Current Concentrations News and Events

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For selenium in rivers, timing matters
Researchers have gained new insight into an ongoing environmental health problem. (2021-02-23)

Graphene Oxide membranes could reduce paper industry energy costs
Paper industry wastewater recycling is among the most energy-intensive chemical processes in the world. Georgia Tech researchers have found a method to engineer membranes made from graphene oxide that allow water to get through it much faster than through conventional membranes and, in the process, can save the paper industry more than 30% in energy costs of water separation. (2021-02-22)

Compounds from apples may boost brain function
Natural compounds found in apples and other fruits may help stimulate the production of new brain cells, which may have implications for learning and memory, according to a new study in mice published in Stem Cell Reports. (2021-02-11)

A new quantum switch for electronics
A Russian physicist and his international colleagues studied a quantum point contact (QCP) between two conductors with external oscillating fields applied to the contact. They found that, for some types of contacts, an increase in the oscillation frequency above a critical value reduced the current to zero - a promising mechanism that can help create nanoelectronics components. (2021-02-11)

How messenger substances influence individual decision-making
A research team of psychologists and physicists from Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf (HHU) and Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg investigated the neurobiological processes in various forms of decision-making. They report in the journal Nature Communications that a different ratio of two messenger substances affects short-term and long-term strategic decisions differently. (2021-02-10)

The role of nanobacteria in the organic matter cycle in freshwater systems
A team of scientists including researchers from Baltic Federal University studied freshwater microorganisms that can pass through biological filters. These microorganisms are understudied but were believed to play an important role in the biosphere. However, experiments showed that they had only a minor impact on the cycle of dissolved organic matter. (2021-02-10)

New factor in the carbon cycle of the Southern Ocean identified
The Southern Ocean is one of the key regions for understanding the climate system. The photosynthesis-performing plankton there contribute significantly to controlling the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. But which factors favor or limit plankton growth? Researchers have now published a study showing for the first time that, in addition to the micronutrient iron, manganese can play an important role. Among other things, the results have implications for understanding ice ages in the past. (2021-02-09)

Cleaning Up the Mississippi River
Professor R. Eugene Turner reconstructed a 100-year record chronicling water quality trends in the lower Mississippi River by compiling water quality data collected from 1901 to 2019. The Mississippi River is the largest river in North America with about 30 million people living within its watershed. He tracked pH levels and concentrations of bacteria, oxygen, lead and sulphate in this new study. (2021-02-08)

Arctic stew: Understanding how high-latitude lakes respond to and affect climate change
To arrive at Nunavut, turn left at the Dakotas and head north. You can't miss it--the vast tundra territory covers almost a million square miles of northern Canada. Relatively few people call this lake-scattered landscape home, but the region plays a crucial role in understanding global climate change. (2021-02-05)

Huge methane emission rise follows extreme rainfall in East Africa
Recent heavy rainfall in East Africa has led to substantially larger seasonal emissions of a potent greenhouse gas, new research shows. (2021-02-03)

Sea ice kept oxygen from reaching deep ocean during last ice age
Extensive sea ice covered the world's oceans during the last ice age, which prevented oxygen from penetrating into the deep ocean waters, complicating the relationship between oxygen and carbon. (2021-02-02)

Stanford: forecasting coastal water quality
Using water samples and environmental data gathered over 48 hours or less, Stanford engineers develop a new predictive technique for forecasting coastal water quality, a critical step in protecting public health and the ocean economy. (2021-01-21)

Methods in studying cycad leaf nutrition found to be inconsistent and incomplete
Collective research to date regarding nutrients found in the leaves of contemporary cycad species has been inconsistent as far as data collection and narrow in scope, according to a University of Guam-led literature review published on Nov. 19 in Horticulturae journal. (2021-01-21)

Using ancient fossils and gravitational-wave science to predict earth's future
New research on predicting the earth's future climate: Using gravitational-wave science, a group of international scientists, including Australian OzGrav astrophysicist Ilya Mandel, studied ancient marine fossils as a predictor of climate change. (2021-01-19)

Spilling the beans on coffee's true identity
People worldwide want their coffee to be both satisfying and reasonably priced. To meet these standards, roasters typically use a blend of two types of beans, arabica and robusta. But, some use more of the cheaper robusta than they acknowledge, as the bean composition is difficult to determine after roasting. Now, researchers reporting in ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry have developed a new way to assess exactly what's in that cup of joe. (2021-01-13)

Early COVID-19 lockdowns had less impact on urban air quality than first believed
The first COVID-19 lockdowns led to significant changes in urban air pollution levels around the world, but the changes were smaller than expected - a new study reveals. (2021-01-13)

Levels of stress hormone in saliva of newborn deer fawns may predict mortality
The first-ever study of the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the saliva of newborn white-tailed deer fawns yielded thought-provoking results that have Penn State researchers suggesting predation is not the only thing in the wild killing fawns. (2021-01-11)

Want to diagnose brain diseases? A mass spectrometry imaging may one day help you
Researchers from Osaka University used mass spectrometry imaging to quantitate the distribution of fat molecules in mouse brain sections. With further development, this will help medical practitioners reliably diagnose diseases without damaging the tissue. (2021-01-07)

Researchers discover a new tool for reconstructing ancient sea ice to study climate change
A previously problematic molecule turns out to be a reliable proxy for reconstructing sea ice, a new study by Brown University researchers shows. (2021-01-04)

New proposal for how aerosols drive increased atmospheric convection in thunderstorm clouds
High in the clouds, atmospheric aerosols, including anthropogenic air pollutants, increase updraft speeds in storm clouds by making the surrounding air more humid, a new study finds. (2020-12-31)

Hand-held device measures aerosols for coronavirus risk assessment
Understanding aerosol concentrations and persistence in public spaces can help determine infection risks. However, measuring these concentrations is difficult, requiring specialized personnel and equipment. Now, researchers demonstrate that a commercial hand-held particle counter can be used for this purpose and help determine the impacts of risk-reducing measures, like ventilation improvements. They describe the quick and easy, portable process in the journal Physics of Fluids. (2020-12-22)

Researchers illuminate neurotransmitter transport using X-ray crystallography and molecular simulations
Scientists from the MIPT Research Center for Molecular Mechanisms of Aging and Age-Related Diseases have joined forces with their colleagues from Jülich Research Center, Germany, and uncovered how sodium ions drive glutamate transport in the central nervous system. Glutamate is the most important excitatory neurotransmitter and is actively removed from the synaptic cleft between neurons by specialized transport proteins called excitatory amino acid transporters (EAATs). (2020-12-21)

Crops near Chernobyl still contaminated
Crops grown near Chernobyl are still contaminated due to the 1986 nuclear accident, new research shows. (2020-12-17)

Low oxygen levels in lakes and reservoirs may accelerate global change
Ultimately, this study is crucial for how researchers, and the general public, think about how freshwater ecosystems produce greenhouse gases in the future. With low oxygen concentrations increasing in lakes and reservoirs across the world, these ecosystems will produce higher concentrations of methane in the future, leading to more global warming. (2020-12-10)

Several U.S. populations and regions exposed to high arsenic concentrations in drinking water
A national study of public water systems found that arsenic levels were not uniform across the U.S., even after implementation of the latest national regulatory standard. In the first study of differences in public drinking water arsenic exposures by geographic subgroups, researchers confirmed that community water systems reliant on groundwater, serving smaller populations located in the Southwest, and Hispanic communities were more likely to continue exceeding the national maximum containment level, raising environmental justice concerns. (2020-12-09)

Multiple semiconductor type switching to boost thermoelectric conversion of waste heat
Scientists at Tokyo Tech demonstrate double charge carrier type switching of tin SnSe semiconductor by doping of antimony Sb. The SnSe carrier type switches from p-type to n-type, and re-switches to p-type as doping increases, due to the switching of major Sb substitution site from Se to Sn, promising reliable charge polarity control, leading to realization of SnSe-based p/n homojunction thermoelectric device for converting waste heat into electricity and new insights on impurity doping of compound semiconductors. (2020-12-09)

New study allows regional prediction of uranium in groundwater
Stanford researchers can predict where and when uranium is released into aquifers and suggest an easy fix to keep this naturally occurring toxin from contaminating water sources. (2020-12-08)

Better benzene sensing at laser point
A highly selective and sensitive laser sensor can pick up low-level benzene emissions in ambient air. (2020-12-08)

Two new studies investigate the early, potent response of IgA antibodies against SARS-CoV-2
A new study of more than 150 COVID-19 patients shows that IgA antibodies dominate the early response to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, coming on more quickly and strongly than IgG and IgM antibodies. (2020-12-07)

Marine mammals' adaptations to low oxygen offer new perspective on COVID-19
When Terrie Williams began hearing about the wide range of symptoms experienced by patients with COVID-19, she saw a connection between the various ways the disease is affecting people and the many physiological adaptations that have enabled marine mammals to tolerate low oxygen levels during dives. In a new review article, Williams explores how the diving physiology of marine mammals can help us understand the effects of COVID-19. (2020-12-03)

Air pollution spikes linked to lower test scores for Salt Lake County third graders
More frequent exposure to air pollution spikes were associated with reduced test scores for third graders in Salt Lake County. Schools with a higher proportion of students of color and from households experiencing poverty were exposed to more peak pollution days than were schools serving middle- to upper- class and predominately white students. The results stress the need for legislators to enact policies to reduce the number of peak pollution days. (2020-11-30)

COVID-19: Air quality influences the pandemic
An interdisciplinary team from the University of Geneva and the ETH Zürich spin-off Meteodat investigated possible interactions between acutely elevated levels of fine particulate matter and the virulence of the coronavirus disease. Their results suggest that high concentrations of particles less than 2.5 micrometers in size may modulate, or even amplify, the waves of SARS-CoV-2 contamination and explain in part the particular profile of the COVID-19 pandemic. (2020-11-24)

The first detection of marine fish DNA in sediment sequences going back 300 years
Far too little is known about the long-term dynamics of the abundance of most macro-organism species. We used sedimentary DNA technology to quantify marine fish DNA abundance in sediment sequences spanning the last 300 years. This study first shows the existence of fish DNA in the sequences and proves that fish abundance can be tracked using sedimentary DNA, highlighting the utility of sedimentary DNA for researchers to acquire lengthy records of macro-organism species abundance. (2020-11-16)

Cannabis strength soars over past half century -- new study
Largest study on how cannabis has changed over time finds increased strength putting consumers at greater risk of harm (2020-11-15)

Acute exposure to higher ozone levels linked to higher risk of cardiac arrest
Analysis of data from 187,000 patients found that higher ozone levels were associated with a higher risk of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. These findings may have important public health implications for recommendations on ozone regulations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (2020-11-09)

Decrease in fossil-fuel CO2 emissions due to COVID-19 detected by atmospheric observations
Atmospheric observations at Hateruma Island, Japan, successfully detected the decrease in fossil-fuel CO2 emissions in China associated with the COVID-19 outbreak. The weather in Hateruma island is frequently influenced by the northwest monsoon travelling over China, which carries the emission signals of air pollutants. The observed ratios of CO2 and CH4 variabilities showed a significant decrease during February-March 2020, corresponding to about a 30% decrease in China's fossil-fuel CO2 emissions, according to a chemistry-transport model simulation. (2020-11-06)

Urban air pollution estimates may overshadow full picture for China
For the first time, researchers have compared air pollution in urban and suburban areas across all of China. Using data from the China National Environmental Monitoring Center (CNEMC), the researchers found that one air pollutant, called particulate matter (PM2.5), may be overestimated in winter, while another pollutant, called ozone (O3), is significantly underestimated. (2020-11-05)

From nitrate crisis to phosphate crisis?
The aim of the EU Nitrates Directive is to reduce nitrates leaking into the environment and to prevent pollution of water supplies. The widely accepted view is that this will help protect threatened plant species which can be damaged by high levels of nutrients like nitrates. However, an international team including the Universities of Göttingen, Utrecht and Zurich, has discovered that many threatened plant species will suffer because of this policy. Results appeared in Nature Ecology and Evolution. (2020-11-03)

Affinity vs. cooperativity
Our biological processes rely on a system of communications -- cellular signals -- that set off chain reactions in and between target cells to produce a response. The first step in these often complex communications is the moment a molecule binds to a receptor on or in a cell, prompting changes that can trigger further signals that propagate across systems. From food tasting and blood oxygenation during breathing to drug therapy, receptor binding is the fundamental mechanism that unlocks a multitude of biological functions and responses. (2020-10-29)

Models for potential precursors of cells endure simulated early-Earth conditions
Membraneless compartments--models for a potential step in the early evolution of cells--have been shown to persist or form, disappear, and reform in predictable ways through multiple cycles of dehydration and rehydration. (2020-10-28)

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