Thursday, February 26, 2015

How the Sahara Keeps the Amazon Green

The Sahara Desert is huge, hot, and full of sand and dust. The Amazon basin is huge, warm, but full of greenery and wildlife. And one can’t live without the other. The Amazon, it seems, depends on the Sahara for its very survival.
The link: Dust. Specifically, phosphorous and other nutrients, kicked up by the wind and spread half a world away. “Even tens of millions of years after South America separated from Africa, the two continents are still inextricably linked, like an older brother and a younger brother,” says Charlie Zender, a climate scientist at the University of California, Irvine. Researchers have known for decades that wind could transport dust transcontinentally, but a new analysis of satellite data shows just how important that process is.
It’s a question of volume. By measuring dust at different altitudes, a NASA satellite called CALIPSO (Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation) reveals that the Sahara exports 182 million tons every year, enough to fill 689,290 semi trucks. Much of that falls into the ocean. Some makes it to the Caribbean islands. And some—about 27.7 million tons—settles over the Amazon River basin.
For the Amazon, this dust is like manna from heaven. Even though the Amazon has plenty of nutrients, rain and flooding washes away a lot of the phosphorous in the soil, a fertilizing nutrient critical to plant growth. The new data suggests that the winds deliver about 22,000 more tons of phosphorous from the Sahara every year—just enough to make up for what’s lost. “If you don’t have this African dust transport to the Amazon, in 10 years, or in 100 years, the Amazon will have lost a lot of phosphorous,” says Hongbin Yu, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Maryland, who led the study. “That’s a big problem for the plants.”
And where do those plants owe their specific gratitude? An ancient lakebed in Chad called the Bodélé Depression, where airflow and topography combine in just the right way. “Without that dust, one of the most biodiverse places on the planet wouldn’t be as rich,” Zender says. Best penpal ever. By Marcus Woo (

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Megascale Desalination

The world’s largest and cheapest reverse-osmosis desalination plant is up and running in Israel.
On a Mediterranean beach 10 miles south of Tel Aviv, Israel, a vast new industrial facility hums around the clock. It is the world’s largest modern seawater desalination plant, providing 20 percent of the water consumed by the country’s households. Built for the Israeli government by Israel Desalination Enterprises, or IDE Technologies, at a cost of around $500 million, it uses a conventional desalination technology called reverse osmosis (RO). Thanks to a series of engineering and materials advances, however, it produces clean water from the sea cheaply and at a scale never before achieved.
Worldwide, some 700 million people don’t have access to enough clean water. In 10 years the number is expected to explode to 1.8 billion. In many places, squeezing fresh water from the ocean might be the only viable way to increase the supply.
The new plant in Israel, called Sorek, was finished in late 2013 but is just now ramping up to its full capacity; it will produce 627,000 cubic meters of water daily, providing evidence that such large desalination facilities are practical. Indeed, desalinated seawater is now a mainstay of the Israeli water supply. Whereas in 2004 the country relied entirely on groundwater and rain, it now has four seawater desalination plants running; Sorek is the largest. Those plants account for 40 percent of Israel’s water supply. By 2016, when additional plants will be running, some 50 percent of the country’s water is expected to come from desalination.
The traditional criticism of reverse-osmosis technology is that it costs too much. The process uses a great deal of energy to force salt water against polymer membranes that have pores small enough to let fresh water through while holding salt ions back. However, Sorek will profitably sell water to the Israeli water authority for 58 U.S. cents per cubic meter (1,000 liters, or about what one person in Israel uses per week), which is a lower price than today’s conventional desalination plants can manage. What’s more, its energy consumption is among the lowest in the world for large-scale desalination plants.
The Sorek plant incorporates a number of engineering improvements that make it more efficient than previous RO facilities. It is the first large desalination plant to use pressure tubes that are 16 inches in diameter rather than eight inches. The payoff is that it needs only a fourth as much piping and other hardware, slashing costs. The plant also has highly efficient pumps and energy recovery devices. “This is indeed the cheapest water from seawater desalination produced in the world,” says Raphael Semiat, a chemical engineer and desalination expert at the Israel Institute of Technology, or Technion, in Haifa. “We don’t have to fight over water, like we did in the past.” Australia, Singapore, and several countries in the Persian Gulf are already heavy users of seawater desalination, and California is also starting to embrace the technology. Smaller-scale RO technologies that are energy-efficient and relatively cheap could also be deployed widely in regions with particularly acute water problems—even far from the sea, where brackish underground water could be tapped.
Earlier in development are advanced membranes made of atom-thick sheets of carbon, which hold the promise of further cutting the energy needs of desalination plants. By David Talbot (

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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

THERMAL PAPER ROLLS price reduction:

Paper-Net is delighted to announce price reduction on all standard grade THERMAL PAPER rolls.
The new prices will take effect on February 16th, 2015.
We received announcement from all paper mills regarding lower prices at the end of January. They have attributed the change to low oil prices and higher inventory levels in the current quarter.
We are constantly monitoring the paper and transportation markets to make sure we are the price and quality leader as we have been in the past 21 years.
Additionally, we are constantly deploying the latest technologies making sure you receive your orders on time and you can easily place your orders on line or offline at a lightning speed.
We are currently in the process of adding Mobil devices to our ecommerce platform as usage of Mobil devices are becoming popular in all business environments. The new capabilities ensure fast and easy ordering and making payments on any cell phone and tablet in the market. The Mobil features will be available around May 15, 2015. You will not have to lunch an app on your mobile device. Our website will automatically sense your device and select the correct user interface.
We welcome your feedback at any time and would love to hear from you. Please let us know how we can enhance your experience with our company.
Thank you for your business.
Julian Hemmati

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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Anti-Aging Pill

Facing a long wait for evidence, a longevity researcher takes an unusual path to market.
An anti-aging startup hopes to elude the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and death at the same time.
The company, Elysium Health, says it will be turning chemicals that lengthen the lives of mice and worms in the laboratory into over-the-counter vitamin pills that people can take to combat aging.
The startup is being founded by Leonard Guarente, an MIT biologist who is 62 (“unfortunately,” he says) and who’s convinced that the process of aging can be slowed by tweaking the body’s metabolism.
The problem, Guarente says, is that it’s nearly impossible to prove, in any reasonable time frame, that drugs that extend the lifespan of animals can do the same in people; such an experiment could take decades. That’s why Guarente says he decided to take the unconventional route of packaging cutting-edge lab research as so-called nutraceuticals, which don’t require clinical trials or approval by the FDA.
This means there’s no guarantee that Elysium’s first product, a blue pill called Basis that is going on sale this week, will actually keep you young. The product contains a chemical precursor to nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, or NAD, a compound that cells use to carry out metabolic reactions like releasing energy from glucose. The compound is believed cause some effects similar to a diet that is severely short on calories—a proven way to make a mouse live longer.
Elysium’s approach to the anti-aging market represents a change of strategy for Guarente. He was previously involved with Sirtris Pharmaceuticals, a high-profile biotechnology startup that studied resveratrol, an anti-aging compound found in red wine that it hoped would help patients with diabetes. That company was bought by drug giant GlaxoSmithKline, but early trials failed to pan out.
This time, Guarente says, the idea is to market anti-aging molecules as a dietary supplement and follow up with clients over time with surveys and post-marketing studies. Guarente is founding the company along with Eric Marcotulli, a former venture capitalist and technology executive who will be CEO, and Dan Alminana, chief operating officer.
The company says it will follow strict pharmaceutical-quality production standards and make the supplements available solely through its website, for $60 for a 30-day supply or $50 per month with an ongoing subscription.
“You have high-end prescription drugs up here, which are expensive,” says Guarente, gesturing upward. “And you have the nutraceuticals down there, which are a pig in a poke—you don’t know what you’re getting and you don’t know a lot about the science behind them. There’s this vast space in between that could be filled in a way that’s useful for health maintenance.”
An anti-aging pill with an ivory-tower pedigree could prove profitable. The $30 billion supplements market is growing at about 7 percent a year overall, Alminana says, and at twice that rate for online sales.
Elysium declined to name its investors, but it has some high-level endorsements. Its board includes Daniel Fabricant, former director of the FDA’s division of dietary supplements and now CEO of the Natural Products Association, a trade association. The company also has five Nobel Prize winners advising it including neuroscientist Eric Kandel, biologist Thomas Südhof, origin-of-life theorist Jack Szostak, and the 2013 laureate in chemistry Martin Karplus.
Karplus, now an emeritus professor at Harvard, said in a telephone interview that he was turning 85 this year and had asked the company to send him a supply of Basis as soon as it’s available. “I want to remind myself whether I really want to take it or not,” says Karplus.
Scientists have shown they can reliably extend the life of laboratory mice by feeding them less, a process known as “caloric restriction.” That process seems to be mediated by biological molecules called sirtuins. NAD is important because it’s a chemical that sirtuins need to do their work and is also involved in other aspects of a cell’s metabolism. In worms, mice, and people, NAD levels fall with age, says Guarente, so the idea is to increase levels of the molecule.
“NAD replacement is one of the most exciting things happening in the biology of aging,” says Nir Barzilai, director of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, who has coauthored scientific papers with Guarente but is not involved in Elysium. “The frustration in our field is that we have shown we can target aging, but the FDA does not [recognize it] as an indication.”.. By Karen Weintraub (

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