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Dispersant from Deepwater Horizon spill found to persist in the environment

July 16, 2014 12:51 pm | News | Comments

In an attempt to prevent vast quantities of oil from fouling beaches and marshes after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP applied 1.84 million gallons of chemical dispersant. The dispersant was thought to rapidly degrade in the environment, but a new study has found that the DOSS dispersant compound remains associated with oil and can persist in the environment for up to four years.

Bubble wrap serves as sheet of tiny test tubes in resource-limited regions

July 16, 2014 11:46 am | News | Comments

Popping the blisters on the bubble wrap might be the most enjoyable thing about moving. But now, researchers led by 2007 R&D Magazine Scientist of the Year George Whitesides propose a more productive way to reuse the popular packing material: as a sheet of small, test tube-like containers for medical and environmental samples. Analyses can take place right in the bubbles.

Directly visualizing hydrogen bonds

July 15, 2014 3:53 pm | News | Comments

Using a newly developed, ultrafast femtosecond infrared light source, chemists at the University of Chicago have been able to directly visualize the coordinated vibrations between hydrogen-bonded molecules. This marks the first time this sort of chemical interaction, which is found in nature everywhere at the molecular level, has been directly visualized.

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Swiss cross made from just 20 single atoms

July 15, 2014 9:14 am | News | Comments

Together with teams from Finland and Japan, physicists from the Univ. of Basel in Switzerland were able to place 20 single bromine atoms on a fully insulated surface at room temperature to form the smallest “Swiss cross” ever created. The effort is a breakthrough because the fabrication of artificial structures on an insulator at room temperature is difficult. It is largest number of atomic manipulations ever achieved at room temperature.

Labs characterize carbon for batteries

July 15, 2014 8:04 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Lithium-ion batteries could benefit from a theoretical model created at Rice Univ. and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory that predicts how carbon components will perform as electrodes. The model is based on intrinsic electronic characteristics of materials used as battery anodes. These include the material’s quantum capacitance and the material’s absolute Fermi level.

Researchers discover boron “buckyball”

July 14, 2014 11:44 am | News | Comments

The discovery of buckyballs helped usher in the nanotechnology era. Now, researchers from Brown Univ. and colleagues from China have shown that boron, carbon’s neighbor on the periodic table, can form a cage-like molecule similar to the buckyball. Until now, such a boron structure had only been a theoretical speculation.

Chemists develop technology to produce clean-burning hydrogen fuel

July 14, 2014 9:12 am | News | Comments

Rutgers Univ. researchers have developed a technology that could overcome a major cost barrier to make clean-burning hydrogen fuel. The new catalyst is based on carbon nanotubes and may rival cost-prohibitive platinum for reactions that split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

Deep within spinach leaves, vibrations enhance efficiency of photosynthesis

July 14, 2014 7:46 am | by Nicole Casal Moore, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Biophysics researchers have used short pulses of light to peer into the mechanics of photosynthesis and illuminate the role that molecule vibrations play in the energy conversion process that powers life on our planet. The findings could potentially help engineers make more efficient solar cells and energy storage systems.

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Peeling back the layers of thin film structure and chemistry

July 11, 2014 12:33 pm | by Erika Gebel Berg, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

Perovskites continue to entice materials scientists with their mix of conductivity, ferroelectricity, ferromagnetism, and catalytic activity. In recent years, scientists realized that they could vastly improve the properties of perovskites by assembling them into thin films, but nobody knew the reason why. But studying the chemistry layer-by-layer, experts working with x-ray beamline at Argonne National Laboratory are getting close.

Figuring out methane’s role in the climate puzzle

July 10, 2014 8:30 am | News | Comments

The U.S. may be on the verge of an economy driven by methane, the primary component of natural gas, which burns cleaner than coal and is undergoing a production boom. It has poised the country as a top fuel producer globally, but recent research is casting serious doubts over just how climate friendly it is, according to an article in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN).

Postcards from the photosynthetic edge

July 10, 2014 7:54 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A crucial piece of the puzzle behind nature’s ability to split the water molecule during photosynthesis that could help advance the development of artificial photosynthesis for clean, green and renewable energy has been provided by an international collaboration of scientists led by researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

Chemists develop novel catalyst with two functions

July 9, 2014 8:47 am | by Dr. Julia Weiler, Ruhr Univ. Bochum | News | Comments

A new type of catalyst, based on carbon, can facilitate two opposite reactions: electrolysis of water and combustion of hydrogen with oxygen. This bi-functionality, developed by researchers in Germany, is made possible from its construction: manganese-oxide or cobalt-oxide nanoparticles which are embedded in specially modified carbon, then integrated with nitrogen atoms in specific positions.

Scientists uncover new compounds that could affect circadian rhythm

July 9, 2014 7:45 am | News | Comments

Scientists from The Scripps Research Institute have discovered a surprising new role for a pair of compounds—which have the potential to alter circadian rhythm, the complex physiological process that responds to a cycle of light and dark and is present in most living things. At least one of these compounds could be developed as a chemical probe to uncover new therapeutic approaches to a range of disorders, including diabetes and obesity.

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Using sand to improve battery performance

July 8, 2014 7:43 pm | by Sean Nealon, Univ. of California, Riverside | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of California, Riverside have used a quartz-rich material to fabricate a lithium-ion battery that outperforms the current industry standard by three times. This key material? Sand. Through a heating process with salt and magnesium, the scientists created a porous nano-silicon sponge that greatly increases active surface area.  

Highly reactive gold carbene complex shines in emerald green

July 8, 2014 1:09 pm | News | Comments

With a chemical “trick”, scientists in Germany have succeeded in isolating a stable gold carbene complex. Experts have been proposing gold carbenes as essential short-lived intermediates in catalytic reactions, but they elude study because of their high reactivity. Chemist Prof. Dr. Bernd F. Straub and his team are the first to have created the basis for directly examining the otherwise unstable gold-carbon double bond.

Ocean on Saturn moon could be as salty as the Dead Sea

July 8, 2014 9:02 am | News | Comments

Scientists analyzing data from NASA’s Cassini mission have firm evidence the ocean inside Saturn's largest moon, Titan, might be as salty as the Earth's Dead Sea. The new results come from a study of gravity and topography data collected during Cassini's repeated flybys of Titan during the past 10 years. The finding may change some scientists' expectations for present-day life on the distant moon.

Artificial cilia: Scientists develop nanostructured transportation system

July 7, 2014 3:40 pm | News | Comments

For billions of years, bacteria have moved themselves using cilia. Now, researchers have constructed molecules that imitate these tiny, hair-like structures. The innovation was possible by nanofabricating artificial cilia that would respond in just one direction to provide a net displacement of motion.

The chemistry of fireworks: Fourth of July science

July 2, 2014 3:56 pm | Videos | Comments

The Fourth of July means millions of Americans will soon enjoy eye-popping fireworks displays around the country. These dazzling light shows are actually carefully crafted chemical reactions. A Reactions video from the American Chemical Society this week features John Conkling, Ph.D., the professor who literally wrote the book on pyrotechnics. In the video, Conkling explains the chemistry that creates those amazing fireworks displays.

Study: Kudzu can release soil carbon, accelerate global warming

July 2, 2014 9:49 am | News | Comments

Scientists are shedding new light on how invasion by exotic plant species affects the ability of soil to store greenhouse gases. New research shows that invasive plants can accelerate the greenhouse effect by releasing carbon stored in soil into the atmosphere. Since soil stores more carbon than both the atmosphere and terrestrial vegetation combined, agricultural land management could dramatically affect carbon storage.

Solar panels light the way from carbon dioxide to fuel

July 2, 2014 9:40 am | by Tien Nguyen, Princeton Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers at Princeton Univ. joined with experts at Liquid Light Inc. to devise an efficient method for harnessing sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into a potential alternative fuel known as formic acid. This type of acid is already being explored as an alternative in fuel cells. The new process takes place inside an electrochemical cell, which consists of metal plates the size of lunch-boxes that enclose liquid-carrying channels.

Scientists discover how plastic solar panels work

July 1, 2014 11:52 am | News | Comments

Experts don't fully understand how “plastic” solar panels work, which complicates the improvement of their cost efficiency and hinders wider use of the technology. However, an international team has now determined how light beams excite the chemicals in solar panels, enabling them to produce charge. Their findings were made possible with the use of femtosecond Raman spectroscopy.

Separating finely mixed oil and water

July 1, 2014 11:51 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Whenever there is a major spill of oil into water, the two tend to mix into a suspension of tiny droplets, called an emulsion, that is extremely hard to separate and can cause severe damage to ecosystems. A new membrane developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers can separate even these highly mixed fine oil-spill residues.

Up in flames: Evidence confirms combustion theory

July 1, 2014 10:06 am | News | Comments

Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and the Univ. of Hawaii have uncovered the first step in the process that transforms gas-phase molecules into solid particles like soot and other carbon-based compounds. The finding could help combustion chemists make more-efficient, less-polluting fuels and help materials scientists fine-tune their carbon nanotubes and graphene sheets for faster, smaller electronics.

Researchers create quantum dots with single-atom precision

June 30, 2014 7:59 am | News | Comments

An international team of physicists including researchers from the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory has used a scanning tunneling microscope to create quantum dots with identical, deterministic sizes. The perfect reproducibility of these dots opens the door to quantum dot architectures completely free of uncontrolled variations, an important goal for technologies from nanophotonics to quantum information processing.

Scientists watch molecular soccer balls explode

June 27, 2014 12:15 pm | News | Comments

Using world’s most powerful x-ray laser at the Linac Coherent Light Source in California, scientists have been watching as buckyballs disintegrate completely in less than 100 femtoseconds under the force of the powerful free-electron laser flashes. The study told them something important, too: they can theoretically and reliable predict the way these miniature soccer balls will explode. This is important for simulation efforts.

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