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The Lead

Synthesis produces new antibiotic

August 28, 2014 10:10 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

A fortuitous collaboration at Rice Univ. has led to the total synthesis of a recently discovered natural antibiotic. The laboratory recreation of a fungus-derived antibiotic, viridicatumtoxin B, may someday help bolster the fight against bacteria that evolve resistance to treatments in hospitals and clinics around the world.

Leading scientists call for a stop to non-essential use of fluorochemicals

August 28, 2014 8:27 am | News | Comments

A number of leading international researchers,...

Experiments explain why some liquids are fragile and others are strong

August 27, 2014 4:37 pm | by Diana Lutz, Washington Univ. in St. Louis | News | Comments

Only recently has it become possible to accurately “see” the structure of a liquid. Using x-rays...

Rubber meets the road with ORNL carbon, battery technologies

August 27, 2014 3:22 pm | by Ron Walli, Oak Ridge National Laboratory Communications | News | Comments

Recycled tires could see new life in lithium-ion batteries that provide power to plug-in...

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Laser pulse turns glass into a metal

August 26, 2014 10:06 am | News | Comments

For tiny fractions of a second, when illuminated by a laser pulse, quartz glass can take on metallic properties. The phenomenon, recently revealed by large-scale computer simulations, frees electrons, allowing quartz to become opaque and conduct electricity. The effect could be used to build logical switches which are much faster than today’s microelectronics.

Materials scientists, mathematicians benefit from newly crafted polymers

August 26, 2014 8:55 am | News | Comments

Polymers come with a range of properties dictated by their chemical composition and geometrical arrangement. Yasuyuki Tezuka and his team at Tokyo Institute of Technology have now applied an approach to synthesize a new type of multicyclic polymer geometry. While mathematicians are interested because these structures have not been realized before, the geometry studies also provide insights for chemists.

Process helps overcome obstacles to produce renewable fuels, chemicals

August 26, 2014 7:44 am | by National Renewable Energy Laboratory | News | Comments

There’s an old saying in the biofuels industry: “You can make anything from lignin except money.” But now, a new study may pave the way to challenging that adage. The study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory demonstrates a concept that provides opportunities for the successful conversion of lignin into a variety of renewable fuels, chemicals, and materials for a sustainable energy economy.

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Physicists remove outcome unpredictability of three atoms binding at ultracold temperatures

August 25, 2014 1:20 pm | News | Comments

Findings from a physics study by a Kansas State Univ. researcher are helping scientists accurately predict the once unpredictable. They looked at theoretically predicting and understanding chemical reactions that involve three atoms at ultracold temperatures. Their findings help explain the likely outcome of a chemical reaction and shed new light on mysterious quantum states.

Breakthrough understanding of biomolecules could lead to new, better drugs

August 25, 2014 9:09 am | by Marcia Goodrich, Michigan Technological Univ. | News | Comments

There’s a certain type of biomolecule built like a nano-Christmas tree. Called a glycoconjugate, it’s many branches are bedecked with sugary ornaments. It’s those ornaments that get all the glory. That’s because, according to conventional wisdom, the glycoconjugate’s lowly “tree” basically holds the sugars in place as they do the important work of reacting with other molecules.

Quenching one's thirst for knowledge by studying beer foam

August 25, 2014 7:46 am | by Sarah Perrin, EPFL | News | Comments

A mechanical engineering student at EPFL in Switzerland wanted to understand the reason behind the formation of a “foam volcano” after tapping the neck of a bottle of beer. He studied the phenomenon with a high-speed camera and compared it to the outcome of applying the same action to sparkling water. His work offers insights into the behavior of cavitation nuclei.

Solar fuels as generated by nature

August 25, 2014 7:39 am | News | Comments

A research team investigating an important cofactor in photosynthesis, a manganese-calcium complex which uses solar energy to split water into molecular oxygen, have determined the exact structure of this complex at a crucial stage in the chemical reaction. The new insights into how molecular oxygen is formed at this metal complex may provide a blueprint for synthetic systems that could store sunlight energy in chemical energy carriers.

Sunlight controls the fate of carbon released from thawing Arctic permafrost

August 22, 2014 9:20 am | by Bernie DeGroat, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Just how much Arctic permafrost will thaw in the future and how fast heat-trapping carbon dioxide will be released from those warming soils is a topic of lively debate among climate scientists. To answer those questions, scientists need to understand the mechanisms that control the conversion of organic soil carbon into carbon dioxide gas. Until now, researchers believed that bacteria were largely responsible.

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Sunblock poses potential hazard to sea life

August 22, 2014 8:24 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

The sweet and salty aroma of sunscreen and seawater signals a relaxing trip to the shore. But scientists are now reporting that the idyllic beach vacation comes with an environmental hitch. When certain sunblock ingredients wash off skin and into the sea, they can become toxic to some of the ocean’s tiniest inhabitants, which are the main course for many other marine animals.

Researchers map quantum vortices inside superfluid helium nanodroplets

August 22, 2014 7:41 am | by Kate Greene, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists have, for the first time, characterized so-called quantum vortices that swirl within tiny droplets of liquid helium. The research, led by scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the Univ. of Southern California and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, confirms that helium nanodroplets are in fact the smallest possible superfluidic objects and opens new avenues for studying quantum rotation.

Scientists develop water splitter that runs on ordinary AAA battery

August 22, 2014 7:27 am | by Mark Shwartz, Stanford Univ. | Videos | Comments

In 2015, American consumers will finally be able to purchase fuel cell cars from Toyota and other manufacturers. Although touted as zero-emissions vehicles, most of the cars will run on hydrogen made from natural gas, a fossil fuel that contributes to global warming. Now scientists at Stanford Univ. have developed a low-cost, emissions-free device that uses an ordinary AAA battery to produce hydrogen by water electrolysis.

Exploring 3-D printing to make organs for transplants

August 21, 2014 9:46 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Printing whole new organs for transplants sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, but the real-life budding technology could one day make actual kidneys, livers, hearts and other organs for patients who desperately need them. In Langmuir, scientists are reporting new understanding about the dynamics of 3-D bioprinting that takes them a step closer to realizing their goal of making working tissues and organs on-demand.

Researchers develop models to study polyelectrolytes

August 21, 2014 9:04 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | Videos | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. have developed a novel and versatile modeling strategy to simulate polyelectrolyte systems. The model has applications for creating new materials as well as for studying polyelectrolytes, including DNA and RNA. Polyelectrolytes are chains of molecules that are positively or negatively charged when placed in water.

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Treating pain by blocking the chili-pepper receptor

August 21, 2014 8:00 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

As anyone who has bitten into a chili pepper knows, its burning spiciness—though irresistible to some—is intolerable to others. Scientists exploring the chili pepper’s effect are using their findings to develop a new drug candidate for many kinds of pain, which can be caused by inflammation or other problems. They reported their progress on the compound, which is being tested in clinical trials, in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

Water leads to chemical that gunks up biofuels production

August 21, 2014 7:53 am | by Mary Beckman, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory | Videos | Comments

Trying to understand the chemistry that turns plant material into the same energy-rich gasoline and diesel we put in our vehicles, researchers have discovered that water in the conversion process helps form an impurity which, in turn, slows down key chemical reactions. The study, which was reported online at the Journal of the American Chemical Society, can help improve processes that produce biofuels from plants.

NMR using Earth’s magnetic field

August 20, 2014 8:19 am | by Rachel Berkowitz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Earth’s magnetic field, a familiar directional indicator over long distances, is routinely probed in applications ranging from geology to archaeology. Now it has provided the basis for a technique which might, one day, be used to characterize the chemical composition of fluid mixtures in their native environments.

Engineering new bone growth

August 19, 2014 7:56 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology chemical engineers have devised a new implantable tissue scaffold coated with bone growth factors that are released slowly over a few weeks. When applied to bone injuries or defects, this coated scaffold induces the body to rapidly form new bone that looks and behaves just like the original tissue.

Bionic liquids from lignin

August 19, 2014 7:44 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

While the powerful solvents known as ionic liquids show great promise for liberating fermentable sugars from lignocellulose and improving the economics of advanced biofuels, an even more promising candidate is on the horizon—bionic liquids. Researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute have developed “bionic liquids” from lignin and hemicellulose, two by-products of biofuel production from biorefineries.

Researchers develop molecular probes for the study of metals in brain

August 18, 2014 8:59 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

The human brain harbors far more copper, iron and zinc than anywhere else in the body. Abnormally high levels of these metals can lead to disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Chris Chang, a faculty chemist with Berkeley Lab’s Chemical Sciences Div., has spent the past several years developing new probes and techniques for imaging the molecular activity of these metals in the brain.

Molecular engineers record an electron’s quantum behavior

August 15, 2014 12:09 pm | by Jane Marie Andrew, Univ. of Chicago | News | Comments

A Univ. of Chicago-led team of researchers has developed a technique to record the quantum mechanical behavior of an individual electron contained within a nanoscale defect in diamond. Their technique uses ultrafast pulses of laser light, both to control the defect’s entire quantum state and observe how that single electron state changes over time.

A new look at what’s in “fracking” fluids raises red flags

August 15, 2014 9:23 am | News | Comments

As the oil and gas drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) proliferates, a new study on the contents of the fluids involved in the process raises concerns about several ingredients. Scientists say that out of nearly 200 commonly used compounds, there’s very little known about the potential health risks of about one-third, and eight are toxic to mammals.

Molecular shuttle speeds up hydrogen production

August 14, 2014 10:25 am | News | Comments

A research team in Europe has achieved significantly increase in the yield of hydrogen produced by the photocatalytic splitting of water. Their breakthrough in light-driven generation of hydrogen was achieved by using a novel molecular shuttle to enhance charge-carrier transport with semiconductor nanocrystals.

Tattoo biobatteries produce power from sweat

August 13, 2014 12:45 pm | Videos | Comments

In the future, working up a sweat by exercising may not only be good for your health, but it could also power your small electronic devices. Researchers report that they have designed a sensor in the form of a temporary tattoo that can both monitor a person’s progress during exercise and produce power from their perspiration.

Custom-made nanotubes

August 13, 2014 12:39 pm | News | Comments

Researchers in Europe have succeeded for the first time in growing single-walled carbon nanotubes with only a single, prespecified structure. The nanotubes thereby have identical electronic properties. The decisive trick was producing the carbon nanotube from custom-made organic precursor molecules.

Eco-friendly pre-fab nanoparticles could advance nanomanufacturing

August 13, 2014 11:21 am | by Janet Lathrop, UMass Amherst | News | Comments

A team of materials chemists, polymer scientists, device physicists and others at the Univ. of Massachusetts Amherst report a breakthrough technique for controlling molecular assembly of nanoparticles over multiple length scales that should allow faster, cheaper, more ecologically friendly manufacture of organic photovoltaics and other electronic devices.

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