The Blue Economy: A Sea of Opportunities

The Canary Islands is one of ten island territories in the European Union (EU) chosen as an object of study by the Soclimpact project, financed within the framework of Horizon 2020, whose objectives are based on furthering scientific knowledge to promote blue growth in Europe.

“The water that filled the oceans arrived aboard meteorites” – Nature Magazine.

If it weren’t for the planet Jupiter, we would now have one more planet in the solar system. But Jupiter’s massive gravity broke this would-be planet up into several asteroids and stopped it from fully forming.

This explains how these asteroids brought much of the water present on Earth today, filling the oceans and providing the main ingredient in our bodies. In any case, this is the conclusion reached by Javier Licandro, a researcher at the Canary Islands Astrophysics Institute and coauthor of one of two independent research studies published in Nature.

The Blue Economy Is Actually Green

Belgian economist and entrepreneur Gunter Pauli is the man behind the concept of the Blue Economy. He is also an activist who defends a sustainable approach to using the planet’s resources.

“Nature must guarantee its evolutionary system. Without nature, there is no life. This is how the Blue Economy emerged.” – Gunter Pauli.

The blue economy was born out of an awareness of the oceans and their many resources, including minerals, the power generated by the waves and the tides, and algae.

With this in mind, the blue economy is a term that recognizes the importance of our seas and oceans as economic drivers with a huge potential to stimulate innovation and growth and a wealth of resources. It aims to ensure sustainable and profitable economic development.

“99% of the biosphere is found in the seas and oceans.”

Today, these natural resources are suffering from the severe pollution caused by humanity’s role in the process of procuring, producing, and consuming these reserves.

Our seas are polluted with the chemicals derived from the breakdown of plastics, from oil spills, and from the seepage of other substances–such as mercury, chloroform, or benzene–that pose a serious problem for the sea, and, consequently, for the planet.

Meanwhile, so-called “emerging pollutants” such as Diclofenac (found in many pharmaceutical drugs), musk ketone (used in the perfume industry), sulfophenyl acid or SPCs (present in detergents) are affecting the lives of humans and animals alike, resisting degradation, or being transformed into substances that are even more dangerous.

What is the relationship between nanotechnology and water?

Nanotechnology plays a significant role because nanotechnology research and investigation can allow us to create molecular materials, technological devices, and nanotechnology techniques that can help us take care of the oceans, evaluating and protecting their health and, consequently, the health of our planet.

Cetaceans and Reptiles: The Real Oceanographers

A team of researchers led by Spanish oceanographer Carlos Duarte designed a new generation of tiny biodegradable tracking sensors. These sensors are used to mark marine animals, helping scientists evaluate the health of the oceans and improve their conservation.

One of the “bottlenecks” of oceanographic research is data transmission. But these minuscule sensors (about the size of a pinhead), –designed using the latest advances in nanotechnology, materials science, and big data–, have allowed researchers to decrease the time and the number of resources it takes to transmit information.

Data relative to water temperature, pressure, the movement of animals, and water quality is recorded thanks to these sensors, which are used to mark cetaceans and reptiles, making these creatures the real oceanographers.

Nanotechnology: The New Cure for the Oceans

Former Vice Rector of Research and Knowledge Transfer at the University of La Laguna (ULL), Doctor Catalina Ruiz Pérez, specialized in researching the use of X-rays in designing and obtaining new molecular materials, which, in turn, had different attributes.

This led to creating materials that behave like a magnet or serve as a contrast agent for nuclear magnetic resonance. Doctor Ruiz’s research focuses on using metal-organic nets in extraction techniques, as well as applying metal nanoparticles.

Along this same line, a team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology developed a method that consists of using magnets to separate water from oil.  This method works by adding a mix of nanoparticles and iron before and then using a magnet to separate the oil.

The technique makes it possible to extract petroleum from water so that it can then be reused, thereby offsetting cleanup costs.

Blue Growth in Europe: Horizon 2020

The Canary Islands is one of ten island territories in the European Union (EU) chosen as an object of study by the Soclimpact project, financed within the framework of Horizon 2020, whose objectives are based on furthering scientific knowledge to promote blue growth in Europe.

The idea is to promote strategic cooperation between the educational, research, technology, and industrial communities in order to tackle the challenges associated with the sustainable exploitation of the resources of the Atlantic Ocean and promote economic growth while creating jobs for citizens in societies on both sides of the Atlantic.

In Europe, this research has suggested blue growth solutions associated with systems used to observe the Atlantic, the capacity to offer an integrated response to oil spills and marine pollution, the effects of climate change on fishing and aquaculture, and our understanding of the oceans.

Nanotec: Tenerife’s Nanotechnology and Sustainability Center

The European Union’s objectives with respect to the blue economy, combined with a sustainable approach to the use of the planet’s resources, and with the full potential nanotechnology offers, makes the Canary Islands the perfect natural setting. Moreover, the islands are prepared to tackle projects that not only help promote blue growth in Europe but also allow us to export the know-how and experience acquired to other territories with similar characteristics.

At INtech La Laguna, Nanotec comprises a wide range of nanotechnology and sustainability-related projects, facilitating research and investigation in areas such as water treatment, the use of renewable energies, plant species development and optimization, the rational use of natural agricultural resources, climate research, and intervention in the desertification process.

To learn more about the advantages Tenerife has to offer in terms of Nanotechnology and Sustainability, download our guide in English: “Tenerife: A Place to BE. 5 + 1 Reasons to Work in Tenerife”.

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