Killer pulses help characterize special surfaces
Detecting deadly fumes in subways, toxic gases in chemical spills, and hidden explosives in baggage is becoming easier and more efficient with a measurement technique called surface-enhanced Raman scattering ...
New disease-fighting nanoparticles look like miniature pastries
Ultra-miniature bialy-shaped particles - called nanobialys because they resemble tiny versions of the flat, onion-topped rolls popular in New York City - could soon be carrying medicinal compounds through patients' bloodstreams to tumors or atherosclerotic plaques.
DNA sewing machine
Japanese scientists have made a micro-sized sewing machine to sew long threads of DNA into shape. The work published in the journal Lab on a Chip demonstrates a unique way to manipulate delicate DNA chains without breaking them.
New materials for microwave cookware that heats
faster with less energy
Researchers are reporting new
ceramics, such as the rice cooker above, that heat faster and stay
hot longer than conventional microwave cookware.
Image by Sridhar Komarneni
You may soon be enjoying microwave popcorn and
other 'nuked' foods and beverages faster than ever before, while
saving on electricity. Researchers in Pennsylvania and Japan report
development of new ceramic materials that heat up faster and retain
heat longer than conventional microwave cookware while using less
energy. Their report is scheduled for the August 26 issue of ACS'
Chemistry of Materials, a bi-weekly Journal.
In the new study, Sridhar Komarneni, Hiroaki
Katsuki, and Nobuaki Kamochi note that researchers long have sought a
commercially feasible method for using microwaves in the production of
new genres of sturdy-heat-resistant ceramic materials. However, no
optimal process had been developed.
The scientists describe preparation of ceramic
plates from mixtures of magnetite and petalite, two naturally
occurring minerals. Those new composite plates heated faster and
retained heat for longer periods than commercially available microwave
cookware, researchers say. The materials also show promise as an
energy-saving component in microwave-based systems for cleaning up
organic toxic waste in the environment. - MTS
Toward designer bourbon whiskeys with
Scientists in Germany are
reporting discovery of key substances that give American bourbon
whiskey its unique bouquet.
Image by Wikimedia Commons
In the latest chapter in a 40-year scientific quest
to unravel the flavor and aroma secrets of the world's whiskeys,
scientists in Germany are reporting discovery of key substances
responsible for the distinctive bouquet of American bourbon whiskey.
The study, which aims to help improve bourbon through a better
understanding of its individual components, is scheduled for the July
23 issue of ACS' bi-weekly Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Peter Schieberle and Luigi Poisson point out that
more than 300 compounds have been identified over the years in whiskey.
However, only a few studies have focused on the key aroma compounds,
which are most responsible for the fruity, smoky, vanilla and other
harmonics of whiskey.
In the study, Schieberle and Poisson analyzed more
than 40 of Bourbon's compounds - 13 of them newly discovered - that
blend to create its rich profile, a signature mixture of scents,
including fruity, earthy and cooked apple. The new information could
be useful in changing the recipe or manufacturing processes for
bourbon in order to produce whiskey with distinctive flavors, they
note. - JS
Diamonds may have been life's best friend on
Scientists are reporting that
diamonds could have created chemical reactions billions of years
ago that were believed to have caused life on Earth.
Image by Wikimedia Commons
Diamonds may have been life's best friend. Billions
of years ago, the surface of these gems may have provided just the
right conditions to foster the chemical reactions believed to have
given rise to life on Earth, researchers in Germany report. Their
study is scheduled for the August 6 issue of ACS' Crystal Growth &
Design, a bi-monthly journal.
In the new study, Andrei Sommer, Dan Zhu, and
Hans-Joerg Fecht point out that scientists have theorized for years
that the chemical precursors of life gradually evolved from a
so-called "primordial soup" of simpler molecules. But the details of
how these simpler amino acids molecules, the building blocks of life,
were assembled into complex polymers, remains one of science's
To find out, the research team studied diamonds,
crystallized forms of carbon which are older than the earliest forms
of life on Earth. In a series of laboratory experiments, the
scientists showed that after treatment with hydrogen, natural diamond
forms crystalline layers of water on its surface, essential for the
development of life, and involved in electrical conductivity. When
primitive molecules landed on the surface of these hydrogenated
diamonds in the atmosphere of early Earth, the resulting reaction may
have been sufficient enough to generate more complex organic molecules
that eventually gave rise to life, researchers say. - MTS
Water-stingy agriculture reduces arsenic in rice
A new farming method first developed to conserve
precious irrigation water may have the added benefit of producing rice
containing much less arsenic than rice grown using traditional
rice-farming methods, researchers in the United Kingdom report. Their
study is scheduled for the August 1 issue of ACS' Environmental
Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal.
In the new study, Fang-Jie Zhao and colleagues
point out that rice - a staple crop for 2.5 billion people worldwide -
also is a major source of human exposure to arsenic in certain
countries. Arsenic has been linked to cancer and other diseases.
Arsenic gets in rice in countries such as Bangladesh and India when
farmers flood rice paddies with arsenic-contaminated irrigation water.
The scientists compared rice plants grown in "flooded"
soil in greenhouse conditions to rice plants grown under aerobic
conditions. The other rice contained 10 to 15 times lower arsenic
levels than the "flooded" rice, the scientists report. - MTS
Air pollution worries cast cloud over Olympics
Winning gold medals won't be the only thing on the
mind of athletes during the Olympic games starting in Beijing next
month. There's growing concern that the city's high air pollution
levels may threaten their health and impair their performance, despite
the Chinese government's pledge to clean-up the air in time for the
events, according to an article scheduled for the July 28 issue of
Chemical & Engineering News.
In a feature article in the magazine, C&EN
Associate Editor Rachel Petkewich points out that Beijing's air
pollution levels have been high for the past five years, exceeding
China's standards for other major cities and stricter U.S. pollution
standards. The air pollutants of most concern are ozone and
particulate matter, which can cause respiratory problems. Some
athletes have even threatened to arrive at the last possible minute
before their own competitions - and skipping the opening ceremonies,
for example - to minimize their exposure, the article notes.
But there's been some progress toward reducing air
pollution levels in Beijing, including switching many of the city's
coal-fired power plants to cleaner burning, natural gas facilities as
well as stricter vehicle emissions controls. But these strides are
being undercut by China's booming economy and increased construction,
which have sparked pollution increases. Beijing's air pollution
forecast during the Olympics and in the long-run remains uncertain,
the article suggests.
"Snow flea antifreeze protein" could help
improve organ preservation
By creating an antifreeze protein
found in the Canadian snow flea, scientists are reporting a
development that could extend the storage life of donor organs.
The figure shows representations of the unprecedented structure of
the protein in its mirror image forms prepared by total chemical
Image by Brad Pentelute
Scientists in Illinois and Pennsylvania are
reporting development of a way to make the antifreeze protein that
enables billions of Canadian snow fleas to survive frigid winter
temperatures. Their laboratory-produced first-of-a-kind proteins could
have practical uses in extending the storage life of donor organs and
tissues for human transplantation, the researchers indicate in a
report scheduled for the July 9 issue of the Journal of the American
Chemical Society, a weekly publication.
In the study, Stephen B. H. Kent and colleagues
point out that scientists have tried for years to decipher the
molecular structure and produce from chemicals in a laboratory the
so-called "snow flea antifreeze protein (sfAFP)." Those steps are
critical for obtaining larger amounts of the protein, which exists
naturally in only minute quantities in snow fleas. The larger
synthetic quantities can be used for further research and potential
medical and commercial uses, they say.
The researchers made synthetic sfAFP, and showed
that it has the same activity as the natural protein. They also
produced variants, including one form of sfAFP with a molecular
architecture that is the reverse, or "mirror image," of natural sfAFP
and different from any other protein found in living things on Earth.
The mirror-image form of sfAFP appears less likely to trigger harmful
antibodies and more resistant to destruction by natural enzymes,
making it potentially more effective than the native form for use in
organ and tissue preservation, the scientists note. "Our most
significant advance was the use of the two mirror image forms of the
protein to determine the previously unknown crystal structure of this
unique protein," said Kent. "That is a first in the history of protein
X-ray crystallography." - MTS
That evocative "earthy" scent of the soil returning
to life in spring - and nasty earthy tastes and odors in fish and
drinking water - actually results from two substances released by soil
bacteria. Researchers in Rhode Island now report identifying how one
of these substances forms, an understanding that could lead to
improvements in the quality of water and food products. Their study,
the first substantial research on the topic in 30 years, is scheduled
for the July 23 issue of the weekly Journal of the American Chemical
In the new study, David E. Cane and Chieh-Mei Wang
point out that these two substances, geosmin and methylisoborneol, are
volatile organic substances produced by certain soil bacteria.
Although they are not harmful to health, these substances are
difficult to remove from food and water products. The researchers
recently identified the mechanism by which geosmin forms, but little
is known about how methylisoborneol forms, they say.
To find out, the scientists studied the formation
of methylisoborneol from Streptomyces coelicolor, a common soil
bacterium. They found that that the substance is formed in an assembly
line process directed by two recently discovered genes. A better
understanding of this process could lead to new ways to prevent the
formation of the odor-causing substance and may lead to consumer
products with improved taste and smells, the researchers suggest. -
A new-generation of simpler sensors for
detecting disease-causing microbes and toxins
Scientists are reporting
development of a palm-sized sensor that can detect numerous
Image by the American Chemical
Scientists in Singapore are reporting development of a complete,
palm-sized sensor that can detect disease-causing microbes, toxins,
and other biological threats instantly without the need for an
external power source or a computer. The long-awaited device, ideal
for remote medical clinics, battlefields, and other sites, represents
the next-generation of faster, simpler biosensors, according to a
study scheduled for the August 1 issue of ACS' Analytical Chemistry, a
In the new study, Pavel Neuzil and Julien Reboud
explain that the new device uses an existing method for detecting DNA,
proteins or cells based on their interaction with light shown on the
nanostructured surface when these materials come into contact with it.
Most existing biosensors of this type require the use of an external
power source, a complex and costly analyzer and rely on an external
personal computer to report the results.
Their self-contained analyzer relies on simpler
components, such as four light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that light up in
specific patters to produce test results without a computer, the
researchers say. - MTS
Researchers have developed a
process to coat Kevlar with germ-fighting agents, including
antibacterial and antiviral substances. Above is coated Kevlar
fabric exposed to a fungus called Candida tropicalis.
Image by the American Chemical
Protective clothing worn by firemen and other
emergency workers may soon get a germ-fighting upgrade. Researchers in
South Dakota report progress toward the first Kevlar fabrics that can
kill a wide range of infectious agents, including bacteria, viruses,
and the spores that cause anthrax. Their study is scheduled for the
August 6 issue of ACS' Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, a
In the new study, Yuyu Sun and Jie Luo point out
that Kevlar fabrics are widely used as fire-resistant materials for
firefighters, police and emergency medical workers. But amid increased
threats of bioterrorism, there's a growing need for new protective
clothing that can also provide multiple protection against a wide
variety of dangerous microorganisms.
The scientists developed a special process to coat
Kevlar samples with acyclic N-Halamine, a potent germ-fighting
substance. They then exposed coated and uncoated fabric samples to E.
coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Candida tropicalis (a fungus), MS2 virus,
and Bacillus subtilis spores (to mimic anthrax). After a short time,
large amounts of microorganisms stuck to untreated fabric samples, but
the coated fabrics showed little to no adherence of the infectious
agents, the researchers say. The coating is long-lasting, can be
reactivated, and does not cause any loss of fabric comfort or strength,
they add. - MTS
Screening of tiny chemical fragments may pay big
dividends in drug discovery
Scientists who develop new drugs are closely
following the progress through clinical trials of a cache of drugs
developed with counter-intuitive strategy that defies conventional
wisdom, according to an article scheduled for the July 21 issue of
Chemical & Engineering News.
In the cover story, C&EN Associate Editor Sarah
Everts points out that in traditional drug discovery approaches
researchers sort through millions of large, full-sized molecules to
find promising substances that can bind strongly to their intended
biological targets, a strategy called high-throughput screening (HTS).
In so-called fragment-based lead discovery (FBLD), researchers instead
sort through a few thousand tiny chemical fragments that bind weakly
to their targets. After screening, these weakly-binding fragments are
then expanded into more potent substances by adding chemical groups or
linking a sequence of promising fragments together piece by piece, the
Although no FBLD-based drugs are on the consumer
market yet, about 10 are now in clinical trials. But whether the new
strategy will be judged successful or not may have to wait until 2011,
the earliest year that drugs developed from FBLD techniques will hit
the market, the article notes.
Detecting flu viruses in remote areas of the
Scientists are reporting a new
method that uses sugar molecules instead of antibodies to detect
Image by Cynthia Goldsmith, CDC
Researchers in Ohio and New Mexico are reporting an
advance in the quest for a fast, sensitive test to detect flu viruses
� one that requires no refrigeration and can be used in remote areas
of the world where new flu viruses often emerge. Their new method, the
first to use sugar molecules rather than antibodies, is in the July 2
issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, a weekly
In the new study, Jurgen Schmidt, Suri Iyer, and
colleagues point out that conventional tests for flu viruses -
including bird flu - rely on antibodies, proteins produced by the
immune system, to recognize viruses. But antibody-based tests can be
expensive and require refrigeration to remain stable.
Their solution involved development of artificial
forms of sialic acid, a sugar molecule found on the surface of cells
that flu viruses attach to when they attack humans. In laboratory
tests, the researchers showed that their highly-selective artificial
sugars could be used to quickly capture and recognize two common
strains of influenza viruses, H1N1, which infects birds, and H3N2,
which infects pigs and humans. They used the molecules to
differentiate between 2 strains (Sydney and Beijing) commonly found in
human infections without isolating the viral RNA or surface
glycoproteins. The sugars remain stable for several months, can be
produced in large quantities, and exhibit extended shelf life. - MTS
Marine worm's jaws say "cutting-edge new
Researchers are reporting the
protein composition of the fang-like jaws of Nereis virens, a
common marine worm. The finding could be used in construction and
Image by Chris Broomell
Researchers in California and New Hampshire report
the first detailed characterization of the protein composition of the
hard, fang-like jaws of a common marine worm. Their work could lead to
the design of a new class of super-strong, lightweight materials for
use as construction and repair materials for spacecraft, airplanes,
and other applications. Their study is scheduled for the July 14 issue
of ACS' Biomacromolecules, a monthly journal.
In the new study, Chris C. Broomell and colleagues
note that Nereis virens, also known as the sandworm or ragworm, is a
burrowing marine worm found in shallow waters in the North Atlantic
region. Researchers remain intrigued by the remarkable hardness of its
jaws and long pincers, which rivals that of human teeth and exceed the
hardness of many synthetic plastics. But little is known about the
exact chemical composition of these structures.
Broomell and colleagues collected the jaws of 1,000
worms and analyzed their protein content using high-tech
instrumentation. They found that the primary chemical in the jaws and
pincers of the worm is a unique protein, named Nereis virens jaw
protein-1 (Nvjp-1), which is rich in the amino acid histidine. The
researchers also characterized the chemical conditions needed for its
formation, such as the presence of zinc, which could allow researchers
to create synthetic versions of this super-hard, lightweight material.
New "scrubber" speeds removal of powerful
anthrax clean-up agent
Researchers in New Jersey report discovery of a
fast, efficient method for removing a powerful pesticide used to
sterilize buildings and equipment following anthrax attacks. Their
chemical "scrubber" removes 99 percent of the pesticide following
fumigation and could pave the way for its broader use in anthrax
clean-up efforts, the scientists say. Their study is scheduled for the
July 18 issue of ACS' Organic Process Research & Development, a
In the new study, Roman Bielski and Peter J. Joyce
note that the commonly used pesticide, methyl bromide, is superior to
chlorine dioxide for destroying anthrax-causing bacteria and their
spores. However, it is highly toxic to humans and may harm the
environment by destroying the ozone layer. Researchers thus have
sought an efficient method for removing this promising anthrax
Bielski and Joyce documented the effectiveness of
their removal method in experiments with an empty office trailer
filled with air containing methyl bromide. They treated air exhausted
from the trailer with a solution of sodium sulfide combined with a
powerful catalyst. This chemical "scrubber" removed more than 99
percent of the methyl bromide from the air. - MTS
Scientists are reporting that
venom of snakes, such as the Bothrops asper from Costa Rica, could
differ based on geographical regions, an important finding in the
production of antivenom.
Image by Mahmood Sasa
Just as people give away their origins by that
southern drawl or New England twang, poisonous snakes produce venom
that differs distinctly from one geographic area to another, the first
study of the "snake venomics" of one of the most common pit vipers in
Latin America has found. The study is scheduled for the August 1 issue
of ACS' monthly Journal of Proteome Research.
In the new study, Juan J. Calvete and colleagues
point out that researchers have known for decades that venom collected
from snakes of the same species from different geographic locations
can differ in terms of their biological effects and symptoms on
snakebite victims. However, scientists know little about the chemical
differences behind these geographically different venoms.
To find out, the scientists collected venom samples
from adult and newborn specimens of the lancehead pitviper from two
geographically isolated populations from the Caribbean and Pacific
regions of Costa Rica. After a detailed laboratory analysis of the
proteins found in the venom - so-called "snake venomics" - the
researchers found major differences in the venoms collected from the
two regions. They also found distinct differences in proteins
collected from newborns and adult snakes. The study "highlights the
necessity of using pooled venoms as a statistically representative
venom for antivenom production" for human snakebite victims, the
report states. - MTS
'Electronic chemicals' pave the way for brighter,
more energy-efficient future
From solar power to computer chips to advanced
lighting, new materials developed by chemists are helping consumers
reap the benefits of advanced electronics, according to an article
scheduled for the July 15 issue of Chemical & Engineering News. Some
of these electronics will soon appear on store shelves and offices
In the C&EN cover story, writers Michael McCoy,
Alexander Tullo, and Jean-Francois Tremblay point out that so-called 'electronic
chemicals' play key roles in today's advanced electronics but go
largely unnoticed by consumers. These unsung materials, part of a
multibillion dollar electronic materials market, provide improved
solar panels that crank out more fossil fuel-free electricity and new
computer chips that are smaller and more energy efficient than ever.
These materials also fuel the development of organic light emitting
diodes (OLEDs) that promise energy savings and could render today's
incandescent light bulbs and fluorescent bulbs obsolete, according to
But making advanced electronics comes with a steep
price. Chemical companies now invest billions of dollars to build new
manufacturing plants to produce raw materials for advanced electronics.
Manufacturers are also spending heavily on research and development,
as new electronic advances demand innovative new chemicals, the
Boosting survival of insulin-cell transplants
for Type 1 Diabetes
Scientists have developed a
process that could could improve transplants of insulin-producing
cells for treating diabetes. The new method prevents destruction
of those cells by coating them with heparin.
Image by The American Chemical
Researchers in Japan are reporting a discovery that
could improve the effectiveness and expand the use of transplants of
insulin-producing cells to treat diabetes. Their study is scheduled
for the July 16 issue of ACS' Bioconjugate Chemistry, a monthly
journal. Insulin-dependent, or Type 1, diabetes affects about 800,000
people in the United States.
In the new study, Yuji Teramura and Hiroo Iwata
point out that transplantation of the pancreas's insulin producing
cells, so-called islets of Langerhans, is a promising experimental
technique for treating patients with insulin-dependent diabetes.
However, the procedure is not sufficiently effective for many people.
This is because the body destroys many of the islet cells right after
transplantation in an inflammatory reaction triggered by blood
clotting on the surface of the cells, the researchers say.
To address this problem, the scientists coated
islet cells with a special polymer film containing heparin, an
anticoagulant, or urokinase, a medication that dissolves blood clots.
In laboratory studies, the researchers showed that the coatings
delayed the clotting long enough to prevent the destruction that
otherwise would occur immediately after transplantation. The coatings
did not affect the ability of the cells to produce insulin, the
researchers add. - MTS
First DNA molecule made almost entirely of
Scientists are reporting
synthesis of the world's first DNA molecule made almost of
entirely artificial parts. The discovery could be used in the
fields of gene therapy and other futuristic high-tech advances,
such as nano-sized computers.
Image by Masahiko Inouye
Chemists in Japan report development of the world's first DNA molecule
made almost entirely of artificial parts. The finding could lead to
improvements in gene therapy, futuristic nano-sized computers, and
other high-tech advances, they say. Their study is scheduled for the
July 23 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, a
In the new study, Masahiko Inouye and colleagues
point out that scientists have tried for years to develop artificial
versions of DNA in order to extend its amazing information storage
capabilities. As the genetic blueprint of all life forms, DNA uses the
same set of four basic building blocks, known as bases, to code for a
variety of proteins used in cell functioning and development. Until
now, scientists have only been able to craft DNA molecules with one or
a few artificial parts, including certain bases.
The researchers used high-tech DNA synthesis
equipment to stitch together four entirely new, artificial bases
inside the sugar-based framework of a DNA molecule. This resulted in
unusually stable, double-stranded structures resembling natural DNA.
Like natural DNA, the new structures were right-handed and some easily
formed triple-stranded structures. The unique chemistry of these
structures and their high stability offer unprecedented possibilities
for developing new biotech materials and applications, the researchers
say. - MTS
Uncertainties prevail over human health benefits
Despite scores of studies documenting the effects
of healthful plant nutrients called polyphenols in protecting nerves
from damage, it would be "unwise" to assume that the same protective
effects occur for Alzheimer's disease (AD) and other human disorders,
a new report concludes. It is scheduled for the July 9 issue of ACS'
bi-weekly Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
In the report, Charles Ramassamy and colleagues in
Canada analyzed the results of more than 200 laboratory and animal
studies on these materials, found in fruits, vegetables, wine,
chocolate, coffee, tea, and other foods. They found abundant evidence
that polyphenols do, indeed, protect nerves from the kind of damage
that occurs in AD and other chronic brain disorders.
The researchers concluded, however, that "it is not
at all clear whether these compounds reach the brain in sufficient
concentrations and in a biologically active form to exert beneficial
effects." Resolving those uncertainties will take years of additional
research, they say in the report, which includes a list of the 50
foods containing the highest amounts of polyphenols. - AD
Super strong antimicrobial coatings for medicine,
Using the enzyme lysozyme (red)
and single-walled carbon nanotubes, scientists report development
of new antimicrobial coatings for use in household goods, defense
Image by Samuel Ginn, Auburn
One of the world' strongest materials meets one of
Nature's most powerful germ killers in a new research project that
produced incredibly tough anti-bacterial surfaces with multiple
applications in home appliances, medicine, aerospace, and national
defense. A report on this long-awaited genre of stronger disinfectant
surfaces is scheduled for the July 9 issue of ACS' Nano Letters, a
In the study, Virginia A. Davis and Aleksandr
Simonian and colleagues point out that concern over the role of
contaminated surfaces in the spread of infections has sparked a search
for better antimicrobial coatings. Scientists want to harness a
powerful natural enzyme called lysozyme in that quest. However, they
have not found a material strong enough to hold the enzyme in the
desired fashion for long periods.
Their solution involved the first successful
merging of lysozyme with single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs). Only
1/50th the width of a human hair, SWNTs have exceptional strength and
hold lysozyme in place, while other coatings lose their antimicrobial
activity over time. "The results of this research demonstrate the
significant possibilities for the molecular design of hybrid
structural materials from SWNTs and natural biopolymers," the report
states. "Such robust, antimicrobial materials have significant promise
in applications including medicine, aerospace engineering, public
transportation, home appliances and sporting goods." - AD
Consumers call for more government oversight of
commercial genetic tests
With its promises of improved diagnostic and
treatment outcomes for arthritis, breast cancer, and other conditions,
genetic testing is on a trajectory to becoming a mainstay of the
healthcare system. But the field is poorly regulated, prompting calls
for more government oversight to help ensure patient privacy and
testing accuracy, according to an article scheduled for the July 7
issue of Chemical & Engineering News.
In the article, C&EN Associate Editor Britt E.
Erickson points out that genetic tests are now available for some
1,200 different clinical conditions and more tests are in the
development pipeline. With more and more genetic information published
on the Internet and the growth of direct-to-consumer genetic testing,
there's an urgent need for more government action to help maintain
patient privacy while ensuring that test claims are accurate and
clinically useful, the article notes.
Changes are already in the works. The Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) indicates that it plans to expand oversight of
genetic testing in the future. "As the FDA moves to regulate some
aspects of this testing area, congressional action will likely be
needed to help manage the growth of this emerging health care issue,"
the article states. At least two states, New York and California,
already require genetic-testing companies to prove the validity of