New Green Economy

Sound Waves Put Out Fires

Can sound waves bring down a city wall a la Jericho? We don’t know, we don’t think so. Can sound waves heal? We’re not sure, but certainly in some places drums, crystal bowls or metal bowls are used to create tones as a sort to affect healings. For example, for curing a hangover. But can sound waves directly applied put out a fire?

Apparently, yes.

CNET explains: it’s based on the way sound waves displace oxygen as they move through physical space — oxygen that fire feeds on. Without oxygen, no flames.

If you can suffocate a fire, you can extinguish it. Two students from George Mason University worked hard on this. They discovered that music is not suitable for manipulating fire because the sound waves it produces are inconsistent.

They found that a higher frequency sound caused the flames to vibrate, but only vibrate, not diminish.

They found that lower frequencies — 30 to 60 hertz — was the sweet spot where sound waves were able to effectively eradicate or “blow away” oxygen from the flames long enough to suffocate them. And voila, sound manipulates matter.

It’s not Jericho. But it sure is interesting.

New Green Economy

How Nature Inspires Science

We’ve all heard that aspirin is derived from willow tree bark. Lots of things are based on similar precedents. For example, the sturdy, stretchy, sticky silks spun by spiders have inspired engineers to design pioneering medical devices such as artificial tendons and corneas.

The Nature Outlook: Biomaterials examines the many ways in which solutions created by the natural world – by spiders, mussels, geckos, lotus leaves and more – are inspiring technological imitations that surpass some of the best existing human-engineered substances.

Materials researchers are taking cues from specific plants and animals that make substances that could endow humans with superhero powers.

The scales of a pine cone are made up of two different layers, each reacting differently to changes in humidity. One layer elongates in damp conditions and the other works to resist this, causing the scales to bend. Researchers have developed smart materials with woolen spikes that are sensitive to relative humidity: the wool spikes open when the wearer sweats and close when the layer dries out.

Geckos can climb glass walls and hang from ceilings without a visible method of sticking to them. It turns out it’s the electrostatic interaction between the molecules in their feet and the molecules on a surface that keeps them pinned to their object. Hand pads, each covered in tiles with tiny silicon rubber hairs that mimic geckos’ feet, mean humans can scale walls like lizards – the more force applied to the pads, the stickier they become.

Ivy is also sticky, as it climbs walls and fences weaving vines and leaves. But unlike the gecko, ivy uses an adhesive. Ivy produces a sticky, yellowish, glue-ish liquid that lets it cling to walls and which dries into a material that can withstand forces equivalent to two million times its own weight, says Nature magazine. A new coating with industrial applications based on ivy nanoparticles might be ready soon.

Learn more about this at One of the best magazine subscriptions money can buy.

New Green Economy

Crystals Hold Information for a Million Years

Data written to a glass “memory crystal” could remain intact for a million years, according to scientists from the UK and the Netherlands who recently demonstrated the technology for the first time.

Scientists have been looking into the idea of glass as a medium for mass data storage since 1996, when it was first suggested that data could be written optically into transparent materials.

The capacity is being called “superhero memory.” The remarkable thing is that information stored in such a way could outlast the human race.

Last December, Scientific American published a report saying that Hitachi has developed a small, crystal square that will revolutionize data storage. Sealed in quartz, the article said, information might be retained as long as 300 million years.

But fans of quality television programming are not hearing this for the first time. Ancient Aliens gave viewers a hint of this phenomenon in the October (2013) episode on crystals and possible information that may be stored in them from, you guessed it, aliens. “Luminous relics in the shape of human skulls. Otherworldly artifacts believed to harness the secrets of the universe. Are the Crystal Skulls part of an elaborate hoax? Or do they possess a great, perhaps even otherworldly power?” Asked the show.

Looks like we’re on the verge of finding out.

New Green Economy

Are Tattoo Inks Safe?

While state and local authorities oversee the practice of tattooing, ink and ink colorings (pigments) used in tattoos are subject to US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation as cosmetics and color additives.

However, because of other public health priorities and a previous lack of evidence of safety concerns, FDA has not traditionally regulated tattoo inks or the pigments used in them.

In a laboratory within FDA’s Arkansas-based National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR), research chemist Paul Howard, Ph.D., and his team are investigating tattoo inks to find out

  1. the chemical composition of the inks and how they break down (metabolize) in the body
  2. the short-term and long-term safety of pigments used in tattoo inks
  3. how the body responds to the interaction of light with the inks

“There have been no systematic studies of the safety of tattoo inks,” says Howard, “so we are trying to ask—and answer—some fundamental questions.” For example, some tattoos fade over time or fade when they are exposed to sunlight. And laser light is used to remove tattoos. “We want to know what happens to the ink,” says Howard. “Where does the pigment go?”

“Our hope is to get a better understanding of the body’s response to tattoos and their impact on human health, and to identify products at greatest risk,” says Linda Katz, M.D., M.P.H., Director of FDA’s Office of Cosmetics and Colors in the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

There was an entire symposium on tattoos in Berlin in June (2013).

So be aware when you’re getting that rose painted on your ankle, traces of lead and car paint have been detected in tattoo ink samples, for starters. And there’s very little regulation on such matters.

This is not to say all tattoo ink is toxic. It’s to say that we should be thinking about it.

New Green Economy

California’s Cap & Trade

The Associated Press reports that California’s largest greenhouse gas emitters will begin buying permits in a landmark “cap-and-trade” system designed to control emissions of heat-trapping gases and to spur investment in clean technologies.

For two years, large industrial emitters will receive 90% of their allowances free in a soft start. This is intended to give companies time to reduce emissions through new technologies or other means.

The cap, or number of allowances, will decline over time in an effort to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

While no one believes California’s cap-and-trade program alone will remedy climate change, the system is designed to show it can be done in the world’s ninth-largest economy and provide a blueprint for other governments, the board said.

See more of the story in Chem.Info.

Other cap and trade programs in the us include:

Examples of successful cap and trade programs include the nationwide Acid Rain Program and the regional NOx Budget Trading Program in the Northeast.
Additionally, EPA issued the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) on March 10, 2005,
to build on the success of these programs and achieve significant additional emission reductions.

Here’s everything you need to know about California’s new program:

The program is a central element of California’s Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) and covers major sources of GHG emissions in the State such as refineries, power plants, industrial facilities, and transportation fuels. The regulation includes an enforceable GHG cap that will decline over time. ARB will distribute allowances, which are tradable permits, equal to the emission allowed under the cap.

New Green Economy

Green Chemistry event in Washington – you’re invited

On behalf of The Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center (PPRC) and the Washington State Green Chemistry Roundtable, you are invited to the 2012 Regional Roundtable on October 23-25, at the Suquamish Clearwater Hotel on the Kitsap Peninsula in Washington.

Green chemistry offers new approaches in the design of chemistries and the opportunity for economic transformation the Pacific Northwest. The Washington State Green Chemistry Roundtable is a forum for cross-sector collaboration to share learning and networking opportunities to advance your understanding of green chemistry. Registration fees are flexible to allow you to participate on the days of most interest. A draft working agenda is attached.

October 23: Advance Your Understanding of Green Chemistry

The Washington State Department of Ecology, in partnership with the ACS Green Chemistry Institute® (GCI) will be offering half-day green chemistry workshops on October 23. The GCI workshops include: “Introductory Green Chemistry 101” and “Intermediate Green Chemistry 201” short courses. The workshops range from introducing the concepts of green chemistry, taking a deeper dive into the business case studies, metrics and tools of green chemistry. Dr. Marty Mulvihill, Director of the University of California Center for Green Chemistry and Richard T. Williams, ACS Green Chemistry Institute will lead the training.

October 24: Focusing on Regional Priorities to Advance Green Chemistry Solutions

The second day offers a regional assessment and opportunities to solve the toxic threats facing the Puget Sound and the Columbia River basin. The objective for the day is to learn from businesses, government and nongovernmental organization on the latest information about toxics of emerging concern, how toxics are impacting people and the environment, regional green chemistry initiatives and the latest in the development of Washington’s Toxics Reduction Strategy.

October 25: Green Chemistry Business Roundtable: Supply Chain Perspectives on Challenges and Opportunities

What’s the value proposition for green chemistry? Hear from business and industry leaders on efforts to drive green chemistry innovations, promote new models for collaboration, and utilize appropriate decision-making tools to help guide business innovation. The Roundtable is bringing together several industry case studies to outline economic and environmental achievements that can be derived from green chemistry innovation as well as the market challenges. The business-to-business forum will facilitate cross-sector information sharing across the supply chain and opportunities for new types of collaboration.

Participants can make their hotel reservations by calling the Clearwater Resort at 866-609-8700. Indicate you are part of the PPRC group when you make your call. Make your reservations early because our block of rooms will only be held until Sept. 28, 2012. The room rate is $83 per night, plus the Suquamish tax rate of 7.5% and a Kitsap Tourism Development Tax of $1.75 per room per night.

For more information, contact Ken Zarker at or 360-407-6724.

New Green Economy

Arsenic and old rice

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) monitors hundreds of foods and beverages that make up the average American diet. The agency looks for substances that could be harmful to consumers.  This can mean industrial chemicals, heavy metals, pesticide residues and radiation contamination. 

The FDA monitors rice and rice products, foods that FDA has specifically tested for the presence of inorganic arsenic, a chemical that under some circumstances has been associated with long-term health effects.

Thus far, the agency has analyzed nearly 200 samples of rice and rice products and is collecting about 1,000 more. Since rice is processed into many products, these samples include rice products such as cereals, rice beverages and rice cakes.

Arsenic levels can vary greatly from sample to sample, even within the same product. FDA’s testing of the initial samples found these examples of inorganic arsenic in micrograms (one millionth of a gram) in individual samples:

  • Rice (other than Basmati rice): 6.7 per 1 cup (cooked)
  • Rice cakes: 5.4 per 2 cakes
  • Rice beverages: 3.8 per 240 ml (some samples not tested for inorganic arsenic)
  • Rice cereals: 3.7 per 1 cup
  • Basmati rice: 3.5 per 1 cup cooked

Based on data and scientific literature available now, FDA is not recommending that consumers change their consumption of rice and rice products at this time, but that people eat a balanced diet containing a wide variety of grains. (Translation: change your consumption of rice at this time.)

Data collection is the first step in assessing long-term health risks. Once FDA has completed its analysis of about 1,200 rice products, the agency will analyze these results and determine whether or not to issue additional recommendations.

“We understand that consumers are concerned about this matter,” says FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D.

The Next Steps
FDA expects to complete the additional collection and analysis of samples by the end of the year. The agency is paying particular attention to rice and rice products consumed by children, as well as consumers like Asian-Americans and those with celiac disease who may consumer higher levels of rice. After analyzing all samples and conducting a comprehensive assessment of potential health risks, FDA will evaluate strategies designed to limit arsenic exposure from rice and rice products.

The agency is working with other government agencies, industry, scientists, consumer groups and others to study the issue and assess risks.

“It is critical to not get ahead of the science,” says Michael R. Taylor, FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods. “The FDA’s ongoing data collection and other assessments will give us a solid scientific basis for determining what steps are needed to reduce exposure to arsenic in rice and rice products.”

So what should a person who eats rice do in the meantime?

“Our advice right now is that consumers should continue to eat a balanced diet that includes a wide variety of grains – not only for only for good nutrition but also to minimize any potential consequences from consuming any one particular food,” says Hamburg.

(This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.)