Research Picks Extra – January 2016

Oil spill vapor

Oil spills and leaks not only cause devastation to marine environments and coastal regions but the vast quantities of hydrocarbon that are released can have wider environmental implications. Researchers at the University of Kuwait have developed a new computer model to help understand the release of hydrocarbon vapors from continuous flow oil leaks, such as that which occurred in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010 from the Macondo Well, which was not blocked until July of that year. In this instance, the model matches historical data recorded by US government organizations and thus suggests it may be useful in predicting the rate of release given oil well conditions and weather patterns during a future leak and so allow remediation technology to be implemented in a more timely and effective manner.

Riazi, M.R. (2016) ‘Modelling and predicting the rate of hydrocarbon vaporisation from oil spills with continuous oil flow’, Int. J. Oil, Gas and Coal Technology, Vol. 11, No. 1, pp.93–110.

Students and lecturers communicating

How does the modern student interact with their lecturers in the age of social media and smart phones? That was the question researchers from Iran and Malaysia were hoping to answer. It turns out, that despite online networks, blogs, text messages and email, students still prefer direct face-to-face contact with their lecturers. That said, if such personal contact is not possible, then communication by mobile phone runs a close second. Of course, when it comes to rich media communications, often email and mobile phone communication are the most appropriate ways to connect and share images, data and other content from assignments and such.

Ghanbari-Baghestan, A., Indriyanto, S., SazmandAsfaranjan, Y. and Akhtari-Zavare, M. (2016) ‘Preferred communication channels used by students to interact with their lecturers’, Int. J. Innovation and Learning, Vol. 19, No. 2, pp.227–241.

Remanufacturing engines

Technology researchers in China have developed a three-dimensional method for evaluating whether a used vehicle engine might be remanufactured rather than the engine being recycled as scrap metal. The three dimensions of their model include technological, economic and environmental feasibility of the processes required to take a worn, old engine and refurbish it to the point where it might be used in another vehicle. A case study with a five-year old diesel engine demonstrated that such an engine would have good remanufacturability.

Shi, J., Li, T. and Liu, Z. (2015) ‘A three-dimensional method for evaluating the remanufacturability of used engines’, Int. J. Sustainable Manufacturing, Vol. 3, No. 4, pp.363–388.

Social networking decisions

Data warehousing and online analytical processing tools can be used to build a semantic framework for understanding social networks according to researchers in Algeria and France. The team’s use of Community Cube architecture allowed them to develop NetCuboid which takes into account network entities, user-generated content and the topological structure of a network to build a model that can assist in decision making based on the social network data. The same architecture answers analytical questions the answers to which were simply inaccessible to previous approaches.

Hannachi, L., Benblidia, N., Boussaid, O. and Bentayeb, F. (2015) ‘Community Cube: a semantic framework for analysing social network data’, Int. J. Metadata, Semantics and Ontologies, Vol. 10, No. 3, pp.155–169.

Author: David Bradley

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