Can an artificial leaf make the pharmaceutical industry greener?

September 11, 2019 by  
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Scientists in the Netherlands have developed a solar reactor that looks and acts like a leaf. By putting chemicals in the artificial leaf’s microchannels, which resemble the veins on a real leaf, and exposing it to sunlight cause solar reactions to create medicine . “Depending on the choice of chemicals, almost any kind of medicine can be created in a fast and sustainable way,” promises a video on the Eindhoven University of Technology’s website . “Maybe we could be making malaria medication in the middle of a rainforest . Or even a headache pill in outer space.” Related: Supermarket happy hour reduces food waste Researchers at Eindhoven University mimicked nature by designing ultra-thin channels running through the faux leaves, which are made of Plexiglas. “This material is cheaper and easy to make in larger quantities,” says Timothy Noël, lead researcher on the team. “It also has a higher refractive index, so that the light stays better confined. But the most important thing is that we can add more types of light-sensitive molecules in (Plexiglas). As a result, in principle all chemical reactions are now possible in this reactor across the entire width of the visible light spectrum.” The current version of the artificial leaf is a refinement of a prototype Noël unveiled in 2016. So far, the scientists have produced two drugs inside the artificial leaves: the anti- malarial artimensinin and ascaridole, which fights parasitic worms. “Artificial leaves are perfectly scalable; where there is sun, it works,” says Noël. “The reactors can be easily scaled, and its inexpensive and self-powered nature make them ideally suited for the cost-effective production of chemicals with solar light. I am therefore very positive that we should be able to run a commercial trial of this technology within a year.” If future trials are successful, this small reactor could help solve the pharmaceutical industry’s sustainability problems. Producing and transporting drugs currently requires dangerous chemicals and a lot of fossil fuels. Via New Atlas Image via TU/e

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Can an artificial leaf make the pharmaceutical industry greener?

Tribute in Light endangers migrating birds

September 11, 2019 by  
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New York City’s annual September 11 Tribute in Light seeks to console a still-damaged city and commemorate those lost in the 2001 Twin Tower attacks. Unfortunately, the stunning beams of light also mesmerize birds , sometimes luring them to their deaths. According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , the light event endangers nearly 160,000 birds each year. September is prime time for birds and other animals using the migration corridor that passes through New York City. Everything from warblers to bats to peregrine falcons flutter and swoop above the cityscape, as they have for thousands of years before there was even a single light to fly over. Related: Bird deaths from skyscrapers reaches into the hundreds of millions The Tribute in Light disrupts birds’ internal compasses. Birds rely on natural guideposts, such as light from the sun, stars and moon, and the pull of the earth’s magnetic field, to find their way to winter grounds. “When the installation was illuminated, birds aggregated in high densities, decreased flight speeds, followed circular flight paths and vocalized frequently,” the study authors wrote . “Simulations revealed a high probability of disorientation and subsequent attraction for nearby birds.” This means that while the smaller birds paused, hypnotized by lights, larger birds swooped down and snatched them for supper. Those who elude predators waste precious energy flying in circles over the light show, making them vulnerable to exhaustion and starvation. “Birds do fly for extended periods of time,” said John Rowden of the National Audubon Society. “It’s not that they can’t do it. But they’re doing it to get south of here. If they spend all their time in that small area, they won’t get to good foraging habitat , and it will compromise them for later parts of their migration.” A few scientists and a group of volunteers from the New York City chapter of the Audubon Society are keeping track of the light-dazzled birds. When they count 1,000 trapped birds, the lights are shut off for 20 minutes, allowing the birds to disperse. Ornithologist Susan Elbin is the director of conservation and science at New York City Audubon Society. As she told the New York Times , “It’s my job to turn the lights out, and I’d rather not have lights on at all, because the artificial light interferes with birds’ natural cues to navigate.” Via EcoWatch and New York Times Image via Dennis Leung

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Tribute in Light endangers migrating birds

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