Scientists have developed a thin smart patch that can withstand twisting, shearing and stretching, even when exposed to high pressures in deep waters and could make studying the behaviour of marine animals easier and more informative.
The patch called Marine Skin is based on stretchable silicone elastomers that can withstand twisting, shearing and stretching, even when exposed to high pressures in deep waters.
“The integrated flexible electronics can track an animal’s movement and diving behaviour and the health of the surrounding marine environment in real time,” said Joanna Nassarm, who was a PhD student in the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia at the time of the research.
Being able to monitor and record a range of environmental parameters is vital in the study of marine ecosystems. Yet existing systems for tracking animals in the sea are bulky and uncomfortable for animals to wear.
“Using simple design tricks and soft materials, we were able to beat the current standard systems in terms of non-invasiveness, weight, operational lifetime and speed of operation,” said Nassar, who is now at California Institute of Technology in the US.
“In the current prototype, the location data is supplemented by recordings of water temperature and salinity. Additional sensing capabilities could be added in future,” he said.
“Possibilities include sensing the physiological state of the tagged animals. This would allow information about ocean chemistry to be correlated with the heath and activity of even small animals as they move around in their habitat,” he added.
The data is currently retrieved via wireless connection when the tag is removed. In future, the researchers hope to develop remote data retrieval procedures by overcoming the problems of transmitting signals through water.
Marine Skin has been tested and demonstrated when glued onto a swimming crab, Portunus pelagicus, but is suitable for tagging a wide range of sea creatures.
The team plans to move on to studies with dolphins and whale sharks. Their long-term aim is to achieve reliable performance when Marine Skin is attached for up to a year on individual animals of diverse types. (IANS)
This flamboyant nine-metre-long dhow, made from 10 tonnes of plastic waste collected from Kenyan beaches and roadsides, sailed more than 500 km from the idyllic island of Lamu to Zanzibar this year with a message to eliminate single-use plastics.
And it also reminds the global policy-makers the urgency to address and lessen the growing impact of plastics on the world’s marine environment.
The Flipflopi dhow was positioned right at the entrance of the conference venue in the UN Environment headquarters in Nairobi where over 4,700 delegates from 170 countries gathered for the week-long UN Environment Assembly, the world’s highest-level decision-making body on the environment.
“Marine plastic litter pollution is already affecting more than 800 marine species through ingestion, entanglement and habitat change,” UN Environment’s coral reef unit head Jerker Tamelander said.
“Waste continues to leak from land and coral reefs are at the receiving end. They also trap a lot of fishing gear as well as plastic lost from aquaculture. With the impacts of climate change on coral reef ecosystems already significant, the additional threat of plastics must be taken seriously.”
The majority of marine litter – between 60-80 per cent – is composed of plastic.
Only nine per cent of the nine billion tonnes of plastic the world has so far produced has been recycled.
The overwhelming majority of plastics – comprising drinking bottles, bottle caps, food wrappers, grocery bags, lids and straws – are designed to be thrown away after a single use, ultimately ending up in landfills and polluting the environment.
“The first leg of the journey is over, but the journey continues,” Kenyan entrepreneur and Flipflopi project leader Dipesh Pabari told reporters here.
“When you are on the boat and you come to know that it’s made from your toothbrushes and Pet bottles. You will ask how and that is the real story,” he said.
Coming from a family of carpenters and dhow builders in Lamu, an island off the North Coast of Kenya, Ali Skanda is intimately familiar with what goes into building a dhow – a sailboat that has been used in East Africa for more than a thousand years.
On its maiden 500-km-long sojourn, supported by the UN Environment’s Clean Seas campaign, the Flipflopi stopped at towns and cities to sensitize the communities on ways to cut down use of single-use plastics.
A report, Plastics and Shallow Water Coral Reefs, released at this UN Environment Assembly, which focus on innovative solutions for environmental challenges, identifies a number of knowledge gaps that must be addressed to strengthen the scientific evidence base for action on marine plastics that impact coral reefs.
Inspired by 15-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, activist Rebecca Freitag, 26, a UN delegate for sustainable development from Germany, told IANS that the youth should be given participation in environment talks as they comprised 25 per cent of the global population.
Before coming to the UN summit, she collected the plastic waste from roadsides of Kenya, which introduced the world’s toughest laws on single-use plastic bags two years ago, and got her dress stitched to spotlight solutions for the growing impact of plastics on the world’s marine environment.
The Flipflopi is now ready for a voyage next month for a greater political and social awareness of the issue of plastic pollution.
“Now we want to build a 20-m long boat that is capable of sailing to South Africa and beyond,” Pabari said.
For this, $1.5 million is required.
The Flipflopi team has had to pioneer new techniques to craft the dhow’s various components.