Sustainable fertilizer made with ammonia and waste carbon dioxide

Fertilizers whose production is more environmentally friendly have been developed by a group of researchers from the Australian National University (ANU). According to the press release on the website of the same Australian university, it is a fertilizer as well as a cleaner for the environment even more effective than those currently on the market.

The fertilizer is made with ammonia, a known pollutant that can also be taken from watercourses, and from carbon dioxide, which can also be taken from the environment. So the fertilizer production process itself will not only prove useful for growing plants more efficiently but also for reducing pollution.

Through this process, the researchers produce citrulline, a substance that is also found in nature and that is rich in nitrogen, therefore useful for plant growth. This is the first research that considers the use of citrulline as a fertilizer and the results seem “very promising” as reported by Lee Alissandratos, a researcher at the ANU School of Chemistry and one of the authors of the research.

According to the researchers, plants fed with citrulline grew even better than those for which urea, a fairly widespread nitrogenous fertilizer, was used as fertilizer. Currently, urea based fertilizers are produced through expensive and unsustainable methods for the environment also because the process requires a lot of energy and even fossil fuels.

The method to produce citrulline-based fertilizer turns out to be much more sustainable, using enzymes and running in water without toxic by-products. Raw materials, ammonia and carbon dioxide, can be found quite easily in various waste streams, such as domestic sewage or industrial waste.


Melting glaciers in the Himalayas release pollutants trapped for decades

A new study highlights how the melting of the Himalayan glaciers can be serious for the environment because the water that melts and that arrives contributes to release into the environment the pollutants accumulated over decades.

This is the result of research published in the Journal of Geophysical Research which analyzes various types of pollutants, such as herbicides and pesticides, which, according to researchers, have been accumulating in the Himalayan glaciers for decades. The latter, dissolving due to global warming in progress, release these pollutants in nature, negatively affecting the environment and even more particularly on aquatic life, accumulating also in the body of fish that can then end up on the tables of local populations.

Himalayan glaciers contain more pollutants trapped in ice than glaciers in other parts of the world because they are very close to the densely populated centers and regions of South Asia that are notoriously among the most polluted regions in the world, as Xiaoping Wang recalls, geochemist of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and author of the study.

The phenomenon of pollutants that remain “trapped” in the ice is a feature well known to scientists; for example, the Arctic ice caps of the Antarctic also suffer from this problem since pollutants can travel even for thousands of kilometers before arriving in the icy areas where they are literally incorporated into the ice. However, it seems that for the Himalayan glaciers this phenomenon is much more alarming.


High levels of estrogen in the uterus linked to autism according to new study

Exposure to higher levels of fetal estrogen in the uterus would be linked to higher chances of developing autism according to a study conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Cambridge.

The study began in 2015 when scientists at the English University, in collaboration with the Swedish Statens Serum, began to analyze the levels of four prenatal steroid hormones present in amniotic fluid in the uterus. Long-term analysis has allowed us to discover the connection between the high levels of these hormones and the autism developed by children. The researchers found that the highest levels in male fetuses were present in which children then developed autism once they were born.

In particular, the connection was stronger against the androgenic hormones. The latter, which also plays a role in the number of connections between brain cells, are produced mostly in male fetuses rather than in female fetuses and this would explain, according to the press release published on the University website, also because autism is more contracted by male children.

Researchers noted that all four estrogens existed at higher levels, on average, in fetuses that then developed autism than fetuses they did not develop.

Simon Baron-Cohen, director of the Autism Research Center in Cambridge, states in the press release: “This new discovery supports the idea that an increase in prenatal steroid hormones is one of the potential causes of the condition.”

According to the scientist, these hormones probably influence the development of the brain of the fetus by acting on genetics.