Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Magnetized Soap Bubbles

Compressed 02 from Kim Pimmel on Vimeo.

I got this great story and video after reading Fast Company (such a great magazine about innovation.  I even downloaded the app for my ipod touch). Originally posted by the Suzan Labarre (du Savon?).

San Francisco designer Kim Pimmel combined soap bubbles with dye and some creepy music and got this time-lapse video.  It is horrific.  I am glad Ï do not have a bath in my apartment.  Watching The Living Dead is scary enough.  I do not need to have some magnetic monster attach me. 

The bubbles make little tubes of film filled with water.  The iron fills those tubes through capillary action (think plants sucking water through its roots).  The bubbles in the video are accentuated by the dye running through with the water showing the minimal surface of the soap film, with equal pressure on inside as outside the bubbles.  Bubbles and foaming are just recently discovered although people have been playing with bubbles for 400 years.  Understanding the physicochemical properties of the surfactants using high throughput devices and foam testers is something that big home care companies are interested.

Do not be mistaken the bubbles are not dyed but rather the water is which is apparent at the end.  The dye does not attach to the soap though but rather just moves with the water through the narrow tubes to give the awesome affect.   Pimmel shot the sequence with a Nikon D90 and a Nikkor 60mm macro lens.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

How plants can suck more?

wetbetty organic

A while ago for fun I went to a trade convention in Vancouver with my friend who was making a robotic aeroponic system for his thesis.  The convention was on plant growing and hydroponics.  So we went to go see if there were jobs available.  People were selling things from lighting, piping, electrical equipment to fertilizers.  Vancouver has a major problem with clandestine 'tomato' grow-operations (or grow-ops) and I was wondering whether this might have been at the show.  It did not take too long before I found it.

Up to this point it seemed to be the regular Mom & Pop type of selling their products.  My friend and I turned a corner and we saw a Hummer and  scantily dressed girls as well as scorpions and tarantulas in cages.  The company promoted growing 'tomatoes'!!  They were actually one of the top companies that helped growers in British Columbia and could afford to pay for these things.

They gave us bags of plant surfactants.  So I asked myself what are plant surfactants?  I knew for any plant to grow it needs capillary action in order to suck the water from the soil to get to the root. Plants grown with hydroponics (in a liquid environment with the nutrients around) absorb nutrients more effectively.  A plant surfactant may help with this. There are two types of plant surfactants that you can utilize for your gardening: organic surfactant and synthetic surfactant. If you use either an organic plant surfactant formula or the highest quality synthetic surfactants, can help nutrients travel through water faster so your plants are able to easily source out what they need in order to have an enhanced growth and floral development.

Generally plant surfactants work by making it easier for cells to exchange nutrients and wastes. I am not a plant biologist but the scantily dressed women said 'this leads to a more advanced plant metabolism that maximizes the effect of artificial lighting, CO2, and high quality hydroponics nutrients so that 'tomato producers can produce stronger, more productive crops.'  I believed them.  So how does a plant surfactant work for the benefit of  hydroponic growers?  When you use a surfactant to unbind water’s hydrogen bonds, you make water more spreadable and lower the solid-liquid intermolecular forces between the plant and the liquid enabling hydroponics nutrients to become easily accessible for your plants’ consumption.  A quick way to test for the correct surface tension of hydronics growing solution would be to use a quick tensiometer device.  The people at the show with the women in bikini were from a company called Advanced Nutrients and use a plant surfactant called Wet Betty (shown above) to allow hydroponic growers to grow 'tomatoes' better.  I did a quick google scholar search and I learned that plant surfactants can both help plants grow faster and achieve nutrient exchange better by using less water.  So give it up for plant surfactants.

Extra taken from Wolfram Demo:  To better understand capillary action and how surface tension affects capillary action you have to look at the math and components of it below.  Liquids (water) wet glass and climb upward on the surface forming a concave meniscus.  If the solid-liquid intermolecular forces are stronger than liquid forces this occurs. If you go to Wolfram Demo and download the program you can get a really good demonstration of how surface tension affects capillary action.  This whole post will then make a lot more sense since if you lower the surface tension it changes the solid-liquid intermolecular forces allowing water to be easily sucked by the plant. 
Such liquids will rise in a narrow capillary tube until a balance is established between the effects of surface tension and gravity. The capillary rise increases sharply as the tube is made narrower. For example, water in a glass capillary of radius 0.1 mm will rise by about 140 mm. The capillary rise is given by , where is the solid-liquid surface tension in N/m, is the contact angle for the meniscus (measured upward from the vertical wall), is the density of the liquid, is the gravitational acceleration (9.81 m/s), and is the radius of the capillary. In this Demonstration, is expressed as a specific gravity ( corresponding to 1000 kg/m), while and are given in mm. The default values are those for water in glass at 20°C.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Superheated water for the Superheated Soul

Microwaves are awesome technology.  They have allowed people to heat food, kill bacteria (in the lab), and recently they have been used as a tool for curing malaria.  The availability of the microwave simple experiments can be performed.  Experiments like understanding plasma, lightning balls and using it to measure the speed of light.  Superheating is an interesting one related to surface tension of water.

Usually when you observe water boiling in a pot on the stove you will see that the water bubbles go from somewhere in the pot bursting at the surface.  For a vapor bubble to expand though the temperature must be high enough to exceed the atmospheric pressure.  Below this temperature you will not see the bubbles forming.  An exception comes with superheating.  This is observed when you place something like water in a container with very smooth sides into the microwave.  In this case the liquid is observd not to boil even thought he vapor pressure exceeds the ambient pressure.  This is because the surface tension of the water suppresses the growth of the bubble.

Surface tension makes the bubble and ambient pressure act on these small bubbles by pushing down on them.  If the bubbles are like balloons you can say the other two forces are like your hands pushing down on them.  However, without any nucleation in the container like a scratch on the inside of a cup, adding a stirring device or some material to the water these bubbles will be maintained as microscopic bubbles.

If the cup is superheated by adding something to nucleate the water (like instant coffee) a large bubble forms with exploding hot vapor.  Superheating occurs simply because a large bubble is easier to inflate than a small one (like blowing up a balloon the first part is harder when the balloon is more elastic).  The excess pressure due to surface tension is inversely proportional to the diameter of the bubble.  To overcome the ambient pressure and surface tension on the small bubbles it may require exceeding the boiling point by several degrees Celsius.  Once the nucleation occurs the pressure due to the surface tension reduces so it expands explosively like in the clip below.

Extra Note: in the video they mention impurities. Things that induce nucleation of the water might be a better term.

Extra Note 2: I used to love cooking milk in the microwave then finding that awesome bit of skin on top of the milk.   I saw on this site that this was answered.  The skin is comprised of solid proteins that combine with the milk’s fat molecules, which begin to evaporate as the milk is heated. The proteins, casein and beta, clump together when the liquid reaches a temperature of around 45 to 50 Celsius. As the heating continues, the soft protein layer begins to dry out, which is why the milk forms a skin on the liquid’s surface. This layer of skin forms a hard barrier, causing steam to build up beneath it and increase the liquid’s temperature. When left alone, this often causes the milk to boil over.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Why NASA Needs Tensiometers

I am both fascinated and disappointed by NASA.  They are doing great work in finding new things on the Moon and Mars as well as giving us earthlings new technology.  This new information of finding three years ago 'beads of liquid brine were first photographed on one of the Phoenix lander's legs.'  This is important because "on Earth, everywhere there's liquid water, there is microbial life.''  One of the great things about life is that it can be spontaneous with lipid films existing on the surface of the water and according to researchers at NASA 'microbes don't need much. A droplet or a thin film could suffice.'.  So if NASA and other space researchers had something like a Langmuir Blodgett trough they could determine the best conditions that may be needed to support life on a very icy place like Mars.

See the article here.

However, I mentioned that I am disappointed that it is going so slow.  If you asked someone 60 years ago where they thought where we would be in the space program I think they would have responded, 'Living on the Moon.'  Instead the US is now acting more or less like a Dominos Pizza delivery guy supplying the space station with new supplies.  I think that with the deregulation of producing rockets and with newer ways to study emerging lifeforms from commercial companies we might just find live on the moon and find life on Mars.  These commercial companies will allow NASA to continue with their bold mission statement: 'To improve life here, to extend life to there, to find life beyond', at a slow but steady pace.

Splash Art

I love how the surface tension of liquid makes this art possible.  So I dedicated a couple of posts to some cool pictures.  Artist like Martin Waugh or Alex Koloskov combines art and surface science to capture nature's infinite beauty on camera.  Both artists are pretty open about how they do the technique.  I think mastering it though needs persistence.  Koloskov wrote a book called Mastering Splash which can be seen here. These artists are true masters of surface tension.

From Martin Waugh

Raindrops keep falling on my head...

As a result of speeding through the atmosphere because of gravity, Raindrops have a more flattened bottom and rounded top until they are ripped apart when they approach 5 mm.
USGS Water Science for Schools

Growing up on the West Coast of Canada you get passionate about the rain because it is one of the only things that is constant in your life.  Check out this article on about raindrops that is much like I said in this post.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Coffee in Space

As I sit here drinking my coffee I am thinking about that awesome barista that the international space station must have.  A couple of months ago I was at the Film Museum in Paris and they had an exhibition on Stanley Kubrick.  I am a huge fan of Kubrick's works and 2001: The Space Odyssey is something that I love.  Particularly the scene where they have a barista in space.  This is not only awesome from a coffee drinkers point of view but also awesome from my designer girlfriend's view of furniture design especially Danish Mordern of Arne Jacobson as displayed in the film.

However, the space station in the Kubrick film has normal gravity unlike the international space station.  So coffee drinking would be very difficult because of the surface tension of water is the same in space as it is on earth.  Don Pettit from the international space station shows how people drank coffee from a bag.  Gravity on earth keeps the weight of the coffee at the bottom of the cup.  I found on trendhunter this coffee cup below made by the designer Travis Baldwin.  So now astronauts can drink coffee like they do on earth...well almost.

Travis Baldwin's Portfolio

 One more way how design thinking is shaping this world and outerspace...

Friday, 12 August 2011

Hap what?? Haptic

From Senseq website

Many people today have a touch phone or some kind of tablet device.  Personally I thought that it could not get better than touching a screen to draw or make fart noises.  However, there just might be some new technology on the horizon that introduces this on August 15th by the name of Tabco.   They are introducing a tablet that 'provides a new way to interact with your device,' as a Tabco spokesperson said.  That got me thinking about whether technology could introduce something that can give you the sensation of touch.  Like most things I think of they are already working on these.  This technology is called Haptic and is being researched at Aalto University in conjunction with another Finnish company called Senseg

The Haptic technology that they develop is based on the principle of attraction force between charges to create the sense of touch.  Using an low electrical current to an insulated electrode you can make small attractive Coulomb force from to the fingertip or probably any other place on the body.  Then these charges can be modulated to make different sensations. 

Senseg, reckons that one day when we online shop we'll be able to "feel" the fabrics we're looking at.  Haptic sensations could also allow you to feel the surface tension of water in a pond a million miles away or get a feeling of the mucous of  the ebola patient two meters away in a bubble without having to feel it.  This technology would be amazing for allowing people to feel things without ever being in the room.  It could help people that are blind.  It could be used to develop new video games. 

There are many possibilities that could be used with this technology.  However, probably still much development is underway as this recent paper states 'various haptic sensations such as feeling of surface tension and friction, as well as solid object viscosity and  force fields, can only be provided separately and often at predefined, known to the haptic algorithm, locations of the  haptic tools, while concurrent haptic rendering of these phenomena at any random location of the haptic tool is still a challenge.´  Tabco and anybody developing programs for this new unchartered technology to use good design thinking before making something that is cool but not really useful to anyone.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Difference Between Surface Tension and Interfacial Tension | Difference Between | Surface Tension vs Interfacial Tension

When it is out there why write more?

Difference Between Surface Tension and Interfacial Tension | Difference Between | Surface Tension vs Interfacial Tension

Eight-Hundred Dollar Jeopardy Question

I'm a nerd.  I love Jeopardy. 

Here is a physics Jeopardy question from a little while ago.


A: 1992 experiment using surface tension on polished silicon got water to defy physics by doing this. 

Q: What is TO GO UP?

 Here is an article link pertaining to that answer.

'The change in surface properties, Chaudhury said, created an imbalance of surface tension forces, or a gradient of low to high interfacial energy, helping to propel the water upward on a tilted horizontal plane.´'

Lehigh Professor Can Make Water "Creep" Uphill

Drier Laundry Through Chemistry

Drier Laundry Through Chemistry

You did not think you needed this.  This is an old article post (2005)  but something that relates to surface tension and something I should do today, my laundry.   People at P&G and other researchers are constantly discovering about how to clean clothes better and more efficiently with better surfactant formulations.  They found that your clothes hold water like tiny capillaries.  Reducing the surface tension of liquid detergent by adding a mix of common ingredients in different proportions could release the water from the tiny capillaries easily.  This leaves the clothes 20% drier and reduces the electricity needed to dry your clothes with a conventional drier or reduces the time needed to hang your clothes which you should do more often.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Worship the sun!!!

Myan shield showing the sun

From the Aztecs, Myans, Greeks, Romans, Egyptians and beyond the sun is a commonality of worship for many different civilizations.  Even Christianity and other religions today has their calendar based on the solar calendar or oppositely the lunar calendar with Christmas happening on the shortest (or longest sun day) with other Christian event happening near other times of the solar calendar.   The December 25 date may have been selected by the church in Rome in the early 4th century. At this time, a church calendar was created and other holidays were also placed on solar dates.  So in essence we still are sun worshipers regardless of whether you think so or not.

Why worship the sun?  Last time I checked most dieties did not bring food nor can I see these dieties.  The sun I can see bringing both food and energy.  The surface tension of both plants and in technololgy have changed in order to harvest this great resource.  Plants do this by maintaining a high water repellency or superhydrophobicity on their leaves.  Water droplets as I mentioned before are spherical (also in space) due to their high surface tension.  Depending on the surface different wetting may occur.  In some cases like hardwood floor cleaners you want wetting (contact of  <90 deg to the surface)  to occur to allow the soap to spread over the floor so you have certain surfactants.  However, on the surface of the plants which are hydrophobic a contact angle of >90 deg to the surface with some plants like the lotus leaf exhibiting around 160 deg!! Superhydrophic-expialidocious!!!   This allows dirt particles to be picked up off the leaf leaving the leaf clean so it can harvest the particular wavelengths of light for photosynthesis.  Then it can produce food more efficiently. 

A million years after plants figured this out humans have tried to the same thing in order to harvest light.  Photovoltaic panels or solar panels use the sun's energy to generate electricity.  It can do this at any time of the year and even when the sun is not even showing through the clouds.  However, the solar panels work best when the sun is shining directly on top of the solar panels.  Researchers however need special coatings need to be both abrasion and moisture resistant as well as antireflective.  If there are surface defects in the solar material it will lose surface area for harvesting.  Also the material has to be really hydrophobic in order to clean any dust or water off the panel.  If any dirt is on the panel it can reduce the solar efficiency by a lot.  Dow and other companies have made better coatings with maximum hydrophobicity and giving other properties like antiabrasion and antireflection properties.  Some of these properties can be tested using instruments like the Kibron EZPi Plus for testing the surface tension, The Abrasion Scrub tester by Byk for testing the abrasion resistance and antireflective properties by Princeton instruments.

So the sun brings great things like food for your table and energy for your ipod.  Sometimes it needs a little help to be harvested correctly with good surface coatings.  So worship the sun!

Friday, 5 August 2011

How to measure jaundice in Homer Simpson

Homer Simpson Drinking Quotes

In a previous post I talked about making better moonshine by testing the level of methanol.  Many months before I also I commented on the surface properties of bile which are increased after drinking alcohol.  If you drink alcohol many different effects occur in your body as a result.  One of the ways our body detoxifies alcohol and other toxins is with the liver.  Drinking excessively causes massive trauma to the liver causing it to not function properly.  Increased bilirubin (1.5 mg/dL ) in the blood makes the condition hyperbilirubinemia.  The bilirubin is a yellow breakdown product of normal heme catabolism.  This catabolism of the heme in redblood cells is done in the liver.  Also you can see the yellow bilirubin after you get a bruise.  However, with the liver damaged this product goes to the blood then to extracellular fluids like conjuntival membranes over the sclerae (whites of the eyes) and mucous membranes which causes the yellowish pigmentation of the skin.

Jaundice comes from the French word jaune, meaning yellow.  Homer Simpson is yellow.  He drinks excessively which may cause liver failure leading to jaundice.  How could Homer tell if he had jaundice?  If his eyes were yellow this might possibly tell that he has jaundice.  A more diagnostic test would be to use a tensiometer.  If Homer goes to Dr. Heibert and takes a urine test Dr. Heibert could do a simple diagnostic test with a tensiometer to test the surface tension of the urine.  Normal urine has a surface tension of about 66 dynes/cm but if bile is present (a test for jaundice), it drops to about 55 dynes/cm.  This is a simple diagnostic test that does not require expensive lab equipment and can be done in the field for example at small clinics.  Doh! 

Thursday, 4 August 2011

One reason to watch Nascar

In the previous post this group from Harvard claims they can use a chip with some wetting agent to detect the presence of methanol in bootleg (moonshine) solutions.  This might be possibly using this agent.  However it is not commercially available so I was thinking if it is possible to do with a normal tensiometer. 

I am not making my own liquor or anything like that.  Bootleg liquor (which got its name from originally came from concealing hip flasks of alcohol in the legs of boots) is a problem in small towns in Finland. During prohibition in the US bootlegged liquor made its way using fast stockcars paving the way for the racing sport: NASCAR. Finland unfortunately does not have that tradition of racing away from the police to deliver quality whiskey.  However, in Finland in small towns if you see bottles on the side of the road you can stop, honk your horn and someone will come by with some moonshine or pontikka as it is called here.   But one should be careful as it is quite easy for there to be quite a high content of methanol in this drink.  The methanol vaporizes at a lower temperature than ethanol.  So it if it not cooked at a high enough temperature or the people are making it without concern for purity they will leave the first few drips from the 'foreshot' in the moonshine.
People can test this in a couple different ways.  The distiller may test this by putting it in a spoon lighting it and seeing if there is a blue flame (methanol burns with an invisible flame).  This is not the best method.  There is also a difference in mass transfer due to the Maragoni effect and by dropping some of the moonshine in a glass you might be able to see this compared to the same proof of alcohol.  However, to test this a good method would be to use surface tension somehow.  Although I have not figured out this when I wrote this.  If someone knows let me know.  I did do a brief review of the literature to find some interesting papers.  One can also consult this paper using tensiometers or this paper using Monte Carlo simulations to see different ways to test the surface tension of methanol and ethanol water solutions.  However it does not test methanol in ethanol water solutions.  Using HPLC this paper derivatizates methanol to find the content in ethanol water solutions.  It has excellent precision, accuracy and both intraday and interday reproducibility .  It can also do large batches.  However, it is not so portable and probably costs a lot for this. 

If anyone knows how to measure the quantity of methanol in an ethanol-water solution I would love an answer.....

New device can detect surface tension called W-ink

'Watermark ink' device identifies unknown liquids instantly

 Materials scientists and applied physicists collaborating at Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have invented a new device that can instantly identify an unknown liquid.  This
'new device changes color when it encounters a liquid with a particular surface tension. '

It is still not available but a chip of this sort could be revolutionary for different applications like 'bootleg liquor for toxic levels of methanol' or  'verify the fuel grade of gasoline right at the pump.'  For now we might have to rely on portable devices that can measure the surface tension. 

Wednesday, 3 August 2011


 I woke up today and this photography place sent me an text message that my pictures were done.  I have this old film camera that I use sometimes to take pictures.  Gone are the days when you can develop pictures cheaply and in under an hour.  I got up excited at this low tech way of doing things.  A mixture of nostalgia and mystery.  The mystery came because this roll of film had been sitting in my camera for a couple of years.  After many trips and adventures I am not sure what exactly is on the pictures. 

On the way there I wondered about the process of printing pictures and whether it has any relation to surface tension and this blog.  It does in the last step.  The photographic industry is a dying art and the companies that founded easy printing like techniques Eastman Kodak and Fuji films stakes in film are finding themselves on life support.  So I thought it would be interesting to learn more about it now before it becomes too historic.

Photographic film uses a sheet of platic which is either made from nitrocellulos, cellulose acetate or polyester.  An emulsion (some oil in water like for example milk) of light sensitive silver halide coats this plastic and is stuck with gelatin.   Variable crystal sizes determine the sensitivity, contrast and resolution of the film.  The silver halides, except for silver fluoride, are extremely insoluble in water.  These salts are coated twice for black & white and about four times for color.  The salts sensitivity to light and size affects the speed and resolution of the photograph.

The typical process of color film development is like this:

Chromogenic materials use dye couplers to form colour images. The film is put into water and gelatin is swelled so chemicals can react with the silver halides.   Modern colour negative film is developed from one of two processes the C-41 or RA-4 process which are both similar (this is taken from Wiki):

  1. The colour developer develops the silver negative image. The byproducts activate the dye couplers to form the colour dyes in each emulsion layer (so possibly four).
  2. A rehalogenising bleach converts the developed silver image into silver halides.
  3. A fixer removes the silver salts.
  4. The film is washed, stabilised, dried and cut.

In the fourth step.  The washing stage detergents like Triton X-100 or octylphenol ethoxylate are used as wetting agents to lower the surface tension of the film and prevent drying marks and making the drying even.  The film is hung out to dry in a dark room.  After the drying process is complete the developer looks at the film, laughs and text messages the recipient.  The recipient comes down with excitement in his eyes only to be disappointed by the outcome of the pictures.  
 P.S. Could it be possible to reviving film to make Harry Potteresque pictures using electronic inks?

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Surface Tension Pictures 2

Surface Tension Pictures

Waxing a Sidekick

Here is an embarrassing story.  When I was in high school I did a lot of sports: football, rugby, soccer, hockey, and I did some long distance running.  At one point my track coach asked if I wanted to participate in the steeplechase race.  This is the race where you have to go over these 914 mm (36 in) barriers every 200 meters on the track.  On most tracks you will see a water pit on the far end with a steeple right before it.  Some people step on them then push themselves off.  I saw the competition when horses performed this race though and figured I would do the same.  So I just jumped over the steeples.  I won a couple of races in the districts and came third in the regional competition.

These sports especially the track and field gave me fairly large leg muscles and a great deal of energy.  After high school I stopped most of these sports though.  However, the leg muscles and the energy still remained leaving a s a consequence I was quite hyper.  I did the next best thing of jumping steeples.  I jumped cars.  Seriously, I could clear a normal sized car hood with little effort.  It gave me a burst of energy and was fun.  This all stopped when I met my next challenger one summer's eve. 

My best friend and I were at the local grocery store in his mother's Suzuki Sidekick.  His parent's were on vacation and left us the house and this car.   A Suzuki Sidekick that is a little jeep.  It is not that high off the ground.  This day I had the excess energy. Normally when I jumped cars I did not think too much about whether I could do it.  I just, well did it.  I came of the grocery story running towards this white mini-jeep.  My friend and his brother were in the car wondering what I am doing.  I was sitting in the passenger side.  Instead of running around like a normal person I am ran straight for the hood.

Before I jump my feet get less spaced and my motions become quicker to build up more momentum.  It is a nice cadence with my feet: one duh...two duh. duh..three...dud duh duh. and I jumped. I found myself on the other side of the mini-jeep.  Did I do it?  Did I jump the Sidekick?  I was on the ground in pain.  I must have rolled over the mini-jeep.  My friend jumped out of the driver side.  He is calm.  He looks down at me.  I am holding my leg in pain.  I am bleeding a little bit.  'Look what you did man.'  I get up off the ground still in pain.  Limp towards the front driver's side fender.  It is dented with a clear imprint of my knee.  A good 20 cm diameter dent.  The worse part was his parents were coming back from a trip from Arizona in three days! 

Luckily my friend worked for a major distributor of autobody supplies.  So if you are going to dent someone's car or dent your own he is the best guy with which to talk.  Two days and three hundred dollars later the Sidekick's front fender was fixed.  My leg and ego still had bruises.  When we looked at it something was a bit off.  The paint!!! Overtime the paint fades from exposure to sunlight.  The new paint of the Sidekick's front driver's side fender stuck out like a pirate at a ninja party.  'Wax!', my friend exclaimed. 

We were at the warehouse with a full supply of autobody supplies and of course the best of the best wax.  Down the wax aisle we pick out the best Meguiars hydrophobic wax.  The waxy surface increases the surface tension on the car. Waxes are organic compounds that characteristically consist of long alkyl chains. Natural waxes are typically esters of fatty acids and long chain alcohols.  They are hydrophobic so when you apply it to a car the water rolls off the paint surface.  Most people do not want water to remain too long on the car.  If water remains and dries on the paint it may leave some water spots and cause fading. Waxes are some of the most expensive elements of the detailing process and are used for aesthetic than performance purposes.  In this case we needed the wax for aesthetic purposes.  When I finished washing and waxing every inch of the car nobody could tell the the car was recently painted on the fender. 

We were sitting in my friend's house when his parents arrived a day later.  'What happened to my Sidekick?', his mother asked.  'We washed it and waxed it.' my friend replied.  I hid my bruised knee.  'Weird', she remarked back. Three years after that event when the Suzuki was traded for a Audi told the truth behind the Sidekick wax story.  I didn't ever dare to jump the Audi. 

Monday, 1 August 2011

Your shampoo is killing the Baltic and the planet

Bio Musings with Dr. Carin Bondar - Sticklebacks Episode from Matthew Hawkins on Vimeo.

Look at the back of your shampoo bottle.  You will see a list of ingredients.  They may sound something like this: Linear alkylbenzene sulphonic acid (LAS), Anionic, Sodium dodecyl sulphate (SDS), Alkyl sulphate (AS), Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), Alkyl ethoxysulphate (AES), Quaternary ammonium compound (QAC), Cationic Benzalkonium chloride (BAC), Cetylpyridinium bromide CPB, Cetylpyridinium chloride CPC,
Amine oxide AO Amphoteric, Alkylphenol ethoxylate (APE) Alcohol ethoxylate AE Nonionic, Fatty acid ethoxylate (FAE)......did you see any of these?

So as you are washing yourself with a vast amount of soap or shampoo from any of the major manufacturers these chemicals are going down the drain.  This might not concern you until you travel down the road to order a plate of sushi.  It might not concern you until you to the beach.   The quantity that we are using to get our clothes, our car and ourselves clean is killing the environment slowly.

Concerns about ecotoxicity of surfactants arise from their tremendous exploitation in everyday life. Once the soap or detergent goes down the drain much of it might be degraded in wastewater treatment plants.  However, some of these surfactants may escape this and find itself in the general aquatic system where we get our fish and swim.  These surfactants may be found  in various levels in sewage effl uents, waste water treatment plant effluents, surface waters, dry sludge, sludge-amended soils, or sediment. Excessive use of any type of surfactants and their disposal in the environment, especially in aquaticbodies, could seriously affect the ecosystem. This is ever present in the Baltic where it is legal to flush grey water (water from your boat used for dishes) into the Baltic directly. 

Although the present risk is that these surfactants are below highly toxic level they still affect the aquatic system. The total amount of these surfactants present in the environment may be tested by a portable surface tension device or possibly some other instruments.  Even small amounts could disrupt some of the ecosystem bacteria in the water which are highly sensitive to surfactants.  The fish that we eat are also affected with anionic SDS (present in most shampoo) showed toxic effects in juvenile seabass.  Fish seem to take up anionic LAS through gills and another surfactant APE accumulates in trout (REF).  Lastly the plant life is affected by phosphates and surfactant from detergents that make themselves present in the water.  The Baltic has increased in the blue green algal blooms making it dangerous to swim due to the toxins. Not only is it dangerous for us to swim it is impossible for fish like the three-spined sticklebacks to find mates.  It is like trying to find a mate in a dimly lit nightclub.  (Watch video above).  Our detergents are killing the overall ecosystem affecting the bacteria, the fish, the plants which also affect the fish and now affecting us!!!   

So.....since stopping to wash yourself is probably not the best solution as I might have to sit next to you on the next train.  One solution would be to use less detergents and soap in your everyday life.  Also use detergents that do not contain APE and are more environmentally friendly.  For boaters they can put the gray water into their septic tank rather than right into the ocean.  Some of these measures might help save the Baltic and our planet a little longer.