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The Lead

Metabolic path to improved biofuel production

March 4, 2015 4:27 pm | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Researchers with the Energy Biosciences Institute have found a way to increase the production of fuels and other chemicals from biomass fermented by yeast. By introducing new metabolic pathways into the yeast, they enable the microbes to efficiently ferment cellulose and hemicellulose, the two major families of sugar found in the plant cell wall, without the need of environmentally harsh pre-treatments or expensive enzyme cocktails.

Pennies reveal new insights on the nature of randomness

March 4, 2015 11:22 am | by Tien Nguyen, Princeton Univ. | News | Comments

The concept of randomness appears across scientific disciplines, from materials science to...

Material captures carbon dioxide with high capacity

March 4, 2015 8:36 am | by Amanda Bradford, New Mexico State Univ. | News | Comments

A new provisionally patented technology from a New Mexico State Univ. researcher could...

Providing data for nuclear detectives

March 3, 2015 3:26 pm | by Breanna Bishop, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | News | Comments

Fans of the popular TV series “CSI” know that the forensics experts who investigate crime scenes...

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NREL refines method to convert lignin to nylon precursor

March 3, 2015 11:50 am | by National Renewable Energy Laboratory | News | Comments

A new study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory demonstrates the conversion of lignin-derived compounds to adipic acid, an important industrial dicarboxylic acid produced for its use as a precursor to nylon. The demonstration is an important step toward the goal of garnering more uses from lignin, which could be crucial for the economic success of the biofuels industry.

Supersonic electrons could produce future solar fuel

March 2, 2015 10:38 am | by Lund Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers from institutions including Lund Univ. have taken a step closer to producing solar fuel using artificial photosynthesis. In a new study, they have successfully tracked the electrons' rapid transit through a light-converting molecule. The ultimate aim of the present study is to find a way to make fuel from water using sunlight.

Building blocks of the future defy logic

February 26, 2015 11:58 am | by Cassi Camilleri, Univ. of Malta | News | Comments

Wake up in the morning and stretch; your midsection narrows. Pull on a piece of plastic at separate ends; it becomes thinner. So does a rubber band. One might assume that when a force is applied along an axis, materials will always stretch and become thinner. Wrong.

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A simple way to make and reconfigure complex emulsions

February 26, 2015 8:00 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have devised a new way to make complex liquid mixtures, known as emulsions, that could have many applications in drug delivery, sensing, cleaning up pollutants and performing chemical reactions. Many drugs, vaccines, cosmetics and lotions are emulsions, in which tiny droplets of one liquid are suspended in another liquid.

Boosting carbon’s stability for better lithium-air batteries

February 25, 2015 9:15 am | by Ed Hayward, Boston College | News | Comments

To power a car so it can travel hundreds of miles at a time, lithium-ion batteries of the future are going to have to hold more energy without growing too big in size. That's one of the dilemmas confronting efforts to power cars through rechargeable battery technologies. In order to hold enough energy to enable a car trip of 300 to 500 miles before recharging, current lithium-ion batteries become too big or too expensive.

Can an HIV drug beat strep throat, flesh-eating bacteria?

February 25, 2015 8:44 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

With antibiotic resistance on the rise, scientists are looking for innovative ways to combat bacterial infections. The pathogen that causes conditions from strep throat to flesh-eating disease is among them, but scientists have now found a tool that could help them fight it: a drug approved to treat HIV. Their work, appearing in ACS Chemical Biology, could someday lead to new treatments.

Pretreatment could cut biofuel costs by 30% or more

February 24, 2015 2:43 pm | by Sean Nealon, Univ. of California, Riverside | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of California, Riverside have invented a novel pretreatment technology that could cut the cost of biofuels production by about 30% or more by dramatically reducing the amount of enzymes needed to breakdown the raw materials that form biofuels.

Renewable energy obtained from wastewater

February 24, 2015 10:41 am | by Univ. Autonoma de Barcelona | News | Comments

Currently, there are treatments in which wastewater can flow out to the river or sea without causing any environmental problems. These technologies however entail high energy costs, mainly in aeration and pumping, and an elevated economic cost in treating the sludge left over from the treatment process.

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Building tailor-made DNA nanotubes step-by-step

February 24, 2015 8:10 am | by McGill Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers at McGill Univ. have developed a new, low-cost method to build DNA nanotubes block-by-block, a breakthrough that could help pave the way for scaffolds made from DNA strands to be used in applications such as optical and electronic devices or smart drug delivery systems. Many researchers, including the McGill team, have previously constructed nanotubes using a method that relies on spontaneous assembly of DNA in solution.

New catalyst to create chemical building blocks from biomass

February 23, 2015 7:36 am | by Univ. of Tokyo | News | Comments

Univ. of Tokyo researchers have developed a novel selective catalyst that allows the creation of several basic chemicals from biomass instead of petroleum. This discovery may lead to the use of plant biomass as a basic feedstock for the chemical industry. The new catalyst enables selective cleaving (hydrogenolysis) of carbon-oxygen (C-O) single bonds in phenols and aryl methyl ethers, two of the main components of lignin.

New insight into fragile protein linked to cancer, autism

February 20, 2015 11:05 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

In recent years, scientists have found a surprising a connection between some people with autism and certain cancer patients: They have mutations in the same gene, one that codes for a protein critical for normal cellular health. Now scientists have reported in Biochemistry that the defects reduce the activity and stability of the protein. Their findings could someday help lead to new treatments for both sets of patients.

Semiconductor Moves Spintronics Toward Reality

February 19, 2015 2:00 pm | by Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

A new semiconductor compound is bringing fresh momentum to the field of spintronics, an emerging breed of computing device that may lead to smaller, faster, less power-hungry electronics. Created from a unique low-symmetry crystal structure, the compound is the first to build spintronic properties into a material that's stable at room temperature and easily tailored to a variety of applications.

Hydrogels Fight Invasive Ants

February 19, 2015 2:00 pm | by Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Pesticide sprays and baits are common tactics for managing pest ants. But sprays can have little long-term impact and carry environmental costs such as chemical contamination of soil and water sources. Water-storing crystals known as hydrogels can effectively deliver pesticide bait to invasive Argentine ants, quickly decimating a colony.

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Igniting the air for atmospheric research

February 19, 2015 9:14 am | by Vienna Univ. of Technology | News | Comments

Scientists have created a high-energy mid-infrared laser powerful enough to create shining filaments in the air. Such devices could be used to detect chemical substances in the atmosphere.

New nanogel for drug delivery

February 19, 2015 9:04 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Chemical engineers have designed a new type of self-healing hydrogel that could be injected through a syringe. Such gels, which can carry one or two drugs at a time, could be useful for treating cancer, macular degeneration, or heart disease, among other diseases, the researchers say.

Simple catalyst helps to construct complex biological scaffolds

February 18, 2015 11:01 am | by Technical Univ. Munich | News | Comments

Terpenes and their derivatives exert important biological and pharmaceutical functions. Starting out from a few basic building blocks nature elegantly builds up complex structures. Chemically particularly challenging are bridged ring systems such as eucalyptol. Chemists at the Technical Univ. Munich have developed a catalyst that initiates the formation of such compounds.

Paving the way for painkillers with fewer side effects

February 18, 2015 8:40 am | by SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | News | Comments

Researchers have long sought alternatives to morphine that curb its side effects, including dependency, nausea and dizziness. Now, an experiment at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory has supplied the most complete atomic-scale map of such a compound docked with a cellular receptor that regulates the body’s pain response and tolerance.

Promise and Limitations of Lab Automation Systems in R&D

February 13, 2015 3:56 pm | by Tim Studt, Editor-in-Chief | News | Comments

Lab automation systems are used in R&D laboratories for a wide range of operational applications and purposes. According to a recent reader survey performed by the editors of R&D Magazine in late-2014, the top three applications include to improve the accuracy of lab operations (selected by 61% of the readers), to improve lab productivity (58%) and to ensure the reliability of the lab operations (48%).

First glimpse of a chemical bond being born

February 13, 2015 1:49 pm | by Andrew Gordon, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | Videos | Comments

Scientists have used an x-ray laser at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory to get the first glimpse of the transition state where two atoms begin to form a weak bond on the way to becoming a molecule. This fundamental advance, long thought impossible, will have a profound impact on the understanding of how chemical reactions take place.

Better catalysts, made-to-order

February 13, 2015 11:03 am | by Joe Rojas-Burke, Univ. of Utah | News | Comments

Most of our medicine, plastics and synthetic fibers wouldn't exist without catalysts. And yet chemists don't fully understand how most catalysts work, and developing new catalysts often still depends on laborious trial-and-error. But in a new study, chemists captured enough data on the crucial steps in a reaction to accurately predict the structures of the most efficient catalysts.

Scientists shed light on controversial theory of protein structure

February 13, 2015 8:54 am | by Univ. of Bristol | News | Comments

A team of chemists, biochemists and mathematicians at the Univ. of Bristol have published a paper which explores how protein structures are stabilized. There are many forces that hold together the 3-D, functional structures of proteins. Despite considerable effort, understanding of these forces is still quite rudimentary.

Insight into how rubber is made could improve tires, reduce air pollution

February 13, 2015 8:44 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

People have been making rubber products from elastic bands to tires for centuries, but a key step in this process has remained a mystery. In a report, scientists have described this elusive part of rubber production that could have major implications for improving the material and its uses. Their findings, if used to improve tire performance, for example, could mean higher gas mileage for consumers and less air pollution.

Johnson & Johnson projects aim to spot who'll get a disease

February 12, 2015 10:58 am | by Linda A. Johnson, AP Business Writer | News | Comments

Imagine being able to identify people likely to develop a particular disease - and then stop it before it starts.                        

Water ice renders short-lived molecule sustainable

February 10, 2015 4:05 pm | by Wolfram Sander, Ruhr-Univ. Bochum | News | Comments

“Antiaromatic compounds” is what chemists call a class of ring molecules which are extremely instable. Because they exist for mere split seconds, they can only be detected by extremely demanding, ultra-fast methods. Researchers from the Cluster of Excellence RESOLV at Ruhr-Univ. Bochum have succeeded in isolating the antiaromatic fluorenyl cation at extremely low temperatures in water ice.

Buckyballs offer environmental benefits

February 10, 2015 9:25 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Treated buckyballs not only remove valuable but potentially toxic metal particles from water and other liquids, but also reserve them for future use, according to scientists at Rice Univ. The Rice lab of chemist Andrew Barron has discovered that carbon-60 fullerenes (buckyballs) that have gone through the chemical process known as hydroxylation aggregate into pearl-like strings as they bind to and separate metals from solutions.

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