Science briefs: Scientists find a way to use less energy when bleaching cotton

June 1, 2014 

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Cats eat more in winter, likely because extra energy is needed to keep themselves warm.

MARCUS SIMAITIS — AFP/GETTY

With more consumers demanding more Earth-friendly practices from the fashion world, scientists are developing new ways to produce textiles that could help meet rising expectations. They report in the journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research one such method that can dramatically reduce the amount of energy it takes to bleach cotton while improving the quality of the material.

The cotton industry’s current whitening techniques require bleaching natural fiber at very high temperatures with hydrogen peroxide. This method results in the bright white material consumers are fond of, but it also lowers the quality of the material and takes a lot of energy to carry out.

Quan Zu and colleagues at the American Chemical Society developed a compound that, when used with hydrogen peroxide, drops the bleaching temperature down to 140 degrees Fahrenheit from 200 degrees. The authors estimated that 60 degree difference would result in a process requiring less than half the energy of the commercial technique. It also produced less wastewater, improved the weight of the material and performed its original function – whitening the cotton. American Chemical Society

Cats eat more in winter

Cats eat more during the winter, and owners should give their pet more food during this time, University of Liverpool research has found.

In collaboration with colleagues at the Royal Canin Research Centre in France, veterinary researchers spent four years monitoring how much cats chose to eat, and found that food intake increased in colder months and decreased during the summer.

The 38 cats studied had a microchip on their collar that allowed them to take as much food as they wanted from a dispenser which only opened for them. At the same time, this microchip recorded how much the cat had eaten and when.

Study author Alex German said, “Cats, like many humans, are more inclined to comfort eat when it’s cold outside, but in their case, it’s likely to be due to the extra energy they need to keep warm when out and about.”

The study found that cats ate approximately 15 percent less during summer, and the vets have concluded that the extra effort to keep warm in winter and the temptation to rest during hot summer days contributed to the swing in activity levels during the year. liv.ac.uk

New sea routes could harm Arctic

For the first time in roughly 2 million years, melting Arctic sea ice is connecting the north Pacific and north Atlantic oceans. The newly opened passages leave both coasts and Arctic waters vulnerable to a large wave of invasive species, biologists from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center assert in a commentary published May 28 in Nature Climate Change.

Two new shipping routes have opened in the Arctic: the Northwest Passage through Canada, and the Northern Sea Route, a 3,000-mile stretch along the coasts of Russia and Norway. While new opportunities for tapping Arctic natural resources and interoceanic trade are high, commercial ships often inadvertently carry invasive species.

“Trans-Arctic shipping is a game changer that will play out on a global scale,” said lead author Whitman Miller. “The economic draw of the Arctic is enormous. ... If unchecked, these activities will vastly alter the exchange of invasive species, especially across the Arctic, north Atlantic and north Pacific oceans.” si.edu

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