The Fischer-Tropsch process is used for producing fuels from synthesis gas, which in turn is made from natural gas, biomass, or coal. Large reserves of shale or natural gas now changing the world energy market have raised interest in this technology, but prior reactors have been too bulky. Inspired by patents from the 1960s audio cassette recording industry, University of Amsterdam chemists have recently developed a new Fischer-Tropsch catalyst that is significantly cheaper and more scalable.
The salinity difference between freshwater and saltwater could be a source of renewable energy. However, power yields from existing techniques are not high enough to make them viable. A team led by physicists in France has discovered a new means of harnessing this energy. Their method of osmotic flow through boron nitride nanotubes generates electric currents with 1,000 times the efficiency of any previous system.
When a crystal is hit by an intense, ultrashort light pulse, its atomic structure is set in motion. Researchers in Germany have used intensive ultraviolet laser pulses of only a few femtoseconds duration to cause this change in titanium dioxide, a semiconductor. They report that they can observe how the configuration of electrons and atoms changes, confirming that even subtle changes in the electron distribution caused by the excitation can have a considerable impact on the whole crystal structure.
A continental-scale chemical survey in the waters of the eastern U.S. and Gulf of Mexico is helping researchers determine how distinct bodies of water will resist changes in acidity. The study, which measures varying levels of carbon dioxide and other forms of carbon in the ocean. According to the survey, different regions of coastal ocean will respond to an influx of carbon dioxide in different ways.
New research on a mineral called molybdenite by a team led by Robert Hazen at Carnegie's Geophysical Laboratory provides important new insights about the changing chemistry of our planet as a result of geological and biological processes. Analysis of the mineral showed that concentrations of rhenium, a trace element that is sensitive to oxidation reactions, increased significantly—by a factor of eight—over the past three billion years.
The adsorption of ions in microporous materials governs the operation of a diverse range of technologies. Until now, however, researchers attempting to improve the performance of these technologies haven't been able to directly and unambiguously identify how factors such as pore size, pore surface chemistry, and electrolyte properties affect the concentration of ions in these materials as a function of the applied potential. A team of researchers has demonstrated that a technique, known as small angle neutron scattering, can be used to study the effects of ions moving into nanoscale pores.
Northwestern University’s Yonggang Huang and the University of Illinois’ John A. Rogers are the first to demonstrate a stretchable lithium-ion battery—a flexible device capable of powering their innovative stretchable electronics. Their battery continues to work—powering a commercial light-emitting diode (LED)—even when stretched, folded, twisted and mounted on a human elbow. The battery can work for eight to nine hours before it needs recharging, which can be done wirelessly.
Inspired by a chemical that fungi secrete to defend their territory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology chemists have synthesized and tested several dozen compounds that may hold promise as potential cancer drugs.
It's no secret that China is faced with some of the world's worst pollution. Until now, however, information on the magnitude, scope and impacts of a major contributor to that pollution—human-caused nitrogen emissions—was lacking. A new study has revealed that the problem is rooted in nitrogen.
Fat worms confirm that researchers from Michigan State University have successfully engineered a plant with oily leaves—a feat that could enhance biofuel production as well as lead to improved animal feeds. The results show that researchers could use an algae gene involved in oil production to engineer a plant that stores lipids or vegetable oil in its leaves—an uncommon occurrence for most plants.
By leaving a dish for a different experiment in the refrigerator, a team of researchers at Washington University in St. Louis has unexpectedly found the mechanism by which tiny single molecules spontaneously grow into centimeter-long microtubes. Their efforts, which evolved into six months of investigation using microscopy and spectroscopy techniques, reveals the self-assembly process of small molecules across multiple length scales.
When gluing things together, both surfaces usually need to be dry. Gluing wet surfaces or surfaces under water is a challenge. Korean scientists have now introduced a completely new concept. They were able to achieve reversible underwater adhesion by using supramolecular "Velcro".
Tiny particles of titanium dioxide are found as key ingredients in common products such as paint and toothpaste. When reduced to the nanoscale, these particle acquire catalytic ability. A team of chemists has recently developed a synthesis to produce these nanoparticles at room temperature in a polymer network. Their analysis has revealed the crystalline structure of the nanoparticles and is a major step forward in the development of polymeric nanoreactors.
According to a new report from the National Research Council, although ignition of fusion fuel has not yet been achieved, the potential benefits of inertial fusion energy justify investment in fusion energy research and development. Scientific and technological progress in inertial confinement fusion over the past decade has been substantial, but continued progress will require a large and concerted effort.
RNA bases are thought to have been a part of life from the very beginning. However, RNA don’t form base pairs in water unless they are connected to a polymer backbone, a trait that has baffled scientists for decades. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have an alternate theory for the origin of RNA. They think the RNA bases may have evolved from a pair of molecules distinct from the bases we have today, and they have demonstrated their theory using self-assembly techniques.
Distillation techniques for commonly used feedstocks, such as those containing benzene, can be expensive and involve large amounts of energy for hard-to-separate mixtures. A team of chemists in the U.K. have created organic molecular crystals that are able to separate important organic aromatic molecules by their molecular shape. The technique could be used in industry to separate complex organic chemical mixtures.
Digesting lignin, a highly stable polymer that accounts for up to a third of biomass, is a limiting step to producing a variety of biofuels. Researchers at Brown have figured out the microscopic chemical switch that allows Streptomyces bacteria to get to work, breaking lignin down into its constituent parts.
The Lycurgus cup was created by the Romans in 400 A.D. Made of a dichroic glass, the famous cup exhibits different colors depending on whether or not light is passing through it; red when lit from behind and green when lit from in front. It is also the origin of inspiration for all contemporary nanoplasmonics research—the study of optical phenomena in the nanoscale vicinity of metal surfaces. Scientists have recently used these optical characteristics to create a novel, ultra-sensitive tool for chemical, DNA, and protein analysis.
From providing living cells with energy, to nitrogen fixation, to the splitting of water molecules, the catalytic activities of metalloenzymes—proteins that contain a metal ion—are vital to life on Earth. Using ultrafast, intensely bright pulses of X-rays from SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source researchers were able to simultaneously image at room temperature the atomic and electronic structures of photosystem II, a metalloenzyme critical to photosynthesis.
Engineers at Harvard University have already shown that their unusual “soft” robots can already stand, walk, wriggle under obstacles, and change colors. Now, using small explosions produced by a mix of methane and oxygen, these researchers have designed a soft robot that can leap as much as a foot in the air.
Chemists at Boston College have designed a new class of catalysts triggered by the charge of a single proton, the team reports in Nature. The simple organic molecules offer a sustainable and highly efficient platform for chemical reactions that produce sets of molecules crucial to advances in medicine and the life sciences.
Emissions from coal power stations could be drastically reduced by a new, energy-efficient material that adsorbs large amounts of carbon dioxide, then release it when exposed to sunlight. Monash University and CSIRO scientists, for the first time, discovered a photosensitive metal organic framework, which has lead to a powerful and cost-effective tool to capture and store, or potentially recycle, carbon dioxide.
Scientists made a major step forward recently towards transforming biomass-derived molecules into fuels. The team led by Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers elucidated the chemical mechanism of the critical steps, which can be performed under relatively mild, energy-efficient conditions.
Researchers recently found that nitrogen entering the ocean—whether through natural processes or pollution—boosts the growth and toxicity of a group of phytoplankton that can cause the human illness “amnesic shellfish poisoning”. Commonly found in marine waters off the North American West Coast, these diatoms produce a potent toxin called domoic acid. When these phytoplankton grow rapidly into massive blooms, high concentrations of domoic acid put human health at risk if it accumulates in shellfish.
Low-energy radiation particles, known as beta particles, are often used in radiation treatments for cancer patients. For years, scientists have been studying how to use alpha particles, which are far higher in energy, for the same treatments. The challenge has been finding ways to focus these powerful particles on target cancers without hurting other tissues. A collaboration of scientists have recently created a gold nanoparticle that can transport powerful alpha particles directly to tumors for treatment.