Radio waves stop marine pests dead in their tracks

August 28, 2001

CHICAGO, August 28 -- A new method for killing pesky zebra mussels, which have caused millions of dollars in damage to boats and power plants in the United States, was described today at the 222nd national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.

The technique takes advantage of low energy radio waves. "Zapping" zebra mussels with these waves forces them to surrender essential minerals such as the calcium they need to maintain their shells, says Matthew F. Ryan, Ph.D., a chemist at Purdue University Calumet in Hammond, Ind., and principle investigator for the study.

These freshwater critters, not to be confused with saltwater mussels consumed by humans, suck in liters of water a day, thus absorbing large amounts of nutrients, as well as heavy metals and environmental toxins. Unfortunately they leave few nutrients behind for other lake dwellers such as crabs, crayfish and other species of freshwater mussels.

Zebra mussels lay their eggs near intake pipes of electric generating stations. Their dust-sized larvae attach to the interior of the pipes, then grow to approximately the size of a lima bean, clogging the pipes to the point that they're unusable.

Zebra mussels immigrated to the United States in the mid-80s as stowaways on foreign ships. Although first discovered in the Great Lakes, they are now causing trouble in nearly every body of fresh water from the Mississippi River to the Ohio River to inland lakes in Wisconsin.

Chemicals such as chlorine and bromine have been used to remove zebra mussels. While they are effective, some ecologists are concerned that overuse of such chemicals might be polluting lakes and streams. Another approach has been the use of molluscicides. But Ryan says they aren't fully understood and may add to the growing list of environmental toxins.

The use of low-energy radio waves appears promising. Ryan and coworkers exposed 1,100 zebra mussels in large fish tanks to low-energy radio waves from a generator placed roughly a meter away. All died within 40 days. In the unexposed group, only 10 percent of the mussels died. Moreover, the researchers measured a fourfold increase of calcium in the water compared to the unexposed group. Ryan says, "If you have an excess of calcium in the water, you know it can only be coming from the zebra mussels."

At the same time, Ryan reports, other exposed organisms like crabs, crayfish and other freshwater mussels were significantly less affected. Fish were unharmed.

Ryan and coworkers plan field tests using low-energy radio wave generators placed near intake pipes. "We can't get the zebra mussels out of the Great Lakes, but we can certainly prevent them from settling into intake pipes," says Ryan.
-end-
The paper on this research, ENVR 78, will be presented at 11:35 a.m., Tuesday, August 28, at McCormick Park South, Room S502A, Level 5.

Matthew F. Ryan, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Chemistry at Purdue University Calumet in Hammond, Ind.

-- by Linda Wang Click here to search for papers

American Chemical Society

Related Calcium Articles from Brightsurf:

A new strategy for the greener use of calcium carbide
Computational chemists from St Petersburg University and the Zelinsky Institute of Organic Chemistry of the Russian Academy of Sciences have developed a new strategy for using calcium acetylide in the synthesis of organic compounds.

New link between calcium and cardiolipin in heart defects
To function properly, the heart needs energy from cells' powerhouses, the mitochondria.

'Give me the calcium!' Tulane virus takes over cellular calcium signaling to replicate
Researchers uncover the first piece of functional evidence suggesting that Tulane virus and human norovirus use viroporins to control cellular calcium signaling.

Carbon dots make calcium easier to track
Prof. DONG Wenfei's research group from the Suzhou Institute of Biomedical Engineering and Technology (SIBET) has developed a new type of fluorescent carbon dot that can effectively detect calcium levels in cells.

Calcium batteries: New electrolytes, enhanced properties
Calcium-based batteries promise to reach a high energy density at low manufacturing costs.

Chelated calcium benefits poinsettias
Cutting quality has an impact on postharvest durability during shipping and propagation of poinsettias.

New study uncovers the interaction of calcium channels
Korean researchers have identified the interactions of the combinants among calcium channel proteins that exist in nerve and heart cells.

Calcium-catalyzed reactions of element-H bonds
Calcium-catalyzed reactions of element-H bonds provide precise and efficient tools for hydrofunctionalization.

A bioengineered tattoo monitors blood calcium levels
Scientists have created a biomedical tattoo that becomes visible on the skin of mice in response to elevated levels of calcium in the blood.

The dinosaur menu, as revealed by calcium
By studying calcium in fossil remains in deposits in Morocco and Niger, researchers have been able to reconstruct the food chains of the past, thus explaining how so many predators could coexist in the dinosaurs' time.

Read More: Calcium News and Calcium Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.