Research Picks – January 2016

The reclaimed road to retention

Reclaimed asphalt road surfacing materials can be used with crushed with brick to make a pollution-trapping filter material for bioretention applications, according to Australian scientists. Bioretention systems are used increasingly in urban stormwater management systems to prevent runoff from roads and industrial sites and so to protect surrounding areas from flooding and exposure to toxic pollutants. Generally these systems rely on quarried materials, which is a drain on resources. Recycled materials would be a more sustainable alternative. Tests have been carried out on such reclaimed materials including particle size distribution, organic content, pH, specific gravity, flakiness index and hydraulic conductivity. In addition the materials’ ability to assimilate pollutants containing phosphorus and nitrogen have been assessed the materials demonstrated to be compliant with applicable environmental protection regulations.

Rahman, M.A., Imteaz, M.A. and Arulrajah, A. (2016) ‘Suitability of reclaimed asphalt pavement and recycled crushed brick as filter media in bioretention applications’, Int. J. Environment and Sustainable Development, Vol. 15, No. 1, pp.32–48.


Mending a broken heart

Aortic tissue from a pig can be constituted with gold nanoparticles to make a transplantable material for arterial repair in humans, according to US researchers. “There is currently a need for better vascular and cardiac repair materials. These materials must be biocompatible and resist rupture, calcification, and degradation,” the team reports. As such, materials of biological origin such as porcine tissues offer just such a set of properties provided they are “decellularized” to preclude rejection by the patient’s immune system. The use of gold nanoparticles to reinforce the tissue has nothing but a positive effect on the structure and strength of the material, as demonstrated in laboratory tests, thus revealing great promise as a material for patching damaged or repaired arteries.

Ostdiek, A.M., Grant, S. and Grant, D. (2015) ‘Mechanical and in vitro characterisation of decellularised porcine aortic tissue conjugated with gold nanoparticles as a vascular repair material’, Int. J. Nano and Biomaterials, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp.1–17.

Avoiding the innovative “sickie”

Researchers in The Netherlands have investigated the effect of workplace innovation on how well an organization performs and the frequency of employee absence due to sickness, the proverbial “sickie”. The findings suggest that organizations that are more proactive and innovative in the workplace perform better and see lower levels of staff sick leave. Interventions in terms of flexible working and smarter human resource management seem to be the key to this efficiency margin over less innovative companies. The team suggests that a national attitude to workplace innovation could give a whole country better opportunities to outperform other nations in the global marketplace if sufficient organizations adopt the requisite practices.

Oeij, P.R.A. and Vaas, F. (2016) ‘Effect of workplace innovation on organisational performance and sickness absence’, World Review of Entrepreneurship, Management and Sustainable Development, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp.101–129.

Social power

Could a social media app that allows electricity consumers to share their efficiency targets and actual usage help nudge people to be “greener” in their use of this costly commodity in much the same weigh that dieting clubs help people lose weight by sharing the burden? That’s the novel idea from a collaboration between researchers in Cyprus and Greece who have developed the online application Social Electricity. The app helps users see what is considered normal and perhaps acceptable consumption and take steps to reduce their electricity footprint if they are shown to be consuming too much. A focus group of almost 200 electricity users tested over a six month period demonstrated how users could be encouraged to be more sensitive about the environment and adopt pro-environmental behavior.

Kamilaris, A., Pitsillides, A. and Fidas, C. (2016) ‘Social Electricity: a case study on users perceptions in using green ICT social applications’, Int. J. Environment and Sustainable Development, Vol. 15, No. 1, pp.67–88.

Author: David Bradley

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