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Black Sea's Stunning Plankton Bloom Can Be Seen From Space

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Black Sea's Stunning Plankton Bloom Can Be Seen From Space
MODIS on NASA's Aqua satellite captured the data for this image of an ongoing phytoplankton bloom in the Black Sea. NASA/Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response

The turquoise swirls of the Black Sea's phytoplankton bloom can be seen all the way from space in a new image released by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Aqua satellite.

"The May ramp-up in reflectivity in the Black Sea, with peak brightness in June, seems consistent with results from other years," said NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center ocean scientist Norman Kuring.


The May 29 image shown above is a mosaic comprised of multiple satellite passes over the region.

Kuring, who does not study this area, noted that this year's bloom is one of the brightest since 2012.

According to NASA, the bright, milky swirls are caused by coccolithophores, a phytoplankton commonly found in the Black Sea. These microscopic plankton are plated with white calcium carbonate, and when aggregated in large numbers, these reflective plates are easily spotted from space.

These signature swirls are more commonly seen in the summer, but as Kuring explained, climate change could be altering the timing of phytoplankton blooms around the world.

Phytoplankton are microscopic marine organisms and an important food source for a wide range of sea creatures such as whales, shrimp, snails and jellyfish.

Phytoplankton make their own food from sunlight and dissolved nutrients but if too many nutrients are available, they can grow out of control and form harmful algal blooms. These blooms can lead to eutrophication—or dead zones—where low oxygen is lethal to marine life.

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One of the challenges of renewable power is how to store clean energy from the sun, wind and geothermal sources. Now, a new study and advances in nanotechnology have found a method that may relieve the burden on supercapacitor storage. This method turns bricks into batteries, meaning that buildings themselves may one day be used to store and generate power, Science Times reported.

Bricks are a preferred building tool for their durability and resilience against heat and frost since they do not shrink, expand or warp in a way that compromises infrastructure. They are also reusable. What was unknown, until now, is that they can be altered to store electrical energy, according to a new study published in Nature Communications.

The scientists behind the study figured out a way to modify bricks in order to use their iconic red hue, which comes from hematite, an iron oxide, to store enough electricity to power devices, Gizmodo reported. To do that, the researchers filled bricks' pores with a nanofiber made from a conducting plastic that can store an electrical charge.

The first bricks they modified stored enough of a charge to power a small light. They can be charged in just 13 minutes and hold 10,000 charges, but the challenge is getting them to hold a much larger charge, making the technology a distant proposition.

If the capacity can be increased, researchers believe bricks can be used as a cheap alternative to lithium ion batteries — the same batteries used in laptops, phones and tablets.

The first power bricks are only one percent of a lithium-ion battery, but storage capacity can be increased tenfold by adding materials like metal oxides, Julio D'Arcy, a researcher at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, who contributed to the paper and was part of the research team, told The Guardian. But only when the storage capacity is scaled up would bricks become commercially viable.

"A solar cell on the roof of your house has to store electricity somewhere and typically we use batteries," D'Arcy told The Guardian. "What we have done is provide a new 'food-for-thought' option, but we're not there yet.

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