New Sensor Technology For Making Water Safe

New technology developed by Sandia National Laboratories will allow water utilities to test drinking water for disinfection byproducts cheaply and quickly. The new tool combines a surface acoustic wave sensor (SAW) with a special form of carbon (nanoporous), and it could potentially be used to detect many contaminants in the water and air.

Until recently, water utilities had few options for testing drinking water. The chlorine that is added to water to eliminate dangerous bacteria must itself be kept to a low enough level to avoid contaminating water with dangerous disinfection byproducts such as trihalomethanes. The test of water supplies is often done at labs qualified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), but this process requires several weeks. The only alternatives are expensive: hire a highly-trained chemist to perform the tests to EPA standards or invest in a mass spectrometer system.

Analyzing Water

However, a new and affordable option has emerged: Sandia National Laboratories, working with Parker Hannifin, has developed a table-top tool that quickly and cheaply detects common disinfection byproducts in water. Parker Hannifin has released an online version of the analyzer that can monitor trihalomethane levels every hour.

The device began its life in 2002 as analytical chemist Curtis Mowry’s idea for a sensor to detect industrial waste in water. Collaborating with an engineer from Parker Hannifin in 2006, Mowry finally saw his brainchild appear in 2011 as the Trihalomethane Water Analyzer. Today, Parker Hannifin leads all other companies in the number of trihalomethane analyzers used in North America.

With initial and follow-up work funded by Sandia’s laboratory-directed research and development program, a team of scientists created this device by marrying microsensor technology with cutting-edge research on a special form of carbon called nanoporous carbon. Mowry explained how the sensor works: a surface acoustic wave sensor (SAW) vibrates a wave along a sheet of quartz. Changes in the wave indicate how many chemicals have adhered to the quartz.

Nanoporous Carbon Technology

The downside to such sensors is that quartz is not a sensitive enough substance to collect enough chemicals for accurate readings. Researchers found a way around this problem by coating the quartz with nanoporous carbon. This form of carbon consists of nanofragments of graphene sheets, which trap greater amounts of chemicals. Sandia materials scientist Mike Siegal commented that this carbon coating “turned out to be a thousand times better than any organic coating that Sandia, or anyone else, had ever studied to adsorb volatile chemicals.”

In addition to using this innovative coating on the quartz, the developing team used an older and larger version of SAW technology, which made it easier to apply the carbon coating and produced more sensitive quartz, greatly increasing the efficiency of the device.

On top of testing water to improve public health, the analyzer has other exciting potential uses, including testing for contaminants in the air – even chemical weapons. However, perhaps even more promising are the possible applications of nanoporous carbon technology. Siegel and other Sandia scientists have been exploring how to apply this carbon to battery anodes to produce higher density batteries. These batteries could extend the life of cellphones, power electric cars more efficiently, and have many future technological ramifications.

Fun in the Sun, Safely and Naturally

 

Sunburn
Not only your skin, but your entire body can be dried by a sunburn, so be sure to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. There are some great remedies in your kitchen for dealing with the pain. If your eyelids are burned, soak tea bags in cool water and apply them to decrease pain and swelling. Wrap some dry oatmeal in gauze and run water through it for a few minutes. Remove the oatmeal and soak a cloth in the liquid leftover and apply every few hours.

 

Heat exhaustion
Unlike the winter months, summer weather predictions are usually pretty accurate. Keep this in mind, and plan ahead for extreme temperatures. Limit consumption of both caffeine and alcohol, as they both speed up the dehydration process. If someone is already suffering from heat exhaustion, either splash them with cool water or apply cool towels rather than submerging them in water. This will allow the water to evaporate and absorb more quickly and have a better cooling effect.

 

Mosquito bites
Mosquitoes can spread a number of diseases, so the first thing you should do once you’ve been bitten is to clean and disinfect the area where it appears with soap and hot water. To help prevent or reduce the inflammation caused by a bite, wet the affected area and rub an aspirin over the bite as soon as you can after it appears. Dissolve baking soda or Epsom salts in water, dip a cloth into that water and place it on the skin of the affected area for 15-20 minutes to help alleviate the itching.

 

Bee stings
The most important thing to do in order to avoid pain and swelling from a bee or wasp sting is to act fast, no matter what treatment you choose. Just like mosquitoes and flies, bees often are carriers for some nasty bacteria. Clean the area first, and then scrape the stinger away so that it doesn’t continue to pump venom into your skin. Apply a paste made of powdered activated charcoal to draw the poison out. Mud is an acceptable substitute, as not everyone keeps activated charcoal lying around.

 

Natural Ways To Save Our Sight

A vision care diet
The most common eye diseases share a common link- oxidation, chemical process in which free radicals damage cells in the body, in this case, the eyes. A natural by-product of metabolism, these oxygen-based molecules are also produced in large amounts by smoking, air pollution, and excessive sunlight. A few of the best antioxidants to help protect your sight are vitamin A, zinc, lutein, and fish oil (which are high in omega 3 fatty acids).

Water and exercise
Drinking a lot of fluids improves the transport of antioxidant nutrients to the eyes, so drink at least 8 glasses of water a day to lubricate them. Regular exercise is also good for eye health, especially in helping to prevent glaucoma. It boosts circulation throughout the entire body and can reduce pressure in the eye as well.

Sunglasses
Most people wear sunglasses for comfort, but there’s a more important reason: the sun’s ultraviolet radiation greatly increases oxidation in eye tissues. Excessive sun exposure is a leading cause of cataracts and macular degeneration. Make sure that your sunglasses block 100% of both UVA and UVB radiation, and styles that wrap around the face are best as they block most of the sunlight that would otherwise hit your eyes.

Relax
Our eyes get virtually no rest other than when we’re sleeping. An easy way to soothe and relax your eyes is to rub your palms together until they’re warm, and place them gently over your closed eyes with the fingers of each hand overlapping and resting in the center of the forehead for a few minutes. Do this at least once a day.

 

Stay Awake At Work…Naturally

Take A Breather
Deep breaths raise your body’s blood oxygen levels, which can help increase your energy and alertness by lowering blood pressure and slowing your heart rate. The idea is to breathe deeply into your belly, not your chest. While sitting upright, inhale slowly through your nose and feel your abdomen push out, then exhale slowly through your mouth. Alternatively, a method used for quick energy in yoga calls for quick inhaling and exhaling through your nose while your mouth is closed. It is recommended to take 3 of these rapid breaths within a second, and repeat up to 15 seconds.

Move Around
If you have an office job like so many Americans, try getting a little exercise either on your lunch hour or if you get a shorter break throughout the day. A study from California State University, Long Beach suggested that the participants had a longer time of increased energy after taking a 10 minute walk than they did if they ate a candy bar or other sugary quick fix. The reason that a little brisk exercise works better than a store bought solution is that walking pumps oxygen through your veins and muscles.

Drink More Water
Your brain is made of 83% water, so it just makes sense that if you’re dehydrated it’s not going to function as well as it could or should. Fatigue isn’t the only symptom of dehydration of course, it can also cause depression, confusion, aggravation, constipation, and headaches. Make sure you drink plenty of water, or eat foods that have high water content like fruits and vegetables. Excess caffeine can cause dehydration, so be sure to balance it carefully.