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Chemistry News Archive August 2008

Chemistry News August 2008

News of the year 2008 in the fields of chemistry and chemistry-related topics like biochemistry, nantechnology, medicinal chemistry etc.

Main focus: press releases, scientific research results and summaries of chemistry articles, that are published in chemistry journals.

Please send us a eMail to publish your press release!




Molecular Cubes in the Sunlight
Catalyst for water oxidation adopted from plants: a means for energy-efficient production of hydrogen?


Heads-up study of hair dynamics may lead to better hair-care products
Chemists report the first detailed microscopic analysis of what happens to individual hair fibers when they interact with each other.


Green catalysts provide promise for cleaning toxins and pollutants
Reseacher believes that TAMLs catalysts have the potential to be even more effective than previously proven.


Fischer-Tropsch Synthesis:
A hot new catalyst for cool biofuel production in microchannel reactors.


Turning Waste Material into Ethanol
Nanoscale catalysts could tap syngas as cheap source of ethanol.


Strange molecule in the sky cleans acid rain, scientists discover

Spectroscopic identification and stability of the intermediate in the OH + HONO2 reaction.

Researchers have discovered an unusual molecule that is essential to the atmosphere's ability to break down pollutants, especially the compounds that cause acid rain.


Fuel from Cellulose
Inexpensive, efficient, and easy: direct formation of furan-based biofuels from cellulose.


Gold particles

Nano sculptures in gold

Scientists in Berlin are using a new method to resolve the structure of uncharged gold nano particles.

Giza in the Nanoworld: Gold particles were arranged on virtual desert sand. 7 gold atoms form a triangle of 6 atoms with one additional gold atom attached. The cluster of 20 atoms are piled together to form a pyramid with four equivalent corners and faces; a tetrahedron. The cluster, with one atom less, can be constructed by cutting a corner atom off the tetrahedron.

[Image: Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society]


Water refineries?
New method extracts oxygen from water with minimal energy, potentially boosting efforts to develop solar as a 24-hour energy source.


Physics - Fundamental Research


Researchers explain odd oxygen bonding under pressure
Inelastic x-ray scattering of dense solid oxygen: Evidence for intermolecular bonding.


Now That's Cool
Clark School Engineers Out to Thaw the Mysteries of Ice.


New JILA technique reveals hidden properties of ultracold atomic gases
Researchers have demonstrated a powerful new technique that reveals hidden properties of ultracold atomic gases.


X-ray diffraction looks inside aerogels in 3-D

A multi-institutional team of scientists has used beamline 9.0.1 at the Advanced Light Source to perform high-resolution x-ray diffraction imaging of an aerogel for the first time, revealing its nanoscale three-dimensional bulk lattice structure down to features measured in nanometers, billionths of a meter.


Chemistry & Biology


Century old rule of Chemistry overturned: major implications for drug delivery
Quantitative visualization of passive transport across bilayer lipid membranes.


Potatoes may hold key to Alzheimer's treatment
Antibodies to Potato Virus Y Bind the Amyloid � Peptide.


Study reveals surprising details of the evolution of protein translation
A new study of transfer RNA, a molecule that delivers amino acids to the protein-building machinery of the cell, challenges long-held ideas about the evolutionary history of protein synthesis.


RUB-Chemists "Picturise" Protein Folding
New KITA-Spectroscopy Allows Real-Time Observation. Angewandte Chemie: The Way, How Water and Proteins Interact.


Chemistry & Medicine


Cutting by color
New imaging technique for more precise cancer surgery.


Improved technique determines structure in membrane proteins
Understanding the form and function of certain proteins in the human body is becoming faster and easier, thanks to the work of researchers at the University of Illinois.


Chemists move closer toward developing safer, fully-synthetic form of heparin
Chemists are reporting a major advance toward developing a safer, fully-synthetic version of heparin, the widely used blood thinner now produced from pig intestines.


Researchers create safer alternative to heparin
Larger amounts of fully synthetic heparin could be ready for use in patients in 5 years.


Researchers find cancer-inhibiting compound under the sea
University of Florida College of Pharmacy researchers have discovered a marine compound off the coast of Key Largo that inhibits cancer cell growth in laboratory tests, a finding they hope will fuel the development of new drugs to better battle the disease.


NYU researchers demonstrate activity of mebendazole in metastatic melanoma
Novel assay finds that widely prescribed anti-parasite drug targets cancer-causing protein.


Combating Secondary Infections in Clinics
Just dive in: natural product hybrid provides antimicrobial and cell-resistant surfaces.


Chemistry & Food


New reasons to avoid grapefruit and other juices when taking certain drugs
Scientists and consumers have known for years that grapefruit juice can increase the absorption of certain drugs - with the potential for turning normal doses into toxic overdoses. Now, the researcher who first identified this interaction is reporting new evidence that grapefruit and other common fruit juices, including orange and apple, can do the opposite effect by substantially decreasing the absorption of other drugs, potentially wiping out their beneficial effects.


Chemistry & Environment


Newly detected air pollutant mimics damaging effects of cigarette smoke
A previously unrecognized group of air pollutants could have effects remarkably similar to harmful substances found in tobacco smoke.


Chemistry & Geology


ACS News (open access articles):



Scientists develop the world's thinnest balloon

Scientists have developed the world's thinnest balloon that is impermeable to even the smallest gas molecules. Above is a multi-layer graphene membrane that could be used in various applications, including filters and sensors.

Image by Jonathan Alden

Researchers in New York are reporting development of the world's thinnest balloon, made of a single layer of graphite just one atom thick. This so-called graphene sealed microchamber is impermeable to even the tiniest airborne molecules, including helium. It has a range of applications in sensors, filters, and imaging of materials at the atomic level, they say in a study scheduled for the August 13 issue of ACS' Nano Letters, a monthly journal.

Paul L. McEuen and colleagues note that membranes are fundamental components of a wide variety of physical, chemical and biological systems, found in everything from cellular compartments to mechanical pressure sensing. Graphene, a single layer of graphite, is the upper limit: A chemically stable and electrically conducting membrane just one atom thick. The researchers wanted to answer whether such an atomic membrane would be impermeable to gas molecules and easily incorporated into other devices.

Their data showed that graphene membranes were impermeable to even the smallest gas molecules. These results show that single atomic sheets can be integrated with microfabricated structures to create a new class of atomic scale membrane-based devices. We envision many applications for these graphene sealed microchambers, says McEuen. These range from hyper-sensitive pressure, light and chemical sensors to filters able to produce ultrapure solutions.

Nano Letters: "Impermeable Atomic membranes from Graphene Sheets".


Test to protect food chain from human form of Mad Cow Disease

Scientists are reporting development of the first test for instantly detecting beef that has been contaminated with tissue from a cow's brain or spinal cord during slaughter - an advance in protecting against possible spread of the human form of Mad Cow Disease. The study is scheduled for the August 13 issue of ACS' bi-weekly Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

J�rgen A. Richt and colleagues point out that removal of brain, spinal and other central nervous tissue after slaughter is "one of the highest priority tasks to avoid contamination of the human food chain with bovine spongiform encephalopathy," better known as Mad Cow Disease. "No currently available method enables the real-time detection of possible central nervous system (CNS) tissue contamination on carcasses during slaughter," the report states.

They describe a test based on detection of the fluorescent pigment lipofuscin, a substance that appears in high concentrations in the nervous tissue of cattle. The researchers found that it was a dependable indicator for the presence of brain and spinal tissue in bovine carcasses and meat cuts. "Small quantities of bovine spinal cord were reliably detected in the presence of raw bovine skeletal muscle, fat and vertebrae. The research lays the foundation for development of a prototype device allowing real-time monitoring of CNS tissue contamination on bovine carcasses and meat cuts," the report says. It was done with colleagues from the National Animal Disease Center of the USDA-Agricultural Research Service and Iowa State University. - AD

Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: "Fluorescence-Based Method, Exploiting Lipofuscin, for Real-Time Detection of Central Nervous System Tissues on Bovine Carcasses".


New evidence on benefits of breast feeding

Researchers in Switzerland and Australia are reporting identification of proteins in human breast-milk - not present in cow's milk - that may fight disease by helping remove bacteria, viruses and other dangerous pathogen's from an infant's gastrointestinal tract. Their study is scheduled for the September 5 issue of ACS' Journal of Proteome Research, a monthly publication.

Niclas Karlsson and colleagues point out that researchers have known for years that breast milk appears to provide a variety of health benefits, including lower rates of diarrhea, rashes, allergies, and other medical problems in comparison to babies fed with cow's milk. However, the biological reasons behind this association remain unclear.

To find out, the scientists collected human and cow's milk samples and analyzed their content of milk fat. They found that fat particles in human milk are coated with particular variants of two sugar-based proteins, called MUC-1 and MUC-4. Previous studies by others have shown that these proteins can block certain receptors in the GI tract that are the main attachment sites for E. coli, Helicobacter pylori and other disease-causing microbes, thereby preventing infection. By contrast, since cow's milk lacks these protein variants, it may not offer the same disease protection, the researchers say.

Journal of Proteome Research: "Glycoproteomics of Milk: Differences in Sugar Epitopes on Human and Bovine Milk Fat Globule Membranes".


A new look at the "biobed's" role in pesticide spills

Spray tank

Scientists in Sweden call for more research on the biobed, which was developed in 1993 to prevent pesticide spills from spray tanks.

Image by Maria Del Pilar Castillo

Scientists in Sweden are cautioning about the need for further research as more countries embrace a popular method for preventing pesticide spills. Their review of current scientific knowledge on the so-called "biobed" is scheduled for the August 13 issue of ACS' bi-weekly Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

In the study, Maria Del Pilar Castillo and colleagues point out that pesticide spills are common when farmers transfer highly concentrated liquid preparations into spray tanks where the pesticide is diluted with water. Even if a small, few-inch wide puddle of this concentrate spilled under the tank, the nearby environment could be exposed to up to one hundred thousand times the normal pesticide dose. "The risk of contamination is obvious," says Castillo.

To remedy the problem, Swedish scientists in 1993 developed the biobed. Built from layers of grass, clay and a biomixture of straw, peat and soil approximately two feet deep, the biobed functions as an absorbent sponge for leaking concentrate from parked spray tanks.

Castillo says the effectiveness and simplicity of biobed systems help them spread worldwide. But as biobeds are modified to suit local conditions and needs, she cautions that it is important to analyze their actual performance in each specific location and evaluate the effects of changes to the biobed's composition and how local temperature and other conditions affect performance.

Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: "Biobeds for Environmental Protection from Pesticide Use � A Review".


Toward a drug-free Olympics: Analytical chemistry takes center stage

In the most comprehensive drug-testing effort in sports history, Olympic officials are taking unprecedented steps to make sure this year's athletes compete without the use of performance enhancing drugs. But despite improvements in drug-testing techniques, catching athletes who cheat remains difficult, according to an article scheduled for the August 11 issue of Chemical & Engineering News.

In a feature article in the magazine, C&EN Senior Correspondent Marc S. Reisch points out that Olympic officials will spend about $10 million testing athletes for performance enhancing drugs, including round-the clock monitoring of urine and blood samples. Many of these tests will focus on identifying human growth hormone (hGH) and erythropoietin (EPO), two products of recombinant DNA technology that athletes have used to boost muscle mass and increase endurance.

Although analytical instruments have become more accurate, reliable, and capable over the years, catching cheaters remains a virtual cat and mouse game. One challenge is the use of custom-synthesized "designer" drugs, which are difficult to identify and test, according to the article. But with more money and effort going into testing, athletes are likely to think twice before using performance enhancing drugs, the article suggests.

Chemical & Engineering News: "Drugs at the starting line".


Keeping the crunch in the crust

Scientists report findings on ways to preserve crispiness and crunchiness of bread and other bakery products.

Photo by Marcel Meinders

Scientists in the Netherlands report an advance toward unraveling one of the culinary world's long-standing puzzles: How to maintain the crispy quality of bread crust. The findings could help prolong the coveted crunchiness of bagels, French bread, and other bakery products, the researchers say. Their findings are scheduled for two reports in the August 13 issue of the ACS' bi-weekly Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

In the new study, Neleke van Nieuwenhuijzen, Marcel Meinders, Ton van Vliet, and colleagues point out that scientists have known for years that dry bread crust starts losing its crispness when water migrates into the crust, resulting in a perceived loss of freshness that turns off consumers. Details of the mechanisms involved in this effect, however, have remained a mystery until now.

The scientists baked wheat bread under different moisture conditions, vapor pressures, and temperatures and then studied the water content and texture of the resulting crusts using sensitive laboratory instruments. They found that water content and water movement in the bread during and after baking were the key factors that determine the crispness of crusts and its retention. By modifying these factors, bakers can optimize bread ingredients to produce crisper, longer-lasting crusts, the researchers say. - MTS

Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry:
- "Water Content or Water Activity: What Rules Crispy Behavior in Bread Crust?";
- "Water Uptake Mechanism in Crispy Bread Crust".


Perfectly proportioned legs keep water striders striding

The amazing water strider - known for its ability to walk on water - came within just a hair of sinking into evolutionary oblivion. Scientists in France and the United Kingdom are reporting that the insect's long, flexible legs have an optimal length that keeps it afloat. Their report is scheduled for the August 19 issue of ACS' Langmuir, a bi-weekly journal.

In the new study, Dominic Vella notes that scientists already know much about the water-repellant structure of the water strider's legs and how it allows them to efficiently scoot and jump on ponds and lakes. However, the insect's many adaptations to life on water surfaces pose scientific puzzles. Solving those mysteries may have practical applications in the design of water-walking robots that can support the maximum possible payload, they note.

Building on earlier work by scientists at Carnegie Mellon University, Vella developed a mathematical model to determine the maximum weight load that a thin, flexible cylinder - representing a water strider's legs - can support on a liquid surface without sinking. He found that as the length of the cylinder increases, the maximum load at first increases but then reaches a plateau at some critical length. After that length, the cylinder begins to bend and is not able to support more weight. Comparing the model to measurements on museum specimens, Vella found that the strider's legs are typically slightly shorter than the critical length. This suggests that the water strider's legs are just the right length: Long enough to provide maximum weight support but not long enough to bend and hinder the insect's movement, he says. - MTS

Langmuir: "Floating Objects with Finite Resistance to Bending".


Turning those old electronic circuit boards into new park benches

Park bench

Scientists report development of a process that uses recycled circuit boards to create high-strength materials, such as park benches and fences.

Image by Wikimedia Commons

Scientists in China have developed a new recycling method that could transform yesterday's computer into tomorrow's park bench. Their study, which focuses on decreasing environmental pollution through resource preservation, reuses fibers and resins of waste printed circuit boards (PCBs) that were thought worthless to produce a variety of high-strength materials. It is in the July 15 issue of Environmental Science & Technology.

Zhenming Xu and colleagues point out that as more electrical and electronic equipment has become obsolete, the issue of electronic-waste removal has intensified. PCBs account for about 3 percent by weight of all electronic waste, Xu says. Although metals from the circuit boards, such as copper and aluminum, are recycled, landfill disposal has been the primary method for treating their nonmetallic materials, which have been difficult to recycle, the paper says.

In the study, the researchers developed a process to recycle those nonmetallic materials, which they say could be used to produce diverse items like sewer grates, park benches and fences. The recycled material could also be a substitute for wood and other materials since it is almost as strong as reinforced concrete. "There is no doubt that the technique has potential in the industry for recycling nonmetallic materials of PCBs," Xu says. - JS

Environmental Science & Technology: "A Plate Produced by Nonmetallic Materials of Pulverized Waste Printed Circuit Boards".


"Chiral" molecules pave the way for safer, more effective drugs

In the drive to create safer, more effective drugs for cancer, Parkinson's disease, and other health challenges, researchers worldwide are stepping up efforts to produce purer substances based on a molecule's unique symmetry or chirality, according to an article scheduled for the August 4 issue of Chemical & Engineering News.

In the C&EN cover story, Senior Correspondent Ann M. Thayer points out that in the pharmaceutical world, a molecule's right- or left-handed symmetry determines whether it does good or ill in the body. Today, about 70 percent of new small-molecule drugs that the Food & Drug Administration approved in 2007 contained at least one chiral molecule as its central active component.

But creating one specific configuration of mirror image molecules rather than a mixture remains a challenge, as these molecules are complex and difficult for chemists to construct. But thanks to increased cooperation between academia and industry, chemists are identifying new catalysts and reactions to produce chiral compounds faster, more efficiently, and with fewer environmental risks, such as metal contaminants, the article notes. Although these processes will likely remain unknown to the average consumer, health and the environment will benefit in the long run, the article suggests.

Chemical & Engineering News: "Interaction Yields".

Chemistry news archive 2008 - ordered by month














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