Smart bricks capable of recycling wastewater and generating electricity from sunlight are being developed by a team of scientists from the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol). The bricks will be able to fit together and create ‘bioreactor walls’ which could then be incorporated in housing, public building and office spaces
The UWE Bristol team is working on the smart technologies that will be integrated into the bricks in this pan European ‘Living Architecture’ (LIAR) project led by Newcastle University. The LIAR project brings together living architecture, computing and engineering to find a new way to tackle global sustainability issues.
The smart living bricks will be made from bio-reactors filled with microbial cells and algae. Designed to self-adapt to changing environmental conditions the smart bricks will monitor and modify air in the building and recognise occupants.
Each brick will contain Microbial Fuel Cells (MFCs) containing a variety of micro-organisms specifically chosen to clean water, reclaim phosphate, generate electricity and facilitate the production of new detergents, as part of the same process.
The MFCs that will make up the living engine of the wall of smart bricks will be able to sense their surroundings and respond to them through a series of digitally coordinated mechanisms.
Professor Andrew Adamatzky, LIAR Project Director for UWE Bristol, is leading the UWE Bristol team, he said, “The technologies we are developing aim to transform the places where we live and work enabling us co-live with the building.
Newcastle University is a public research university located in Newcastle upon Tyne in the North-East of England.
The University can trace its origins to a School of Medicine and Surgery (later the College of Medicine), established in 1834, and to the College of Physical Sciences (later renamed Armstrong College), founded in 1871. These two colleges came to form one division of the federal University of Durham, with the Durham Colleges forming the other. The Newcastle colleges merged to form King’s College in 1937. In 1963, following an Act of Parliament, King’s College became the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, and latterly, Newcastle University.
Newcastle University can be described as a red brick university and is a member of the Russell Group, an association of research-intensive UK universities. The university has one of the largest EU research portfolios in the UK. The university has an enrolment of almost 16,000 undergraduate and 5,600 postgraduate students from more than 120 countries worldwide. Teaching and research are delivered in 24 academic schools and 40 research institutes and research centres, spread across three Faculties: the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences; the Faculty of Medical Sciences; and the Faculty of Science, Agriculture and Engineering. The university offers around 175 full-time undergraduate degree programmes in a wide range of subject areas spanning arts, sciences, engineering and medicine, together with approximately 340 postgraduate taught and research programmes across a range of disciplines.
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Newcastle scientists and medics have developed a new type of genetic blood test that diagnoses scarring in the liver – even before someone may feel ill.
It is the first time an epigenetic signature in blood has been discovered which is diagnostic of the severity of fibrosis for people with Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD).
NAFLD, caused by being overweight or having diabetes, affects one in three people in the UK and may progress to cirrhosis and liver failure, requiring a transplant.
This scientific breakthrough has great promise because the majority of patients show no symptoms
Publishing in the academic journal GUT, the Newcastle team describe the proof of principle research in which they measure specific epigenetic markers to stratify NAFLD patients into mild or severe liver scarring, known as fibrosis.
Gaps in our information about biodiversity means we are at risk of focussing our conservation efforts in the wrong places.
New research from Newcastle University, UK, University College London (UCL) and the University of Queensland, Australia, highlights the uncertainty around our global biodiversity data because of the way we record species sightings.
The study explains how a lack of information about a species in a particular location doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not there and that recording when we don’t see something is as important as recording when we do.
Publishing their findings today in the academic journal Biology Letters, the team say we need to change the way we record sightings – or a lack of them – so we can better prioritise our conservation efforts in light of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Dr Phil McGowan, one of the study’s authors and a Senior Lecturer in Biodiversity and Conservation at Newcastle University, said:
“Where there is no recent biodiversity data from an area then we might assume a species is no longer found there, but there could be a number of other possible reasons for this lack of data.
“It could be that its habitat is inaccessible – either geographically or due to human activity such as ongoing conflict – or perhaps it’s simply a case that no-one has been looking for it.
“Unless we know where people have looked for a particular species and not found it then we can’t be confident that it’s not there.”
To test the research, the team used the rigorously compiled database of European and Asian Galliformes – a group of birds which includes the pheasant, grouse and quail.
“Our long-standing love of the Galliformes goes back hundreds of years which means we have records that are likely to be much better than for other groups of animals or plants,” explains Dr McGowan.
“Not only have these birds been hunted for food, but their spectacular colours made them valuable as trophies and to stock the private aviaries of the wealthy. In the late 1800s and the turn of the last century, the Galliformes were prized specimens in museum and private collections and today they are still a favourite with bird watchers.”
Analysing 153,150 records dating from 1727 to 2008 and covering an area from the UK to Siberia and down to Indonesia, the team found that after 1980, there was no available data at 40% of the locations where Galliformes had previously been present.
The study suggests two possible scenarios.
Dr Elizabeth Boakes, the study’s lead author and a teaching fellow at University College London, said:
“We have no evidence of populations existing past 1980 in 40% of our locations. However, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
“One scenario is that populations have been lost from these areas, probably due to hunting or habitat loss. The other scenario is that the species are still locally present but that nobody has been to look for them.
“Our study shows that which scenario you choose to believe makes a huge difference to measures used in conservation priority-setting such as species richness and geographic range. It’s important that we make the right call and that means a big shake up in the way we currently monitor biodiversity.
“We need to record what we don’t see as well as what we do see and we need to be recording across much wider areas.”