John Tolley, November 17, 2018
Delicious news, Big Ten fans and friends. This week's Research Rumble is all about food, kinda. I mean, not really, but foodstuffs do play a supporting role in the stories that are going head-to-head and that's enough to make our tum-tum rumble.
In one corner, the marvelous Minnesota Golden Gophers are all abuzz with bodacious bees. The University of Minnesota Bee Lab is hard at work ensuring these powerful pollinators remain an effective part of the ecosystem by safeguarding bees against the myriad threats they face.
In the other, Northwestern scientist Will Dichtel has created a new material that can strip impurities from water that even modern treatment facilities can't remove. And you know what this material, called Cyclopure, is made of? CORN!!! That's right, delicious, golden corn becomes a delightful golden powder capable of pulling pollutants right out of H2O.
So, now Big Ten fans, with an open heart and an empty stomach, I say unto you in the words of no one's uncle: Let us now prepare ourselves to RUMBLE!!!!!*
"Bees are suffering from many problems all at once," explains Minnesota entomologist and MacArthur Fellow Dr. Marla Spivak. "They have disease, they have parasites, they don't have enough flowers to provide good nutrition and some of the flowers they do have are contaminated with pesticides. All of these things act on them at once to decrease their health. What we're doing here in Minnesota is trying to establish good bee health."
For 25 years, Spivak has conducted extensive research into native and nonnative at Minnesota and has overseen the creation, growth and operation of the university's Bee Lab, one of the nation's preeminent melittological research facilities.
The incredible utility of Cyclopure isn't evident to the naked eye. To look at it, you see only a fine powder, as yellow as the morning sun. But up close - as in microscopically close - you see that those grains have a distinct cup-like shape that helps them do the thing they do.
Developed by Northwestern University professor of chemistry Will Dichtel, Cyclopure is a revolutionary new material that can help strip impurities from wastewater, even that which has been processed through a treatment facility.
"One of the problems with the way we treat our wastewater is that we let through some of the compounds of our lives," explains Dichtel. "Things like pharmaceutical agents, pesticides or components of our shampoos and personal care products come through our wastewater treatment plants in small amounts, but enough where they could still affect the environment and affect our ability to use the water productively."
* Nice catchphrase mashup, no?