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Gizmorama - February 14, 2018

Good Morning,

Is seawater a little too salty for your taste? Well, scientists have developed a new way to filter out salt and metal ions. I'll drink to that!

Learn about this and more interesting stories from the scientific community in today's issue.

Until Next Time,

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*- New material can remove salt and metal ions from seawater -*

Scientists have developed a new, more efficient way to filter salt and metal ions from water. The method relies on metal-organic frameworks, a unique material with an expansive internal surface area and crystals capable of trapping chemical compounds dissolved in water.

Currently, reverse osmosis membranes are responsible for the majority of desalinization efforts. The membranes also serve as the last stage of filtration in most municipal water systems. Unfortunately, the membranes aren't very energy efficient.

A team of researchers from Monash University in Australia and the University of Texas in Austin found metal-organic frameworks, or MOFs, can be designed to selectively filter both salt and ions.

The differently sized nanoscale substructures inside the unique materials serve to trap and transport different types of ions.

In addition to making seawater potable, MOFs could also be used to filter lithium from mining wastewater. The rise in popularity of lithium ion batteries has made lithium a valuable and sought-after -- but increasingly rare -- natural resource.

"Instead of relying on the current costly and energy intensive processes, this research opens up the potential for removing salt ions from water in a far more energy efficient and environmentally sustainable way," Huanting Wang, a professor at Monash, said in a news release.

"Also, this is just the start of the potential for this phenomenon," Wang said. "We'll continue researching how the lithium ion selectivity of these membranes can be further applied."

The findings -- detailed in the journal Science Advances -- suggests MOFs could also be used for municipal water filtration systems.

*-- UV light can kill airborne flu virus, study finds --*

Experiments prove low doses of far ultraviolet C light, or far-UVC light, can wipe out airborne flu virus without harming humans.

Researchers at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center suggest far-UVC lamps should be installed in hospitals, doctors offices, schools, airports and other public places.

Currently, ultraviolet light is used to decontaminate surgical equipment, but the light isn't safe for human exposure.

"Unfortunately, conventional germicidal UV light... can lead to skin cancer and cataracts, which prevents its use in public spaces," David J. Brenner, a professor of radiation biophysics and director of the Center for Radiological Research at CUIMC, said in a news release.

Traditional UV lamps feature a broad spectrum of light wavelengths between 200 to 400 nanometers. Such wavelengths can penetrate human skin and damage cells.

"Far-UVC light has a very limited range and cannot penetrate through the outer dead-cell layer of human skin or the tear layer in the eye, so it's not a human health hazard," Brenner said. "But because viruses and bacteria are much smaller than human cells, far-UVC light can reach their DNA and kill them."

In previous studies, Brenner and his colleagues showed far-UVC light can kill MRSA bacteria without harming human and mice tissue. MRSA bacteria lives primarily on surfaces and is spread through direct contact.

In the new study, published this week in the journal Scientific Reports, scientists wanted to find out if far-UVC light could combat the flu, which is spread through tiny airborne droplets. When infected parties cough or sneeze, the virus becomes aerosolized.

In test chambers, scientists found 222 nanometer far-UVC light was just as effective as broad spectrum UV light at killing and deactivating the aerosolized influenza virus.

"If our results are confirmed in other settings, it follows that the use of overhead low-level far-UVC light in public locations would be a safe and efficient method for limiting the transmission and spread of airborne-mediated microbial diseases, such as influenza and tuberculosis," said Brenner.


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