OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

scientific research and advances

Athletes need to be careful to monitor diet, weight to maintain muscle mass

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Athletes seeking a healthy performance weight should eat high fiber, low-fat food balanced with their training regimen in order to maintain muscle while still burning fat, according to a report by an Oregon State University researcher.

The United States now has a record number of overweight athletes, a population many think of as untouched by the obesity crisis. Nationally, more than 45 percent of high school linebackers are obese, and the number of overweight students entering college level-sports is increasing.

In a peer-reviewed literature review published this summer in the Nestle Nutritional Institution Workshop Series, OSU researcher Melinda Manore looked at the benefits of teaching athletes how to consume what she calls a low-energy-dense diet, or high-fiber, high-water, but lower-fat foods. She said too many athletes are pushed into fad diets or try to restrict calorie intake too much in a way that is unhealthy and unsustainable.

“Depending on the sport, athletes sometime want to either lose weight without losing lean tissue, or gain weight, mostly lean tissue,” she said. “This is very difficult to do if you restrict caloric intake too dramatically or try to lose the weight too fast. Doing that also means they don’t have the energy to exercise, or they feel tired and put themselves at risk of injury.”

Manore is professor of nutrition in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU. She said the overwhelming body of research shows that just counting calories does not work. What does work is a healthy lifestyle that can be maintained, even during breaks or when not in training. She said an athlete’s optimum body weight should include the following criteria:

  • Weight that minimizes health risks and promotes good eating
  • Weight that takes into consideration genetic makeup and family history
  • Weight that is appropriate for age and level of physical development, including normal reproductive function in women
  • Weight that can be maintained without constant dieting and restraining food intake

In the paper, Manore outlined some strategies that athletes can use to maintain a healthy weight and remain performance-ready. It’s important, she said, to adopt a low-energy-dense diet, which includes a large amount of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, fish, and low-fat dairy. Avoid beverages high in sugar, especially soda and alcohol. Manore said half of a plate of food should be filled with fruits and veggies, and processed food should be avoided.

“Always opt for the food over the drink, don’t drink your calories,” Manore said. “Instead of drinking orange juice, eat an orange. It has more fiber, and fills you up more.”

Other key points:

  • Eat breakfast. Data from the National Weight Control Registry shows that 80 percent of people who lost at least 30 pounds in a year and kept it off were breakfast eaters. Eat a breakfast rich with high-fiber whole grains, fruit, high-quality protein such as egg whites, and low-fat dairy. Skip the processed cereals.
  • Get plenty of protein. Most athletes get plenty of protein, but they may not be strategic about making sure to refuel after exercise, and spreading their protein intake throughout the day. Depending on the goals, some athletes may need to get as much as 30 percent of their calories from protein, but many get that in one large meal. Spreading that protein out throughout the day is a better strategy; and nuts, beans and legumes are a great source of protein, not just meat.
  • Exercise regularly. This may seem obvious for an athlete, but many seasonal athletes can pack on pounds during off-seasons, making it that much harder to get performance-ready.
  • Avoid fad diets. Combining severe calorie restriction with intense training can result in metabolic adaptions that actually can make it more difficult to lose weight. Severe weight loss also makes an athlete stressed out and tired, and that is never good for sport.

While her paper is aimed at competitive and recreational athletes, Manore said all of these tips can apply to anyone who wants to change their diet and head in a healthier direction.

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Melinda Manore, 541-737-8701

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OSU soccer playing
Students playing soccer at Legacy Park in Corvallis. April 2013. (photo by Jan Sonnenmair)

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Melinda Manore

Energy Balance graphic
Energy balance graphic

New study finds “nighttime heat waves” increasing in Pacific Northwest

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new study has found that heat waves are increasing in the western portions of the Pacific Northwest, but not the kind most people envision, with scorching hot days of temperatures reaching triple digits.

These heat waves occur at night.

Researchers documented 15 examples of “nighttime heat waves” from 1901 through 2009 and 10 of those have occurred since 1990. Five of them took place during a four-year period from 2006-09. And since the study was accepted for publication in the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, another nighttime heat wave took place at the end of this June, the authors point out.

“Most people are familiar with daytime heat waves, when the temperatures get into the 100s and stay there for a few days,” said Kathie Dello, deputy director of the Oregon Climate Service at Oregon State University and a co-author on the study. “A nighttime heat wave relates to how high the minimum temperature remains overnight.

“Daytime events are usually influenced by downslope warming over the Cascade Mountains, while nighttime heat waves seem to be triggered by humidity,” said Dello, who is in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. “Elevated low-level moisture at night tends to trap the heat in.”

In their study, Dello and co-authors Karin Bumbaco and Nicholas Bond from the University of Washington defined heat waves as three consecutive days of temperatures at the warmest 1 percentile over the past century. Using that standard criterion, they documented 13 examples of daytime heat waves during the time period from 1901 to 2009. Only two of those occurred in the last 20 years.

In contrast, nighttime heat waves have been clustered over the past two decades, with what appears to be accelerating frequency. A warming climate suggests the problem may worsen, studies suggest.

“If you look at nighttime temperatures in Oregon and compared them to say the Midwest, people there would laugh at the concept of a Pacific Northwest heat wave,” Dello said. “However, people in the Midwest are acclimated to the heat while in the Northwest, they are not. People in other regions of the country may also be more likely to have air conditioning in their homes.

On occasion, daytime and nighttime heat waves coincide, Dello said, as happened in 2009 when temperatures in the Pacific Northwest set all-time records in Washington (including 103 degrees at SeaTac), and temperatures in Oregon surpassed 105 degrees in Portland, Eugene, Corvallis and Medford. It was the second most-intense daytime heat wave in the last century, but lasted only three days by the 1 percentile definition.

However, that same stretch of hot weather in 2009 results in a nighttime heat wave that extended eight days, by far the longest stretch since records were kept beginning in 1901.

The latest nighttime heat wave began in late June of this year, and continued into early July, Dello said.

“Like many nighttime heat waves, a large high-pressure ridge settled in over the Northwest, while at the same time, some monsoonal moisture was coming up from the Southwest,” she pointed out. “The high swept around and grabbed enough moisture to elevate the humidity and trap the warm air at night.”

Dello frequently provides weather facts and historical data via Twitter at: www.twitter.com/orclimatesvc.

The Oregon Climate Change Research Institute is supported by the state of Oregon, U.S. Department of the Interior, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, and other agencies.

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Kathie Dello, 541-737-8927

Hospice workers struggle on front lines of physician-assisted death laws

The study this story is based on is available in ScholarsArchive@OSU: http://bit.ly/130Fqi3

 

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Laws that allow physician-assisted death in the Pacific Northwest have provisions to protect the rights of patients, doctors and even the state, but don’t consider the professionals most often on the front lines of this divisive issue – hospice workers who provide end-of-life care.

The existing system, a new analysis concludes, has evolved into a multitude of different and contradictory perspectives among hospice organizations and workers, who historically have opposed physician-assisted death but now are the professionals taking care of most of the people who use it.

The study – titled “Dignity, Death and Dilemmas” - was just published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management by researchers from Oregon State University, and outlines a complex system in which many well-intentioned caregivers struggle to organize their thoughts, beliefs and actions when dealing with a concept they traditionally oppose. It was based on an analysis of 33 hospice programs in Washington state.

When first proposed, it was feared by some that physician-assisted death might displace the palliative and supportive care offered by hospice. Now, in practice, between 85-95 percent of the people in Oregon and Washington who choose assisted death also use hospice – but the interplay they have with their caregivers can vary widely.

“It might seem a little surprising that most people who use physician-assisted death also use hospice,” said Courtney Campbell, the Hundere Professor in Religion and Culture in the OSU School of History, Philosophy and Religion. “Some hospice workers were originally concerned this concept would make them unnecessary, but in fact the level of hospice usage has actually increased.”

Hospice is a national program in which trained professionals provide care to terminally ill patients, ensuring they get proper medical care, adequate pain control, are involved in decision-making and have other needs met in a home environment. They work with both the patient and family to help make death a natural and accepted part of life.

However, hastening or actually causing death is not an accepted part of the hospice philosophy, even though hospice programs acknowledge the right of patients to make that choice where it’s allowed by law. But balancing core beliefs, such as compassion and non-abandonment of a patient, with the new laws has been difficult at best for hospice professionals, Campbell said.

“About 75 percent of hospice organizations will not allow their workers to even be present when a fatal dose of medication is used,” Campbell said.

The reaction in hospice to physician-assisted death varies from one national organization to another, from one agency to another, from one worker to another. There is little consistency to many complex questions about how, whether, and when hospice workers will get involved as individuals they care for make this choice. Approaches can range from outright opposition to non-participation or non-interference.

In recent years it’s become even more difficult as assisted-death has become politicized, Campbell said. Even the words used in describing the serious issues involved are emotionally-charged and inherently contentious, the researchers noted in their report, making reference to legislation that embraced “ending life in a humane and dignified manner” while working its way around such topics as “suicide, assisted suicide, mercy killing and homicide.”

Somewhat caught in the middle, and caring for the people who are affected by those laws, are the hospice workers with marginal guidance and conflicted reactions, researchers said.

“The conventional approach to the question of legalized physician-assisted death . . . has missed the issue of how the requirements of a new law are carried out by the primary caregiving institution, hospice care,” the researchers wrote in their report.

The OSU research offered no simple solutions to this issue, but rather outlined a broad list of questions that could form the basis for more informed discussions – either among hospice providers, the organizations they work for or the general public.

These includes such topics as the hospice mission, patient access to information, questions about legal options, how to discuss emotional or religious factors, response to specific patient requests, documentation of conversations, responsibility to the patient’s family, and many other issues.

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Courtney Campbell, 541-737-6196

Scientists outline long-term sea-level rise in response to warming of planet

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new study estimates that global sea levels will rise about 2.3 meters, or more than seven feet, over the next several thousand years for every degree (Celsius) the planet warms.

This international study is one of the first to combine analyses of four major contributors to potential sea level rise into a collective estimate, and compare it with evidence of past sea-level responses to global temperature changes.

Results of the study, funded primarily by the National Science Foundation and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, are being published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“The study did not seek to estimate how much the planet will warm, or how rapidly sea levels will rise,” noted Peter Clark, an Oregon State University paleoclimatologist and author on the PNAS article. “Instead, we were trying to pin down the ‘sea-level commitment’ of global warming on a multi-millennial time scale. In other words, how much would sea levels rise over long periods of time for each degree the planet warms and holds that warmth?”

“The simulations of future scenarios we ran from physical models were fairly consistent with evidence of sea-level rise from the past,” Clark added. “Some 120,000 years ago, for example, it was 1-2 degrees warmer than it is now and sea levels were about five to nine meters higher. This is consistent with what our models say may happen in the future.”

Scientists say the four major contributors to sea-level rise on a global scale will come from melting of glaciers, melting of the Greenland ice sheet, melting of the Antarctic ice sheet, and expansion of the ocean itself as it warms. Several past studies have examined each of these components, the authors say, but this is one of the first efforts at merging different analyses into a single projection.

The researchers ran hundreds of simulations through their models to calculate how the four areas would respond to warming, Clark said, and the response was mostly linear. The amount of melting and subsequent sea-level response was commensurate with the amount of warming. The exception, he said, was in Greenland, which seems to have a threshold at which the response can be amplified.

“As the ice sheet in Greenland melts over thousands of years and becomes lower, the temperature will increase because of the elevation loss,” Clark said. “For every 1,000 meters of elevation loss, it warms about six degrees (Celsius). That elevation loss would accelerate the melting of the Greenland ice sheet.”

In contrast, the Antarctic ice sheet is so cold that elevation loss won’t affect it the same way. The melting of the ice sheet there comes primarily from the calving of icebergs, which float away and melt in warmer ocean waters, or the contact between the edges of the ice sheet and seawater.

In their paper, the authors note that sea-level rise in the past century has been dominated by the expansion of the ocean and melting of glaciers. The biggest contributions in the future may come from melting of the Greenland ice sheet, which could disappear entirely, and the Antarctic ice sheet, which will likely reach some kind of equilibrium with atmospheric temperatures and shrink significantly, but not disappear.

“Keep in mind that the sea level rise projected by these models of 2.3 meters per degree of warming is over thousands of years,” emphasized Clark, who is a professor in Oregon State University’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. “If it warms a degree in the next two years, sea levels won’t necessarily rise immediately. The Earth has to warm and hold that increased temperature over time.

“However, carbon dioxide has a very long time scale and the amounts we’ve emitted into the atmosphere will stay up there for thousands of years,” he added. “Even if we were to reduce emissions, the sea-level commitment of global warming will be significant.”

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Peter Clark, cell phone: 541-740-5237 (clarkp@geo.oregonstate.edu)

Lionfish expedition: down deep is where the big, scary ones live

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Last month, the first expedition to use a deep-diving submersible to study the Atlantic Ocean lionfish invasion found something very disturbing – at 300 feet deep, there were still significant populations of these predatory fish, and they were big.

Big fish in many species can reproduce much more efficiently than their younger, smaller counterparts, and lionfish are known to travel considerable distances and move to various depths. This raises significant new concerns in the effort to control this invasive species that is devastating native fish populations on the Atlantic Coast and in the Caribbean Sea.

“We expected some populations of lionfish at that depth, but their numbers and size were a surprise,” said Stephanie Green, the David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellow in the College of Science at Oregon State University, who participated in the dives. OSU has been one of the early leaders in the study of the lionfish invasion.

“This was kind of an ‘Ah hah!’ moment,” she said. “It was immediately clear that this is a new frontier in the lionfish crisis, and that something is going to have to be done about it. Seeing it up-close really brought home the nature of the problem.”

OSU participated in this expedition with researchers from a number of other universities, in work supported by Nova Southeastern University, the Guy Harvey Foundation, NOAA, and other agencies. The five-person  submersible “Antipodes” was provided by OceanGate, Inc., and it dove about 300 feet deep off the coast of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., near the “Bill Boyd” cargo ship that was intentionally sunk there in 1986 to create an artificial reef for marine life.

That ship has, in fact, attracted a great deal of marine life, and now, a great number of lionfish. And for that species, they are growing to an unusually large size – as much as 16 inches.

Lionfish are a predatory fish that’s native to the Pacific Ocean and were accidentally introduced to Atlantic Ocean waters in the early 1990s, and there became a voracious predator with no natural controls on its population. An OSU study in 2008 showed that lionfish in the Atlantic have been known to reduce native fish populations by up to 80 percent.

Eradication appears impossible, and they threaten everything from coral reef ecosystems to local economies that are based on fishing and tourism.

Whatever is keeping them in check in the Pacific – and researchers around the world are trying to find out what that is – is missing here. In the Caribbean, they are found at different depths, in various terrain, are largely ignored by other local predators and parasites, and are rapidly eating their way through entire ecosystems. They will attack many other species and appear to eat constantly.

And, unfortunately, the big fish just discovered at greater depths pose that much more of a predatory threat, not to mention appetite.

“A lionfish will eat almost any fish smaller than it is,” Green said. “Regarding the large fish we observed in the submersible dives, a real concern is that they could migrate to shallower depths as well and eat many of the fish there. And the control measures we’re using at shallower depths – catch them and let people eat them – are not as practical at great depth.”

Size does more than just increase predation.  In many fish species, a large, mature adult can produce far more offspring that small, younger fish. A large, mature female in some species can produce up to 10 times as many offspring as a fish that’s able to reproduce, but half the size.

Trapping is a possibility for removing fish at greater depth, Green said, and could be especially effective if a method were developed to selectively trap lionfish and not other species. Work on control technologies and cost effectiveness of various approaches will continue at OSU, she said.

When attacking another fish, a lionfish uses its large, fan-like fins to herd smaller fish into a corner and then swallow them in a rapid strike. Because of their natural defense mechanisms they are afraid of almost no other marine life, and will consume dozens of species of the tropical fish and invertebrates that typically congregate in coral reefs and other areas. The venom released by their sharp spines can cause extremely painful stings to humans.

Aside from the rapid and immediate mortality of marine life, the loss of herbivorous fish will also set the stage for seaweed to potentially overwhelm the coral reefs and disrupt the delicate ecological balance in which they exist.

This newest threat follows on the heels of overfishing, sediment deposition, nitrate pollution in some areas, coral bleaching caused by global warming, and increasing ocean acidity caused by carbon emissions. Lionfish may be the final straw that breaks the back of Western Atlantic and Caribbean coral reefs, some researchers believe.

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Stephanie Green, 541-737-5364

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Submersible research

Submersible in Florida


Exploring sunken ship

Lionfish near sunken ship


Lionfish

Lionfish

Fear of deportation not an issue for farmworkers who get care from community health centers

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Migrant workers are more likely to receive medical care from community health centers in partnership with faith-based organizations, a new study shows, because fear of deportation is lower than they might face at other medical facilities.

The study was recently published online in the Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health.

Daniel López-Cevallos, associate director of research at Oregon State University’s Center for Latino/a Studies and Engagement, said this research points to the importance of health services being administered to migrant farmworkers by trusted institutions.

López-Cevallos, who is lead author of this study, is an expert on migrant farmworker health and has worked in public health projects with rural, indigenous, and low-income communities in Ecuador, and with Latino immigrants in Oregon.

“It has been assumed in most of the literature that fear of deportation is associated with use of health services, across the board,” he said. “There is a strong belief by many workers that they don’t want to touch the system because it might hurt their chances of someday becoming documented or jeopardize their children’s well-being.”

However, that fear wasn’t a factor with Oregon migrant workers in this study. The researchers interviewed 179 Mexican-origin indigenous and mestizo farmworkers who attended a community health center in the northern Willamette Valley. While the majority of workers – 87 percent – said they were afraid of deportation, this fear was not tied to their use of medical or dental care.

“So this fear of deportation exists, but in this particular community, it was not associated with use of medical services,” López-Cevallos said.

The researchers found two important factors influencing use of medical services – these workers were being served by a trusted community health organization that has served the area for decades, and those who attended a local church were more likely to use dental care.

“Some churches provide support to migrant farmworkers, which may include connecting them with needed dental care,” he said. “So we see that when services are offered by trusted institutions, such as a community health center or a faith-based organization, it can make all the difference.”

Despite the relative confidence migrant workers expressed about community health centers and churches, only 37 percent of the farmworkers surveyed had used medical care in the previous year, a number similar to national statistics on migrant workers. López-Cevallos believes many workers fear losing their jobs if they take time to see a doctor, and most don’t have health insurance.

Because of these barriers and others, it’s even more important to make sure safe, adequate health care is available to workers, he said, especially at times and locations that work best with fieldwork schedules.

“Migrant and seasonal farmworkers are an integral part of our food system, creating over $3 billion in economic activity annually, just in Oregon,” López-Cevallos said. “We get the benefit of their labor through our inexpensive food. It is in our best interest as a society to make sure that they, and their children, are healthy and cared for.”

Junghee Lee and William Donlan with Portland State University co-authored this study, which was funded by a grant from the Oregon Community Foundation.

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Daniel López-Cevallos, 541-737-3850

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Harvesting potatoes
Historic photo of Mexican braceros harvesting potatoes on an Oregon farm in the 1940s. Photo courtesy of OSU Special Collections

The sounds of science – melting of iceberg creates surprising ocean din

CORVALLIS, Ore. – There is growing concern about how much noise humans generate in marine environments through shipping, oil exploration and other developments, but a new study has found that naturally occurring phenomena could potentially affect some ocean dwellers.

Nowhere is this concern greater than in the polar regions, where the effects of global warming often first manifest themselves. The breakup of ice sheets and the calving and grounding of icebergs can create enormous sound energy, scientists say. Now a new study has found that the mere drifting of an iceberg from near Antarctica to warmer ocean waters produces startling levels of noise.

Results of the study are being published this month in Oceanography.

A team led by Oregon State University researchers used an array of hydrophones to track the sound produced by an iceberg through its life cycle, from its origin in the Weddell Sea to its eventual demise in the open ocean. The goal of the project was to measure baseline levels of this kind of naturally occurring sound in the ocean, so it can be compared to anthropogenic noises.

“During one hour-long period, we documented that the sound energy released by the iceberg disintegrating was equivalent to the sound that would be created by a few hundred supertankers over the same period,” said Robert Dziak, a marine geologist at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Ore., and lead author on the study.

“This wasn’t from the iceberg scraping the bottom,” he added. “It was from its rapid disintegration as the berg melted and broke apart. We call the sounds ‘icequakes’ because the process and ensuing sounds are much like those produced by earthquakes.”

Dziak is a scientist with the Cooperative Institute for Marine Resources Studies (CIMRS), a collaborative program between Oregon State University and NOAA based at OSU’s Hatfield center. He also is on the faculty of OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.

When scientists first followed the iceberg, it encountered a 124-meter deep shoal, causing it to rotate and grind across the seafloor. It then began generating semi-continuous harmonic tremors for the next six days. The iceberg then entered Bransfield Strait and became fixed over a 265-meter deep shoal, where it began to pinwheel. The harmonic tremors became shorter and less pronounced.

It wasn’t until the iceberg broke loose and drifted into the warmer waters of the Scotia Sea that the real action began. Photos from the International Space Station showed visible melt ponds on the iceberg’s surface, indicating it had was in a period of rapid disintegration. Within two months, the iceberg had broken apart and scientists were no longer able to track it via satellite.

But the scientists’ hydrophone array recorded the acoustic signature of the breakup – short duration, broadband signals that were distinctly different from the harmonic tremors, and much louder.

“You wouldn’t think that a drifting iceberg would create such a large amount of sound energy without colliding into something or scraping the seafloor,” noted Dziak, who has monitored ocean sounds using hydrophones for nearly two decades.  “But think of what happens why you pour a warm drink into a glass filled with ice. The ice shatters and the cracking sounds can be really dramatic. Now extrapolate that to a giant iceberg and you can begin to understand the magnitude of the sound energy.”

“In fact, the sounds produced by ice breakup near Antarctica are often clearly recorded on hydrophones that we have near the equator,” Dziak added.

Scientists are just starting to study the impact of anthropogenic and naturally occurring sounds on marine life and are unsure about the possible impacts. Most at-risk are those animals that use sound to facilitate their life-sustaining activities, such as feeding, breeding and navigation.

“The breakup of ice and the melting of icebergs are natural events, so obviously animals have adapted to this noise over time,” Dziak said. “If the atmosphere continues to warm and the breakup of ice is magnified, this might increase the noise budget in the polar areas.

“We don’t know what impact this may have,” Dziak added, “but we are trying to establish what natural sound levels are in various parts of the world’s oceans to better understand the amount of anthropogenic noise that is being generated.”

The research is supported primarily by the NOAA Ocean Exploration and Research Program, the Department of Energy, and the Korea Polar Research Institute.

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Bob Dziak, 541-867-0175; robert.dziak@oregonstate.edu

Antifreeze, cheap materials may lead to low-cost solar energy

The study this story is based on is available in ScholarsArchive@OSU; http://bit.ly/10Zj0SK

 

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A process combining some comparatively cheap materials and the same antifreeze that keeps an automobile radiator from freezing in cold weather may be the key to making solar cells that cost less and avoid toxic compounds, while further expanding the use of solar energy.

And when perfected, this approach might also cook up the solar cells in a microwave oven similar to the one in most kitchens.

Engineers at Oregon State University have determined that ethylene glycol, commonly used in antifreeze products, can be a low-cost solvent that functions well in a “continuous flow” reactor – an approach to making thin-film solar cells that is easily scaled up for mass production at industrial levels.

The research, just published in Material Letters, a professional journal, also concluded this approach will work with CZTS, or copper zinc tin sulfide, a compound of significant interest for solar cells due to its excellent optical properties and the fact these materials are cheap and environmentally benign.

“The global use of solar energy may be held back if the materials we use to produce solar cells are too expensive or require the use of toxic chemicals in production,” said Greg Herman, an associate professor in the OSU School of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering. “We need technologies that use abundant, inexpensive materials, preferably ones that can be mined in the U.S. This process offers that.”

By contrast, many solar cells today are made with CIGS, or copper indium gallium diselenide. Indium is comparatively rare and costly, and mostly produced in China. Last year, the prices of indium and gallium used in CIGS solar cells were about 275 times higher than the zinc used in CZTS cells.

The technology being developed at OSU uses ethylene glycol in meso-fluidic reactors that can offer precise control of temperature, reaction time, and mass transport to yield better crystalline quality and high uniformity of the nanoparticles that comprise the solar cell – all factors which improve quality control and performance.

This approach is also faster – many companies still use “batch mode” synthesis to produce CIGS nanoparticles, a process that can ultimately take up to a full day, compared to about half an hour with a continuous flow reactor. The additional speed of such reactors will further reduce final costs.

“For large-scale industrial production, all of these factors – cost of materials, speed, quality control – can translate into money,” Herman said. “The approach we’re using should provide high-quality solar cells at a lower cost.”

The performance of CZTS cells right now is lower than that of CIGS, researchers say, but with further research on the use of dopants and additional optimization it should be possible to create solar cell efficiency that is comparable.

This project is one result of work through the Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry, a collaborative effort of OSU and five other academic institutions, supported by the National Science Foundation. Funding was provided by Sharp Laboratories of America. The goal is to develop materials and products that are safe, affordable and avoid the use of toxic chemicals or expensive compounds.

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Greg Herman, 541-737-2496

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Solar cell nanoparticles

Solar nanoparticles

OSU study suggests reducing air-polluting PAHs may lower levels of lung cancer deaths

CORVALLIS, Ore. – High emissions of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) can be linked to lung cancer deaths in the United States and countries with a similarly high socioeconomic rank, including Canada, Australia, France, and Germany, according to a study by Oregon State University.

Researchers reviewed a range of information from 136 countries, including average body mass index, gross domestic product per capita, the price of cigarettes, smoking rates, and the amount of PAHs emitted into the air. PAHs are a group of more than 100 chemicals, some of which are carcinogenic when inhaled or ingested. They most commonly come from vehicle exhaust and burning coal and wood.

OSU researchers calculated how measures of health, wealth and pollution related to lung cancer deaths in each country.

"Analyzing data on a global scale revealed relationships between PAH emissions and smoking rates on the lung cancer death rates in each country," said Staci Simonich, a co-author of the study and toxicologist at OSU. "Ultimately, the strength of the relationships was determined by the country’s socioeconomic status."

While the link between smoking and lung cancer is well-established, OSU researchers did not find a correlation between cigarette smoking rates and lung cancer death rates in countries with high levels of income. Researchers attribute this conclusion to previous studies showing high-income smokers tend to light up less often.

OSU's study also suggests that reducing smoking rates could significantly lessen lung cancer deaths in countries with a lower socioeconomic status, including North Korea, Nepal, Mongolia, Cambodia, Bangladesh and many others. Researchers found that lung cancer mortality rates in these countries negatively correlated with price – meaning cheaper cigarettes are often associated with higher levels of deaths from lung cancer.

Detectable lung cancer can take 20 years to develop, and the poorest countries in the study had an average age of death of 54. OSU researchers suggest heavy smokers in these countries can sometimes die before tumors attributable to lung cancer become apparent.

"If the life expectancies were the same in all of the countries we reviewed, it's possible we would see a consistent relationship between PAH emissions and lung cancer," said Simonich, an OSU professor of environmental and molecular toxicology.

The study, "Association of Carcinogenic Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Emissions and Smoking with Lung Cancer Mortality Rates on a Global Scale," was recently published in the journal Environmental Science and Toxicology.

The Pacific Northwest National Laboratories in Richland, Wash. assisted with calculating the statistical associations between data used in the study. The National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences funded the research through OSU’s Superfund Research Program.

Cancer is the second-leading cause of death worldwide. Lung cancer accounts for 12 percent of all cancer diagnoses and is the leading cancer killer of men and second among women, according to the American Cancer Society.

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Staci Simonich, 541-737-9194

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Staci Simonich, OSU environmental chemist

Staci Simonich, an OSU environmental chemist, calculated how measures of health, wealth and pollution related to lung cancer deaths around the world. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)

More Americans want government to stay out of international affairs

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The number of Americans wanting their government to stay out of international affairs is higher than it has been since the Vietnam War, according to a new analysis.

In an article published this week in Orbis: A Journal of World Affairs, Oregon State University historian Christopher McKnight Nichols notes that doubts about American involvement abroad are on the rise, up 10 percent in a decade. He connects current reluctance on the part of many Americans to get involved militarily and politically with foreign nations to a long-standing tradition in U.S. politics.

“Virtually all isolationists in the history of the United States have subscribed to some form of international engagement, whether that is economic, cultural, political or intellectual,” he said. “There is no such thing as a complete isolationist. What we do have is a rich history of Americans who have taken on isolationist or anti-interventionist beliefs at different times, and helped transform or influence the political system and policy.”

Nichols, an assistant professor in the School of History, Philosophy, and Religion at OSU, is an expert on isolationism, internationalism, and the history of U.S. roles in the world and military interventions abroad.

In his article, he links the “heyday” of American isolationism of the 1920s and 1930s to current events, including polls showing nearly 70 percent of Americans reject further U.S. efforts to intervene or to promote democracy abroad.

Nichols also wants to take back the term “isolationist” from its common stereotype of a conservative mindset that wants to wall off from the outside world. Famous figures, ranging from peace activist Jane Addams and racial reformer W.E.B. Du Bois to writer Mark Twain and former U.S. Sen. William Borah, a nationalist who opposed the League of Nations, have all favored anti-war and anti-imperialistic isolationist policies.

“They say politics makes strange bedfellows, and we can certainly trace this with the isolationist movement, which tended to attract people on both the far left and far right,” Nichols said. “Today we see that same sort of tendency with some young anti-war activists supporting someone like Ron Paul.”

Most of these type of isolationist sentiments can be traced to three “policy pillars” – expressed by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Monroe – in laying out the relationship between domestic and foreign commitments, types of diplomatic and military isolation, and debates over foreign policy cautiousness that have had a deep impact on U.S. foreign relations for more than a century.

“These are the touchstones for all foreign policy debate, then and since,” he said. “The key precepts were: no permanent alliances or binding foreign entanglements, peace and honest friendship with all nations, enhancing and protecting international commerce, heralding unilateral action, and asserting U.S. rights to hemispheric defense and a wide sphere of primary U.S. influence abroad.”

Nichols said that isolationism as a strain of thought that informs how American citizens and policymakers evaluate options abroad and sometimes sways policy cannot be overstated. Eight years ago there were far more troops on the ground overseas than today, and he said President Obama has shown a reluctance to put “boots on the ground” in places like Libya and Syria, causing some of his critics to call him a “neo-isolationist.”

“With President Obama, we are back to small-scale, multilateral interventions, more like those that we had in the Clinton era,” Nichols said. “During Clinton’s presidency, the U.S. deployed forces abroad approximately 80 times in foreign humanitarian and peacekeeping operations, but these were mostly conflicts with small troop footprints, or Special Forces, characterized by few American causalities.

“In the wake of the Iraq War, in light of the drawdown in Afghanistan, and given pressing economic and political concerns at home, the U.S. public is increasingly reluctant to sacrifice American lives or to materially support intervention and aid abroad.”

Nichols is the author of “Promise and Peril: America at the Dawn of a Global Age,” which traces the origins of isolationism back to the debates over U.S. imperialism at the end of the 19th century and its continuities over the next-half century.

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