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Researchers combine weak chemical forces to strengthen new maging technology

May 21, 2014 2:08 pm | News | Comments

When doctors perform an MRI, they administer a contrast agent: a chemical that, when injected into the bloodstream or ingested by the patient just before the MRI, improves the clarity of structures or organs in the resulting image. Researchers in Illinois have turned contrast agent technology “inside out” to develop a scalable new way of building multipurpose agents using nanoparticles.

New fossil-fuel-free process makes biodiesel sustainable

May 21, 2014 1:58 pm | News | Comments

A new fuel-cell concept from Michigan State Univ. allows biodiesel plants to eliminate the creation of hazardous wastes while removing their dependence on fossil fuel from their production process. The platform, which uses microbes to glean ethanol from glycerol and has the added benefit of cleaning up the wastewater, should give producers the opportunity to reincorporate the ethanol and the water into the fuel-making process.

Liquid crystal acts as machine lubricant

May 21, 2014 9:27 am | News | Comments

Although lubricants for machinery are widely used, almost no fundamental innovations for this type of product has been made in the last 20 years, according researchers in Germany who have been working on a new class of lubricating substance. Their new liquid crystalline lubricant enable nearly frictionless sliding because although it is a liquid, the molecules display directional properties like crystals do.

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Metal-organic framework shows new talent

May 21, 2014 8:15 am | News | Comments

This gift from science just keeps on giving. Measurements taken at NIST show why a material already known to be good at separating components of natural gas also can do something trickier: help convert one chemical to another, a process called catalysis. The discovery is a rare example of a laboratory-made material easily performing a task that biology usually requires a complex series of steps to accomplish.

Chemists challenge conventional understanding of photocatalysis

May 21, 2014 8:13 am | by Iqbal Pittalwala, UC Riverside | News | Comments

Photocatalysis is a promising route to convert solar energy into chemical fuels, or to split water into molecular hydrogen. But viable photocatalysts, or promoters, for these applications are scarce. A team of chemists in California has come up with a model to explain this promoting effect that could shift the focus in the search for substitutes of the metals, and help identify better promoters for photocatalysis in the near future.

A new way to harness waste heat

May 21, 2014 7:55 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Vast amounts of excess heat are generated by industrial processes and by electric power plants; researchers around the world have spent decades seeking ways to harness some of this wasted energy. Most such efforts have focused on thermoelectric devices, solid-state materials that can produce electricity from a temperature gradient, but the efficiency of such devices is limited by the availability of materials.

Scientists use nanoparticles to control growth of materials

May 20, 2014 7:59 am | by Matthew Chin, UCLA | News | Comments

A team led by researchers from the Univ. of California, Los Angeles has developed a new process to control molecular growth within the "building block" components of inorganic materials. The method, which uses nanoparticles to organize the components during a critical phase of the manufacturing process, could lead to innovative new materials, such as self-lubricating bearings for engines.

Bionic particles self-assemble to capture light

May 20, 2014 7:53 am | by Kate McAlpine, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Inspired by fictional cyborgs like Terminator, a team of researchers at the Univ. of Michigan and the Univ. of Pittsburgh has made the first bionic particles from semiconductors and proteins. These particles recreate the heart of the process that allows plants to turn sunlight into fuel.

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Chemists discover structure of cancer drug candidate

May 20, 2014 7:43 am | News | Comments

Chemists at The Scripps Research Institute have determined the correct structure of a highly promising anticancer compound approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for clinical trials in cancer patients. The new report, published in Angewandte Chemie, focuses on a compound called TIC10.

IBM research discovers new class of industrial polymers

May 16, 2014 2:03 pm | News | Comments

Scientists at IBM Research have used a new “computational chemistry” hybrid approach to accelerate the materials discovery process that couples laboratory experimentation with the use of high-performance computing. The new polymers are the first to demonstrate resistance to cracking, strength higher than bone, the ability to reform to their original shape (self-heal), and the ability to be completely recycled back to the starting material.

Roadmap shows how to improve lignocellulosic biofuel biorefining

May 16, 2014 8:00 am | by Brett Israel, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

When making cellulosic ethanol from plants, one problem is what to do with a woody agricultural waste product called lignin. The old adage in the pulp industry has been that one can make anything from lignin except money. A new review article in Science points the way toward a future where lignin is transformed from a waste product into valuable materials such as low-cost carbon fiber for cars or bio-based plastics.

Writing is on the wall for air pollution thanks to air-cleansing poem

May 15, 2014 12:23 pm | News | Comments

A poet and a scientist at the Univ. of Sheffield in the U.K. have collaborated to create a catalytic poem called “In Praise of Air”. The poem is printed on material containing a formula invented at the university which is capable of removing nitrogen oxide from the atmosphere. According to its developers, the cheap technology could also be applied to billboards and advertisements alongside congested roads to cut pollution.

A new approach to treating peanut, food allergies

May 14, 2014 11:22 am | News | Comments

These days, more and more people seem to have food allergies, which can sometimes have life-threatening consequences. In the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, scientists report the development of a new type of flour that someday could be used in food-based therapies to help people better tolerate their allergy triggers, including peanuts.

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In the wake of high-profile battery fires, a safer approach emerges

May 14, 2014 9:36 am | News | Comments

As news reports of lithium-ion battery (LIB) fires in Boeing Dreamliner planes and Tesla electric cars remind us, these batteries, which are in everyday portable devices, like tablets and smartphones, have their downsides. Now, scientists have designed a safer kind of lithium battery component that is far less likely to catch fire and still promises effective performance.

New technology simplifies production of biotech medicines

May 14, 2014 9:24 am | News | Comments

The final step in the production of a biotech medicine is finishing with the correct sugar structure. This step is essential for the efficacy of the medicine, but it also makes the production process very complex and expensive. Researchers in Belgium have developed a technology that shortens the sugar structures whilst retaining the therapeutic efficiency. This technology could make production of biotech medicines simpler and cheaper.

Chemists design molecules for controlling bacterial behavior

May 14, 2014 8:29 am | by Rob Enslin, Syracuse Univ. | News | Comments

Chemists in the College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse Univ. have figured out how to control multiple bacterial behaviors—potentially good news for the treatment of infectious diseases and other bacteria-associated issues, without causing drug resistance.

Physicists find new evidence of quantum phenomenon known as the Efimov state

May 13, 2014 12:30 pm | News | Comments

Some years ago, a team of quantum physicists in Austria provided experimental proof of Efimov states, a phenomenon that until then had been known only in theory. Now, they have also measured the second Efimov resonance of three particles in an ultracold quantum gas. This, they say, proves the periodicity of this universal physical phenomenon experimentally.

Dangerous nitrogen pollution could be halved

May 13, 2014 12:16 pm | News | Comments

The most important fertilizer for producing food is, at the same time, one of the most important risks for human health: nitrogen. If no action is taken, nitrogen pollution could rise by 20% by 2050 in a middle-of-the-road scenario, according to a study now published by scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. This research also shows that ambitious mitigation efforts could decrease the pollution by 50%.

Observing electron clouds, scientists could improve chemical processes

May 13, 2014 8:28 am | News | Comments

With the help of an x-ray laser, a team of international researchers has looked more precisely than ever before into the electron cloud, a bunch of charged tiny particles orbiting molecules. The team managed to document changes in the states of electrons in a similar way to how pictures taken at different times can be assembled to become a movie.

Enzyme study raises possibility of more productive plants

May 12, 2014 2:42 pm | News | Comments

Plant scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory have found that certain enzymes responsible for desaturating fatty acids, the building blocks of oils, can link up to efficiently pass intermediate products from one enzyme to another. The research lead to the development of plants that can accumulate high levels of more healthful polyunsaturated fatty acids, or fatty acids that could be used as raw materials in place of petroleum.

NASA recreates space dust

May 9, 2014 12:14 pm | News | Comments

A team of scientists at NASA's Ames Research Center has successfully reproduced the processes that occur in the atmosphere of a red giant star and lead to the formation of planet-forming interstellar dust. Using a specialized facility, the scientists are now able to recreate and study in the laboratory dust grains similar to the grains that form in the outer layers of dying stars.

Exploring the magnetism of a single atom

May 9, 2014 8:53 am | News | Comments

A research collaboration has combined several experimental and computational methods to measure, for the first time, the energy needed to change the magnetic anisotropy of a single cobalt atom. Their methodology included the use of inelastic electron tunneling spectroscopy to determine a cobalt atom’s “stubbornness”, or preference toward specific magnetic direction.

Regenerating plastic grows back after damage

May 9, 2014 8:08 am | by Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Looking at a smooth sheet of plastic in one Univ. of Illinois laboratory, no one would guess that an impact had recently blasted a hole through it. Illinois researchers have developed materials that not only heal, but regenerate. Until now, self-repairing materials could only bond tiny microscopic cracks. The new regenerating materials fill in large cracks and holes by regrowing material.

Light waves allow preferred bond breaking in symmetric molecules

May 8, 2014 12:25 pm | News | Comments

An international team of scientists discovered a new quantum control mechanism to selectively shake and break carbon-hydrogen bonds in symmetric hydrocarbon molecules with the waveform of femtosecond laser pulses. According to their finding, the new laser waveform control mechanism is very general and could be applied to other, more complex molecular processes.

Detecting trace amounts of explosives with light

May 8, 2014 11:12 am | News | Comments

Research in Australia may help in the fight against terrorism with the creation of a sensor that can detect tiny quantities of explosives with the use of light and special glass fibers. The researchers have created a new optical fiber sensor which can detect explosives in concentrations as low as 6.3 ppm (parts per million). It requires an analysis time of only a few minutes.

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