water cooled tube ends for our graphite furnace. A maximum temperature of 2500 C will be achieved by using induction heating and is the limit of our pyrometer… Under the right conditions we will be well within the graphitization range. Although what is interesting is that preliminary experiments have shown that it is possible to form Vertical Aligned Graphene Nano Arrays (VAGNAs) at lower temperatures. It is exciting to discover a great material that is quite easily made from biomass.
Nano Technology to Clean Up Lakes
What happens though when a natural paradise we remember fondly from childhood is on the brink of complete and devastating collapse? When the land is choked with rubbish and the lake filled with poison? Do we return to the place we were once so happy to save it?
This is exactly what Peruvian-Japanese scientist Marino Morikawa did: In 2010, his father told him that the Cascajo wetlands were so contaminated that they were about to be capped. Although the environmental scientist was working at Tsukuba University laboratories in Japan at the time, he decided to fly the 15,000 km back to Peru to see with his own eyes what his father had told him about El Cascajo.
The Cascajo Wetlands are 80 km from Lima in the province of Huaral in the Chancay Valley. Marino used to go fishing with his father here as a child. “When you go fishing, there are times when you catch fish and times you do not,” he recalls. “So when I got tired of sitting for one or two hours without catching anything, I used to walk through the wetlands and throw stones at birds to watch them fly…” Marino laughs: “Of course I’d condemn that action now, especially since I am an environmentalist, but I was just a mischievous child.” He also recalls that when his family would take their inflatable boat out to go swimming, they observed flocks of birds, even flamingos at times.
Would we return to the place we were once so happy to save it?
But when Marino returned, the area looked like an oxidation pond. 20 years had passed since his last visit. He discovered foul smelling waters in a critical stage of decay. The huge 150 hectares of wetland had diminished to a mere 40 hectares.
Two reasons he detected were illegal landfills and the breeding of pigs, cattle and sheep that had badly contaminated the water. Even worse, the previous mayor had built a new drainage canal that bordered on the wetlands and headed seaward. Most of the waste being channeled through this canal was leaking out into the wetlands. Water lettuce, an invasive species, was another major polluting factor that was ultimately choking the wetlands. This type of lettuce fully covers the surface of the water, preventing light and oxygen from reaching the wetland’s depths. It was a major contributor to the putrefaction and stench of El Cascajo.
The authorities had given up hope of ever salvaging the lake. But Marino didn’t think twice: With his experience in management and water quality control, he knew he could and should do something to help it recover. Marino holds a PhD in Bioindustrial Science and specializes in water treatment.
The first steps
“This is hard to explain and might be difficult for many people to understand. But the first thing I did was kneel down in the wetlands. When I put my hands on the ground, I felt a heartbeat, a pulse under my hands. You’re alive, I said, you’re not dead like everyone thinks you are.”
Marino’s family is well-known in their hometown Huaral, and they also just happened to be friends with its current mayor. So the first thing Marino did was set up a meeting with him. “Give me just one year and I’ll do everything in my power to restore the wetlands,” he said. “Just you?” the mayor asked. “Under my administration we tried to save the wetlands many times, but we couldn’t.” Marino replied: “I know, but you won’t have to worry about anything. It won’t cost you a cent, it’ll be my responsibility.”
The mayor agreed to the ambitious project, and Marino started knocking on doors to raise money. Unsuccessful in Peru, he tried his luck in Japan: He took all his savings, borrowed money from three banks, and returned to Peru. It was all his personal commitment: No one refunded him the money.
The nanotechnology system
Marino started off by camping in the wetlands for three days to identify the sources of contamination. He counted the approximate number of people who passed through the wetlands, he analyzed water and soil, and he studied the winds. Afterwards, he returned to Japan to develop adequate technology in the well-equipped laboratories of Tsukuba University. Since he had focused on nanotechnology and chemistry during his studies, he decided to deploy two nanotechnology methods in El Cascajo: a micro-nano bubbling system and a biofilter.
The micro-nano bubbling system consists of introducing microbubbles in the depths of polluted waters that attract bacteria and polluted microorganisms. “Think of soda bubbles,” explains Marino. “Everybody can see the bubbles rising to the surface. Now imagine a bubble ten-thousand times smaller and imperceptible to the human eye. Since it is so small, it is a lot slower and takes 5 to 8 hours to reach the surface. The micro-nano bubble has an electromagnetic field of positive and negative ions that works as a magnet. On the way to the surface of the water, it attracts viruses and bacteria, thus catching them like in a spider’s web.”
Once attracted by the magnet, the viruses and bacteria can’t move anymore and die. But in case the bubbles still reach the surface, they turn in gas and disappear due to radiation and ultraviolet rays.
The second method Marino used was biofilters. A biofilter is a media bed different types of microorganisms attach to and form a biological layer called a biofilm. It attracts water bacteria and preserves the good species that contribute to micro-flora conservation and bioremediation.
Biofilters are commonly used in water treatment worldwide, but they have to be adapted to the specific conditions of the local water. For his work in Peru, Marino used ceramic biofilters that he produced by himself in local pottery courses.
A success story
While it took Marino six months of research to develop the nanotechnology system, the practical application went comparatively quickly: In just 4 months, he had decontaminated the entire wetlands. At least 40 species of migratory birds have returned to El Cascajo Lake, and 10 fish species have come back to inhabit its waters. And what is more: the only equipment he used was materials that are available in any hardware store. “Never use an expensive resource in a poor area, while you can use the home material,” is one of his principles.
“Never use an expensive resource in a poor area, while you can use the home material.”
Marino also successfully raised awareness among the local people in Peru. They saw him working long hours all alone in the wetlands every day and began asking him about what he was doing. One morning, when Marino was thoroughly exhausted and arrived to the wetlands late, he found more than hundred people of different ages waiting for him. They wanted to work together and called out: “Marino, we are with you!” Even the illegal breeders turned up and helped him clean up the area.
In 2014, Marino’s scientific work and his commitment and dedication to Peru were honored by the Peruvian National Council for Science, Technology and Technological Innovation (Concytec). His methods are considered a true innovation and will be used for other applications in future. Marino already has two ambitious goals for 2015: He wants to clean the highest lake in the world, Lake Titicaca, and decontaminate the Rio Chira in the northern city of Sullana in Piura.
“If you take the first step, others will follow,” he says
Swedish teenager does not mince words at COP24
Showing poise and commitment that belies her 15 year old age, Greta Thunberg from Sweden provided a direct frontal assault of truth to world leaders at the COP24 conference in Poland https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFkQSGyeCWg
“You only speak of green eternal economic growth because you are too scared of being unpopular. You only talk about moving forward with the same bad ideas that got us into this mess, even when the only sensible thing to do is pull the emergency brake. You are not mature enough to tell it like it is. Even that burden you leave to us children.
But I don’t care about being popular. I care about climate justice and the living planet. Our civilization is being sacrificed for the opportunity of a very small number of people to continue making enormous amounts of money. Our biosphere is being sacrificed so that rich people in countries like mine can live in luxury. It is the sufferings of the many which pay for the luxuries of the few.”
Truly inspiring words that the oil establishment I’m sure will resent and probably try to repackage somehow into their own propaganda. I’m hopeful that the new and upcoming generation of voters and consumers will have the collective power to effect change in countries all over the world.
And ask yourself, what can I do today, tomorrow, next week, next year to do my part to reverse climate change. It’s up to all of us.
From sustainable materials to end of life solutions.
Eleven of the worlds leading tire manufacturers formed the Tire Industry Project a number of years ago and are making great strides into developing sustainable materials for tire production. From dandelion milk to supplement natural rubber, to biomass based materials into every facet of tires, the push is really on to eliminate petroleum based materials. Some fascinating reading here https://www.wbcsd.org/Sector-Projects/Tire-Industry-Project
All the major tire manufacturers who account for 65% of the worlds production have announced the objective to produce tires made from sustainable materials. Recovered carbon black, micronized rubber powder, recycled oils and chemicals from end of life tires will also play a part in reducing the carbon footprint of tire production. Some great companies inhabit this space already and the market is still in it’s infancy. The rate of change of progress in the last couple of years has really been astounding and I look forward to the next 5 years as industry, innovation and consumer preferences all converge into greater acceptance.
Daimler securing battery material supply chain.
This week Daimler announced that they have spent $20 billion euros recently to acquire battery materials to feed into their manufacturing efforts in this area. https://electrek.co/2018/12/11/daimler-billion-battery-cells-electric-vehicle/
Although it seems to me that they have realized somewhat late compared to other auto manufacturers that the future does not lay with internal combustion engines, this of course is great news. I would expect them to become amongst the leading companies soon. The more innovative, sustainable, renewable, alternative materials coming into the battery material stream coupled with the engineering depth of Daimler will be a huge positive for the industry and environment.