Scientists disclosed a new method to convert lignin, a biomass waste product, into simple chemicals. The innovation is an important step toward replacing petroleum-based fuels and chemicals with biorenewable materials. Lignin is the substance that makes trees and cornstalks sturdy, and it accounts for nearly 30% of the organic carbon in the biosphere.
Researchers in Germany have employed micro-FTIR and ATR-FTIR spectroscopy to determine precisely the type and source of microplastics found in the wastewater of a regional water association in Lower Saxony. With these infrared imaging methods, it is now possible to specifically classify plastics, such as those used in toothpaste, cosmetics, fleece jackets and packaging.
A new membrane, developed scientists in the Netherlands, can be made more or less porous “on demand”. In this way, smart switching between “open” and “closed” is possible, which opens the way to innovative applications in biosensors, chemical analysis and catalysis.
Scientists have long speculated as to why animal species didn’t flourish sooner, once sufficient oxygen covered the Earth’s surface. Animals began to prosper at the end of the Proterozoic period, about 800 million years ago. But what about the billion-year stretch before that, when most researchers think there also was plenty of oxygen? Well, it seems the air wasn’t so great then, after all.
With fears growing over chemical and biological weapons falling into the wrong hands, scientists are developing microrockets to fight back against these dangerous agents, should the need arise. In ACS Nano, they describe new spherical micromotors that rapidly neutralize chemical and biological agents and use water as fuel.
An overwhelming number of chemicals from household and industrial products are in the environment, and hundreds are in our bodies. But for most of them, scientists have yet to determine whether they cause health problems. Now they’ve taken the first step toward doing that by estimating which substances people are exposed to the most.
DEET has been the gold standard of insect repellents for more than six decades, and now researchers led by a Univ. of California, Davis, scientist have discovered the exact odorant receptor that repels them. They also have identified a plant defensive compound that might mimic DEET, a discovery that could pave the way for better and more affordable insect repellents.
Researchers with CiQUS in Spain have developed a new method to overcome limitations of surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS), an ultra-sensitive analytical technique able to detect chemicals in very low concentration. The research results show how to cut production costs of substrates and also tackle the lack of reproducibility usually associated to this technique.
Researchers at McGill Univ. have succeeded in simultaneously observing the reorganizations of atomic positions and electron distribution during the transformation of the “smart material” vanadium dioxide from a semiconductor into a metal. The observations are made in a time frame a trillion times faster than the blink of an eye.
Nitrogen is an essential component of all living systems, playing important roles in everything from proteins and nucleic acids to vitamins. It is the most abundant element in Earth's atmosphere and is literally all around us, but in its gaseous state, N2, it is inert and useless to most organisms.
Rice Univ. researchers have delivered a scientific one-two punch with a pair of papers that detail how synthetic collagen fibers self-assemble via their sticky ends. Collagen is the most common protein in mammals, a major component of bone and the fibrous tissues that support cells and hold organs together. Discovering its secrets may lead to better synthetic collagen for tissue engineering and cosmetic and reconstructive medicine.
Scientists in Europe have developed a chemical “processor” which reliably shows the fastest way through a city maze. Because the method is basically faster than a satellite navigation system, it could be useful in transport planning and logistics in the future, for instance.
In early drug discovery, you need a starting point. In a new research paper published in PLOS-Neglected Tropical Diseases, a team of researchers present hundreds of such starting points for potentially treating Human African trypanosomiasis, or sleeping sickness, a deadly disease that affects thousands of people annually.
Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth Univ. have discovered that most of the electrolytes used in lithium-ion batteries are superhalogens, and that the vast majority of these electrolytes contain toxic halogens. At the same time, the researchers also found that the electrolytes in lithium-ion batteries could be replaced with halogen-free electrolytes that are both nontoxic and environmentally friendly.
Researchers in the U.K. have found a new way to make nanostructured carbon using the waste product sawdust. By cooking sawdust with a thin coating of iron at 700 C, they have discovered that they can create carbon with a structure made up of many tiny tubes. These tubes are one thousand times smaller than an average human hair.
Helium is a famously unreactive gas but when cooled to just above absolute zero it becomes a superfluid, a strange form of liquid. An Anglo-Austrian team has used this liquid to develop a completely new way of forming charged particles. The team’s key discovery is that helium atoms can acquire an excess negative charge which enables them to become aggressive new chemical reagents.
For as long as scientists have been able to create new proteins that are capable of self-assembling into fibers, scientists’ work has taken place on the nanoscale. For the first time, this achievement has been realized on the microscale, a leap of magnitude in size that presents significant new opportunities for using engineered protein fibers.
Though it garners few headlines, carbonic acid, the hydrated form of carbon dioxide, is critical to both the health of the atmosphere and the human body. However, because it exists for only a fraction of a second before changing into a mix of hydrogen and bicarbonate ions, carbonic acid has remained an enigma. A new study has yielded new information about carbonic acid with important implications for geological and biological concerns.
A startup company in Scotland is working to capitalize on the tons of waste produced by one of the country’s most valued industries and turn the dregs of whisky-making into fuel. Celtic Renewables, formed in 2011, has refined its process based on a century-old fermentation technique and is now taking the next step toward a commercial plant.
Measuring oil content in wastes is nothing new to the petrochemical industry. Whether it’s produced water from onshore or offshore sites, effluents from refineriers or drill cuttings and drilling mud, limits on hydrocarbon levels need to be met. With the increase of hydraulic fracturing in the U.S., more public attention has been focused on the need for regulations and limits.
Researchers in Australia have discovered that nano-sized fragments of graphene have the ability to speed up the rate of chemical reactions. The finding is significant, say researchers, because it suggested that graphene might have potential applications in catalyzing chemical reactions of industrial importance.
Washington State Univ. (WSU) researchers have developed a new catalyst that could lead to making biofuels cheaply and more efficiently. The WSU researchers developed a mixture of two metals, iron along with a tiny amount of palladium, to serve as a catalyst to efficiently and cheaply remove oxygen.
Lithium-ion batteries are popular, but have limitations in energy density, lifetime and safety. One alternative is Mg-ion batteries. Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory ran a series of computer simulations that suggest that performance bottlenecks experienced with Mg-ion batteries to date may not be so much related to the electrolyte itself, but to what happens at the interface between the electrolyte and electrodes.
The findings of NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft suggest that the most common exoplanets are those that are just a bit larger than Earth but smaller than Neptune. These so-called super-Earths, which do not exist in our own solar system, have attracted the attention of astronomers, who have been trying to determine the composition of the closest of these planets. However, an unexpected barrier is blocking their progress.
Researchers at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology have synthesized an atomic chain in which two elements, cesium and iodine, are aligned alternately inside a carbon nanotube. Analyzed using electron microscopy and spectroscopy, the invention could shed light on the adsorption mechanisms of radioactive elements.