From a May 11, 2018 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) press release (received via email),
UNESCO will welcome leading scientists on 16 May 2018 for the 1st edition of the International Day of Light (02:30-08:00 pm) to celebrate the role light plays in our daily lives. Researchers and intellectuals will examine how light-based technologies can contribute to meet pressing challenges in diverse areas, such as medicine, education, agriculture and energy.
UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay will open this event, which will count with the participation of renowned scientists, including:
Kip Thorne, 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics, California Institute of Technology (United States of America).
Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics, Collège de France.
Khaled Toukan, Director of the Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East (SESAME) based in Allan, Jordan.
The programme of keynotes and roundtables will address many key issues including science policy, our perception of the universe, and international cooperation, through contributions from experts and scientists from around the world.
The programme also includes cultural events, an illumination of UNESCO Headquarters, a photonics science show and an exhibit on the advances of light-based technologies and art.
The debates that flourished in 2015, in the framework of the International Year of Light, highlighted the importance of light sciences and light-based technologies in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Several thousand events were held in 147 countries during the Year placed under the auspices of UNESCO.
The proclamation of 16 May as the International Day of Light was supported by UNESCO’s Executive Board following a proposal by Ghana, Mexico, New Zealand and the Russian Federation, and approved by the UNESCO General Conference in November 2017.
I have taken a look at the programme which is pretty interesting. Unfortunately, I can’t excerpt parts of it for inclusion here as very odd things happen when I attempt to ‘copy and paste’. On the plus side. there’s a bit more information about this ‘new day’ on its event page,
Light plays a central role in our lives. On the most fundamental level, through photosynthesis, light is at the origin of life itself. The study of light has led to promising alternative energy sources, lifesaving medical advances in diagnostics technology and treatments, light-speed internet and many other discoveries that have revolutionized society and shaped our understanding of the universe. These technologies were developed through centuries of fundamental research on the properties of light – starting with Ibn Al-Haytham’s seminal work, Kitab al-Manazir (Book of Optics), published in 1015 and including Einstein’s work at the beginning of the 20th century, which changed the way we think about time and light.
The International Day of Light celebrates the role light plays in science, culture and art, education, and sustainable development, and in fields as diverse as medicine, communications, and energy. The will allow many different sectors of society worldwide to participate in activities that demonstrates how science, technology, art and culture can help achieve the goals of UNESCO – building the foundation for peaceful societies.
The International Day of Light is celebrated on 16 May each year, the anniversary of the first successful operation of the laser in 1960 by physicist and engineer, Theodore Maiman. This day is a call to strengthen scientific cooperation and harness its potential to foster peace and sustainable development.
Happy International Day of Light on Wednesday, May 16, 2018!
In discussions about water desalination and carbon nanomaterials, it’s graphene that’s usually mentioned these days. By contrast, scientists from the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) have turned to carbon nanotubes,
There are two news items about the work at LLNL on ScienceDaily, this first one originated by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) offers a succinct summary of the work (from an August 24, 2017 news item on ScienceDaily,
At just the right size, carbon nanotubes can filter water with better efficiency than biological proteins, a new study reveals. The results could pave the way to new water filtration systems, at a time when demands for fresh water pose a global threat to sustainable development.
A class of biological proteins, called aquaporins, is able to effectively filter water, yet scientists have not been able to manufacture scalable systems that mimic this ability. Aquaporins usually exhibit channels for filtering water molecules at a narrow width of 0.3 nanometers, which forces the water molecules into a single-file chain.
Here, Ramya H. Tunuguntla and colleagues experimented with nanotubes of different widths to see which ones are best for filtering water. Intriguingly, they found that carbon nanotubes with a width of 0.8 nanometers outperformed aquaporins in filtering efficiency by a factor of six.
These narrow carbon nanotube porins (nCNTPs) were still slim enough to force the water molecules into a single-file chain. The researchers attribute the differences between aquaporins and nCNTPS to differences in hydrogen bonding — whereas pore-lining residues in aquaporins can donate or accept H bonds to incoming water molecules, the walls of CNTPs cannot form H bonds, permitting unimpeded water flow.
The nCNTPs in this study maintained permeability exceeding that of typical saltwater, only diminishing at very high salt concentrations. Lastly, the team found that by changing the charges at the mouth of the nanotube, they can alter the ion selectivity. This advancement is highlighted in a Perspective [in Science magazine] by Zuzanna Siwy and Francesco Fornasiero.
Lawrence Livermore scientists, in collaboration with researchers at Northeastern University, have developed carbon nanotube pores that can exclude salt from seawater. The team also found that water permeability in carbon nanotubes (CNTs) with diameters smaller than a nanometer (0.8 nm) exceeds that of wider carbon nanotubes by an order of magnitude.
The nanotubes, hollow structures made of carbon atoms in a unique arrangement, are more than 50,000 times thinner than a human hair. The super smooth inner surface of the nanotube is responsible for their remarkably high water permeability, while the tiny pore size blocks larger salt ions.
There’s a rather lovely illustration for this work,
An artist’s depiction of the promise of carbon nanotube porins for desalination. The image depicts a stylized carbon nanotube pipe that delivers clean desalinated water from the ocean to a kitchen tap. Image by Ryan Chen/LLNL
Increasing demands for fresh water pose a global threat to sustainable development, resulting in water scarcity for 4 billion people. Current water purification technologies can benefit from the development of membranes with specialized pores that mimic highly efficient and water selective biological proteins.
“We found that carbon nanotubes with diameters smaller than a nanometer bear a key structural feature that enables enhanced transport. The narrow hydrophobic channel forces water to translocate in a single-file arrangement, a phenomenon similar to that found in the most efficient biological water transporters,” said Ramya Tunuguntla, an LLNL postdoctoral researcher and co-author of the manuscript appearing in the Aug. 24 edition of Science.
Computer simulations and experimental studies of water transport through CNTs with diameters larger than 1 nm showed enhanced water flow, but did not match the transport efficiency of biological proteins and did not separate salt efficiently, especially at higher salinities. The key breakthrough achieved by the LLNL team was to use smaller-diameter nanotubes that delivered the required boost in performance.
“These studies revealed the details of the water transport mechanism and showed that rational manipulation of these parameters can enhance pore efficiency,” said Meni Wanunu, a physics professor at Northeastern University and co-author on the study.
“Carbon nanotubes are a unique platform for studying molecular transport and nanofluidics,” said Alex Noy, LLNL principal investigator on the CNT project and a senior author on the paper. “Their sub-nanometer size, atomically smooth surfaces and similarity to cellular water transport channels make them exceptionally suited for this purpose, and it is very exciting to make a synthetic water channel that performs better than nature’s own.”
This discovery by the LLNL scientists and their colleagues has clear implications for the next generation of water purification technologies and will spur a renewed interest in development of the next generation of high-flux membranes.
Earth is 70 percent water, but only a tiny portion—0.007 percent—is available to drink.
As potable water sources dwindle, global population increases every year. One potential solution to quenching the planet’s thirst is through desalinization—the process of removing salt from seawater. While tantalizing, this approach has always been too expensive and energy intensive for large-scale feasibility.
Now, researchers from Northeastern have made a discovery that could change that, making desalinization easier, faster and cheaper than ever before. In a paper published Thursday [August 24, 2017] in Science, the group describes how carbon nanotubes of a certain size act as the perfect filter for salt—the smallest and most abundant water contaminant.
Filtering water is tricky because water molecules want to stick together. The “H” in H2O is hydrogen, and hydrogen bonds are strong, requiring a lot of energy to separate. Water tends to bulk up and resist being filtered. But nanotubes do it rapidly, with ease.
A carbon nanotube is like an impossibly small rolled up sheet of paper, about a nanometer in diameter. For comparison, the diameter of a human hair is 50 to 70 micrometers—50,000 times wider. The tube’s miniscule size, exactly 0.8 nm, only allows one water molecule to pass through at a time. This single-file lineup disrupts the hydrogen bonds, so water can be pushed through the tubes at an accelerated pace, with no bulking.
“You can imagine if you’re a group of people trying to run through the hallway holding hands, it’s going to be a lot slower than running through the hallway single-file,” said co-author Meni Wanunu, associate professor of physics at Northeastern. Wanunu and post doctoral student Robert Henley collaborated with scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California to conduct the research.
Scientists led by Aleksandr Noy at Lawrence Livermore discovered last year  that carbon nanotubes were an ideal channel for proton transport. For this new study, Henley brought expertise and technology from Wanunu’s Nanoscale Biophysics Lab to Noy’s lab, and together they took the research one step further.
In addition to being precisely the right size for passing single water molecules, carbon nanotubes have a negative electric charge. This causes them to reject anything with the same charge, like the negative ions in salt, as well as other unwanted particles.
“While salt has a hard time passing through because of the charge, water is a neutral molecule and passes through easily,” Wanunu said. Scientists in Noy’s lab had theorized that carbon nanotubes could be designed for specific ion selectivity, but they didn’t have a reliable system of measurement. Luckily, “That’s the bread and butter of what we do in Meni’s lab,” Henley said. “It created a nice symbiotic relationship.”
“Robert brought the cutting-edge measurement and design capabilities of Wanunu’s group to my lab, and he was indispensable in developing a new platform that we used to measure the ion selectivity of the nanotubes,” Noy said.
The result is a novel system that could have major implications for the future of water security. The study showed that carbon nanotubes are better at desalinization than any other existing method— natural or man-made.
To keep their momentum going, the two labs have partnered with a leading water purification organization based in Israel. And the group was recently awarded a National Science Foundation/Binational Science Foundation grant to conduct further studies and develop water filtration platforms based on their new method. As they continue the research, the researchers hope to start programs where students can learn the latest on water filtration technology—with the goal of increasing that 0.007 percent.
As is usual in these cases there’s a fair degree of repetition but there’s always at least one nugget of new information, in this case, a link to Israel. As I noted many times, the Middle East is experiencing serious water issues. My most recent ‘water and the Middle East’ piece is an August 21, 2017 post about rainmaking at the Masdar Institute in United Arab Emirates. Approximately 50% of the way down the posting, I mention Israel and Palestine’s conflict over water.
The International Council for Science (ICSU), the International Social Science Council (ISSC) and International Council for Philosophy and Human Sciences (CIPSH) jointly announced today [Sept. 13, 2015] that 2016 would be the International Year of Global Understanding (IYGU). The aim of IYGU is to promote better understanding of how the local impacts the global in order to foster smart policies to tackle critical global challenges such as climate change, food security and migration.
“We want to build bridges between global thinking and local action,” said Prof. Benno Werlen of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Germany. “Only when we truly understand the effects of our personal choices – for example in eating, drinking and producing – on the planet, can we make appropriate and effective changes,” said Werlen, who initiated this project of the International Geographical Union (IGU).
The press release goes on to describe the reasoning behind the declaration and to provide some examples of how understanding has helped to change behaviour,
How to translate scientific insight into more sustainable lifestyles will be the main focus of activities – research projects, educational programmes and information campaigns – for 2016. The project seeks to go beyond a narrow focus on environmental protection and climate policy and explore quality of life issues and the sustainable, long-term use of local resources.
“We live in the most interconnected world in history. Yet at the same time that world is riven by conflicts, dislocations and uncertainties – an unsettling and disturbing mixture of huge opportunities and existential risks,” said Lord Anthony Giddens, former Director of the London School of Economics, UK. “Finding a positive balance will demand fundamental intellectual rethinking and new forms of collaboration of the sort the IGYU offers” he added.
“Sustainable development is a global challenge, but solving it requires transforming the local – the way each of us lives, consumes, and works. While global negotiations on climate attack the sustainability crisis from above, the IYGU complements them beautifully with coordinated solutions from below – by getting individuals to understand and change their everyday habits. This twin approach elevates our chance of success against this crisis, the gravest humanity has ever seen,” said former ICSU President and Nobel Laureate Yuan-Tseh Lee.
For example, on each day in 2016, the IYGU will highlight a change to an everyday activity that has been scientifically proven to be more sustainable than current practice. Primers on everyday life which take cultural diversity and local practice into account will be compiled and distributed. “Now more than ever it is vital that we find the strength to understand and relate to the positions, thoughts, and expectations of others and seek dialogue instead of confrontation,” said Professor Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director of the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS).
It is hoped that this focus on tangible, local action will generate ideas for research programmes and school curricula, as well as highlight best practice examples. Wherever possible, activities will be communicated in several languages. Using this bottom-up approach, the IYGU hopes to support and extend the work of initiatives such as Future Earth, the UN’s Post-2015 Development Agenda, and the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development.
“In Rwanda, environmental pollution through plastic litter was a widespread and intractable problem. Ultimately, the insight that plastic is harmful to ruminant animals, in particular cows, turned the tide in favor of environmental legislation. This led to a ban on plastic items that could cause litter. Today you’d be hard pressed to find plastic polluting public areas in Rwanda,” said Werlen.
The involvement of the ISSC, ICSU and CIPSH in IYGU underwrites broad collaboration across the natural and social sciences and the humanities, from across disciplinary boundaries and from all around the world.
In 2016, the IYGU program will be coordinated by about 50 Regional Action Centers. This network is currently being established and cities such as Tokyo. Washington, Sao Paulo, Tunis, Moscow, and Rome, while Beijing, Mexico City, Maçao/Coimbra, Nijmegen, Hamilton, Bamako and Kigali are confirmed as hosts of such Centers with their regional to continental reach. The IYGU General Secretariat in Jena, Germany coordinates these Regional Action Centers.
You can find more about the 2016 International Year of Global Understanding here where you’ll see some Canadian participation in the person of Gordon McBean (Nobel Prize Laureate for Peace (IPCC), President of ICSU and Council for Future Earth, and professor at the University of Western Ontario).