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Marine Renewables

This month on Newsdesk: a tidal turbine powers up, the secrets of elephant trunks, and plastic-clearing boats.

A tidal turbine powers up

Our oceans contain vast amounts of energy. Every day, tides cause sea levels to rise and fall. This cycle of changing sea levels shifts immense volumes of matter and energy.

Now, engineers have developed a new “tidal turbine” that can convert the energy of the tides into clean, renewable electricity.

The giant turbine is designed to float on the surface of the ocean. As powerful tidal currents rush beneath, the water forces underwater blades to rotate. The rotating blades generate electricity, which can then be transferred to land along a cable.

The first completed turbine was recently launched into the sea in Scotland. Once the turbine is moved to its final position, it could harness enough tidal energy to power 2,000 homes – clean, renewable electricity that will help turn the tide on climate change!

The secrets of elephant trunks

Elephant trunks are a wonder of nature! Elephants use their distinctive noses for a wide range of tasks, including collecting food from trees, mud baths, and communicating with one another.

Researchers have now discovered that elephant trunks have a hidden function: the ability to suck up food! Filming an elephant as it gobbled up various snacks, researchers observed the trunk using suction to inhale small pieces of food, much like how a vacuum cleaner sucks up dust.

The elephant was also recorded using its suction powers to grab a fragile tortilla chip without breaking it. Researchers also monitored the trunk of a thirsty elephant as it enjoyed a drink, and discovered that elephants can store extra water in their trunks, which they can then use later in the day!

Plastic-clearing boats

Every year, 8 million metric tons of plastic waste enter our oceans. This plastic pollution seriously damages many marine ecosystems and scientists predict that, if the problem isn't tackled, plastic could outweigh the total amount of fish in the sea by the year 2050.

Most of the plastic pollution doesn’t actually start in the ocean. It is dumped in the water of big cities and washed downstream along major rivers, eventually floating out to sea.

However, engineers have recently introduced a fleet of custom-made boats to help tackle the problem of plastic. The boats are designed to collect plastic from some of the world’s most polluted rivers. Solar-powered, the boats can operate automatically as they catch floating plastic trash and remove it from the river using a conveyor belt.

Operators can then climb aboard and take the plastic away to dispose of it properly. Engineers hope that by placing the boats in rivers all around the world, they will cut the amount of plastic flowing out to sea, helping our oceans return to a plastic-free ecosystem!

Learn more about tidal energy by watching the Twig Film Marine Renewables.

For more great topical science content, visit Twig Science Reporter where you'll also find videos, transcripts and lesson support to accompany this article.