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Massive Puerto Rico radio telescope collapses after cables snap – thepeakfm.com

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A huge, already damaged radio telescope in Puerto Rico that has played a key role in astronomical discoveries for more than half a century completely collapsed on Tuesday.

At the Arecibo Observatory, the telescope’s 900-ton receiver platform and the Gregorian dome — a structure as tall as a four-storey building that houses secondary reflectors — fell onto the northern portion of the vast reflector dish, more than 400 feet below.

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The U.S. National Science Foundation had earlier announced that it would close the radio telescope. An auxiliary cable snapped in August, causing a 100-foot gash on the 1,000-foot-wide (305-metre-wide) dish and damaged the receiver platform that hung above it. Then a main cable broke in early November.

The collapse stunned many scientists who had relied on what was until recently the largest radio telescope in the world.

“It sounded like a rumble. I knew exactly what it was,” said Jonathan Friedman, who worked for 26 years as a senior research associate at the observatory and still lives near it. “I was screaming. Personally, I was out of control… I don’t have words to express it. It’s a very deep, terrible feeling.”

This May 31, 2007 file photo shows the radio telescope at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico before any damage.

AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File

Friedman ran up a small hill near his home and confirmed his suspicions: A cloud of dust hung in the air where the structure once stood, demolishing hopes held by some scientists that the telescope could somehow be repaired.

The collapse at 7:56 a.m. on Tuesday wasn’t a surprise because many of the wires in the thick cables holding the structure snapped over the weekend, Ángel Vázquez, the telescope’s director of operations, told The Associated Press.

Arecibo Observatory telescope

This aerial view shows the damage at the Arecibo Observatory after one of the main cables holding the receiver broke in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, on December 1, 2020.

RICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP via Getty Images

“It was a snowball effect,” he said. “There was no way to stop it…. It was too much for the old girl to take.”

He said that it was extremely difficult to say whether anything could have been done to prevent the damage that occurred after the first cable snapped in August.

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“The maintenance was kept up as best as we could,” he said. “(The National Science Foundation) did the best that they could with what they have.”

However, observatory director Francisco Córdova, said that while the NSF decided it was too risky to repair the damaged cables before Tuesday’s collapse, he believes there had been options, such as relieving tension in certain cables or using helicopters to help redistribute weight.

Meanwhile, installing a new telescope would cost up to $350 million, money the NSF doesn’t have, Vázquez said, adding it would have to come from U.S. Congress.

“It’s a huge loss,” said Carmen Pantoja, an astronomer and professor at the University of Puerto Rico who used the telescope for her doctorate. “It was a chapter of my life.”

Scientists worldwide had been petitioning U.S. officials and others to reverse the NSF’s decision to close the observatory. The NSF said at the time that it intended to eventually reopen the visitor centre and restore operations at the observatory’s remaining assets, including its two LIDAR facilities used for upper atmospheric and ionospheric research, including analyzing cloud cover and precipitation data. The LIDAR facilities are still operational, along with a 12-metre telescope and a photometer used to study photons in the atmosphere, Vázquez said.

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“We are saddened by this situation but thankful that no one was hurt,” NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan said in a statement. “When engineers advised NSF that the structure was unstable and presented a danger to work teams and Arecibo staff, we took their warnings seriously.”

The telescope was built in the 1960s with money from the U.S. Defense Department amid a push to develop anti-ballistic missile defences. It had endured hurricanes, tropical humidity and a recent string of earthquakes in its 57 years of operation.

The telescope has been used to track asteroids on a path to Earth, conduct research that led to a Nobel Prize and determine if a planet is potentially habitable. It also served as a training ground for graduate students and drew about 90,000 visitors a year.

“I am one of those students who visited it when young and got inspired,” said Abel Méndez, a physics and astrobiology professor at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo who has used the telescope for research. “The world without the observatory loses, but Puerto Rico loses even more.”

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He last used the telescope on Aug. 6, just days before a socket holding the auxiliary cable that snapped failed in what experts believe could be a manufacturing error. The National Science Foundation, which owns the observatory that is managed by the University of Central Florida, said crews who evaluated the structure after the first incident determined that the remaining cables could handle the additional weight.

But on Nov. 6, another cable broke.

Scientists had used the telescope to study pulsars to detect gravitational waves as well as search for neutral hydrogen, which can reveal how certain cosmic structures are formed. About 250 scientists worldwide had been using the observatory when it closed in August, including Méndez, who was studying stars to detect habitable planets.

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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Three more COVID-19 cases at GRT – KitchenerToday.com

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Grand River Transit is confirming three more COVID cases.

All the affected employees are bus drivers.

Two of them last worked on January 15, while the third was last on the job on Jan. 11.

GRT points out all three are now self-isolating at home.

So far in Janaury, nine employees have tested positive for the virus.

Grand River Transit lists COVID-19 cases on its website for transparency purposes, but some details are not released due to privacy concerns.

Since the on-set of the pandemic, multiple safety precautions have been put in place to protect drivers and riders, including barriers and mandatory masks.

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Microplastics could be eliminated from wastewater at source – E&T Magazine

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A team of researchers from the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS), Quebec, Canada, have developed an electrolytic process for treating wastewater, degrading microplastics at the source.

Microplastics are fragments of plastic less than 5mm long, often contained in toiletries or shedding from polyester clothing. They are present in virtually every corner of the Earth, and pose a particularly serious threat to marine ecosystems. High concentrations of microplastics can be carried into the environment in wastewater.

There are no established degradation methods to handle microplastics during wastewater treatment; although some techniques exist, these involve physical separation as a means of filtering the pollutant. These techniques do not degrade microplastics, which requires additional work to manage the separated fragments. So far, research into degradation of microplastics has been very limited.

The INRS researchers, led by water treatment expert Professor Patrick Drogui, decided to try degrading plastic particles through electrolytic oxidation – a process that does not require the addition of chemicals.

“Using electrodes, we generate hydroxyl radicals to attack microplastics,” Drogui said. “This process is environmentally friendly because it breaks them down into CO2 and water molecules, which are non-toxic to the ecosystem.”

Drogui and his colleagues experimented with different anode materials and other parameters such as current intensity, anode surface, electrolyte type, electrolyte concentration and reaction time. They found that the electrolytic oxidation could degrade more than 58 ± 21 per cent of microplastics in one hour. The microplastics appeared to degrade directly into gas rather than breaking into smaller particles.

Lab-based tests on water artificially contaminated with fragments of polystyrene showed a degradation efficiency as high as 89 per cent.

“This work demonstrated that [electrolytic oxidation] is a promising process for degradation of microplastics in water without production of any waste or by-products,” the researchers wrote in their Environmental Pollution report.

Drogui envisions this technology being used to treat microplastic-rich wastewater emerging from sources such as commercial laundries.

“When this commercial laundry water arrives at the wastewater treatment plant, it is mixed with large quantities of water, the pollutants are diluted and therefore more difficult to degrade,” he explained. “Conversely, by acting at the source, i.e. at the laundry, the concentration of microplastics is higher, thus more accessible for electrolytic degradation.”

Next, the researchers will move on to experimenting with degrading microplastics on water outside the artificial laboratory environment. Real commercial laundry water contains other materials that can affect the degradation process, such as carbonates and phosphates, which can trap radicals and limit degradation. If the technology is effective under these circumstances, the researchers plan to conduct a study to determine the cost of scaling up this treatment to implement in laundries.

Last week, researchers from the University of Barcelona published a study suggesting that encouraging a greater proliferation of seagrass meadows in the shallows of oceans could help trap, extract and carry marine plastic debris to shore.

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Eliminating microplastics in wastewater directly at the source – EurekAlert

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IMAGE: Electro-analytical system used to identify appropriate electrodes for anodic oxidation processes.
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Credit: INRS

A research team from the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) has developed a process for the electrolytic treatment of wastewater that degrades microplastics at the source. The results of this research have been published in the Environmental Pollution journal.

Wastewater can carry high concentrations of microplastics into the environment. These small particles of less than 5 mm can come from our clothes, usually as microfibers. Professor Patrick Drogui, who led the study, points out there are currently no established degradation methods to handle this contaminant during wastewater treatment. Some techniques already exist, but they often involve physical separation as a means of filtering pollutants. These technologies do not degrade them, which requires additional work to manage the separated particles.

Therefore, the research team decided to degrade the particles by electrolytic oxidation, a process not requiring the addition of chemicals. “Using electrodes, we generate hydroxyl radicals (* OH) to attack microplastics. This process is environmentally friendly because it breaks them down into CO2 and water molecules, which are non-toxic to the ecosystem,” explains the researcher. The electrodes used in this process are more expensive than iron or steel electrodes, which degrade over time, but can be reused for several years.

An effective treatment

Professor Drogui envisions the use of this technology at the exit of commercial laundries, a potential source of microplastics release into the environment. “When this commercial laundry water arrives at the wastewater treatment plant, it is mixed with large quantities of water, the pollutants are diluted and therefore more difficult to degrade. Conversely, by acting at the source, i.e., at the laundry, the concentration of microplastics is higher (per litre of water), thus more accessible for electrolytic degradation,” explains the specialist in electrotechnology and water treatment.

Laboratory tests conducted on water artificially contaminated with polystyrene showed a degradation efficiency of 89%. The team plans to move on to experiments on real water. “Real water contains other materials that can affect the degradation process, such as carbonates and phosphates, which can trap radicals and reduce the performance of the oxidation process,” says Professor Drogui, scientific director of the Laboratory of Environmental Electrotechnologies and Oxidative Processes (LEEPO).

If the technology demonstrates its effectiveness on real commercial laundry water, the research group intends to conduct a study to determine the cost of treatment and the adaptation of the technology to treat larger quantities of wastewater. Within a few years, the technology could be implemented in laundry facilities.

###

About the study

The article “Treatment of microplastics in water by anodic oxidation: A case study for polystyrene”, by Marthe Kiendrebeogo, Mahmoodreza Karimiestahbanati, Ali Khosravanipour Mostafazadeh, Patrick Drogui and Rajeshwar Dayal Tyagi, was published in the Environmental Pollution journal. The team received financial support from the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies (FRQNT), the CREATE-TEDGIEER program, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Canadian Francophonie Scholarship Program (CFSP).

About INRS

INRS is a university dedicated exclusively to graduate level research and training. Since its creation in 1969, INRS has played an active role in Quebec’s economic, social, and cultural development and is ranked first for research intensity in Quebec and in Canada. INRS is made up of four interdisciplinary research and training centres in Quebec City, Montreal, Laval, and Varennes, with expertise in strategic sectors: Eau Terre Environnement, Énergie Matériaux Télécommunications, Urbanisation Culture Société, and Armand-Frappier Santé Biotechnologie. The INRS community includes more than 1,400 students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty members, and staff.

Source :

Audrey-Maude Vézina

Service des communications de l’INRS

418 254-2156

audrey-maude.vezina@inrs.ca

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.

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