Showing posts with label Japan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Japan. Show all posts

22 December 2011

Remote sensing at work: Organic crops, wetlands monitoring, coal mining, and more

Remote sensing technologies provide solutions to numerous and varied problems around the world. Here are six recent applications:

How can a remote yet vital wetland be monitored?

Problem: The socio-economically vital Sudd wetland in southern Sudan’s Nile River swamps is threatened by overgrazing and by loss of vegetation during the wet season. But its remoteness and inaccessibility due to civil war prevents field studies.

Solution: Using geospatial data-authoring software to quantify wetland cover changes, researchers from Ain Shams University in Cairo developed a process to interpret Landsat-generated imagery, map land-cover types and compare the images to produce change-detection maps. Read more in the team’s article in the SPIE Newsroom

What happens to land stability after coal is mined?

Problem: Extracting coal from underground mines generally leads to subsidence of the overlaying land within days or sometimes years. Local governments need information about land subsidence to ensure that miners are staying within permitted areas and to monitor environmental effects. However, conventional field monitoring is expensive and time-consuming, and mountainous or inhospitable terrain can make it difficult or even impossible.

Solution: Researchers from the National Remote Sensing Center of China and the Center for Earth Observation and Digital Earth of the Chinese Academy of Sciences have reported on a method of monitoring land subsidence with multi-band differential synthetic aperture radar interferometry (DInSAR). Air- or spaceborne detectors scan Earth's surface with radio waves to create a topographical map of the ground, and DInSAR compares SAR interferometry data taken hours, days or years apart to show subtle topographical changes. Read the team’s article in the SPIE Newsroom.

Are those crops organic?

Problem: Organic agriculture provides healthy food and protects the environment by avoiding the widespread dissemination of chemicals. Products may be labeled “organic” only if they are produced according to established standards, undergo an evaluation and pass a yearly inspection.

Solution: Because conventional and organic crops are treated differently, their characteristics are also different. The European Space Agency (ESA) is working with Ecocert, an organic certification organization, to use satellite images to spot these differences and support the certification process. This new space-based approach for organic farming was developed by Keyobs, VISTA and the University of Liège under the guidance of Ecocert, as part of an ESA Earth Observation Market Development project. Read more in the SPIE Professional article.

From Prague

Among papers presented at SPIE Remote Sensing in Prague this fall that examined the oceans were the following reports from the Mediterranean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean. (The papers were published in the SPIE Digital Library, with open-access abstracts and full papers available by subscription, rental or pay-per-view.)

Is surface runoff decreasing ocean fish stocks?

Problem: Surface runoff from land can affect ocean fish stocks by inhibiting the vitality of chlorophyll in phytoplankton in the water.

Solution: A team from the University of Malta and the European Commission Joint Research Centre statistically compared ocean color values from satellites with values collected in the field. Ocean color can be used to gauge the productivity of a marine area since it is the measure of suspended chlorophyll pigment. Chlorophyll is found in the microscopic phytoplankton which are the basis of marine food webs. Access the team’s paper “A first attempt at testing correlation between MODIS ocean colour data and in situ chlorophyll -- measurements within Maltese coastal waters” in the SPIE Digital Library, and read the Times of Malta article on the work.

How does an oil spill affect fish reproduction?

Problem: In the Gulf of Mexico, oil and dispersant chemicals left after the Deepwater Horizon spill covered critical fish spawning and larval areas. Oil on the sea surface and the timing of its occurrence likely impacted the developing eggs and larvae of bluefin tuna, blue marlin and other fishes whose eggs concentrate in the sea surface microlayer (SML) ? the topmost millimeter. The SML also concentrates petroleum, petroleum-derived hydrocarbons, tar, pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), heavy metals and plastics. Exposure to oil and oil dispersants causes acute toxicity, narcosis and eventual death in marine fish larvae. Surface oil has been detected in 100% of the northernmost whale shark sightings, 32.8 % of the bluefin tuna spawning area and 38 % of the blue marlin larval area.

Solution: Researchers from Ocean Research and Conservation Association and the Florida Institute of Technology used biogeographical analyses to gain insights on these impacts. The research team georeferenced historical ichthyoplankton surveys and published literature to map targeted spawning and larval areas in the Gulf with daily satellite-derived images. Read more about the work in their paper “Potential impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on large pelagic fishes.”

What damage did the earthquake and tsunami cause?

Problem: Depending on its magnitude and location, an earthquake may have unexpectedly complex impacts, and affected areas may be difficult to access in order to assess the damage.

Solution: After the 9.0-magnitude earthquake off the Pacific Coast of Japan on 11 March 2011, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) provided images acquired by the Advanced Land Observing Satellite (ALOS) to national and local governments of Japan, to aid in disaster recovery and restoration. JAXA also received and analyzed more than 5,000 scenes via the International Disaster Charter and Sentinel Asia, and supported the governments through its Disaster Management Support Systems Office. Read more about the JAXA team’s efforts in their paper “Disaster monitoring for Japan Earthquake with satellites by JAXA.”

Remote sensing is indeed at work around the world, monitoring impacts of human activity and natural phenomena to help improve quality of life.

08 June 2011

How many ways can photonics innovation change life for the better?

Quick quiz: List five examples of how photonics technology has changed how you live -- how you work, travel, relax, look after your health --- whatever. Easy, right? Now, name five photonics-based changes you expect to see in the near future. Also easy.

Photonics solutions are everywhere, and the time is ripe for more photonics innovation. Governments, industry, and other funders around the world are developing new policy initiatives and offering new sources of funding in support of photonics R&D.

Some of those initiatives need your participation to be successful. Among them:

●   In the UK, photonics recently was named one of the potential candidate areas for investment in the next phase of the Strategy and Implementation Plan for Technology and Innovation Centres (TICs). If you live in the UK, you can help influence that choice: Comments about what photonics can do are being sought, and can be posted on the photonics TIC discussion space or emailed to

●   The European Commission recently closed a comment period on its Green Paper on Research and Innovation, in which they sought input for the next budget cycle on bringing together the current Framework Programme for research, the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme, and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology.

●   In an effort to identify and encourage future pathways for photonics innovation, a committee has been appointed by the U.S. National Academy of Science to update the 1998 “Harnessing Light” study of the photonics industry. The committee is in the information-gathering stage, and is doing so through a variety of methods including town-hall-style meetings at events. One such event is scheduled for Monday 22 August at SPIE Optics+Photonics in San Diego, California.

●   On the industry side, one new initiative is the Blue Ocean Grants and Challenges Program launched by Ocean Optics. Blue Ocean follows an open-innovation model expounded by Henry Chesbrough in his book by that title, where companies pay for new information from the outside. The program is looking specifically for new ideas in optical sensing that have potential for market commercialization.

●   Another recent initiative is the newly founded Center for Optical Research and Education (CORE) at Utsunomiya University. The center represents the first time in Japan for this type of joint effort between industry  -- Canon Inc. -- and a national university. (You'll see more on this in a subsequent post.)

●   At the recent Laser World of Photonics, Georg Schuette of Germany's Federal Ministry for Education and Research announced a comprehensive and well-funded Agenda 2020 for photonics.

Looking for inspiration for your own innovation process or ideas? Try these:

●   John Kao, author of Innovation Nation, and Regina Dugan, Director of DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and plenary speaker at the recent SPIE Defense, Security, and Sensing symposium are among those interviewed in a recent CNN-TIME feature on American innovators.

Angelique Irvin, serial entrepreneur and CEO of Clear Align, shares her experience in photonics innovation in an SPIE Newsroom video interview:

●   Jerry Nelson, 2010 winner of the Kavli Prize in Astrophysics for innovations in telescope design, also talked with the SPIE Newsroom about his work:

●   A sampling of  international innovation in biomedical optics was presented at the Photonics West 2011 Biomedical Optics “Hot Topics” session.

Inspired yet? What's your innovation story?

15 March 2011

The world attends to Japan in recovering from tsunami and earthquakes

The work of rebuilding after last week’s powerful earthquakes and tsunami in Japan is underway already, even as aid organizations reach out to the injured and those whose homes were damaged or destroyed. Efforts to stabilize nuclear reactors continue amid continuing earthquakes and aftershocks around the country.

Among the many organizations on hand to help are:

Media coverage in a wide variety of formats provides updates as well as technology insights:
Japan is accustomed to experiencing many earthquakes every year, but has seen none as powerful as last Friday’s 8.9-magnitude temblor in recorded history. SPIE President Katarina Svanberg expressed the thoughts of many observers around the world, in reaching out to friends, colleagues, and strangers alike: “Our thoughts are with you in these days of grief and sorrow."