Research Picks Extra May 2016

Algal route to biofuels

Two species of marine algae found along the coast of the Indian Ocean can be treated with strong acid to make a third-generation biofuel, according to researchers in Mauritius. Acid break down of Ulva recticulata and Sargassum cristaefolium releases sugars that can be converted to ethanol and made into fuel. This renewable source could become a more efficient way to make biofuel rather than growing fuel crops or treating waste biomass. Such a fuel could help Mauritius meet its fossil fuel reduction aims. The researchers also suggest that there might be applications for the by-products of the process too and this will be investigated.

Jeetah, P., Bholah, B. and Mohee, R. (2016) ‘Bioethanol production from algae’, Int. J. Global Energy Issues, Vol. 39, Nos. 3/4, pp.204–221.


Noisy shades of grey

By focusing on distortion in the greys of an image, researchers can eliminate noise much more effectively than with other approaches. The technique will be important to remote sensing and weather pattern imaging and other areas. The team explains that their algorithm can reduce Gaussian noise, Poisson noise and so-called “salt-and-pepper” noise. Their initial tests demonstrate that the approach is general, powerful and accurate. Fundamentally, the new framework can fix the thresholding problem and improving robustness towards edge signals and so eliminate distortions in grey levels within an image.

Karthikeyan, B., Ballakur, S., Sowvarnica, S., Vaithiyanathan, V., Vinayakaram, N. and Vasanth, G. (2016) ‘Elimination of grey level distortion using multiscale gradient multiplication’, Int. J. Computational Vision and Robotics, Vol. 6, No. 4, pp.369–380.



The realm of mobile business – mBusiness, mMarkets and mServices – is massively fragmented and thus there are many opportunities for improvement as well as openings for new players. However, it is also characterised by many uncertainties that device manufacturers, network operators and service providers must face to take mBusiness forward. New research suggests that end-to-end solutions for customers are key to success and that partnerships that reduce the fragmentation to mutual benefit will improve operations for all players and thus improve the services and products provided which then improves profits.

Ivanochko, I., Gregus, M., Urikova, O. and Masiuk, V. (2015) ‘mBusiness, mMarkets and mServices: exploration of opportunities’, Int. J. Services, Economics and Management, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp.74–93.


Carbon absorbing carbon

Could a hybrid composite of carbon nanotubes and carbon fibres with a vast surface area to volume ratio be used to absorb carbon dioxide with a view to ameliorating some of the negative effects on climate of burning fossil fuels? Researchers in Taiwan have undertaken a study to answer this question. The team has found that by “doping” the nanotubes with nitrogen atoms they can increase absorption significantly. The resulting material might ultimately be developed as a “scrubber” for removing carbon dioxide from the flue gases of fossil-fuel burning factories or power stations.

Chiang, Y-C. and Hsu, W-L. (2016) ‘Carbon dioxide adsorption on nano/micro-scale porous adsorbents’, Int. J. Nanomanufacturing, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp.1–14.

Author: David Bradley

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