Project 5-100 Universities Research Strives to Improve the Environment

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Researchers at several Project 5-100 universities have presented several developments in recent months that aim to maintain the purity of nature: soil, water, and air.

In November, Tomsk Polytechnic University scientists have synthesized “smart” fertilizers. The mixture consists of waste from the mining industry. Fertilizer, based on two clay minerals, smectite and glauconite with urea – a common nutrient component of fertilizers, is designed to become almost three times cheaper than analogous fertilizers. It’s all about the unique composition of the new substance. As a rule, the additives consist of a nitrogen-containing part and nitrogen-inhibiting stabilizers, which are usually polymers. TPU scientists have proposed to use for the same purpose phyllosilicates – clay minerals with a layered structure, which are cheaper than polymers by an average of 1.5-3 times.

The new fertilizer is much more advanced than traditional nitrogen additives. The traditional nitrogen additives can lead to an excess of nitrogen compounds in the agrosphere which has an extremely detrimental effect on the fertility of land and water, and therefore future yields.

The mechanism of action of “smart fertilizer” allows farmers to control the level of nitrogen in the soil, and thus helps it to release excess particles of the substance.

“We determined the activation intervals at which nitrogen compounds enter the structure of phyllosilicates, and also described the subsequent changes in the residual nitrogen that forms films on mineral particles. As a result, we have a product with two types of nitrogen, each of which will have its own release rate in the soil”, -explained Maxim Rudmin, associate professor of geology at TPU.

Further, in September the scientists from Tomsk Polytechnic presented an accelerator that will help clean up CHP emissions. It is currently undergoing a series of tests at the Xi’an Aerospace Institute of propulsion systems, China’s largest technology university. The technology proposed by polytechnics can be used to clean flue gases, primarily CHP emissions, from harmful impurities. The scientists used pulsed electron beam technology to filter the air. It will detect pollution and remove nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides from the gas mixture.

Employees of the research laboratory “Bionanotechnology” of Kazan Federal University have studied the method of changing the intestinal microflora of animals for using them to clean the soil and water from oil products.

“We have improved one of the existing methods of soil bioremediation,” says one of its developers, Doctor of Biological Sciences, Chief Researcher of NIL “Bionanotechnology” KFU Ravil Fakhrullin.

“The experiment carried out in the laboratory was successful, and we were able to develop an original system of delivery to the soil of bacteria that decompose oil.”

The results of the study were published in the international journal Science of the Total Environment. KFU scientists have fed worms of the species Caenorhabditis elegans with special bacteria that are able to decompose petroleum products. Thus, the animals have developed a special intestinal microflora, which will later become a transfer for bacteria to the contaminated environment, where they can enjoy the spilled oil. According to Fakhrullin, in the intestines of worms, oil “breaks down” into the smallest drops with a diameter of 5-6 micrometers, which bacteria quickly destroy.

The development from the researchers of NUST “MISiS” is also interesting. Experts have found a way to accelerate the decomposition of nitrous oxide – a by-product of the chemical and agro-industries – a very harmful ozone gas. It was possible to increase the efficiency of the process thanks to a new method of synthesis of the decomposition catalyst. This will allow one to more quickly separate nitrous oxide into safe components.

Nitrous oxide, N2O, known to many as a “cheering” or “sleeping” gas, is actually an extremely harmful compound. It does not cause direct damage to humans but has an aggressive effect on the Earth’s ozone layer. The NO2 catalyst was obtained by scientists in microwave conditions: it completely decomposes nitrous oxide at 700 ° C. Less advanced cleaning techniques obtained by thermal heating require a much higher temperature: at 700 ºC, slightly more than half of the “fun” gas decomposes. That is, the catalyst obtained by the new method works faster and more efficiently than its predecessor. Thus, scientists have accelerated the process of gas decomposition 16 times. The results of the study, according to the developers, can find their potential application in the chemical industry, in the processing of by-products from the production of adipic and nitric acids.

This fall, Lobachevsky University employees also worked in the field of ecology: they have already received a patent for the invention of a catalyst for organic dyes. The powder will allow to clear water of harmful impurity which are formed at the enterprises of the textile, food industry, and also at production of paints. The main process used to neutralize harmful compounds is oxidation. After the reaction, the substances decompose into water and carbon dioxide, which is not dangerous for the environment, experts summarize.