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Unexpected water explains surface chemistry of nanocrystals

May 30, 2014 8:35 am | by Rachel Berkowitz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A team at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found unexpected traces of water in semiconducting nanocrystals. The water as a source of small ions for the surface of colloidal lead sulfide nanoparticles allowed the team to explain just how the surface of these important particles are passivated, meaning how they achieve an overall balance of positive and negative ions.

Stabilizing common semiconductors for solar fuels generation

May 30, 2014 8:17 am | by Kimm Fesenmaier, Caltech | News | Comments

Researchers are trying to develop solar-driven generators that can split water, yielding hydrogen gas that could be used as clean fuel. Such a device requires efficient light-absorbing materials that attract and hold sunlight to drive the chemical reactions involved in water splitting. Semiconductors are excellent light absorbers. However, these materials rust when submerged in the type of water solutions found in such systems.

New reference to enable better petrochemical catalysts

May 29, 2014 11:51 am | by Fabio Bergamin, ETH Zurich | News | Comments

When crude oil is refined to fuels and chemicals, catalysts such as zeolites. are at work making this process happen. Scientists have recently developed a reference parameter for the performance of this important class of catalysts, which can suffer from production hindrances if reaction side products clog pores or block active sites on the catalyst.

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Miniature gas chromatograph could help farmers detect crop diseases earlier

May 29, 2014 7:55 am | by Angela Colar, Georgia Tech | News | Comments

Researchers at the Georgia Tech Research Institute are developing a micro gas chromatograph for early detection of diseases in crops. About the size of a 9-V battery, the technology’s portability could give farmers just the tool they need to quickly evaluate the health of their crops and address any possible threats immediately, potentially increasing yield by reducing crop losses.

A more Earth-friendly way to make bright white cotton fabrics

May 29, 2014 7:44 am | News | Comments

With a growing number of consumers demanding more earth-friendly practices from the fashion world, scientists are developing new ways to produce textiles that could help meet rising expectations. They report in Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research one such method that can dramatically reduce the amount of energy it takes to bleach cotton while improving the quality of the popular material.

Direct observations offer a new solution to desorption calculations

May 28, 2014 11:41 am | News | Comments

In recent research in Germany, the desorption of oxygen molecules from a silver surface was successfully visualized for the first time using low-energy electron microscopy. The effects account for the shortcomings of conventional models of desorption, which often deliver rates that do not agree with experimentally determined values.

Sneaky bacteria change key protein’s shape to escape detection

May 28, 2014 10:23 am | News | Comments

Every once in a while in the U.S., bacterial meningitis seems to crop up out of nowhere, claiming a young life. Part of the disease’s danger is the ability of the bacteria to evade the body’s immune system, but scientists are now figuring out how the pathogen hides in plain sight. Their findings, which could help defeat these bacteria and others like it, appear in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

New method discovered to protect against chemical weapons

May 27, 2014 3:13 pm | News | Comments

Researchers at Oregon State Univ. have discovered that some compounds called polyoxoniobates can degrade and decontaminate nerve agents such as the deadly sarin gas, and have other characteristics that may make them ideal for protective suits, masks or other clothing. The use of polyoxoniobates for this purpose had never before been demonstrated, and the discovery could have important implications for both military and civilian protection.

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New nickel catalyst forms bioactive frameworks from low-cost phenol derivatives

May 27, 2014 12:23 pm | News | Comments

Researchers in Japan have developed a new nickel catalyst with a “kabuto-like” structure that was found to catalyze the cross-coupling reaction between carbonyl compounds and readily available phenol derivatives, to form arylketones, which are found in many biologically active compounds. A kabuto is a helmet worn by Japanese samurai.

Graphene may make large scale electricity storage a reality

May 27, 2014 9:35 am | News | Comments

Soon after graphene’s isolation, early research already showed that lithium batteries with graphene in their electrodes had a greater capacity and lifespan than standard designs. At the Univ. of Manchester, U.K., where graphene was first isolated, researchers are working with more than 30 companies to advance technology in graphene-enabled energy storage, particularly in the area of lithium-ion batteries and supercapacitors.

Molecules do the triple twist

May 27, 2014 9:28 am | News | Comments

They are 3-D and yet single-sided: Moebius strips. These twisted objects have only one side and one edge. Using this iconic form, an international team of scientists has succeeded in designing the world’s first “triply” twisted molecule. Because of their peculiar quantum mechanical properties these structures are interesting for applications in molecular electronics and optoelectronics.

DNA nanotechnology places enzyme catalysis within an arm’s length

May 27, 2014 8:06 am | by Joe Caspermeyer, Arizona State Univ. | News | Comments

Using molecules of DNA like an architectural scaffold, Arizona State Univ. scientists, in collaboration with colleagues at the Univ. of Michigan, have developed a 3-D artificial enzyme cascade that mimics an important biochemical pathway that could prove important for future biomedical and energy applications.

Not all diamonds are forever

May 23, 2014 7:50 am | News | Comments

Images taken by Rice Univ. scientists show that some diamonds are not forever. The Rice researchers behind a new study that explains the creation of nanodiamonds in treated coal also show that some microscopic diamonds only last seconds before fading back into less-structured forms of carbon under the impact of an electron beam.

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Army develops smoke screens for future battles

May 22, 2014 2:03 pm | News | Comments

The U.S. Army’s Edgewood Chemical Biological Center now completing a multi-year effort to refine several new smoke screen compositions that will allow troops to mask themselves from enemy fire. Intended to at last replace the World War II-era hexachloroethane smoke grenades that produce a toxic, irritant containing zinc chloride, the new formulations range from “black smoke” to lithium combustion technology.

Capillary device significantly improves manufacture of quality liposomes

May 22, 2014 9:29 am | News | Comments

Widespread application of manufactured liposomes as artificial drug carriers has been hindered by factors such as inconsistency in size, structural instability, and high production costs. Researchers have designed a new liposome production system from bundled capillary tubes. It costs less than a $1 to make, requires no special fabrication technology, and consistently yields large quantities of uniform and sturdy vesicles.

Not just for the heart, red wine shows promise as cavity fighter

May 22, 2014 8:17 am | News | Comments

For anyone searching for another reason to enjoy a glass of red wine with dinner, here’s a good one: A new study has found that red wine, as well as grape seed extract, could potentially help prevent cavities. They say that their report, which appears in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, could lead to the development of natural products that ward off dental diseases with fewer side effects.

A new solution for storing hydrogen fuel for alternative energy

May 21, 2014 2:13 pm | News | Comments

An international team of researchers have figured out a new way of storing and releasing hydrogen by making a unique crystal phase of a material containing lithium, boron and the key ingredient, hydrogen. To check how they could get the hydrogen back out of the material, the scientists heated it and found that it released hydrogen easily, quickly and only traces of unwanted by-products.

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.

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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