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New insights on carbonic acid in water

October 23, 2014 8:42 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

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.

Turning waste from whisky-making into fuel

October 22, 2014 10:09 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

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.

Simplifying Oil Content Measurements for the Petrochemical Industry

October 22, 2014 9:32 am | by Sandy Rintoul, Executive Vice President, Wilks-A Spectro Inc. Company | Articles | Comments

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.

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Study: Graphene fragments speed up rate of chemical reactions

October 22, 2014 8:11 am | News | Comments

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.

New catalyst could improve biofuels production

October 17, 2014 9:36 am | by Tina Hilding, Voiland College of Engineering & Architecture | News | Comments

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.

Dispelling a misconception about Mg-ion batteries

October 17, 2014 8:01 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

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.

Getting to know super-Earths

October 16, 2014 10:56 am | by Kimm Fesenmaier, Caltech | News | Comments

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.

Scientists synthesize a two-element atomic chain inside a carbon nanotube

October 16, 2014 10:05 am | News | Comments

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.

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A brighter design emerges for low-cost, “greener” LED light bulbs

October 15, 2014 2:52 pm | News | Comments

The phase-out of traditional incandescent bulbs in the U.S. and elsewhere, as well as a growing interest in energy efficiency, has given LED lighting a sales boost. That trend could be short-lived as key materials known as rare earth elements become more expensive. Scientists at Rutgers Univ., however, have now designed new materials for making household LED bulbs without using these ingredients.

Researchers develop world’s thinnest electric generator

October 15, 2014 2:47 pm | News | Comments

Scientists report that they have made the first experimental observation of piezoelectricity and the piezotronic effect in an atomically thin material, molybdenum disulfide. This finding has resulted in a unique electric generator and could point the way to mechanosensation devices that are optically transparent, extremely light, and very bendable and stretchable.

Cheap catalyst gets expensive accessory

October 15, 2014 12:06 pm | News | Comments

Iron catalysts remove oxygen inexpensively, but are susceptible to rust or oxidation in biofuel production. Precious metals that resist corrosion are even less efficient at removing oxygen. But adding just a touch of palladium to the iron produces a catalyst that quickly removes oxygen atoms, easily releases the desired products, and doesn't rust, according to scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Washington State Univ.

Unique catalysts for hydrogen fuel cells synthesized in ordinary kitchen microwave oven

October 14, 2014 12:09 pm | by Ingrid Söderbergh, Umea Univ. | News | Comments

Swedish and Chinese researchers have recently shown how a unique nano-alloy composed of palladium nano-islands embedded in tungsten nanoparticles creates a new type of catalysts for highly efficient oxygen reduction, the most important reaction in hydrogen fuel cells. Their results are published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

Plasmonic paper detects trace amounts of chemicals and molecules

October 10, 2014 12:25 pm | News | Comments

Using a common laboratory filter paper decorated with gold nanoparticles, researchers at Washington Univ. in St. Louis have created a unique platform, known as “plasmonic paper,” for detecting and characterizing even trace amounts of chemicals and biologically important molecules, including explosives, chemical warfare agents, environmental pollutants and disease markers.

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Of bio-hairpins and polymer-spaghetti

October 9, 2014 11:02 am | News | Comments

When a sturdy material becomes soft and spongy, one usually suspects damage. But this is not always the case, especially in biological cells. By looking at microscopic biopolymer networks, researchers in Germany revealed that such materials soften by undergoing a transition from an entangled spaghetti of filaments to aligned layers of bow-shaped filaments that slide past each other. This finding may explain how other filaments flow.

Light frequencies sniff out deadly materials from a distance

October 9, 2014 10:56 am | News | Comments

Spectroscopic chemical sensing has great promise, but current technologies lack sensitivity and broad spectral coverage. DARPA’s Spectral Combs from UV to THz (SCOUT) program aims to overcome these limitations. The goal is to develop chip-sized, optical frequency combs that accurately identify even tiny traces of dangerous biological and chemical substances several football fields away, DARPA is now soliciting proposals for a solution.

Neuroscientists use snail research to help explain “chemo brain”

October 8, 2014 12:00 pm | News | Comments

It is estimated that as many as half of patients taking cancer drugs experience a decrease in mental sharpness, but what causes “chemo brain” has eluded scientists. In the study involving a sea snail that shares many of the same memory mechanisms as humans and a drug used to treat cancer, scientists in Texas identified memory mechanisms blocked by the drug. Then, they were able to counteract the mechanisms by administering another agent.

Three win Nobel for super-zoom microscopes

October 8, 2014 9:20 am | by Karl Ritter and Malin Rising, Associated Press | News | Comments

Two Americans and a German scientist won the 2014 Nobel Prize in chemistry Wednesday for finding ways to make microscopes more powerful than previously thought possible. Working independently of each other, U.S. researchers Eric Betzig and William Moerner and Stefan Hell of Germany shattered previous limits on the resolution of optical microscopes by using molecules that glow on command to peer inside tiny components of life.

DNA linked to how much coffee you drink

October 7, 2014 2:15 pm | by Malcolm Ritter, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Scientists have long known that your DNA influences how much java you consume. Now a huge study has identified some genes that may play a role. Their apparent effect is quite small. But variations in such genes may modify coffee's effect on a person's health, and so genetic research may help scientists explore that.

Charge transport jamming in solar cells

October 7, 2014 2:08 pm | News | Comments

Conventional silicon solar cells could have an inexpensive competitor in the near future. Researchers in Europe have examined the working principle of a cell where an organic-inorganic perovskite compound acts as a light absorber. The scientists observed that charge carriers accumulate in a layer in these photovoltaic elements. If this jam can be dissolved, the already considerable efficiency of these solar cells could be further improved.

Researchers turn computers into powerful allies in the fight against AIDS

October 7, 2014 9:54 am | News | Comments

Until now, researchers searching for compounds that have the potential to become a new HIV drug have been hampered by slow computers and inaccurate prediction models. Now, researchers in Denmark have developed an effective model based on quantum mechanics and molecular mechanics that has found, out of a half-million compounds, 14 of interest in just weeks.

New method creates scrolling nanosheets on demand

October 6, 2014 2:37 pm | by Poncie Rutsch, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology | News | Comments

Nanoparticles could revolutionize the medical industry, but they must first target a specific region in the body, be trackable, and perform their function at the right moment. Researchers in Japan have made progress in this direction with a new type of nanomaterial: the nanosheet. Specifically, they have designed a strong, stable and optically traceable smart 2-D material that responds to pH, or the acidity or basicity of its environment.

Atmospheric chemistry hinges on better physics model

October 6, 2014 11:44 am | News | Comments

An improved theoretical model of photoabsorption of nitrous oxide, developed by scientists in Malaysia, could shed light on the atmospheric chemistry of ozone depletion. The new theoretical work unveils, through improvements in established calculation approaches, the actual dynamic of stratospheric catalytic ozone destruction.

Study: Surfactants do not harm the environment

October 3, 2014 11:03 am | by Janne Hansen, Aarhus Univ. | News | Comments

You can brush your teeth, and wash yourself and your clothes with a clear conscience. The most common soaps, shampoos and detergents actually pose a minimal risk to the environment. This is the conclusion of a comprehensive survey that covers more than 250 scientific studies over several decades.

Research shows how giant clams harness the sun

October 3, 2014 9:39 am | News | Comments

Beneath the waves, many creatures sport iridescent structures that rival what scientists can make in the laboratory. A research team has now shown how giant clams use these structures to thrive, operating as exceedingly efficient, living greenhouses that grow symbiotic algae as a source of food. This understanding could have implications for alternative energy research, paving the way for new solar panels or improved ways to grow biofuel.

Researchers pinpoint mechanism for aroma formation in wine

October 3, 2014 9:35 am | News | Comments

The majority of wines are produced from around 20 different types of grape, all of which have their own typical aroma. This is due to the terpenes, a diverse category of chemical substances including cholesterol and estrogen. Scientists have now identified two enzymes that determine the terpene content, and thus the aroma intensity, of grapes. The findings could play an important role in the future development of grape varieties.

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