Saturday, January 31, 2015

Hydrogen production in extreme bacterium

Scientists have discovered a bacterium that can produce hydrogen, an element that one day could lessen the world’s dependence on oil.



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Friday, January 30, 2015

New method allows for greater variation in band gap tunability

If you can't find the ideal material, then design a new one. By manipulating the ordered arrangement of atoms in layered complex oxide materials, scientists have found a way to control their electronic band gaps, which determines the electrical behavior of the material and how it interacts with light.



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DNA nanoswitches reveal how life's molecules connect

'Bio-molecular interaction analysis, a cornerstone of biomedical research, is traditionally accomplished using equipment that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars,' said the senior author of a new study. 'Rather than develop a new instrument, we've created a nanoscale tool made from strands of DNA that can detect and report how molecules behave, enabling biological measurements to be made by almost anyone, using only common and inexpensive laboratory reagents.'



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Understanding the reinforcing ability of carbon nanotubes

A new article explores what is preventing the reinforcing ability of carbon nanotubes from being used in a ceramic matrix. Ever since their discovery, carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have been considered the ultimate additive to improve the mechanical properties of structural ceramics, such as aluminum oxide, silicon nitride and zirconium dioxide. Yet despite the remarkable strength and stiffness of CNTs, many studies have reported only marginal improvements or even the degradation of mechanical properties after these super-materials were added.



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Water purification: Running fuel cells on bacteria

Researchers in Norway have succeeded in getting bacteria to power a fuel cell. The "fuel" used is wastewater, and the products of the process are purified water droplets and electricity. This is an environmentally-friendly process for the purification of water derived from industrial processes and suchlike. It also generates small amounts of electricity – in practice enough to drive a small fan, a sensor or a light-emitting diode. In the future, the researchers hope to scale up this energy generation to enable the same energy to be used to power the water purification process, which commonly consists of many stages, often involving mechanical and energy-demanding decontamination steps at its outset.



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Pinholes are pitfalls for high performance solar cells

The most popular next-generation solar cells under development may have a problem – the top layer is full of tiny pinholes, researchers have found.



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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Where did the missing oil go? New study says some is sitting on the Gulf floor

Some 6 million to 10 million gallons of oil from the BP oil spill are buried in the sediment on the Gulf floor, about 62 miles southeast of the Mississippi Delta, researchers have discovered.



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Nanomedicines of the future will build on quantum chemistry

Quantum chemical calculations have been used to solve big mysteries in space. Soon the same calculations may be used to produce tomorrow’s cancer drugs, experts say.



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Vehicle body made from cotton, hemp, and wood

Carbon and glass fibers reinforce synthetics so that they can be used for vehicle body construction. But in this regard, there is an abundance of potential found in natural fibers -- obtained from hemp, cotton, or wood. If you combined bio-based textile and carbon fibers, you can obtain extremely light yet very sturdy components.



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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Researchers produce two bio-fuels from a single algae

A common algae commercially grown to make fish food holds promise as a source for both biodiesel and jet fuel, according to a new study.



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Detecting chemical weapons quickly with a color-changing film

In today's world, in which the threat of terrorism looms, there is an urgent need for fast, reliable tools to detect the release of deadly chemical warfare agents (CWAs). Scientists are reporting new progress toward thin-film materials that could rapidly change colors in the presence of CWAs -- an advance that could help save lives and hold aggressors accountable.



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Spiky 'hedgehog particles' for safer paints, fewer VOC emissions

A new process that can sprout microscopic spikes on nearly any type of particle may lead to more environmentally friendly paints and a variety of other innovations.



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Chromium-centered cycloparaphenylene rings as new tools for making functionalized nanocarbons

A team of chemists has synthesized novel transition metal-complexed cycloparaphenylenes (CPPs) that enable selective monofunctionalization of CPPs for the first time, opening doors to the construction of unprecedented nanocarbons.



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Programmed synthesis towards multi-substituted benzene derivatives

Chemists have developed a new method to accomplish the programmed synthesis of benzene derivatives with five or six different functional groups that enables access to novel functional organic materials that could not have been reached before.



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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The origin of life: Labyrinths as crucibles of life

Water-filled micropores in hot rock may have acted as the nurseries in which life on Earth began. A team has now shown that temperature gradients in pore systems promote the cyclical replication and emergence of nucleic acids.



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New mechanism unlocked for evolution of green fluorescent protein

A primary challenge in the biosciences is to understand the way major evolutionary changes in nature are accomplished. Sometimes the route turns out to be very simple. An example of such simplicity is provided in a new publication that shows, for the first time, that a hinge migration mechanism, driven solely by long-range dynamic motions, can be the key for evolution of a green-to-red photoconvertible phenotype in a green fluorescent protein.



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'Bulletproof' Battery: Kevlar Membrane for Safer, Thinner Lithium Rechargeables

New battery technology should be able to prevent the kind of fires that grounded Boeing 787 Dreamliners in 2013. The innovation is an advanced barrier between the electrodes in a lithium-ion battery.



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Carbon nanoballs can greatly contribute to sustainable energy supply

Researchers have discovered that the insulation plastic used in high-voltage cables can withstand a 26 per cent higher voltage if nanometer-sized carbon balls are added. This could result in enormous efficiency gains in the power grids of the future, which are needed to achieve a sustainable energy system. The renewable energy sources of tomorrow will often be found far away from the end user. Wind turbines, for example, are most effective when placed out at sea. Solar energy will have the greatest impact on the European energy system if focus is on transport of solar power from North Africa and Southern Europe to Northern Europe.



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Monday, January 26, 2015

Infrared imaging technique operates at high temperatures

A research team took advantage of superlattice architecture and new materials to develop a detector that does not require low temperatures to operate.



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Researchers identify materials to improve biofuel, petroleum processing

Using one of the largest supercomputers in the world, a team of researchers has identified potential materials that could improve the production of ethanol and petroleum products. The discovery could lead to major efficiencies and cost savings in these industries.



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Chemists find a way to unboil eggs

Chemists have figured out how to unboil egg whites -- an innovation that could dramatically reduce costs for cancer treatments, food production and other segments of the $160 billion global biotechnology industry, according to new findings.



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Converting olive mash into cash

An experimental system to create heat and power with waste from olive oil processing is up-and-running in Spain. The system shows a promising way forward for reducing environmental damage and converting organic waste to energy, scientists say.



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Sunday, January 25, 2015

More light shed on on biomass breakdown

A recently discovered family of enzymes can degrade resistant forms of starch, researchers report. Starch is a polysaccharide that is highly prevalent in both food and plants. Determining the way it is broken down by an LPMO now offers potential for utilising this starch in new ways, potentially including the production of biofuels.



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Promising drug candidate protects against radiation exposure from nuclear fallout

A drug candidate called DBIBB that increases the survival of mice suffering from radiation syndrome, even when treatment started three days after radiation exposure, has been identified by scientists. The findings suggest that DBIBB shows promise for becoming the first drug capable of treating acute radiation syndrome caused by the high levels of radiation released by nuclear explosions.



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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Major limitations with carbon nanotubes in blood facing medical devices

An important discovery has been made about the safety issues of using carbon nanotubes as biomaterials which come into contact with blood. When blood comes into contact with foreign surfaces the blood's platelets are activated which in turn leads to blood clots being formed. This can be catastrophic in clinical settings where extracorporeal circulation technologies are used such as during heart-lung bypass, in which the blood is circulated in PVC tubing outside the body, authors say.



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23 Million Times Slower than Molasses

I have the pleasure of teaching general chemistry II for the first time ever this semester. It is fun to go back and revisit concepts that I have not spent time with since taking general chemistry ~13 years ago. Our first few classes will focus on intermolecular forces (dipole-dipole, London Dispersion, etc.) and some of their macroscopic manifestations. Some examples covered in the book include surface tension, capillary action and viscosity. Searching these topics online led me to my new favorite experiment: the Pitch Drop Experiment.

Pitch Drop


In 1927, Professor Thomas Parnell started the Pitch Drop experiment in which he sought to measure the viscosity of pitch. Pitch is a general term used to describe a highly viscous solid polymer, but this material is often a complex mixture of phenols, aromatic and long chain hydrocarbons. Unfortunately, I could not find the exact composition of the pitch used in this specific experiment, but needless to say this sample does meet the description of a highly viscous material.


The experiment was initiated when Prof. Parnell heated up a sample of pitch and poured it into a conical piece of glass. The pitch was then left to sit for three years, presumably the length of time it needed to cool and completely settle into the cone shape. Immediately after the bottom of the funnel was cut open the pitch came rushing out. Just kidding. The pitch ever so slowly began dripping out of the funnel. How slowly? At a rate of approximately one drop every 10 years. In fact, the most recent drop—the 9th drop ever– fell on April 17th 2014.


The first report on this experiment was published in the European Journal of Physics in 1984. In that manuscript they calculated the pitch (2.3 x 108 Pa s) to be 230 billion times more viscous than water (1.0 x 10-3 Pa s). That means it’s more than 23 million times slower than molasses (5-10 Pa s). The longevity and creativity of this experiment won Thomas Parnell and John Mainstone (the caretaker of the experiment for more than 50 years) an Ig Nobel Prize in 2005. The experiment has also been officially included in the Guinness World Records as the world’s longest continuously running laboratory experiment.


Despite this experiment’s epicness, or maybe because of it, no one has ever been in the room to watch one of the pitch drops fall. The closest anyone has come is a time-lapse video below.





The video is unfortunately anticlimactic. It shows the 9th drop making contact with the 8th drop in the beaker. It isn’t the spectacle of a full ‘drop’ event, but don’t worry. The next occurrence is right around the corner: about 14 years away. In anticipation of this event the University of Queensland has set up three webcams and a continuously streaming live feed on a website called The Tenth Watch. Regardless of where you find yourself, you can keep a constant eye on the experiment as it progresses. And even if you miss the 10th drop, don’t worry, it’s estimated that there is enough pitch in the funnel to produce several more drops over the next 100 years.



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Friday, January 23, 2015

The latest fashion: Graphene edges can be tailor-made

Theorists show it may be possible to tune graphene edges by varying heat and force as graphene is fractured. Edge configurations affect graphene's electronic and mechanical properties, which are important for applications.



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Boston's leaky pipes release high levels of heat-trapping methane

A research team estimates that each year about 15 billion cubic feet of natural gas, worth some $90 million, escapes the Boston region's delivery system. The findings have implications for other regions, especially cities that, like Boston, are older and rely on natural gas for a significant and increasing portion of their energy needs. While policymakers have focused on the production end of the natural gas supply chain--wells, off-shore drilling platforms, and processing plants--much less attention has been paid to the downstream gas delivery infrastructure.



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New technique helps probe performance of organic solar cell materials

Researchers have developed a technique for determining the role that a material's structure has on the efficiency of organic solar cells, which are candidates for low-cost, next generation solar power. The researchers used the technique to determine that materials with a highly organized structure at the nanoscale are not more efficient at creating free electrons than poorly organized structures -- a finding which will guide future research and development efforts.



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Scientists search for new ways to deal with U. S. uranium ore processing legacy

Researchers are trying to find out why uranium persists in groundwater at former uranium ore processing sites despite remediation of contaminated surface materials two decades ago. They think buried organic material may be at fault, storing toxic uranium at levels that continue to pose risks to human health and the environment, and hope their study will pave the way for better long-term site management and protection of the public and environment.



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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Scientists set quantum speed limit

The flip side of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, the energy time uncertainty principle, establishes a speed limit for transitions between two states. Physical chemists have now proved this principle for transitions between states that are not entirely distinct, allowing the calculation of speed limits for processes such as quantum computing and tunneling. The proof puts on sound footing a relationship that most physicists use daily.



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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The path to artificial photosynthesis

Scientists have precisely characterized a manganese catalyst's electronic states. The catalyst is capable of converting light to chemical energy. If sunlight could effortlessly be converted to chemical energy, our energy troubles would be a thing of the past.



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Decorative and flexible solar panels become part of interior design and the appearance of objects

Scientists have developed and utilized a mass production method based on printing technologies allowing the manufacturing of decorative, organic solar panels. Design freedom improves the range of applications of the panels on the surfaces of interior and exterior building spaces. Researchers are also studying the feasibility of printing technology in the mass production of solar panels made from inorganic perovskite materials. The new mass production method enables to create interior design elements from organic solar panels (OPV, organic photovoltaics) harvesting energy from interior lighting or sunlight for various small devices and sensors that gather information from the environment. The panels can, for example, be placed on windows and walls and on machines, devices and advertisement billboards.



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Sequestration on shaky ground: Natural impediment to long-term sequestration of carbon dioxide

Carbon sequestration promises to address greenhouse-gas emissions by capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and injecting it deep below the Earth's surface, where it would permanently solidify into rock. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that current carbon-sequestration technologies may eliminate up to 90 percent of carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants. While such technologies may successfully remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, researchers have now found that once injected into the ground, less carbon dioxide is converted to rock than previously imagined.



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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Anti-microbial coatings with a long-term effect for surfaces

Hygienic conditions and sterile procedures are particularly important in hospitals, kitchens and sanitary facilities, air conditioning and ventilation systems, in food preparation and in the manufacture of packaging material. In these areas, bacteria and fungi compromise the health of both consumers and patients. Researchers have now produced antimicrobial abrasion-resistant coatings with both silver and copper colloids with a long-term effect that kill germs reliably and at the same time prevent germs becoming established. The coatings are particularly suitable for the application on large and solid surfaces, on doorhandles and for textiles.



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Monday, January 19, 2015

New composite protects from corrosion from high mechanical stress

A new composite material prevents metal corrosion in an environmentally friendly way, even under extreme conditions. It can be used wherever metals are exposed to severe weather conditions, aggressive gases, salt, heavy wear or high pressures.



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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Shining a light on quantum dots measurement

Using the cadmium selenide quantum dot, researchers collaborated to understand how protein corona forms and what is different about the quantum dot before and after the formation of the corona.



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Friday, January 16, 2015

Solving an organic semiconductor mystery

The mysterious source of performance issues in organic semiconductors have been uncovered by scientists -- nanocrystallites cluttering domain interfaces.



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Nanoparticles for clean drinking water

One way of removing harmful nitrate from drinking water is to catalyse its conversion to nitrogen. This process suffers from the drawback that it often produces ammonia. By using palladium nanoparticles as a catalyst, and by carefully controlling their size, this drawback can be partially eliminated, researchers have discovered.



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New 'triggered-release' mechanism could improve drug delivery

More efficient medical treatments could be developed thanks to a new method for triggering the rearrangement of chemical particles, scientists say. The new method uses two ‘parent’ nanoparticles that are designed to interact only when in proximity to each other and trigger the release of drug molecules contained within both The release of the drug molecules from the ‘parent’ nanoparticles could subsequently form a third ‘daughter’ particle, which comprises molecules from both ‘parent’ nanoparticles, researchers explain.



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Thursday, January 15, 2015

When waste water freezes, it is purified, scientists say

When waste water freezes, it is purified, scientists report, asking whether this new information has applications for the mineral extraction industry.



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Gold nanoparticles show promise for early detection of heart attacks

A novel colloidal gold test strip is demonstrating great potential for early detection of certain heart attacks. Researchers are developing the strip to test for cardiac troponin I (cTn-I); its level is several thousand times higher in patients experiencing myochardial infarctions. The new strip uses microplasma-generated gold nanoparticles. Compared to AuNPs produced by traditional chemical methods, the surfaces of thesenanoparticles attract more antibodies, which results in significantly higher detection sensitivity.



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Improved solar panels and printed electronics on the horizon with new material discovery

New and improved solar panels could result from the discovery of a new liquid crystal material, making printable organic solar cells better performing.



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Carbon nanotube finding could lead to flexible electronics with longer battery life

Materials engineers have made a significant leap toward creating higher-performance electronics with improved battery life -- and the ability to flex and stretch. The team has reported the highest-performing carbon nanotube transistors ever demonstrated. In addition to paving the way for improved consumer electronics, this technology could also have specific uses in industrial and military applications.



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Atomic placement of elements counts for strong concrete

The forces that bind atoms and molecules can impact the strength of particulate materials like concrete. Researchers have carried out simulations to determine how the atomic placement of elements in concrete can be tuned to maximize its mechanical properties.



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Crush those clinkers while they're hot

Clinkers pulverized to make cement should be processed right out of the kiln to save the most energy. The environmentally friendly advice is the result of a recent computational study.



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Chemist one step closer to a new generation of electric car battery

An ultra-thin nanomaterial is at the heart of a major breakthrough by scientists who are in a global race to invent a cheaper, lighter and more powerful rechargeable battery for electric vehicles.



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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Chemical dial controls attraction between water-repelling molecules

Researchers have provided new insights on hydrophobic interactions within complex systems. They have shown how the nearby presence of polar (water-attracted, or hydrophilic) substances can change the way the nonpolar hydrophobic groups want to stick to each other.



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Tattoo-like sensor can detect glucose levels without painful finger prick

The first ultra-thin, flexible device that sticks to skin like a rub-on tattoo can detect a person's glucose levels. The sensor has the potential to eliminate finger-pricking for many people with diabetes.



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