Who Needs Sea Monkeys? Get PlanktoScope

Plankton are tiny organisms that drift around in the ocean. They aren’t just whale food — they are responsible for fixing up to 50% of the world’s carbon dioxide. That, along with their position as the base of many important food chains, makes them interesting to science. Unfortunately, they are tiny and the ocean is huge. Enter Planktoscope. Billed as “an affordable modular quantitative imaging platform for citizen oceanography,” the device is a software-controlled microscope with the ability to deal with samples flowing through.

The software is in Python and uses existing libraries for user interface, image processing, and other tasks. The computing hardware is in the form of a Raspberry Pi. There are actually two prototypes of PlanktoScope available.

Continue reading “Who Needs Sea Monkeys? Get PlanktoScope”

A pinwheel sits in an aquarium to simulate an offshore wind turbine. Bubbles come up from the "seabed" to encircle it to demonstrate a bubble curtain with an image of a sound waveform overlaid with the video to show the sound confined to the area within the bubble curtain.

Keeping The Noise Down Under The Sea

Since sound is the primary sense used by most ocean life, disruptions to the natural noise levels in the ocean from human activities can be particularly problematic for marine life. [DW Planet A] has a video describing some of the ways we can mitigate these disruptions to our friends under the sea.

Being noisy neighbors isn’t just a problem for whales but for everything down to the plankton at the base of the food web. Underwater construction like offshore wind installations get flak for being noisy, but technologies like bubble curtains can reduce noise output by up to 90% to the surrounding waters while still getting those nice low carbon energy benefits that prevent further ocean acidification and warming. Continue reading “Keeping The Noise Down Under The Sea”

Micro-Organisms Give Up The Volts In This Biological Battery

Battery cells work by chemical reactions, and the fascinating Hybrid Microbial Fuel Cell design by [Josh Starnes] is no different. True, batteries don’t normally contain life, but the process coughs up useful electrons all the same; 1.7 V per cell in [Josh]’s design, to be precise. His proof of concept consists of eight cells in parallel, enough to give his cell phone a charge via a DC-DC boost converter. He says it’s not known how long this can be expected to last before the voltage drops to an unusable level, but it works!

Eight-cell, 3D printed proof of concept.

There are two complementary sides to each cell in [Josh]’s design. On the cathode side are phytoplankton; green micro algae that absorb carbon dioxide and sunlight. On the anode side are bacteria that break organic material (like food waste) into nitrates, and expel carbon dioxide. Version 2 of the design will incorporate a semi-permeable membrane between the cells that would allow oxygen and carbon dioxide to be exchanged while keeping the populations of micro-organisms separate; this would make the biological processes more complementary.

A battery consisting of 24 cells and a plumbing system to cycle and care for the algae and bacteria is the ultimate goal, and we hope [Josh] can get closer to that now that his project won a $1000 cash prize as one of the twenty finalists in the Power Harvesting Challenge portion of the Hackaday Prize. (Next up is the Human Computer Interface Challenge, just so you know.)