While the powerful solvents known as ionic liquids show great promise for liberating fermentable sugars from lignocellulose and improving the economics of advanced biofuels, an even more promising candidate is on the horizon—bionic liquids. Researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute have developed “bionic liquids” from lignin and hemicellulose, two by-products of biofuel production from biorefineries.
The human brain harbors far more copper, iron and zinc than anywhere else in the body. Abnormally high levels of these metals can lead to disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Chris Chang, a faculty chemist with Berkeley Lab’s Chemical Sciences Div., has spent the past several years developing new probes and techniques for imaging the molecular activity of these metals in the brain.
A Univ. of Chicago-led team of researchers has developed a technique to record the quantum mechanical behavior of an individual electron contained within a nanoscale defect in diamond. Their technique uses ultrafast pulses of laser light, both to control the defect’s entire quantum state and observe how that single electron state changes over time.
As the oil and gas drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) proliferates, a new study on the contents of the fluids involved in the process raises concerns about several ingredients. Scientists say that out of nearly 200 commonly used compounds, there’s very little known about the potential health risks of about one-third, and eight are toxic to mammals.
A research team in Europe has achieved significantly increase in the yield of hydrogen produced by the photocatalytic splitting of water. Their breakthrough in light-driven generation of hydrogen was achieved by using a novel molecular shuttle to enhance charge-carrier transport with semiconductor nanocrystals.
In the future, working up a sweat by exercising may not only be good for your health, but it could also power your small electronic devices. Researchers report that they have designed a sensor in the form of a temporary tattoo that can both monitor a person’s progress during exercise and produce power from their perspiration.
Researchers in Europe have succeeded for the first time in growing single-walled carbon nanotubes with only a single, prespecified structure. The nanotubes thereby have identical electronic properties. The decisive trick was producing the carbon nanotube from custom-made organic precursor molecules.
A team of materials chemists, polymer scientists, device physicists and others at the Univ. of Massachusetts Amherst report a breakthrough technique for controlling molecular assembly of nanoparticles over multiple length scales that should allow faster, cheaper, more ecologically friendly manufacture of organic photovoltaics and other electronic devices.
Injuries, birth defects (such as cleft palates) or surgery to remove a tumor can create gaps in bone that are too large to heal naturally. And when they occur in the head, face or jaw, these bone defects can dramatically alter a person’s appearance. Researchers have developed a “self-fitting” material that expands with warm salt water to precisely fill bone defects, and also acts as a scaffold for new bone growth.
A catalyst made from a foamy form of copper has vastly different electrochemical properties from catalysts made with smooth copper in reactions involving carbon dioxide, a new study shows. The research, by scientists in Brown Univ.’s Center for the Capture and Conversion of CO2, suggests that copper foams could provide a new way of converting excess CO2 into useful industrial chemicals.
North Carolina State Univ. is part of a project team that is researching and developing new catalyst technology to produce the commercially important chemicals ethylene and propylene from natural gas. The project lead, Bio2Electric, LLC, dba EcoCatalytic Technologies, is collaborating with North Carolina State Univ., among other industry partners, to develop the new catalyst technologies.
A Rice Univ. laboratory has provided proof that foam may be the right stuff to maximize enhanced oil recovery (EOR). In tests, foam pumped into an experimental rig that mimicked the flow paths deep underground proved better at removing oil from formations with low permeability than common techniques involving water, gas, surfactants or combinations of the three.
Scientists have known for decades that cancer can be caused by genetic mutations, but more recently they have discovered that chemical modifications of a gene can also contribute to cancer. These alterations, known as epigenetic modifications, control whether a gene is turned on or off. Analyzing these modifications can provide important clues to the type of tumor a patient has, and how it will respond to different drugs.
As hemp makes a comeback in the U.S. after a decades-long ban on its cultivation, scientists are reporting that fibers from the plant can pack as much energy and power as graphene, long-touted as the model material for supercapacitors. A team has figured out how to make electrodes from certain hemp fibers, and the breakthrough came from figuring out how to process them.
Using a relatively straightforward technique, a team of NIST researchers has created what may be the most highly enriched silicon currently being produced. The material is more than 99.9999% pure silicon-28, with less than 1 part per million (ppm) of the problematic isotope silicon-29. Many quantum computing schemes require isotopically pure silicon, for example to act as a substrate for qubits.
The Univ. of California, San Diego’s Nanofabrication Cleanroom Facility (Nano3) is the first institution to obtain a new FEI Scios dual-beam microscope, with an adaptation for use at cryogenic temperatures. The new microscope allows biologists to nanomachine cells to reduce them to the thickness required for electron microscopy without creating any sample distortions and while maintaining cryogenic temperatures.
A multi-institutional team has resolved a long-unanswered question about how two of the world’s most common substances interact. In a paper published recently in Nature Communications, an international team reported fundamental discoveries about how water reacts with metal oxides. The paper opens doors for greater understanding and control of chemical reactions in fields ranging from catalysis to geochemistry and atmospheric chemistry.
Performing systematic analyses of both known and imagined chemical compounds to find their key properties, Northwestern Univ. engineers have created a database that takes some of the guesswork out of designing new materials. Called the Open Quantum Materials Database (OQMD), it launched in November and is the largest database in the world of its kind, containing analyses of 285,780 compounds and growing.
Researchers at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have developed a laser-timing system that could allow scientists to take snapshots of electrons zipping around atoms and molecules. Taking timing to this new extreme of speed and accuracy at the Linac Coherent Light Source x-ray laser will make it possible to see the formative stages of chemical reactions.
Sample preparation is a critical step in the analytical process. Studies report that sample prep can represent about 60% of a laboratory technician’s time and also forms one of the principal sources of error. Many techniques to conduct sample prep are available to researchers, such as filtration, digestion, dialysis, liquid/liquid extraction and solid phase extraction.
An outline of Marilyn Monroe's iconic face appeared on the clear, plastic film when a researcher fogs it with her breath. Terry Shyu, a doctoral student in chemical engineering at the Univ. of Michigan, was demonstrating a new high-tech label for fighting drug counterfeiting. While the researchers don't envision movie stars on medicine bottles, they used Monroe's image to prove their concept.
The search for zero-resistance conductors that can operate at realistic temperatures has been frustrated by the inability to understand high-temperature superconductors, particularly their magnetic structure. Researchers have done this at the atomic scale for the first time with a so-called strongly correlated electron system of iron telluride. Previously, magnetic information was provided by neutron diffraction, which is imprecise.
Like the perfect sandwich, a perfectly engineered thin film for electronics requires not only the right ingredients, but also just the right thickness of each ingredient in the desired order, down to individual layers of atoms. In recent experiments Cornell Univ. researchers found a major difference between assembling atomically precise oxide films and the conventional layer-by-layer “sandwich making” of molecular beam epitaxy.
A group of scientists from South Korea have converted used-cigarette butts into a high-performing material that could be integrated into computers, handheld devices, electrical vehicles and wind turbines to store energy. In published research, the team has demonstrated that the cellulose acetate fibres that cigarette filters are mostly composed of could be transformed into a carbon-based material using pyrolysis.
Laser technology originally developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory for the Mars Science Laboratory has been selected for NASA’s new Mars mission in 2020. The Curiosity rover is equipped with ChemCam, which allows researchers to sample rocks and other targets from a distance using a laser. The new “SuperCam” will offer this capability along with another spectrum for Raman and time-resolved fluorescence spectroscopy.