By combining advanced mathematics with high-performance computing, scientists have developed a tool that allowed them to calculate a fundamental property of most atoms on the periodic table to historic accuracy, reducing error by a factor of a thousand in many cases. The technique also could be used to determine a host of other atomic properties important in fields like nuclear medicine and astrophysics.
The chemical makeup of wastewater generated by “hydrofracking” could cause the release of tiny particles in soils that often strongly bind heavy metals and pollutants, exacerbating the environmental risks during accidental spills, Cornell Univ. researchers have found.
Testing for cocaine and other drugs usually involves two steps: a quick on-site prescreen, and then a more accurate confirmatory test at a distant laboratory. This process can take days or weeks—but that’s too long in many cases where public safety is at risk. Now, researchers report development of a backpack-sized device that can perform highly accurate and sensitive tests anywhere within 15 min.
Researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have unveiled the first glycosyltransferase clone collection specifically targeted for the study of the biosynthesis of plant cell walls. The idea behind “the JBEI GT Collection” is to provide a functional genomic resource for researchers seeking to extract the sugars in plant biomass and synthesize them into clean, green and renewable transportation fuels.
Rice Univ. scientists have created a one-step process for producing highly efficient materials that let the maximum amount of sunlight reach a solar cell. The Rice laboratory of chemist Andrew Barron found a simple way to etch nanoscale spikes into silicon that allows more than 99% of sunlight to reach the cells’ active elements, where it can be turned into electricity.
Researchers at the Univ. of Michigan have obtained the first 3-D snapshots of the "assembly line" within microorganisms that naturally produces antibiotics and other drugs. Understanding the complete structure and movement within the molecular factory gives investigators a solid blueprint for redesigning the microbial assembly line to produce novel drugs of high medicinal value.
The inks on historical documents can hold many secrets about the past. And knowing how the ink breaks down can help scientists preserve valuable treasures. In a recent study, researchers report how a analysis method called tip-enhanced Raman spectroscopy has been developed to help identify many types of inks on various papers and other surfaces.
Nanoparticles are becoming ubiquitous in food packaging, personal care products and are even being added to food directly. But the health and environmental effects of these tiny additives have remained largely unknown. A new study now suggests that nanomaterials in food and drinks could interfere with digestive cells and lead to the release of the potentially harmful substances to the environment.
A research group at NIST has demonstrated a new method for detecting ignitable liquids that could change the way arson fires are investigated. The new process for analyzing debris for traces of fire accelerants is faster and more accurate than conventional methods and produces less waste.
Sweaty hands can reduce the effectiveness of bacteria-fighting brass objects in hospitals and schools after just an hour of coming into contact with them, according to scientists at the Univ. of Leicester. While copper found in everyday brass items has an antimicrobial effect on bacteria the team has discovered that peoples’ sweat can produce sufficient corrosion to adversely affect its use to kill a range of microorganisms.
The term “crowdsourcing” was coined in 2006 and since then has seen its definition broadened to a wide range of activities involving a network of people. A challenging problem that might benefit from crowdsourcing, according to recently published research, is the phase problem in x-ray crystallography. Retrieving the phase information has plagued many scientists for decades when trying to determine the crystal structure of a sample.
Researchers in Australia have discovered how algae that survive in very low levels of light are able to switch on and off a weird quantum phenomenon that occurs during photosynthesis. The function in the algae of this quantum effect, known as coherence, remains a mystery, but it is thought it could help them harvest energy from the sun much more efficiently.
From allowing our eyes to see, to enabling green plants to harvest energy from the sun, photochemical reactions are ubiquitous and critical to nature. Photochemical reactions also play essential roles in high technology. Using photochemical reactions to our best advantage requires a deep understanding of the interplay between the electrons and atomic nuclei within a molecular system after that system has been excited by light.
Scientists are using a pioneering method of “caging” and cooling water molecules to study the change in orientation of the magnetic nuclei at the center of each hydrogen atom in the molecule. This process transforms the molecule from one form of water to another. The results of this work may one day help to enhance the diagnostic power of magnetic resonance imaging scans.
Water is thought to be embedded in the moon’s rocks or, if cold enough, “stuck” on their surfaces. It’s predominantly found at the poles. But scientists probably won’t find it intact on the sunlit side. New research at indicates that ultraviolet photons emitted by the sun likely cause water molecules to either quickly desorb or break apart.
Researchers at the Univ. of Tennessee (UT) are a step closer to creating a prophylactic drug that would neutralize the deadly effects of the chemical weapons used in Syria and elsewhere. Jeremy Smith, UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair and an expert in computational biology, is part of the team that is trying to engineer enzymes—called bioscavengers—so they work more efficiently against chemical weapons.
The Pittcon Organizing Committee, which holds the Pittcon Conference and Exposition each year, will participate in the International Year of Light initiative at the Associate Sponsor level. The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed 2015 as the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies. The sponsorship effort will include a variety of focused workshops and short courses in the coming year.
Feathers have long been recognized as a classic example of efficient water-shedding—as in the well-known expression “like water off a duck’s back.” A combination of modeling and laboratory tests has now determined how both chemistry—the preening oil that birds use—and the microstructure of feathers, with their barbs and barbules, allow birds to stay dry even after emerging from amazingly deep dives.
A remarkable consequence of the rules in quantum mechanics is the ability of a quantum particle to penetrate a potential barrier even though its energy should allow it to travel the classical trajectory. This is the quantum tunnel effect. Physicists in Austria have now directly observed quantum particles transmitting through a whole series of up to five potential barriers under conditions where a single particle could not do the move.
Researchers have determined that a copper compound known for decades may form the basis for a therapy for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease. In a new study, scientists showed in laboratory animal tests that oral intake of this compound significantly extended the lifespan and improved the locomotor function of transgenic mice that are genetically engineered to develop this debilitating and terminal disease.
Years after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil spill, oil continues to wash ashore as oil-soaked “sand patties,” persists in salt marshes abutting the Gulf of Mexico, and questions remain about how much oil has been deposited on the seafloor. Scientists have developed a unique way to fingerprint oil, even after most of it has degraded, and to assess how it changes over time.
Superlyophobic surfaces are simultaneously repellant for almost any liquid and exhibit high contact angles and low flow resist. But the demanding and usually expensive fabrication remains a bottleneck for further development. Researchers in Shenzhen, China, however, have now formulated a facile and inexpensive microfabrication method that uses polymers to help transfer the superlyophobic structures to curable materials.
A study published by Michigan State Univ. researchers this week concludes that helping farmers around the globe apply more precise amounts of fertilizer nitrogen can combat climate change. The study uses data from around the world to show that emissions of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas produced in soil following nitrogen addition, rise faster than previously expected when fertilizer rates exceed crop needs.
Turning the “hydrogen economy” concept into a reality, even on a small scale, has been a bumpy road, but scientists are developing a novel way to store hydrogen to smooth out the long-awaited transition away from fossil fuels. Their report on a new solid, stable material that can pack in a large amount of hydrogen that can be used as a fuel appears in Chemistry of Materials.
While big machines were once the stuff that scientific dreams are made of, analytical spectroscopy instrumentation has trended to smaller products that are portable, affordable and fit into locations far removed from a standard laboratory, such as the back of an ambulance or inside a chemical reactor.