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Rice hull used for making inexpensive silicon compounds

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New York: High-purity silicon compounds are an expensive and carbon-intensive process, but that could soon change, thanks to a new technology from the University of Michigan that can produce the same silica compounds from rice refuse.

Silica and other silicon compounds are essential for many products that we use every day. They are used to polish the silicon wafers that go into electronics, to strengthen tyres, to make paints and paper white, as an abrasive in toothpaste, and yes, in countless tiny packets of silica gel beads.

But current method of silicon compound production requires heating mined silicon metal and anthracite coal to 3,500 degrees Celsius in an electric arc furnace, making it an expensive and high carbon-intensive process.

Developed by Richard Laine, Professor of materials science and engineering, the new technique is believed to be the first simple, inexpensive chemical method for producing high-purity silica compounds from agricultural waste.

“I think eventually, we will be producing high-purity silica and other silicon compounds right next to the rice fields,” Laine said.

“It will be possible to process rice and produce high-grade silica in a single location with little or no carbon footprint. It is really very exciting,” Laine noted.

Much of the world’s agricultural waste contains silica. While the new process could be used to produce silica and silicon-containing chemicals from many types of agricultural waste, Laine focused on using the hulls left over from processing rice.

The hull is the outermost layer of the rice grain. It is removed when rice is processed.

But while the world is awash in silica-rich rice hull ash, getting that silica out has proven to be a major challenge. The difficulty stems mostly from the incredibly strong chemical bond between silicon and oxygen, one of the strongest that exists in nature.

Laine found two easy and inexpensive ways to break that bond: ethylene glycol or antifreeze and ethanol or grain alcohol.

The antifreeze combined with a small amount of sodium hydroxide weakens the chemical bonds between the silica and the rice hull ash at the beginning of the process, dissolving the silica into a liquid solution.

The solution is then heated to 390 degrees Celsius, forming a polymer of silica and antifreeze.

Grain alcohol is then added at the end of the process. It is chemically similar to antifreeze, so it easily swaps in to replace the antifreeze, which is then recycled.

The liquid silica can then be distilled out of this second solution and used to make a high-purity precipitated silica product for industrial use.

Laine has formed a Michigan company, Mayasil, to commercialize the technology.

The findings were published in the journal Agewandte Chemie. (IANS)

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Increasing Number of Elderly Chinese-American Citizens Contemplate Suicide Because of Discrimination, Claims New Research

The research by University of Michigan traces the relationship between discrimination and suicidal thoughts, also understood as suicide ideation among aged Chinese-American

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Chinese American
Discrimination at public spaces and work, alike often prompts aged Chinese-Americans to feel like they are not ‘welcome’ in the area. Pixabay
  • A new research examined how racial bias prompts elderly Chinese-Americans to contemplate suicide 
  • Discrimination can impair an individual’s physical, emotional and mental well-being
  • The study revealed that individuals are twice as likely to think about taking their own life when subjected to discriminatory behavior 

Chicago, September 2, 2017 : According to World Health Organization (WHO), about 800,000 people end their lives every year, and there are countless more who attempt suicide. These deliberate deaths have long-lasting effects not just on the families of the people involved, but also on the larger society. According to a new research, people who experience discrimination of any form are twice as likely to contemplate taking their own life in comparison to those who didn’t experience similar thoughts.

The research by University of Michigan traced the relationship between discrimination and suicidal thoughts, also understood as suicide ideation among aged Chinese-American citizens.

Lydia Li, associate professor at the University Of Michigan School Of Social Work and a co-author of the study believes prejudicial treatment or racial bias is an extremely challenging experience for the elderly that can hamper not just emotional, but also mental and physical well being, according to a report by ANI.

“It’s a serious matter. It’s not something you can just forget” she said in an interview with HuffPost, further adding, “It cuts into peoples’ thoughts about their place on this planet.”

The Research

The research examined over 3,000 Chinese American seniors aged 60 years and above in the greater Chicago area, who had immigrated to the United States and have been living here for more than twenty years.

Further, 57 per cent of the study participants were women.

Professor Li along with the team obtained and analyzed the background information of all participants, including their age, education, and marital status through a detailed questionnaire. The participants were also asked to share specific experiences of discrimination, if faced any. Additionally, the questionnaire gauged their take on suicide and questioned if they had ever harbored suicidal thoughts.

Revelations Of The Study

The study revealed that about 4 per cent of the participants had debated suicide all within a period of 30 days. Furthermore, 21 per cent had reported experiencing discrimination in a variety of situations.

The participants in the research revealed experiencing prejudicial discrimination at public spaces and work, alike which often prompts them to feel like they are not ‘welcome’ in the area.

According to the study, participants who experienced discrimination were twice as likely to contemplate taking their own life in comparison to those who didn’t experience similar thoughts.

Chinese-American
The study asserts that the impact of racial bias on health shouldn’t be underestimated, or ignored. Wikimedia

According to Professor Li, apart from raising a sense of vulnerability and isolation, discrimination among older Chinese-Americans also impedes them from seeking help. In her opinion, “Assimilation difficulty, cultural beliefs and family pride may preclude them from seeking help. Consequently they may come to see suicide as a viable alternative”, as reported by ANI.

The participants of the research belonged to the ethnic minority of Chinese-American immigrants who did not face any such bias in their own country. Delving on this fact, Professor Li noted that it gets increasingly difficult for the aged people belonging to this group to cope with the indifferent behavior because “It’s not something they’ve been trained to deal with.”

Risk Factors And Remedial Mechanisms

The study revealed noteworthy risk factors that can potentially prompt the older population to contemplate deadly actions. These include,

  • Age
  • Depression
  • Seclusion
  • Pain

The research also noted that the treatment imparted to citizens can vary among people settled in the rural areas.

ALSO READ Suicide is Preventable: Alarming Effects of Self-harm on Families, Communities, Societies

However, the problem can be combated with sufficient support from the family. Professor Li also noted the positive contribution of clinicians, who must recognize the gravity of the situation and its impact on the ethnic minority in the old-age bracket.

The need of the hour is to make the larger public aware of the health hazard that discrimination of any kind poses to individuals. Efforts must also be taken to empower people who are at the receiving end of racial bias and bigotry treatment in a way that makes them feel an intrinsic part of the larger society. Professor Li suggests doing so by particularly helping new immigrants establish themselves in the mainstream society and assuring them that these vile instances are not their fault.

 


 

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Barbour Scholarship: An initiative to liberate Orient Women dates back to 1914

"The idea of the Oriental girls' scholarships is to bring girls from Orient, give them an Occidental education and let them take back whatever they find good and assimilate the blessings among the peoples from which they come"

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Barbour Scholars, 1932-33. Image source: bentley.umich.edu
  • The idea behind the Barbour Scholarship was to liberate Orient women
  • And to prevent international future conflicts
  • The Scholarship was first awarded to two Japanese women who came out in 1914

A letter to the late President of the University of Michigan, Ruthven Hutchins explained the principle behind the scholarship program that was created to aid the educational advancement of women from the East Asian countries. In the letter Regent Levi L. Barbour wrote , “The idea of the Oriental girls’ scholarships is to bring girls from Orient, give them an Occidental education and let them take back whatever they find good and assimilate the blessings among the peoples from which they come”( Rufus 15).

While traveling to China and Japan, Barbour met three East Asian women who had studied medicine at the University of Michigan in the 1980s. The kind of work these women were doing inspired Barbour to create a scholarship so that other women from Orient can participate in same work. As explained below, a Western education was perceived as a key to liberating these women and making them independent:

Only one Scholar came directly from the Indian purdah. She was accompanied from her seclusion to the secretary’s office by an uncle; during the first interview, in spite of many attempts to hear her voice, the secretary could distinguish only a faint response, and she looked up but once. Not long afterward, she was a free individual able to say that her soul was not her own (Rufus 25)

The idea behind the Scholarship was not only to liberate such women but also to prevent future conflicts. In 1917, Barbour wrote a letter to Helen Hatch, he said, “If a thousand Japanese girls could be educated in the United States to be physicians and teachers and returned to Japan to ply their work, we certainly never would have any war with Japan…and I think the same is true of other Oriental countries” (Rufus 39).

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The Scholarship was first awarded to two Japanese women who came out in 1914 before the scholarship was officially announced. They were trained for several months Barbour to improve their English and prepare for their exams at University. Although, the résumés of Barbour scholars improved tremendously as more individual participated in this scholarship program. For instance, in 1928-1929, 75% applied for the scholarship. One of the applicants was “a young woman from a high-class Kashmiri Brahmin family, holding degrees in B.A., M.A., and L.L.B from the University of Allahabad and was also the principal of a high school.” However, when judging committee saw the photograph of Miss Shakeshwari Agha, the decision was concordant. Later, Agha spent two years at Michigan where she trained in education and gained a second M.A. before she became the head of the Teacher Training Department of Crosthwaite College for Women, Allahabad. Then, she acquired the position of a secretary for the All- India Women’s conference for Education and Social Reform, mentioned the saada.org article.

For instance, in 1928-1929, 75% applied for the scholarship. One of the applicants was “a young woman from a high-class Kashmiri Brahmin family, holding degrees in B.A., M.A., and L.L.B from the University of Allahabad and was also the principal of a high school.” However, when judging committee saw the photograph of Miss Shakeshwari Agha, the decision was concordant. Later, Agha spent two years at Michigan where she trained in education and gained a second M.A. before she became the head of the Teacher Training Department of Crosthwaite College for Women, Allahabad. Then, she acquired the position of a secretary for the All- India Women’s conference for Education and Social Reform.

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Yearly statistics have shown that more than a few Barbour Scholars have actively participated in different activities with the communities around them and also with other international students in the US. A Barbour Scholar Newsletter, written in 1931 reports that M.A. student Kapila Khandvala was a representative at a conference of students in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Experiences of Barbour Scholars as International Students were not without hurdles and they were planning to participate in Orient Students’ Conference in Chicago. In the year 1946, Leela Desai took the chair and became the head of the Hindustan Times Association in Ann Arbor, later she went on a lecture tour organized by National Board of the YMCA where she explored Midwestern Universities.

Barbour Scholars had to face many challenges as they have to adapt strict rules and regulation, particularly who had held authority positions. According to Carl Rufus’s ” 25 Years of the Barbour Scholarship,” there were two women who strived to adjust to their new lives at the University.

A Barbour Scholar with her own ideas about student life and outside political activity was warned by the Dean of women several times. at a final showdown, she could not understand why she could not be allowed to continue, reminding the dean that she was not obeying the Christian injunction to forgive seventy times seven (23).

Another Barbour Scholar found it difficult to become adjusted to American food and to dormitory life. The first fall she wished to cook her own food and to live her own way. When thwarted, she became hysterical and even threatened suicide. The frightened dormitory head took it to the dean’s wife and together they came to a called meeting of the committee. The chairman and the perplexed deans listened to the story, the crux of which was that the girl decided to go to New York during the vacation… She went, spent a pleasant vacation with friends, returned safely, and the incident was closed, as she became better adjusted and more co-operative (23-24).

saada.org Website mentioned, there’s no proof that these Barbour Scholars averted the International Conflicts as Barbour had expected. Moreover, some of the women found themselves caught in the midst of World War II and its fallout. Dr. E.K. Janaki who was also caught in the thick of war, reported in 1941 in Barbour scholar newsletter,”I am still alive in London and getting along with my work as well as one could. I have just come back from Edinburgh where I went for a rest after months of broken sleep. This part of London has had a lot of bombing (11).”

File:Rackham School of Graduate Studies at UM Ann Arbor 2015.jpg
Rackham School of Graduate Studies. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

In the University of Rackham Graduate School, Barbour Scholarship still continues to be administrated.

-prepared by Akanksha Sharma, an intern at NewsGram

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