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Posted Mon May 18 2009: from New Scientist:
Ultrasound weapon wipes out toxic algal blooms
Blooms of algae in lakes and seas, sometimes called red tides, can release neurotoxins into the food chain or suffocate the local ecology by sucking up too much oxygen. When one occurs, the safest option is usually just to wait for the bloom to clear of its own accord, but now scientists at the University of Hull, UK, think they have found a way to put a stop to these deadly algal explosions- by exposing them to blasts of ultrasound. The use of ultrasound has been explored before, but with mixed results. That may be because the mechanism was not well understood, say Michiel Postema and his colleagues, who successfully used ultrasound to kill off algae. Postema believes it affects buoyancy cells, known as heterocysts, which keep the algae afloat by enclosing a bubble of nitrogen gas. He reckons the ultrasound pressure wave causes the gas in the cells to resonate. At high intensity it bursts the cell, and the algae sink. "Without sunlight they will then die," he says.... The ultrasound could be targeted to specific species of algae, because the resonant frequency of heterocysts varies from species to species in accordance with their size. What's more, such a measure should not damage ordinary water-filled plant cells, which are relatively impervious to pressure waves.
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