Research Picks – October 2017

Almost silent demolition

Researchers in Ireland, the UK, and the USA have investigated the properties of soundless chemical demolition agents (SCDAs) for the significant benefits of no harmful shock waves, no explosive sound, and no risk of explosives being used for malicious intent. These materials are used as a non-detonating alternative to dynamite and other explosive materials for quarrying, mining, and demolition. They are added to a liquid, usually water, and poured into drilled holes or cracks in a site or building. Over the course of several hours they expand causing further fracturing of rock or building structure. There has been a concern that experimental SCDAs would be ineffective below a certain ambient temperature, however, the research now shows that ambient temperature retards onset of initial fracturing but it is the nature of the materials to be fractured, their strength, that ultimately determines how effective a given SCDA process is.

Huynh, M.P., Laefer, D.F., McGuill, J. and White, A. (2017) ‘Temperature-related performance factors for chemical demolition agents‘, Int. J. Masonry Research and Innovation, Vol. 2, Nos. 2/3, pp.220-240.


Cyber impersonation

Malicious attacks on computer systems are becoming more frequent as is the sophistication of the attacks. Now, researchers in Spain have developed a meta-heuristic learning approach that could be implemented as a non-intrusive detection method for spotting so-called impersonation attacks in online social networks. Such attacks are used by cybercriminals and others with malicious intent to gain private and personal information that might then be escalated to a more complete attack on the individual, such as identity theft, or widespread attack on a large database and the leaking of millions of user records, for instance. The new detection method measures connection time of users on a social network and combined with historical data and other factors can reveal whether an individual’s account has been compromised and issue a warning or block activity summarily.

Villar-Rodriguez, E., Del Ser, J., Gil-Lopez, S., Bilbao, M.N. and Salcedo-Sanz, S. (2017) ‘A meta-heuristic learning approach for the non-intrusive detection of impersonation attacks in social networks‘, Int. J. Bio-Inspired Computation, Vol. 10, No. 2, pp.109-118.


Social emotion

Researchers in India have looked at the nine human emotions in the context of social networking activity and the implications for what is commonly referred to as viral marketing. Given that for many people their social networks are the source of much opinion and information as well as the content from artistic creators and marketers alike, it is easy to see how such networks influence what people share and on which they opine. Ultimately, the team’s analysis of emotional content online might be used by marketing departments at commercial and other concerns to improve the response to ongoing campaigns.

Amalanathan, A. and Anouncia, S.M. (2017) ‘Influence of human emotion expressed through social networks in viral marketing‘, Int. J. Business Information Systems, Vol. 26, No. 1, pp.15-32.

Clean water with light

Photocatalysis could be used to make water safe to drink, particularly, in developing countries. According to researchers from Iran and Malaysia, nanocrystalline titanium dioxide (titania) can be used as the photocatalyst for destroying pathogenic bacteria such as Escherichia coli (E. coli) when ultraviolet light is shone on the water. The nanoparticles can then be removed by filtration. The team has demonstrated that the optimal photocatalyst concentration is 0.5 grams per litre. They have now investigated the kinetics of the photocatalytic degradation process to obtain a model of how the process works with a view to improvement. Increased UV light intensity and system aeration are the most effective ways to boost the photocatalytic reaction, the team reports.

Mojtaba Khani; Nor Aishah Saidina Amin; Seyed Nezamedin Hosseini; Mahshid Heidarrezaei (2017) ‘Kinetics study of the photocatalytic inactivation of Escherichia coli‘, Int. J. of Nano and Biomaterials, Vol 26, No. 3/4, pp 139-150.

Author: David Bradley

Award-winning, freelance science writer based in Cambridge, England.