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Robot swans bring new advanced technology to water testing

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robot-swan-600x401                 [Singapore] Floating on the surface of Pandan Reservoir in Singapore’s south west are what researchers hope will be the future of cheap, real-time water quality testing. Developed by a team at the National University of Singapore (NUS), in conjunction with the national water agency PUB, the NUSwan utilises advanced water monitoring technology, fitted into the shell that closely resembles a living, breathing bird. “We started with a number of smaller bird models, before we decided on the swan. It’s just the right size,” said Assistant Professor Mandar Chitre, one of the project’s lead researchers. “If you look at it in the environment, it just looks like a swan swimming around.” A small team at the NUS Environmental Research Institute, working with the Tropical Marine Science Institute, initially conceptualised the robot back in 2010 but only began their first series of test bedding last year. The aim is to mobilise the robotic swans to monitor different physical and biological compounds in fresh water, including pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity and chlorophyll, which are common indicators used to determine if there are problems in a water source. At present, water authorities face the logistical challenge of physically having to collect samples from large bodies of water, normally using a boat. It is an approach that requires time and manpower and restricts the speed at which officials can act in the case of an outbreak or a contamination. “It would be expensive to do similar monitoring manually or using AUVs (Autonomous Underwater Vehicles),” said Asst Prof Chitre. “Hence to reduce reliance on manpower and increase efficiency in water quality monitoring, we are constantly looking into developing new technology with improved capabilities.” “Scientifically, the NUSwan test drives a new paradigm of freshwater monitoring, one that is persistent and interactive, and is potentially able to sample the dynamics of water quality over space and time at improved resolution at an affordable cost,” he added. The swans work by trawling particular areas of interest in a water body and wirelessly sending back data through cloud computing. Programmers will be able to remotely control the robots, but the aim is to ensure they are as autonomous as possible, requiring just basic monitoring and operation, which can happen from anywhere with an internet connection. The researchers said the swans’ navigation is more advanced than an automatic vacuum cleaner for instance, which can avoid obstacles but cannot tell where it has already travelled. The SWAN uses GPS to ensure it does not duplicate its monitoring efforts, unless programmed to. They are durable enough such that even if a recreational water user such as a kayaker, or even a small boat, hits the swan, it will not be damaged, according to the teams behind the technology. TECHNOLOGY POTENTIAL They believe they are at just the tip of realising the potential of this system and have designed the NUSwan to be adaptable to various environmental challenges that may arise. “The NUSwan platform is designed to be extendable – new sensors and actuators can be added on demand to increase its sensing capability,” said Mr Koay Teong Beng, one of the other leading researchers on the project. Already the team is collaborating with other university researchers to combine technologies and stretch the swans to their technological limits. This includes a highly sensitive freshwater phosphate sensor, which is being developed independently by a separate NUS team. Phosphates are key nutrients in the development of blue-green algal blooms, which can be devastating for water sources. There is a hope that technology such as the phosphate sensor could be mobilised by the NUSwan, and provide a real-world alarm system to the threat of algal blooms, a common problem encountered in more polluted waterways as a result of fertilisers, sewerage and domestic waste. Earlier this year, a proliferation of algal blooms in oxygen-depleted, bacteria-rich waters caused thousands of fish to die. While the phosphate sensor has only been tested in fresh water, it is this kind of scenario that it is designed to help prevent. “Phosphate detection was lacking; phosphate sensors are not available in the market,” said Lanry Yung, Associate Professor of Chemical and Bio-molecule Engineering . “The prototype is finished. Now we are trying to do automation and collaboration with the NUSwan team to work on hardware. “Salt complicates the process, but nonetheless it’s something to look into at the next stage,” he said. The NUSwan has received interest from water authorities across the region, particularly in China where water pollution is a pressing issue and where the system will be tested on several rivers in the south of the country. That could potentially see the robotic swans floating on some of the world’s largest water reservoirs in the near future. “We see the potential of having NUSwans deployed in urban freshwater bodies and coastal water beyond Singapore. With the data stored in the cloud, collaborators may share and aggregate data and understand global phenomena,” Asst Prof Chitre said. https://youtu.be/gGRs0V215YI Read more at: http://news.algaeworld.org/2015/07/robot-swans-bring-new-advanced-technology-to-water-testing/ http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/robot-swans-bring-new/1958380.html

Island Chen Develops the Blue Island Bioluminescent Algae Installation

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Blue Algae 1 Matsu is a tiny Taiwanese island located off the eastern coast of China. Isolated in the sea, the atoll has had little potential for economic development, and has for the most part has fallen further and further behind its mother country. That is, until a strange bioluminescent algae began blooming on its shores. Scientifically referred to as dinoflagellates, the organisms cause the surface of the ocean to sparkle a deep, ethereal blue at night. The spectacle has attracted thousands of tourists, and has become an integral symbol within local culture. There’s only one problem. The frequency, duration, and relative intensity of the natural phenomenon is directly attributed to nutrient pollution. Beautiful at nightfall, by day the algae curdles the water with a thick red pigment, and feasts upon organisms in the water. The algae heighten ammonia levels in the sea, and with the help of thousands of pounds of floating trash and industrial waste, are capable of destroying marine life and threatening human welfare. Blue Algae 2 The ‘blue island’ is a bio-digital installation by island chen that recreates the dinoflagellates’ habitat in a contained environment. Adapted to function using agricultural wastes, combined with a roof bound fresnel lens — to increase photosynthesis energy. ‘Blue island’ is intended to act as an educational tool to help people remember that the algae is harmful, no matter how aesthetically pleasing. It also functions as a much-safer, viable option to retain the now burgeoning eco-tourism industry. https://vimeo.com/132576923 Read more at: http://www.designboom.com/technology/island-chen-the-blue-island-bioluminescent-algae-installation-07-07-2015/

Japan is Building the World’s Largest Floating Solar Plant

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  Japan Solar Panels on Water The applications for solar panels seem endless. In fact, they’re now moving on to unknown land… Well, it’s not really land at all – it’s water. Clean energy companies are looking to wetlands, lakes, ponds, and canals as building grounds as the location of their new solar panels. So far, floating solar structures have been planned for the United Kingdom, Australia, India, and Italy. But it’s in Japan’s Yamakura Dam that the biggest floating plant, in terms of how much it output it can produce, will soon be placed atop the reservoir of Japan’s in Chiba prefecture, east of Tokyo. Solar Panels on the Water The project is scheduled to be completed in March 2016. It will cover 180,000 square meters, hold 50,000 photovoltaic solar panels, and power nearly 5,000 households. Interestingly, the project will also offset nearly 8,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually – the same amount as 1,700 car emissions. The Yamakura Dam project is a collaboration between 3 companies: Kyocera, a Kyoto-based electronics manufacturer; Ciel et Terre, a French company that designs, finances, and operates photovoltaic installations; and Century Tokyo Leasing Corporation. So why are we building on water, instead of land? Building on water helps to free up surrounding land agricultural use, conservation, or other development. Environmental Impact Yet here are concerns over the project. You can’t simply place a solar panel in any ol’ lake or reservoir. Yang Yang, a engineering professor at the University of California, Los Angeles specializing in photovoltaic solar panels, says of the project: “Overall, this is a very interesting idea. If successful, it will bring a huge impact. However, I do have concerns of its safety against storms and other natural disasters, not to mention corrosion.” Solar energy plants on the water are clearly more susceptible to changes in weather, but moreover they have to be thoroughly waterproofed, including all panels and wiring. It’s not just bad weather, but natural disasters that have to be taken into consideration as Japan is a hot spot for typhoons, earthquakes, landslides, and tidal waves. To make sure that the platforms stay intact, Ciel et Terre’s R&D team tested them in a wind tunnel that matched the same conditions of a hurricane. Also, the panels have to adhere to certain environmental regulations. That is one reason we chose Ciel et Terre’s floating platforms, which are 100 percent recyclable and made of high-density polyethylene that can withstand ultraviolet rays and corrosion,” says Ichiro Ikeda, general manager of Kyocera’s marketing division. The project also impacts the water’s environment as the sun that the algae soak up is taken in through the panels, making the water cooler and darker, which can sometimes often halt algae growth – which can be both a good and a bad thing. With 70% of the earth’s surface covered in water, this could present companies with a whole new terrain with which to work on. However, the ocean is still a distant dream, with Kyocera’s Ikeda explaining that there are a variety of issues at play, such as waves and changing water levels that could damage the panels.   Read more at : http://www.greenerideal.com/alternative-energy/0117-japan-building-worlds-largest-floating-solar-plant/      

Microalgae May Be New Natural Source for Antibiotics

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Microalgae May Be New Natural Source for Antibiotics

Algal_production_facility_Craig_and_Elise   A recent article in Phycologia indicates that microalgae could provide alternative ways of producing antibiotics. This “untapped” source may prove to be highly valuable due to bacteria’s growing resistance to antibodies. Bacteria are resourceful, and their growing resistance to antibiotics has drawn attention and caused concern worldwide. There is an urgent need to find new sources of antibiotics. Among other options, scientists are turning to natural compounds from relatively unexplored microorganisms. The authors of an article published in the current issue of the journal Phycologia looked at one such group of microorganisms: microalgae. Researchers have investigated only a few species so far, but work with freshwater microalgae collected from remote, scientifically unexplored regions in northern Canada has produced several promising candidates for antibiotics. Microalgae are found everywhere: in lakes, rivers, garden ponds, even swimming pools. Yet little research has focused on them as potential antibiotics. Most antibiotics used today were created from bacteria, and the increasing resistance of the bacteria has prompted research into synthetic variations. The authors of the current article argue that microalgae may be another potential source of resistance-proof antibiotics. The authors give an overview of some of the research on microorganisms as antibiotics. They focus on the antibacterial activity of cyanobacteria and eukaryotic unicellular algae, collectively referred to as microalgae. Screening programs are being used to search for potentially useful strains of these microalgae. Researchers have found that microalgae can survive in and adapt to a range of harsh environmental conditions. Changes in temperature, light, pH, salinity, and the availability of nutrients have been extensively studied for their effects on microalgal growth. The adaptability of the microalgae suggests that they can develop resistance against a variety of stresses. Microalgae also produce compounds that can stand up to the activity of some of the bacteria that sicken people. When their environment changes, these microorganisms produce even more antibacterial compounds. This makes them a potential resource in manufacturing antibiotic drugs. Advances in technologies that can detect, purify, and identify the antibacterial compounds produced by microalgae only increase the possibilities for new antibiotics. The authors concluded that the range and variety of microalgae, as well as their antibacterial activity, could make them an important source of new antibiotics. Their ability to survive and adapt to a range of environments may be highly valuable to drug manufacturers. Still, there are no commercially available antibiotics from microalgae. More research is needed into these microorganisms to take advantage of this “untapped” source. Read more at: http://www.benzinga.com/pressreleases/15/06/p5626783/microalgae-may-be-new-natural-source-for-antibiotics http://modernfarmer.com/2015/04/algae-the-new-antibiotic/  

President of the Natural Astaxanthin Association Named

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The Natural Algae Astaxanthin Association (NAXA) has chosen Scott Steinford as the new president of the organization. Mr. Steinford has over 15 years’ experience in the dietary supplement industry and replaces Ed Wyszumiala.

“Scott’s experience working with associations, media and the industry is unmatched and is ideal for this role,” said Ed Hofland, NAXA chairman of the board. “He will build on the work that’s been done and help NAXA grow and evolve to realize its vision of the industry understanding the benefits of natural astaxanthin.”

“I strongly believe in the importance and value a trade organization can bring towards the advancement of an ingredient,” said Steinford. “NAXA is important because transparency and education are paramount in today’s marketplace. NAXA will serve to educate both the dietary supplement consumer and industry of the benefits of natural astaxanthin and the quality of the associated ingredient manufacturers.”

Steinford merges industry experience representing ingredient manufacturers, retail brand, trade organization leadership and management consulting. Steinford serves on the editorial advisory boards of several key dietary supplement industry trade publications, including Nutrition Business Journal, Natural Foods Merchandiser, and Nutraceuticals World.

Steinford has a Pre-Law Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Texas at Arlington and a Master’s of Science Degree in Law from Champlain College.  Scott held a pivotal role with a variety of ingredient manufacturers including Eisai, Kaneka and was a founder of ZMC-USA. Most recently he served as CEO of Doctor’s Best, Inc.

Read more at: http://www.algaeindustrymagazine.com/scott-steinford-named-president-of-naxa/

The Photosynthetic Life-Giving Pigments

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Algae Pigments 2

Cells Pictured on left column: Heomatococcus, Spirulina Pacifica, Spirulina Platensis, Dunaliella

Pigments are colorful chemical compounds that reflect only certain wavelengths of visible light. This makes them appear “colorful”. Flowers, coral and even animal and human skin contain pigments which give them their colors. More important than their reflection of light is the ability of pigments to absorb certain wavelengths. There are three principle classes of pigments: Chlorophyll is the most important chelate in nature. It is capable of channelling the energy of sunlight into chemical energy through the process of photosynthesis. Chlorophyll is a greenish pigment that contains a porphyrin ring. This is a stable ring-shaped molecule around which electrons are free to migrate. Because the electrons move freely, the ring has the potential to gain or lose electrons easily, and thus the potential to provide energized electrons to other molecules. This is the fundamental process by which chlorophyll “captures” the energy of sunlight. Carotenoids are usually red, orange, or yellow pigments, and include the familiar compound carotene, which gives carrots their orange color. These compounds are composed of two small six-carbon rings connected by a “chain” of carbon atoms. As a result, they do not dissolve in water and must be attached to membranes within the cell. Carotenoids cannot transfer sunlight energy directly to the photosynthetic pathway, but must pass their absorbed energy to chlorophyll. For this reason, they are called accessory pigments. One very visible accessory pigment is fucoxanthin: the brown pigment that colors kelps and other brown algae as well as the diatoms. Phycobilins are water-soluble pigments and are therefore found in the cytoplasm or in the stroma of the chloroplast. They occur only in cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) and rhodophyta (red algae). Phycobilins are useful to the organisms that use them for soaking up light energy. Both phycocyanin and phycoerythrin fluoresce at a particular wavelength. That is, when they are exposed to strong light, they absorb the light energy, and release it by emitting light of a very narrow range of wavelengths. These pigments chemically bond to antibodies and as such, have been found to prevent tumorogenesis. Because they interact with light to absorb only certain wavelengths, pigments are useful to plants and other autotrophs – organisms which make their own food using photosynthesis. In plants, algae and cyanobacteria (blue-green algae), pigments are the means by which the energy of sunlight is captured for photosynthesis. However, since each pigment reacts with only a narrow range of the spectrum, there is usually a need to produce several kinds of pigments, each of a different color, to capture more of the sun’s energy. Algae Pigments 3 photosynthesis-300x225   Read more at: http://themagicisbac.com/book/the-photosynthetic-life-giving-pigment-content-of-bac/  

VetiGel Algae-Based Polymer Seals Wounds Instantly

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A young CEO who invented an algae-based polymer that instantly seals wounds is now ready to start distributing the product to veterinarians under the name "VetiGel." vetigel-algae-based-polymer-seals-wounds-instantly_k6gf Joe Landolina originally created the first version of his product, VetiGel, in his grandfather's lab when he was only 17 years-old. Now 22, the young CEO of Suneris, a biotech company that manufactures the VetiGel, is ready to start shipping it out to veterinarians for use in surgery. Landolina told Business Insider that, when injected into a wound site, the gel can form a clot that stops the bleeding within 12 seconds and permanently heals the wound within minutes. The gel contains algae-based polymers that act as a sealant and expedite the clotting process. Sealing the wound allows platelets to accumulate at the site of the injury to form a mesh. The mesh helps the body produce fibrin, the clotting protein that helps to repair tissue in the long term. So not only does VetiGel stop the bleeding, it also permanently heals the wound.  And because it's plant-based, the gel can be left to safely absorb into the body after use. The company recently began taking pre-orders from veterinarians and will begin shipping this summer. A pack of five, five-milliliter syringes costs $150. Landolina told BI that the plan is to expand into human use in the coming years. He believes that VetiGel will receive FDA approval for human use within the year. Vetigel BI reports that if the product gains FDA approval, it will first be used by military personnel; then EMTs to treat traumatic injuries; then in operating rooms; and finally in individuals' homes. "Powders, specially treated gauze pads and tiny injectable sponges are already approved to stop bleeding," explained Dr. Christopher Asandra, Chief Medical officer of NuMale Medical Center and an experienced emergency room physician. "For the military, these products are particularly useful in addressing wounds that occur where the limbs meet the torso, because tying tourniquets over these injuries is very difficult," he said. "The U.S. Department of Defense has said that 'hemorrhage is the leading cause of death on the battlefield,' so it comes as no surprise that the U.S. Department of Defense has been a champion for the research and development behind these hemostatic agents."   Read more at: http://in.askmen.com/health-sports-news/1107199/article/vetigel-algae-based-polymer-seals-wounds-instantly

Go green! These edible algae lamps could light your home

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If you frequent your local health-food market, you’ll probably encounter some sort of nutritional supplement called microalgae. While microalgae are a great source of protein and all, they’re much more than a food source for health freaks. They’re now also being used as a source of heat and light for your home. Algae lamp 1 You heard right: algae living inside of your lamps. Designers Jacob Douenias and Ethan Frier have put together an art installation at The Mattress Factory, a division of The Museum of Contemporary Art, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, that uses the power of Spirulina algae housed in glass bioreactors to illuminate and heat the entire futuristic home display. You can pop the lamps open and eat the algae, if that’s what you’re into. (Of course it needs to be filtered and dried first). Douenias and Frier are actually working with chefs and bartenders to concoct algae dishes and drinks for special events held at the exhibit. So why use algae to light up the place? As it turns out, algae can actually thrive in very alkaline waters where other bacteria really can’t live. As the algae grow inside of the custom glass enclosures, the liquid becomes an even darker green and capable of absorbing more light. “Individual Spirulina filaments which are just barely visible to the naked eye (one-third of a millimeter long) can be seen mixing inside the glass vessels,” according to Living Things. The exhibit consists of three rooms: a living room, dining room, and kitchen/control center where different algae lamps are on display. The different lighting units are all connected by a half-mile of plumbing and wiring, along with pumps, LED drivers, and heater connectors that all live inside of the cabinets and make this entire display possible. Algae lamp 2 The glass vessels filled with the algae don’t just illuminate the display home; they also act as photobioreactors that provide heat, light, agitation, and waste control to the algae living inside. Visitors can manipulate the 3D-printed controls in the kitchen to harvest the algae when it’s ready to be eaten. The installation will be open until March 2016.   https://vimeo.com/128654962 Read more: http://www.digitaltrends.com/home/microalgae-lamps-can-light-your-home-and-are-edible/#ixzz3dWGGpkpd

Algae Ink

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DENVER - Living Ink Technologies has developed a patent-pending process to use algae as an ink that grows! "It's what grows in the ponds, the lakes, the oceans," said Living Ink Technologies co-founder and Colorado State University PhD candidate, Scott Fulbright. He says the green stuff could change the way we think about ink. "Nature provides a lot of bio-diversity for us to work with," he said. "I can send you a greeting card where some of the letters pop-up and then the next day some more letters pop-up. You have to guess what it says by the end of the week after the whole message grows." It's a message that only appears when the recipient hangs the card in the sunlight. Fulbright and his business partner, Steve Albers, won first prize at the University of Colorado Denver's Entrepreneurship Business Plan Competition. They hope to cash-in on the $8 billion greeting card industry and one day take on commercial printers with safe, renewable algae-derived ink. "It saves the consumer potentially a lot of money, and if it takes off it has the potential to revolutionize the ink industry," said Madhavan Parthasarathy, Associate Professor at the CU Denver Business School Living Ink will be launching a Kickstarter campaign mid-August for their stem algae coloring books. Living Ink Technology Read more at: http://www.thedenverchannel.com/thenow/algae-ink-from-living-ink-technologies-wins-top-prize-at-cu-denver-competition http://www.livinginktechnologies.com/

Novel biotyping tool reveals hidden diversity within the UK’s algae bank

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Thousands of samples at the UK’s ‘algae bank’ will need to be re-labelled as a ground-breaking new screening tool has revealed greater diversity then was previously known within the collection. Analysing the protein fingerprint of 32 algae which had all previously been catalogued under the same heading, experts from Newcastle University and the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) found they actually divided into four distinct sub-groups and that one was apparently a completely new species. Glaucocystis sp. Now scientist at the Culture Collection of Algae and Protozoa (CCAP) in Oban, Scotland, are preparing to embark on the mammoth task of analyzing and relabeling the 3,000-strong collection in light of the new research which is published this month in the academic journal Scientific Reports. Dr Gary Caldwell, a Senior Lecturer in Marine Science and Technology at Newcastle University, said: "We're only just beginning to understand the vast unlocked potential of algae as an energy source, a clean-up tool and as a food. "And part of the reason for this is that we still know relatively little about them. Properly identifying and categorising the different strains is a key step towards unlocking that potential and that is why research like this is so important." The exploitation of marine and aquatic organisms for biotechnology applications – so-called 'blue biotechnology' – has risen to the forefront of the global research agenda over the past decade. Algae and cyanobacteria have been shown to have huge potential – their ability to convert sunlight into biomass, capacity to grow in saline or hypersaline environments and their ability to metabolise industrial and domestic waste (including CO2 and wastewater) making them attractive targets for industry. Professor John Day of SAMS said the new screening tool had 'huge potential' and could lead to scientists discovering new high value chemicals and toxins that may have gone undetected. He added: "Our understanding of the biodiversity at the CCAP and the relationship of each organism to another is very fluid, so we are constantly learning more about these strains. "This fingerprinting will give us much more precise identification and even tell us where these strains have come from, in terms of family links. It can tell us what a cell is doing and what it's made of." Funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, the CCAP is a national resource – the algal equivalent to the Millennium seed bank at Kew. Using proteomic-based biotyping – a rapid and accurate method of strain separation – the research team analysed 32 algae which had all previously been labelled as being the same based on key DNA markers and physical characteristics. Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2015-06-biotyping-tool-reveals-hidden-diversity.html#jCp http://www.nature.com/srep/2015/150512/srep10036/full/srep10036.html