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Hamilton scientists find way to dissolve, recycle rubber from car tires – The London Free Press

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Scientists in Hamilton have found a way to dissolve the rubber used in car tires, which they say could eventually help keep what is typically a single-use item out of landfills.

In a study released Monday, researchers at McMaster University say their method could reduce the environmental and safety hazards related to stockpiled tires.

They say the properties that make tires durable on the road also make them difficult to break down and repurpose, so most end up in landfills and storage facilities, eventually leaching contaminants into the environment.

Michael Brook, the study’s lead author and a professor in the department of chemistry and chemical biology at McMaster, pointed to a massive fire that burned for weeks in a pile of 14 million scrap tires near Hagersville, Ont., roughly three decades ago as an example of the potential dangers.

“Why do people collect tires in that size? It’s because there’s no really good way to deal with them,” he said, adding a small proportion of tires are ground up to use in playgrounds or asphalt.

“The idea that you make three billion tires last year and put them in a landfill after a single use, to me, it just doesn’t make any sense,” he said.

“A tire is incredibly well made…at the end we want to turn that tire back into something else, either make a new tire or make a new material, even if it’s not quite as high quality, but not just go from my car to a landfill, which is mostly what’s happening now.”

The team was working with chemicals to make new silicones when they had the idea to try it on the rubber used in tires, and found it successfully broke down the sulphur-to-sulphur bonds in the material, Brook said.

He compared the rubber’s structure to a fishnet or fabric, and the chemical catalyst as a type of “molecular scissors” that cuts through the threads in one direction so that the net becomes a series of ropes, which can then be processed.

What’s left is a processable oil and a number of other materials, such as steel and polyester, that go into tires — all of which could be reused, he said.

“We can take a piece of rubber that really is just above being garbage, break it into some constituent parts and now make a new rubber with some of them,” he said.

“The question is, what’s the best product to come out of this? And that’s what we’re looking at now.”

The process is not yet ready for commercial use, however, and researchers say it’s too early to tell when it might be.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 13, 2020

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Annual Perseid meteor shower peaks this week: How you can catch some 'shooting stars' – CBC.ca

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Looking for a fun, physical-distancing activity in the coming days? The best meteor shower of the year is upon us. 

The Perseid meteor shower is one of the best summertime treats. Under optimal conditions — clear, moonless dark skies — at its peak, the shower can produce up to 100 meteors an hour.

The meteor shower runs from July 17 to Aug. 26, with the peak occurring this year on the night of Aug. 11–12.

Meteor showers occur when Earth, as it orbits the sun, plows through debris left over from a passing comet or asteroid. These small, grain-sized pieces of debris burn up in our atmosphere, produce beautiful streaks of light, often referred to as “shooting stars.”

In this case, Earth is passing through a stream left from comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. 

Try out this interactive map showing how Earth passes through the meteor shower:

When and where to watch

While last year’s shower was hampered by an almost full moon, the good news is that this year, the moon will only be 44 per cent illuminated and rise after midnight.

The biggest key to enjoying a meteor shower is getting away from light sources. That means finding a good, dark-sky location, such as a park or a beach. Also, stay away from your cellphone. As it takes our eyes some time to adjust to the dark, the phone’s bright light will make it more difficult to do so. Typically, it can take 30 minutes or longer for your eyes to adjust.

The greatest thing about meteor showers is that everyone can enjoy them. There’s no need for a telescope or even binoculars. All you need to do is grab a blanket or two, find a good location and look up.

A Perseid meteor in 2014 streaks over Starfest, a star party held annually in southwestern Ontario each August. This year, the Perseid meteor shower will peak on the night of Aug. 11-12. (Submitted by Malcolm Park)

See some ‘Earth-grazers’

Meteor showers are named after the constellation from which the meteors seem to originate, called the radiant. In this case, the radiant is in the constellation Perseus, hence the name.

The constellation rises in the northern sky at about 9:30 p.m. local time and continues to rise in the northeast. But you don’t have to look exactly in that direction to see the meteors. You can simply look up. 

In fact, if you’re doing your meteor-gazing at that time of night, the meteors will leave much longer trains — or streaks — in the sky as they skim the upper atmosphere. These are called “Earth-grazers” and can be seen low in the east moving from north to south. Though earlier in the night isn’t the most active time for meteors, the ones that you will see will likely be more spectacular as a result.

And you don’t have to look straight up because more meteors will be seen at somewhat lower elevations.

As the constellation rises higher in the sky, you will likely see more meteors. Of course, as the constellation rises, so, too, does the moon. That means that only the brightest meteors will be visible. The good thing is, the Perseids do tend to put on a show with some brilliant meteors seen even over urban areas. 

Now, if the weather doesn’t look like it’ll hold up, you can try watching on either side of the peak night, on Monday or Wednesday when meteor activity will still be high.

And, if you’re willing to go the distance, you can pull an all-nighter or wake up very early in the morning, as the best time to see meteors will be in the few hours before sunrise on Wednesday.

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NASA's Rover Is Taking a Tree-Like Device That Converts CO2 Into Oxygen to Mars – ScienceAlert

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NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on 30 July, carrying a host of cutting-edge technology including high-definition video equipment and the first interplanetary helicopter.

Many of the tools are designed as experimental steps toward human exploration of the red planet. Crucially, Perseverance is equipped with a device called the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment, or MOXIE: an attempt to produce oxygen on a planet where it makes up less than 0.2 percent of the atmosphere.

Oxygen is a cumbersome payload on space missions. It takes up a lot of room, and it’s very unlikely that astronauts could bring enough of it to Mars for humans to breathe there, let alone to fuel spaceships for the long journey home.

That’s the problem MOXIE is looking to solve. The car-battery-sized robot is a roughly 1 percent scale model of the device scientists hope to one day send to Mars, perhaps in the 2030s.

Like a tree, MOXIE works by taking in carbon dioxide, though it’s designed specifically for the thin Martian atmosphere. It then electrochemically splits the molecules into oxygen and carbon monoxide, and combines the oxygen molecules into O2.

It analyses the O2 for purity, shooting for about 99.6 percent O2. Then it releases both the breathable oxygen and the carbon monoxide back into the planet’s atmosphere. Future scaled-up devices, however, would store the oxygen produced in tanks for eventual use by humans and rockets.

A breakdown of the components inside the MOXIE oxygen generator. (NASA/Wikimedia Commons)

The toxicity of the carbon monoxide produced isn’t a worry, according to Michael Hecht, a principal investigator for MOXIE. The gas reenters the Martian atmosphere but won’t alter it very much.

“If you release the carbon monoxide into the Mars atmosphere, eventually it will combine with a very small amount of residual oxygen that’s there and turn back into carbon dioxide,” Hecht previously told Business Insider.

For that reason, the carbon monoxide also wouldn’t hinder a potential biosphere on Mars – a closed, engineered environment where Earthly life could thrive.

Because MOXIE is a small proof-of-concept experiment, it won’t produce much oxygen – if all goes well, it should be producing about 10 grams per hour, which is roughly the amount of oxygen in 1.2 cubic feet of Earth air. For context, humans need about 19 cubic feet of air per day.

MOXIE will test its capabilities by producing oxygen in one-hour increments intermittently throughout the duration of Perseverance’s mission, according to NASA. The device should start working soon after the rover lands on 18 February 2021.

This article was originally published by Business Insider.

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NASA drops racially charged nicknames of celestial bodies – CTV News

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Grocery store items, pro sports teams, and country music bands have all removed racially insensitive names.

Now, NASA is adding celestial bodies to the list that includes Aunt Jemima, the Washington Football Team and hitmakers The Chicks and Lady A.

“Eskimo Nebula” and “Siamese Twins Galaxy” are out, for example.

“Nicknames are often more approachable and public-friendly than official names for cosmic objects, such as Barnard 33, whose nickname ‘the Horsehead Nebula’ invokes its appearance,” NASA said in a release this week. “But often seemingly innocuous nicknames can be harmful and detract from the science.”

NASA is examining its use of phrases for planets, galaxies and other cosmic objects “as part of its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

The space agency says it “will use only the official, International Astronomical Union designations in cases where nicknames are inappropriate.”

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, DC, said, “Science is for everyone, and every facet of our work needs to reflect that value.”

In June, Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream said it was dropping the brand “Eskimo Pie” after a century. The word is commonly used in Alaska to refer to Inuit and Yupik people, according to the Alaska Native Language Center at the University of Alaska. “This name is considered derogatory in many other places because it was given by non-Inuit people and was said to mean ‘eater of raw meat.'” People of Canada and Greenland prefer other names.

“Siamese twins” is an antiquated expression for conjoined twins, based on brothers from Siam (now Thailand) who were used as sideshow freaks in the 19th century.

The renaming trend followed worldwide protests against racism and police brutality after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police.

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