Friday, 16 December 2011

Shampoo formulation puzzle solved

Shampoo formulation puzzle solved

'Their findings show that the dramatic increase in surface tension that affects the production of various pharmaceutical and cosmetic formulations is caused by the comprehensive aggregation of active ingredients. They have outlined a way to reload interfaces with functional components simply by tuning the way the materials are handled.'

Finally....something interesting. I was actually in the shop yesterday and wondering what is the difference between these shampoos. Perhaps Kibron's instruments could be of use to figuring out how to disperse the active ingredients so they will stay active when they get to their intended location.

Surface tension exhibition from November to January

Water is delicate and there is a balance of water and understanding water.  Water is life from boating to drinking.  All these different people from scientists to engineers, designers to artists are coming together to talk about water.  Ubercool.  If you are in Dublin near Trinity college check it out!


Taken from their site:

The future of water is the subject of tension. Water is both disposable and sacred, a muse for artists and a necessity for life – a source of healing and of conflict. The Earth has abundant water, but only a very small proportion is available for human use. How should this be managed and sustained, and what would a water-scarce future look like?

SURFACE TENSION brings together work by artists, designers, engineers and scientists to explore the future of water, playing on its physical properties, its role in politics and economics, and ways in which it may be harnessed, cleaned, and distributed.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Ink research be awesome....

Reading Fast Company.... and found this from Montblanc pens.  I got a pen for my birthday and it be awesome. Understanding the essence of surface tension is radical

Montblanc Generative Artworks from onformative on Vimeo.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Wet water, fire fighting foams....Firefighters user surface tension

My Father occasionally fought fires at a his work.  They had to fight the fires to protect the refinery.  The workers had to do it because the fire department which was just up the hill was not be quick enough or skilled enough to put out huge oil fires.  It got me thinking about the firefighting of different fires.  Is water is always the best substance to use on a particular fire?

The answer is 'no.'  Many different substances could be used to fight fires depending on the fire. 
"Wet water": Water into which a surface tension reducing agent has been introduced. The resultant mixture, with its reduced surface tension, is more able to penetrate burning product more deeply and extinguish deep-seated fire.  This material reduces the surface tension of plain water (to <33 dynes/centimeter).  Wetting agents like SILV-EX® concentrate improve the efficiency of water in extinguishing fires in combustibles like forest fires and burning tires.  Since refinery fires might involve jet fuel and kerosine another substance called Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) should be used.  The AFFF includes a fluorosurfactant that forms blanket to form across the liquid surface blocking flammable vapors.

Since the mixture of either of the substances above is mixed with air, by means of a discharge device, it produces a foam which is very fluid and can flow easily over liquid surfaces.  It allows the foam to do a couple of things to stop the fire:

1) Excludes air from the flammable vapors.
2) Eliminates vapor release from fuel surface.
3) Separates the flames from the fuel surface.
4) Cools the fuel surface and surrounding metal surfaces.

Firefighting foams have been commercially used since the early 1900’s.   The mixtures which are around 1-6% v/v water can be readily tested with a surface tension device to ensure that the wetting agent is doing its job keeping the refinery and my Father safe.

Example of how a refinery fire can easily break out of control.

Material referenced from :

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

How to superhydrophobic surfaces can help you prevent mustard stains.erhydrophobic substances.

Betty White eating a tubesteak without ketchup or mustard.

 I was eating a hot dog in Seattle an hour before I was supposed to meet with a long time friend whom I was visiting.  I bought the meat wrapped in a bun from the vendor, piled some onions, relish, French's mustard ontop before unleashing a fury frenzy of eating that I had not had after living in a civilized place like Helsinki.  People eat a little bit more refined.  I stood on the street corner and started devouring it like a dog that had not eaten in a couple of days.

It was one of those awesome tube steak hotdogs where you crunch down through a harder skin then some juices start flowing out from the soft meat underneath.  The ketchup and mustard started mixing with the juices making an unsightly mix of yellow and red colloids oozing out of it.  I did not really notice these non-newtonian fluids flowing out of the hotdog bun until it was too late.  Red and yellow with some specs of brown hit the white shirt I had just purchased the day before at Nordström Rack.  (I know to clean this a specific detergent may need to be formulated). 

'Shoot.  Non-newtonian fluids with a specific surface tension with a peculiar contact angle embedding on my new cotton on my shirt!'  I yelled out sparking peculiar reactions from the homeless person standing a yard (we are in America after all) away.  Possibly he was a laid off employee from a cleaning conglomerate because his reply was 'You should have used a superhydrophobic substance to spray on top of it.'

'By golly,' I thought to myself,  'He was right'.  It took a little bit of searching to find that a new silicon-based sprayable coating makes clothing completely waterproof.  NeverWet, developed by Ross Nanotechnology & its key scientist Vinod Sikka, allow liquids and heavy oils to slide off clothing, machinery and electronics.  Water has a surface tension of 72 dynes allowing it spread and with its specific charge properties interact with different materials. Upon application, the superhydrophobic silicon-based coating creates a 160 to 175 degree contact angle (even the lotus plant can have a contact angle of 147 degrees so this is never wet is unreal).  This superhydrophobic silicon based coating makes it nearly impervious for liquids to gain a foothold on clothing like my white shirt.

The same company also submerged an iphone in water for an hour without a failure.  It usually fails in about a minute.  The company could make a lot of money from people like me if they get a foothold in this competitive market.  I would buy it because plan on still eating tubesteaks with a lot of mustard and ketchup.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Surface Tension makes Lava lamps

When I think of stuff from the early 80's I think of Star Wars figurines and Laval lamps. Those lamps that you turn on and then turn the lights out sit in your bubble chair and watch in amazement. This was before internet, before cell phones and before good tv like Lost. This is what people did. They watched lava lamps. Granted in some cases the people might have been on drugs but that is what people did they watched lava lamps. Lava lamps are called so because the makers thought the material represented the balsatic smooth unbroken Pahoehoe lava from Hawaii.
Briton Edward Craven-Walker (WWII pilot, inventor and later nudist genre director) invented the lava lamp in 1960 and marketed it quickly after that as a display device. It was originally modeled after something he saw in a pub. What he saw was a jar with two immiscible liquids in them at a pub and decided to build his own (see link diy lavalamp). He went home and used a tall juice container of tapered glass to build his own. On the bottom of the lavalamp a standard bulb or halogen The lamp which heats the glass bottle attached. Inside Craven-Walker experimented with a number of solutions but found that a translucent mix of mineral oil, paraffin wax and carbon tetrachloried would achieve the desired effect when placed in an aqueous medium.

When looking at a lavalamp you notice the floating blobs that change after it heats up. You will see that the wax is more dense than water and float on top of the water at any temperature and when heated it expands, becomes less dense than that of water as well as more fluid. On the other hand the carbon tetrachloride is heavier than water but when heated the density is just slightly above that of water. The blobs move because they got to the top of the tapered glass and cool then go back down to the incandescent light bulb to get heated again. A wire coil in the base of the bottle acts as a surface tension breaker to recombine wax after it descends.
The lavalamp contains a standard incandescent bulb or halogen lamp which heats a tall (often tapered) glass bottle containing water and a transparent, translucent or opaque mix of mineral oil, paraffin wax and carbon tetrachloride.[1] The water and/or mineral oil can be colored with dyes. The density of common wax is much lower than that of water and would float on top under any temperature. However, the carbon tetrachloride is heavier than water (also nonflammable and miscible with wax), and is added to the wax to make its density at room temperature just little higher than that of the water. When heated, the wax mixture becomes less dense than the water because wax expands more than water when both are heated. It also becomes fluid, and blobs of wax ascend to the top of the device where they cool (which increases their density relative to that of the water's) and then descend.
The underlying mechanism is a form of Rayleigh–Taylor instability which is named after one of the fathers of understanding surface tension Lord Raleigh and G.I. Taylor. It is an instability of an interface between two fluids of different densities (like the wax, water and tetracycline), which occurs when the lighter fluid is pushing the heavier fluid.This is the case with an interstellar cloud and shock system. In the case of the lavalamps there is an equivalent situation since when the gravity acts on the two fluids of different density. The falling stream of liquid then breaks up due to the Plateau-Raleigh instability which explains why and how a falling stream of fluid breaks up into smaller droplets. The driving force in this Raleigh-Taylor instability is that liquids, by virtue of their surface tensions, tend to minimize their surface area. The lavalamp has a metallic wire coil in the base of the bottle acts as a surface tension breaker to recombine the cooled blobs of wax after they descend. Psychedelic!

Friday, 4 November 2011

How is Surface Tension of Metals is used in Terminator 2?

See here for how surface tension of metal is used in T-2.

I love the Terminator series made by a fellow Canadian, James Cameron.  Still I think the best one is Terminator 2.  It had fantastic scenes with Terminator (played by the Governator/Arnold Schwarzenegger) and T-1000 (played by Robert Patrick.  The most awesome thing that James Cameron brought to the table in this movie was not the advancement in sci-fi with super robots, skynet or time travel teleportation (which are all cool) but rather the mimetic polyallow used in the T-1000.   

 The mimetic polyalloy of the Infiltrators T-1000 or the T-1001 is awesome as an endoskeleton enhancement.  It can do an other of things that the original T-800 Terminator cannot do.

Some advantages of the surface tension of liquid metal T-1000 are:
-It's center of mass can be shifted to bring greater power to blows in certain areas e.g. puff out its stomach if getting punched there
 -the surface tension can spall ahead of incoming blows to absorb and trap both weapons, projectiles, and physical strikes  (e.g. one move it has done is it takes a punch to and through the face, morphing to replace the impaled head with a pair of grasping hands, shifting the head out the side and shoulder.)
-it's surface tension can help it extrude at will any variety of slashing or stabbing weapons (e.g. like to kill John Connor's Foster parents)
-surface tension changing helps the T-1000 complete torso 180 degree rotation, the unit is more flexible, faster, and stronger
 -the change in surface tension also effectively impervious to mechanical damage, such as being dismembered, shot with bullets, or attacked with explosive devices with wounds closing almost immediately (e.g. when T-1000 meets his rival the T-800, the most brilliant scene in the movie, the shotgun blasts only stop the advancement of the T-1000)
-one other thing the T-1000 has in its arsenal are control nodes that can spread its influence to other machines and potentially other Terminators (reminds me of Maximum Overdrive by Steven King)

One disadvantages of the T-1000 is the surface tension is the
Low temperatures can cause the liquid metal to freeze, which inhibits its ability to move or shapeshift.
(so you won't be seeing him in the Finnish winter anytime soon).
High temperatures degrade its ability to maintain a disguise; after emerging from a burning truck, the T-1000 appeared in its default liquid-metal state and was only able to reestablish its policeman disguise after cooling for several seconds.
-Temperatures in excess of 1535 degrees Celsius like in the smelting plant at the end of the movie can incapacitate the T-1000

We have not caught up to Terminators T-1000 level although Boston Dynamics has some interesting robots nobody has been able to duplicate the incredible surface tension metallurgy properties of a T-1000 robot.

Since the mimetic polyalloy used in the Terminator movies is not real I felt that it could be discussed some surface tension properties of real metals.  Generally some of the properties of liquid metal are discussed.  Liquid metal consists of a slag which protects the metal at the surface and assists in temperature control of the metal.  The slag consists of a mixture of metal oxides and usually a by product of the smelting process. Underneath however the surface tension of the metal has some similarities to the surface tension of aqueous fluids. Surface tension which is affected by the temperature can change and gradients in surface tension can make a Marangoni effect in the metal. In the table below it shows that certain metals can be fluid at certain temperatures (900 C). 

Table: Surface tensions (mNm-1) of pure slag components at 1773K (900 C)

SiO2 (260) CaO (625)  BaO (560) SrO (600) MgO (635)  Al2O3 (655)  MgO (635) FeO (645) NiO (645)  MnO (645)  CrO (360)  Na2O (295)  K2O (160)   TiO2  (360)    ZrO2 (400)  Cr2O3 (800)  Fe2O3 (300)  CaF2  (290)  B2O3 (110)


From Mills
THE ESTIMATION OF SLAG PROPERTIES a short course in pyrometallurgy.
H. M. Lu and Q. Jiang*

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Learn surface tension. Escape the Matrix

 Imagine you wake up without having any idea where you are.  You get out of a bed that is new to you.  You look around a room at pictures that contain your face that you observe in the mirror next to the bed.  However, you have no recollection of the time or the place where these pictures were taken.  Your mind is clear though albeit a little cloudy.  However, your thoughts and actions are fast.  When you pick up the ball at your feet you feel that objects around you feel tangible and real even if your memory is blank of ever acquiring them.

Your heart starts to race and you panic a little.  Hyperventilating in short sportatic breaths your chest heaves in and out.  You world is enveloped in this madness like you just escaped a car crash..  You have two choices: you can accept this new world or you can understand it.  The latter choice of understanding it could allow you to escape it.  You want to get out of it and go back to a place that does not feel like a dream.

You turn on the tap to get some water on your face.  The water flows and splashes onto the white porceline.  You observing the water dripping from the tap as you shut the tap off.  You open the tap again and observe the water splashing to the bottom of the sink.  Although other people observe this everytime they wash their face in the morning you have a better eye for understanding surface tension.  You have studied the effect of surface tension in many different forms from when you were a child to studying the effects at University physics classes.  You learned the properties of water flowing over objects.  You understand how water can splash, converge onto itself and diverge into droplets.

Something is wrong!  Something is very wrong with the splish and splash in the sink.  You begin experimenting first by plugging up the sink.  Taking the soap next to the sink you add it to the water.  You splash it around making a little foam.  The soap is supposed to lower the surface tension but the surface tension remains the same.  You splash the soapy water but it behaves the same as if there is no soap.
Cupping water in your hands you throw it over the floor.  Again no change in how the sheet of water breaks up by adding a different amount of soap.  There is a hole in the matrix.  You are skeptical and your knowledge of surface tension takes you to another place in this potentially fictious world.

You walk down the black hallway.  Again this is all new to you.  You find the kitchen with a large open granite counters.  On top is a solid Jamie Oliver knife set.  You take one and in a fluid motion with all your
conviction that this world is not real you put the knife deep into your forearem and extend down to the wrists.  You start bleeding from your left arm.  You do the same to your right arm.  The blood hits the floor but does not splatter like blood is supposed to splatter.  It drips in a solid stream from your mutilated wrists to the floor.  It hits the floor like a waterfall rather than real blood. Slowly your body loses enough blood that you sit on the floor.  The checkered kitchen floor is now covered with a blood.  You close your eyes and you are reset.

In a computer room somewhere in an underground bunker on the other side of the world bespectacled men with bad haircuts look over a number of LCD screens watching your performance.  They modelled the surface tension using Langraian mean curvature flow mechanics in a eulearian space.  These computer governmental technicians did not calculate the correct surface tension or viscoscity from the blood or the soapy water to translate them into the subjects brain correctly.  The technicians did not develop the physics correctly which has led to a lot of mishaps in the matrix.  The information from the raleigh plateau instability and  non-oscillatory approximation when observing the drops of blood coming from the subject's wrist that were supposed to break up on the counter were not calculated correctly.  As the subject saw they flowed like a waterfall.  The CGI graphics that they were using came up short.  The graphics were only in its infancy and need to be recalculated so more subjects will not see the flaws to escape the Matrix.  The technicians were outsmarted by someone that understood surface tension.

Today computer scientists (better than the ones in the story above) have developed better CGI to show surface tension for movies.  Bad displays of physics appear in old  (and current Bollywood ) movies.  See how they are doing it using CGI,.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

How is NASA is Turning Urine into Water?

Subtitle: Filtering Pee for Hydration.  From Water World to Today's Space Shuttles

I am a huge science fiction fan.  Everything from Neuromancer, The Time Machine, Hitch hiker's guide to the Galaxy to closer to real stuff like Michael Crichton's NeXt.  I love it enough that I have even tried to pen a couple of short stories myself.  (Let's see how that turns out).

The thing I love about science fiction though is not just fantastic fantasy in the out of this world stories,  but also  the fact that they can predict a future.  On the website technovelgy you can see some of the technology that people have created in the early 20th century to inventions that occur only today.  Things like touch screen tablet computers (first seen in 2001 Space Odyssey) to filtering pee for drinking water.  Before you say, 'Ohhh disgusting!' you have to understand why Kevin Costner aka the Mariner filtered his own pee and why people on the Atlantis the space shuttle are doing it.  Easy answer!  It is efficient, cost effective and prefiltered though your kidneys'.

In Water World the Mariner (half-man, half-fish) lives on earth after the polar ice caps have melted.  On his raft he had a device that filters out his pee.  You might think: why not drink the water around you?  However, it might be easier to filter out the small number of contaminants in urine than filter out the large number of variable contaminants in ocean water.  But the rudimentary technology from Waterworld is here!  Today astronauts filter their pee on the space shuttle Atlantis because it saves both money and space.  To get a four litre jug of water on a space flight it costs 80,000 dollars and the current urine recycler on board uses a lot of energy.  So as the title suggests golden showers can really be a metaphor for real gold in the context of saving money.  The new osmosis system they are developing uses passive filtration (no energy).  The filtered water that the astronauts will drink soon is be cleaner than U.S. tap water.  

In the astronauts and possibly the Mariner's case it is important to delve into the properties of urine.  What are they? Urine consists of 95% water, with the remaining constituents are mainly salt solutions.  These are in order of decreasing concentration urea 9.3 g/L, chloride 1.87 g/L, sodium 1.17 g/L, potassium 0.750 g/L, creatinine 0.670 g/L and other dissolved ions, inorganic and organic compounds (e.g. bile salts and surfactants).   Urine is sterile until it reaches the urethra where gram negative bacteria from outside can go into the pee (which makes it stink).  The physicochemical characteristics: pH 7 (can vary 4.6-8), density of 1.003–1.035 (g·cm−3) and surface tension 55.7 to 62.0 mN/m; mean for group 58.7 mN/m (from 12 people after 24 hours). One interesting note in this paper is that bile salts cause most of the change in the surface tension with the other salts, urea and creatine causing little change to the water surface tension.  This information might help to produce a better filtration system.

Currently, two researchers are conducting this technology assessment: Kennedy Space Center researcher Howard Levine and  Dynamac researcher Michael Roberts to create a forward osmosis bag (FOB).  Basically it works like this: wastewater (e.g. pee) fills the bag and passively transfers through an inner layer, which contains the sugar solution; toxins are left behind as the liquid passes from the outer layer to the inner and the wastewater becomes safe to drink. However, the system has not been perfected yet, and certain toxins can still get through the filters (these might be bile salts since bile acids are potentially toxic to cells).  If the astronauts drink these toxins they can build up in the kidneys over time making the FOB only practical for short journeys.  Editors note:  to fix the problem they might want to use some Carafate (sucralfate), and Questran (cholestyramine) or some other bile acid sequesterants.

Think I am lying?  Check out this demonstration:

By the way HTI the company that makes a similar filtering system has used this technology for rescue missions on earth from Haiti to Hurricane Katrina.  The results are amazing.  See this video.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Surface Tension Videos For Kids

When I was a kid I think I asked, 'Why?' a million times.  'Why do stars shine?', 'Why are the birds flying like that?', 'Why does the water do that?' until my parents gave me Owl Magazine but still asked enough questions to take me to do a PhD.  Still I am asking the question, 'Why?'   Many times children ask great questions that adults either do not know the answer or just do not know enough about the subject to give a good question.  Also teachers sometimes underestimate the aptitude of children thinking they may not be able to grasp a subject.  Children are usually smarter.

To communicate surface tension better to children and stop them from asking  '#%&%& why?' all the time here are some sites:

I posted this before. 

However, no kid wants to sit through a lecture (most adults cannot). 

So here is a simple experiment that would be easy to reproduce in any classroom anywhere in the world. 

You need:

1. a paper clip
2. a paper towel
3. a glass of water
4. soap

Watch the video to see how to do this experiment.

There are probably a lot more experiments that you can do.  The concept is more important than the experiments.  I think a lot of teachers in elementary school focus too much on the experiments being cool and fun but not enough actual explaining properly the concept in a fun way.
To further explain this you will have to understand what a hydrogen bond is. The hydrogen bond  in water is necessary for life to exist.  A simple way to show this if you get 12 kids to stand up and grab hands.  If one is oxygen and the other two are hydrogen they make one water molecule.  So you have a total of four water molecules.  Each water molecule can bond with four two other water molecules.  This is hydrogen bonding of pure water.  The hydrogen bonds are strong and able to stop a force coming at them.   Next you add a soap to this mixture.  Get a couple of other kids to move between the four water molecules spacing them out.  So you have water - soap- water- soap.-water- soap- water.  If you have a force e.g. like a paper clip moving towards this unbonded surface water then on the surface will not support the force.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Hydrophobins the Magic Inside Mushrooms

In Finland mushroom picking is a big thing.  You go into the forest with a paper bag and search for different kinds of mushrooms.  In Finland this is a popular past time and a highly guarded secret so people will not discover your hidden mushroom treasure in the forest.  Many of these mushrooms that you can find in Finland can be in the range of 25 euros a kilo.  So if you are picking or shrooming as they like to call it and you come out of the forest you have to be prepared if someone asks you, 'where did you find all those mushrooms?'  a common answer is 'I got lost in the forest and I cannot remember,' or 'I was just walking my dog and found these.' When you get home you can fry them up and put them in an assortment of dishes like wild mushroom risotto.

I have a jar of dried mushrooms right now in my kitchen cupboard.  I just learned that they have some interesting biochemistry in the cap of the mushroom. The mushrooms that I found in the forest is the fruiting body of a fungus.  On the mushroom cap a protein exists called hydrophobin.  These proteins contain surface active properties allowing the producer fungi to attach support structures, create air gaps through air-water interfaces, grow hydrophobic parts.and keep the mushroom dry.

 The really cool thing is how they can change the surface of materials by forming a film on the surface of a material modifying the interfacial energy of the interface.  The films can be measured using a langmuir microtrough with a tensiometer and a potentiometer.  On hydrophilic surfaces hydrophobins assemble their hydrophobic side to the solvent, and vice versa.   So if water interacts with glass normally it will run off like a film or disintigrate into smaller droplets and if water interacts with teflon (a hydrophobic surface) it will cause a lotus effect.  When you add hydrophobins to each of these the glass will be hydrophobic beading the water making a lotus effect and the teflon will turn hydrophilic.

What can you use these?  I think the full extent has not been found.  One thing is they can modify the surface of textiles to make kind of a biomolecular goretex on textiles that maybe do not look like goretex. (1) Possibly someone can make a spray out of this.   Nanoscale drugs have been made using hydrophobins to coat poorly soluble molecules and drastically increase  their solubility. (2)

BASF is the first company with the capability to manufacture hydrophobin on an industrial scale. They have some great videos (here).  Hydrophobins are studied by a VTT researcher named Markus Linder.

1. Klaus Opwis & Jochen S. Gutman (2011), Surface
modification of textile materials with hydrophobins. Textile
Research Journal 1594-1602
2. Hanna K. Valo et al (2010), Multifunctional Hydrophobin:
Toward Functional Coatings for Drug Nanoparticles. ACS
Nano 1750-1758

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Got Milk?

I woke up this morning and had some coffee.  I make coffee with a press so with the right amount and time the coffee can be quite good.  My girlfriend usually adds milk to her coffee.  If I am in the mood I will add some however mostly I prefer it unpolluted.  Around the expiration date she might sniff it then drink a little before adding it to the coffee.  A couple of times after drinking she could taste that the milk was a bit off.  Also she mentioned at different times of year the milk quality changes for the same brand of milk.  So I was wondering whether you could measure surface tension of the milk to get a quick estimate of the quality.  Is this possible?

Yes.  Milk has  a lot of different surface active proteins and fats making a colloid in water.  The surface tension of pure cows milk depending on the cow, the season and other factors could be around 52 dynes/cm.  However, if the milk sits for a while and certain these proteins break down after a phase seperation of the colloid suspension the milk will decrease in surface tension to 35 dynes/cm.  Milk is an important source of protein for much of the world's population.  By understanding the properties of milk and preventing the separation and subsequent change in the milk from good to rancid the milk could be distributed better.  Also it one might learn which cow is better at producing milk and optimize the conditions for those cows..... Just some ideas what surface tension might allow you to do.

Hell, I don't even drink milk. I just like these splash photography pictures.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

5 things in Tears

The full title of this post is '5 things in tears that you had no idea because you were too busy crying like a little bitch'.  That seemed too long so I truncated it.  You can have three types of tears (basal tears -normally needed to wet the eye, reflex tears (ones needed from a foreign particles like dust or onion vapour) and psychic tears like you are doing right now.  

1. Water.  The essential liquid for life.  Water has a surface tension of 72.8 dynes allowing it to stay together in a droplet that comes off from your face after you listen to some emo band like 'My Chemical Romance' or 'Him'.  With all the other things in tears the surface tension can be lowered to 43 dynes/cm.

2. Mineral salt.  So you are crying and you taste your tears.  Salty right?  The human tears and sweat glands are evolutionary related leading some people to believe they are similar to other animal's salt gland.  Which is a gland in the tongue in animals like sharks and birds to excrete excess salt (and also why you do not see most animals crying).  If crying is good to get rid of any excess salts in your body I have no idea.  However, the tears are high in potassium which supports that theory that they may be evolutionary related to the salt.  The tears will have a similar content in sodium and potassium and even urea to the blood.

3. Antimicrobial peptides and proteins like antimicrobial peptides defensins and LL-37 work to bind and cover the bacterial membrane to create pores thus destroying it.  Phospholipase A2 is also found here that (and in snake poison) to destroy the phospholipid membrane of any foreign particles with particular phospholipids to and help to cause a inflammation reaction for more.  Phospholipase A2 is the principal bactericide for staphylococci and other gram-positive bacteria in human tears.  The activivity of this enzyme is awesome and really cool pictures can be acquired using fluorescence coupled with a monolayer device to make a small film.

4. Lysozyme is secreted in many places.  Lysozyme binds to the cell wall of the bacteria and cleaves the sugar in the cell wall destroying the gram negative bacteria. 

5. If you are under stress you might protein-based hormones, prolactin, adrenocorticotropic hormone, and leucine enkephalin (natural painkiller). These types of tears would vary greatly then if they were produced by something from  all of which are produced by our body when under stress. Some of these hormones can have The change in sex drive could be attributed to the drop in testosterone provoked by the chemicals in the tears meant to reduce aggression and may cause a crying woman to lower the sex drive in a man. In the animal world, it has been found that some blind mole rats would rub tears all over their bodies as a strategy to keep aggressive mole rats away.  So basically emo kids are probably preventing bullies from beating them up but they are also lowering their overall attractiveness.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

FYFD is an awesome Tumblr Blog!

This blog is very esoteric but tries to relate surface tension and how to measure it to everyday life.  The interesting thing about surface tension is that there are a lot of interesting news stories as well as science and art projects that people are doing that makes it fun to blog about.  However, I never really saw anybody else blogging about similar things until today.

I saw this really cool site called  Fuck Yeah Fluid Dynamics.  I read about this site on Pulse (the best place to get news) via I09 via Physics of Fluids.  Check it out....  It has a lot of really cool videos and some explanations.  If you like understanding fluid properties, surface tension it ect. you will fall in love with this site.  I will repost the best ones or ones that relate to this blog.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Osaka City Station Fountain Monument

So if you are walking through Osaka city you might see this video above.  It might display the time (not exactly a water clock which I will show in another post) but more like a water jet printer.  Jets of water print out an image and due to the surface tension of the water (72 dynes) it falls in a form that represents an image.  Physical nature meeting design makes for a fantastic monument.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Top 5 Industries to Use Surface Tension Devices


I had a little hiatus.  In Helsinki the weather is changing and new studies have begun so a brief break was necessary.

Companies and scientists use surface tension devices (tensiometers) for a number of different applications.  Certain industries and fields are more likely to use surface tension measurements to make interesting discoveries.  Below are the top five industries / fields that use surface tension:

1) Detergent & Soap
So many surfactants new surfactants are made everyday for making detergents and soap better.  Different formulations to help in cleaning clothes, hard surfaces or our bodies rely on surface tension to get the correct wettability.  A static surface tension device especially one that  can do high throughput surface tension instrument can determine the critical micelle concentration (CMC).  The CMC will tell you how efficient the clothes or whatever you are washing will get clean.  Most detergents should be above the CMC and most people use soap in excess.  A proper balance can be achieved in the formulation by finding this point with a tensiometer. 

2) Ink. Look at your printer.  From an image on your computer screen different inks are flying from a piezoelectric crystal (a small hole) onto a material like paper, drying, changing, repeating.  The inks used today are a far cry from the first inks used in ancient China.  The static surface tension makes sure the inks are not running too much where the dynamic surface tension makes sure the inks will dry fast enough.  With different inks, faster printing processes and different substrates (different paper, metals, plastics) finding the proper formulation is a lot more complicated than before. An instrument that can measure both the static and dynamic surface tension quickly, reliably and easily is needed.

3) Drug Discovery.  Finding a good drug with high efficacy in today's world is ever more difficult and expensive.  Many drugs might be too hydrophobic or have the wrong shape to be absorbed into the body through membranes to reach a target molecule.  A surface tension instrument can help identify the problem compounds before they get to a clinical trial and people discover that 3 million dollars was wasted for a drug that cannot be absorbed.

4) Cosmetics.  Want to see the wettability and application of different surfactants that can help absorb on the stratum corneum or deeper layers of the skin?  A surface tension instrument is one of the few instruments that can do this.  The skin made up of many layers of lipids.  People's skin differs with age, race and gender so cosmetic manufacturers want to find the best products with good wettability for these different kinds of people.

5) Lipid research.  Lipids are such a schizophrenic molecule.  They are both water loving and water hating.  They can be found alone but when in groups they can organize faster than an Egyptian revolution.  The different shapes are difficult to characterize and study from micelles, bilayers, to things weird things like sponge phase or cubic phase.  To study lipids one of the simplest ways was to use a monolayer trough which was originally understood by fantastic civil scientists like Benjamin Franklin and Agnes Pockels (two people that I have written about previously).  Even though this is an old technique people still explore the properties of many different lipids.  To mix it up scientists might add some protein, DNA or even the odd virus. 

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Au Revoir....

J'aime parler Francais....but my French sucks but it is still better than my Finnish.  Since I like to write about surface tension and properties of liquids I was looking at this really cool typeface and I decided to repost it on my blog.  It is called Au Revoir from Russian Designer Ruslan Khasanov.   For me nature is beautiful and combining the physicochemical nuances with art makes it more outstanding.  His sublime typeface uses running ink and another one uses something like water to make beautiful typography.  I wonder what the surface tension is?

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Kibron has a new website!

Our lab has some surface tension devices from Kibron (I may have mentioned it here).  Today I looked at their site and it is new.  Pretty nice.

Monday, 5 September 2011

A motor made out of thin films

Adding wires to liquid films

Last year, a group of physicists from Tehran made the discovery that motors can be made of nothing more than a thin film of water sitting in a cell bathed in two perpendicular electric fields. The unexpected result of this set up is that the water begins to rotate. If one divide the water into smaller cells and each rotates too.
Check out the videos from the team at the Sharif University of Technology in Tehran  a number of  fascinating videos of it in action

What is making the thin water move? 

Vlad Vladimirov at York University in the UK asked the same question and they delved into the hydrodynamics to work out why this water motor is working. The key turns out to be the scale on which the effect takes place.  Since it is only a thin film of water as you can see from the videos the electrical current and the surface tension allow it to rotate.  (Not sure if it is just the top film that is rotating or the whole body of water.  Also it probably depends on what kind of film they added.).  They say the flow is generated at the edge of the cell where the electric field crosses the  (dielectric) boundary between the water and the cell container. The change in field sets the water flowing along the boundary.  Crucially, this flow is opposite on the other side of the cell and this is what sets up the circular flow.

Vladimirov points out that this effect can only happen in a thin film of the dimensions that they used in Tehran where effects such as viscosity and friction play a large role in the dynamics. In larger bodies of water, these effects become insignificant and the rotation stops. So scale depends on this kind of motor so no seeing this in the ocean.  However, this might be very interesting for its use in microfluidic devices and for parties. 
Ref: Rotating Electrohydrodynamic Flow in a Suspended Liquid Film

Friday, 2 September 2011

The Gulf Oil Spill

With so much news in the world today it is tough to forget that very recently the gulf was covered in oil.   It has not fully recovered.  One researcher that is working around Mississippi thought that the the AquaPi might be a good idea to use to observe residual oil left in different places in the Gulf because of the portable size and reliability .  This device was used by oil companies to find residual oil at the refineries.    This infographic shows the different stages of the oil in the gulf and the physics of oil spills.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Raindrop gif

This is what it was like in Helsinki yesterday.  From here it is impossible to see what a raindrop looks like but see my previous posts for a better explanation.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Magnetized Soap Bubbles

Compressed 02 from Kim Pimmel on Vimeo.

I got this great story and video after reading Fast Company (such a great magazine about innovation.  I even downloaded the app for my ipod touch). Originally posted by the Suzan Labarre (du Savon?).

San Francisco designer Kim Pimmel combined soap bubbles with dye and some creepy music and got this time-lapse video.  It is horrific.  I am glad Ï do not have a bath in my apartment.  Watching The Living Dead is scary enough.  I do not need to have some magnetic monster attach me. 

The bubbles make little tubes of film filled with water.  The iron fills those tubes through capillary action (think plants sucking water through its roots).  The bubbles in the video are accentuated by the dye running through with the water showing the minimal surface of the soap film, with equal pressure on inside as outside the bubbles.  Bubbles and foaming are just recently discovered although people have been playing with bubbles for 400 years.  Understanding the physicochemical properties of the surfactants using high throughput devices and foam testers is something that big home care companies are interested.

Do not be mistaken the bubbles are not dyed but rather the water is which is apparent at the end.  The dye does not attach to the soap though but rather just moves with the water through the narrow tubes to give the awesome affect.   Pimmel shot the sequence with a Nikon D90 and a Nikkor 60mm macro lens.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

How plants can suck more?

wetbetty organic

A while ago for fun I went to a trade convention in Vancouver with my friend who was making a robotic aeroponic system for his thesis.  The convention was on plant growing and hydroponics.  So we went to go see if there were jobs available.  People were selling things from lighting, piping, electrical equipment to fertilizers.  Vancouver has a major problem with clandestine 'tomato' grow-operations (or grow-ops) and I was wondering whether this might have been at the show.  It did not take too long before I found it.

Up to this point it seemed to be the regular Mom & Pop type of selling their products.  My friend and I turned a corner and we saw a Hummer and  scantily dressed girls as well as scorpions and tarantulas in cages.  The company promoted growing 'tomatoes'!!  They were actually one of the top companies that helped growers in British Columbia and could afford to pay for these things.

They gave us bags of plant surfactants.  So I asked myself what are plant surfactants?  I knew for any plant to grow it needs capillary action in order to suck the water from the soil to get to the root. Plants grown with hydroponics (in a liquid environment with the nutrients around) absorb nutrients more effectively.  A plant surfactant may help with this. There are two types of plant surfactants that you can utilize for your gardening: organic surfactant and synthetic surfactant. If you use either an organic plant surfactant formula or the highest quality synthetic surfactants, can help nutrients travel through water faster so your plants are able to easily source out what they need in order to have an enhanced growth and floral development.

Generally plant surfactants work by making it easier for cells to exchange nutrients and wastes. I am not a plant biologist but the scantily dressed women said 'this leads to a more advanced plant metabolism that maximizes the effect of artificial lighting, CO2, and high quality hydroponics nutrients so that 'tomato producers can produce stronger, more productive crops.'  I believed them.  So how does a plant surfactant work for the benefit of  hydroponic growers?  When you use a surfactant to unbind water’s hydrogen bonds, you make water more spreadable and lower the solid-liquid intermolecular forces between the plant and the liquid enabling hydroponics nutrients to become easily accessible for your plants’ consumption.  A quick way to test for the correct surface tension of hydronics growing solution would be to use a quick tensiometer device.  The people at the show with the women in bikini were from a company called Advanced Nutrients and use a plant surfactant called Wet Betty (shown above) to allow hydroponic growers to grow 'tomatoes' better.  I did a quick google scholar search and I learned that plant surfactants can both help plants grow faster and achieve nutrient exchange better by using less water.  So give it up for plant surfactants.

Extra taken from Wolfram Demo:  To better understand capillary action and how surface tension affects capillary action you have to look at the math and components of it below.  Liquids (water) wet glass and climb upward on the surface forming a concave meniscus.  If the solid-liquid intermolecular forces are stronger than liquid forces this occurs. If you go to Wolfram Demo and download the program you can get a really good demonstration of how surface tension affects capillary action.  This whole post will then make a lot more sense since if you lower the surface tension it changes the solid-liquid intermolecular forces allowing water to be easily sucked by the plant. 
Such liquids will rise in a narrow capillary tube until a balance is established between the effects of surface tension and gravity. The capillary rise increases sharply as the tube is made narrower. For example, water in a glass capillary of radius 0.1 mm will rise by about 140 mm. The capillary rise is given by , where is the solid-liquid surface tension in N/m, is the contact angle for the meniscus (measured upward from the vertical wall), is the density of the liquid, is the gravitational acceleration (9.81 m/s), and is the radius of the capillary. In this Demonstration, is expressed as a specific gravity ( corresponding to 1000 kg/m), while and are given in mm. The default values are those for water in glass at 20°C.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Superheated water for the Superheated Soul

Microwaves are awesome technology.  They have allowed people to heat food, kill bacteria (in the lab), and recently they have been used as a tool for curing malaria.  The availability of the microwave simple experiments can be performed.  Experiments like understanding plasma, lightning balls and using it to measure the speed of light.  Superheating is an interesting one related to surface tension of water.

Usually when you observe water boiling in a pot on the stove you will see that the water bubbles go from somewhere in the pot bursting at the surface.  For a vapor bubble to expand though the temperature must be high enough to exceed the atmospheric pressure.  Below this temperature you will not see the bubbles forming.  An exception comes with superheating.  This is observed when you place something like water in a container with very smooth sides into the microwave.  In this case the liquid is observd not to boil even thought he vapor pressure exceeds the ambient pressure.  This is because the surface tension of the water suppresses the growth of the bubble.

Surface tension makes the bubble and ambient pressure act on these small bubbles by pushing down on them.  If the bubbles are like balloons you can say the other two forces are like your hands pushing down on them.  However, without any nucleation in the container like a scratch on the inside of a cup, adding a stirring device or some material to the water these bubbles will be maintained as microscopic bubbles.

If the cup is superheated by adding something to nucleate the water (like instant coffee) a large bubble forms with exploding hot vapor.  Superheating occurs simply because a large bubble is easier to inflate than a small one (like blowing up a balloon the first part is harder when the balloon is more elastic).  The excess pressure due to surface tension is inversely proportional to the diameter of the bubble.  To overcome the ambient pressure and surface tension on the small bubbles it may require exceeding the boiling point by several degrees Celsius.  Once the nucleation occurs the pressure due to the surface tension reduces so it expands explosively like in the clip below.

Extra Note: in the video they mention impurities. Things that induce nucleation of the water might be a better term.

Extra Note 2: I used to love cooking milk in the microwave then finding that awesome bit of skin on top of the milk.   I saw on this site that this was answered.  The skin is comprised of solid proteins that combine with the milk’s fat molecules, which begin to evaporate as the milk is heated. The proteins, casein and beta, clump together when the liquid reaches a temperature of around 45 to 50 Celsius. As the heating continues, the soft protein layer begins to dry out, which is why the milk forms a skin on the liquid’s surface. This layer of skin forms a hard barrier, causing steam to build up beneath it and increase the liquid’s temperature. When left alone, this often causes the milk to boil over.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Why NASA Needs Tensiometers

I am both fascinated and disappointed by NASA.  They are doing great work in finding new things on the Moon and Mars as well as giving us earthlings new technology.  This new information of finding three years ago 'beads of liquid brine were first photographed on one of the Phoenix lander's legs.'  This is important because "on Earth, everywhere there's liquid water, there is microbial life.''  One of the great things about life is that it can be spontaneous with lipid films existing on the surface of the water and according to researchers at NASA 'microbes don't need much. A droplet or a thin film could suffice.'.  So if NASA and other space researchers had something like a Langmuir Blodgett trough they could determine the best conditions that may be needed to support life on a very icy place like Mars.

See the article here.

However, I mentioned that I am disappointed that it is going so slow.  If you asked someone 60 years ago where they thought where we would be in the space program I think they would have responded, 'Living on the Moon.'  Instead the US is now acting more or less like a Dominos Pizza delivery guy supplying the space station with new supplies.  I think that with the deregulation of producing rockets and with newer ways to study emerging lifeforms from commercial companies we might just find live on the moon and find life on Mars.  These commercial companies will allow NASA to continue with their bold mission statement: 'To improve life here, to extend life to there, to find life beyond', at a slow but steady pace.

Splash Art

I love how the surface tension of liquid makes this art possible.  So I dedicated a couple of posts to some cool pictures.  Artist like Martin Waugh or Alex Koloskov combines art and surface science to capture nature's infinite beauty on camera.  Both artists are pretty open about how they do the technique.  I think mastering it though needs persistence.  Koloskov wrote a book called Mastering Splash which can be seen here. These artists are true masters of surface tension.

From Martin Waugh

Raindrops keep falling on my head...

As a result of speeding through the atmosphere because of gravity, Raindrops have a more flattened bottom and rounded top until they are ripped apart when they approach 5 mm.
USGS Water Science for Schools

Growing up on the West Coast of Canada you get passionate about the rain because it is one of the only things that is constant in your life.  Check out this article on about raindrops that is much like I said in this post.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Coffee in Space

As I sit here drinking my coffee I am thinking about that awesome barista that the international space station must have.  A couple of months ago I was at the Film Museum in Paris and they had an exhibition on Stanley Kubrick.  I am a huge fan of Kubrick's works and 2001: The Space Odyssey is something that I love.  Particularly the scene where they have a barista in space.  This is not only awesome from a coffee drinkers point of view but also awesome from my designer girlfriend's view of furniture design especially Danish Mordern of Arne Jacobson as displayed in the film.

However, the space station in the Kubrick film has normal gravity unlike the international space station.  So coffee drinking would be very difficult because of the surface tension of water is the same in space as it is on earth.  Don Pettit from the international space station shows how people drank coffee from a bag.  Gravity on earth keeps the weight of the coffee at the bottom of the cup.  I found on trendhunter this coffee cup below made by the designer Travis Baldwin.  So now astronauts can drink coffee like they do on earth...well almost.

Travis Baldwin's Portfolio

 One more way how design thinking is shaping this world and outerspace...

Friday, 12 August 2011

Hap what?? Haptic

From Senseq website

Many people today have a touch phone or some kind of tablet device.  Personally I thought that it could not get better than touching a screen to draw or make fart noises.  However, there just might be some new technology on the horizon that introduces this on August 15th by the name of Tabco.   They are introducing a tablet that 'provides a new way to interact with your device,' as a Tabco spokesperson said.  That got me thinking about whether technology could introduce something that can give you the sensation of touch.  Like most things I think of they are already working on these.  This technology is called Haptic and is being researched at Aalto University in conjunction with another Finnish company called Senseg

The Haptic technology that they develop is based on the principle of attraction force between charges to create the sense of touch.  Using an low electrical current to an insulated electrode you can make small attractive Coulomb force from to the fingertip or probably any other place on the body.  Then these charges can be modulated to make different sensations. 

Senseg, reckons that one day when we online shop we'll be able to "feel" the fabrics we're looking at.  Haptic sensations could also allow you to feel the surface tension of water in a pond a million miles away or get a feeling of the mucous of  the ebola patient two meters away in a bubble without having to feel it.  This technology would be amazing for allowing people to feel things without ever being in the room.  It could help people that are blind.  It could be used to develop new video games. 

There are many possibilities that could be used with this technology.  However, probably still much development is underway as this recent paper states 'various haptic sensations such as feeling of surface tension and friction, as well as solid object viscosity and  force fields, can only be provided separately and often at predefined, known to the haptic algorithm, locations of the  haptic tools, while concurrent haptic rendering of these phenomena at any random location of the haptic tool is still a challenge.´  Tabco and anybody developing programs for this new unchartered technology to use good design thinking before making something that is cool but not really useful to anyone.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Difference Between Surface Tension and Interfacial Tension | Difference Between | Surface Tension vs Interfacial Tension

When it is out there why write more?

Difference Between Surface Tension and Interfacial Tension | Difference Between | Surface Tension vs Interfacial Tension

Eight-Hundred Dollar Jeopardy Question

I'm a nerd.  I love Jeopardy. 

Here is a physics Jeopardy question from a little while ago.


A: 1992 experiment using surface tension on polished silicon got water to defy physics by doing this. 

Q: What is TO GO UP?

 Here is an article link pertaining to that answer.

'The change in surface properties, Chaudhury said, created an imbalance of surface tension forces, or a gradient of low to high interfacial energy, helping to propel the water upward on a tilted horizontal plane.´'

Lehigh Professor Can Make Water "Creep" Uphill

Drier Laundry Through Chemistry

Drier Laundry Through Chemistry

You did not think you needed this.  This is an old article post (2005)  but something that relates to surface tension and something I should do today, my laundry.   People at P&G and other researchers are constantly discovering about how to clean clothes better and more efficiently with better surfactant formulations.  They found that your clothes hold water like tiny capillaries.  Reducing the surface tension of liquid detergent by adding a mix of common ingredients in different proportions could release the water from the tiny capillaries easily.  This leaves the clothes 20% drier and reduces the electricity needed to dry your clothes with a conventional drier or reduces the time needed to hang your clothes which you should do more often.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Worship the sun!!!

Myan shield showing the sun

From the Aztecs, Myans, Greeks, Romans, Egyptians and beyond the sun is a commonality of worship for many different civilizations.  Even Christianity and other religions today has their calendar based on the solar calendar or oppositely the lunar calendar with Christmas happening on the shortest (or longest sun day) with other Christian event happening near other times of the solar calendar.   The December 25 date may have been selected by the church in Rome in the early 4th century. At this time, a church calendar was created and other holidays were also placed on solar dates.  So in essence we still are sun worshipers regardless of whether you think so or not.

Why worship the sun?  Last time I checked most dieties did not bring food nor can I see these dieties.  The sun I can see bringing both food and energy.  The surface tension of both plants and in technololgy have changed in order to harvest this great resource.  Plants do this by maintaining a high water repellency or superhydrophobicity on their leaves.  Water droplets as I mentioned before are spherical (also in space) due to their high surface tension.  Depending on the surface different wetting may occur.  In some cases like hardwood floor cleaners you want wetting (contact of  <90 deg to the surface)  to occur to allow the soap to spread over the floor so you have certain surfactants.  However, on the surface of the plants which are hydrophobic a contact angle of >90 deg to the surface with some plants like the lotus leaf exhibiting around 160 deg!! Superhydrophic-expialidocious!!!   This allows dirt particles to be picked up off the leaf leaving the leaf clean so it can harvest the particular wavelengths of light for photosynthesis.  Then it can produce food more efficiently. 

A million years after plants figured this out humans have tried to the same thing in order to harvest light.  Photovoltaic panels or solar panels use the sun's energy to generate electricity.  It can do this at any time of the year and even when the sun is not even showing through the clouds.  However, the solar panels work best when the sun is shining directly on top of the solar panels.  Researchers however need special coatings need to be both abrasion and moisture resistant as well as antireflective.  If there are surface defects in the solar material it will lose surface area for harvesting.  Also the material has to be really hydrophobic in order to clean any dust or water off the panel.  If any dirt is on the panel it can reduce the solar efficiency by a lot.  Dow and other companies have made better coatings with maximum hydrophobicity and giving other properties like antiabrasion and antireflection properties.  Some of these properties can be tested using instruments like the Kibron EZPi Plus for testing the surface tension, The Abrasion Scrub tester by Byk for testing the abrasion resistance and antireflective properties by Princeton instruments.

So the sun brings great things like food for your table and energy for your ipod.  Sometimes it needs a little help to be harvested correctly with good surface coatings.  So worship the sun!

Friday, 5 August 2011

How to measure jaundice in Homer Simpson

Homer Simpson Drinking Quotes

In a previous post I talked about making better moonshine by testing the level of methanol.  Many months before I also I commented on the surface properties of bile which are increased after drinking alcohol.  If you drink alcohol many different effects occur in your body as a result.  One of the ways our body detoxifies alcohol and other toxins is with the liver.  Drinking excessively causes massive trauma to the liver causing it to not function properly.  Increased bilirubin (1.5 mg/dL ) in the blood makes the condition hyperbilirubinemia.  The bilirubin is a yellow breakdown product of normal heme catabolism.  This catabolism of the heme in redblood cells is done in the liver.  Also you can see the yellow bilirubin after you get a bruise.  However, with the liver damaged this product goes to the blood then to extracellular fluids like conjuntival membranes over the sclerae (whites of the eyes) and mucous membranes which causes the yellowish pigmentation of the skin.

Jaundice comes from the French word jaune, meaning yellow.  Homer Simpson is yellow.  He drinks excessively which may cause liver failure leading to jaundice.  How could Homer tell if he had jaundice?  If his eyes were yellow this might possibly tell that he has jaundice.  A more diagnostic test would be to use a tensiometer.  If Homer goes to Dr. Heibert and takes a urine test Dr. Heibert could do a simple diagnostic test with a tensiometer to test the surface tension of the urine.  Normal urine has a surface tension of about 66 dynes/cm but if bile is present (a test for jaundice), it drops to about 55 dynes/cm.  This is a simple diagnostic test that does not require expensive lab equipment and can be done in the field for example at small clinics.  Doh! 

Thursday, 4 August 2011

One reason to watch Nascar

In the previous post this group from Harvard claims they can use a chip with some wetting agent to detect the presence of methanol in bootleg (moonshine) solutions.  This might be possibly using this agent.  However it is not commercially available so I was thinking if it is possible to do with a normal tensiometer. 

I am not making my own liquor or anything like that.  Bootleg liquor (which got its name from originally came from concealing hip flasks of alcohol in the legs of boots) is a problem in small towns in Finland. During prohibition in the US bootlegged liquor made its way using fast stockcars paving the way for the racing sport: NASCAR. Finland unfortunately does not have that tradition of racing away from the police to deliver quality whiskey.  However, in Finland in small towns if you see bottles on the side of the road you can stop, honk your horn and someone will come by with some moonshine or pontikka as it is called here.   But one should be careful as it is quite easy for there to be quite a high content of methanol in this drink.  The methanol vaporizes at a lower temperature than ethanol.  So it if it not cooked at a high enough temperature or the people are making it without concern for purity they will leave the first few drips from the 'foreshot' in the moonshine.
People can test this in a couple different ways.  The distiller may test this by putting it in a spoon lighting it and seeing if there is a blue flame (methanol burns with an invisible flame).  This is not the best method.  There is also a difference in mass transfer due to the Maragoni effect and by dropping some of the moonshine in a glass you might be able to see this compared to the same proof of alcohol.  However, to test this a good method would be to use surface tension somehow.  Although I have not figured out this when I wrote this.  If someone knows let me know.  I did do a brief review of the literature to find some interesting papers.  One can also consult this paper using tensiometers or this paper using Monte Carlo simulations to see different ways to test the surface tension of methanol and ethanol water solutions.  However it does not test methanol in ethanol water solutions.  Using HPLC this paper derivatizates methanol to find the content in ethanol water solutions.  It has excellent precision, accuracy and both intraday and interday reproducibility .  It can also do large batches.  However, it is not so portable and probably costs a lot for this. 

If anyone knows how to measure the quantity of methanol in an ethanol-water solution I would love an answer.....

New device can detect surface tension called W-ink

'Watermark ink' device identifies unknown liquids instantly

 Materials scientists and applied physicists collaborating at Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have invented a new device that can instantly identify an unknown liquid.  This
'new device changes color when it encounters a liquid with a particular surface tension. '

It is still not available but a chip of this sort could be revolutionary for different applications like 'bootleg liquor for toxic levels of methanol' or  'verify the fuel grade of gasoline right at the pump.'  For now we might have to rely on portable devices that can measure the surface tension.