Wednesday 9 November 2016

Soaking Up The Jellyfish Boom

I'm never less than amazed by the bounty we receive from the oceans, or the innovative ways in which we find use for the most unassuming of resources. We'll talk more about ocean plastics tomorrow, but today I want to highlight a fantastic example of lateral thinking.

Jellyfish are becoming a real problem along some American shorelines, as populations rise, driven by pollution and rising ocean temperatures. They're unpleasant to be around, but jellyfish are also a risk to undersea infrastructure, particularly the cooling systems of nuclear power plants. In some areas of New Mexican coastline, colonies can reach for a hundred miles and be so dense that there are more jellyfish than water in some small inlets.

Research into ways to stem that growth have led to some fascinating discoveries. As with ocean plastics, one group of scientists have found a way to turn a problem into something useful.

An Israeli startup, Cine'al, has been looking into the water-absorbent properties of jellyfish flesh. When broken down into a material that they call 'hydromash', it is incredibly hygroscopic, able to soak up astonishingly high volumes of liquid. The Cine'al team realised that hydromash could be used in medical dressings, sponges, nappies and tampons.

In America alone, over 40 million nappies are used daily, and 43 million women use tampons every month. Most of this material ends up in landfill, and could take hundreds of years to break down. Hydrogel-derived products, however, take less than 30 days to break down–a clear and obvious environmental benefit. Nor Davidson of Cine'al says:

“If these products go mainstream, they can revolutionize the market and make an environmentally noticeable difference.”

Products like nappies and tampons are invisible yet essential parts of our everyday life, seen for the most part as one-use, disposable items. Any innovation that gets the truckfuls of these materials out of landfill more quickly has to be celebrated. If at the same time it makes our shorelines a little safer and more pleasurable, than so much the better.

For more on Cine'al's innovative approach, hit up their website.

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