Saturday, October 31, 2015

Technique for analyzing bedrock could help builders, planners identify safe building zones

The thin layer of bedrock below the Earth's surface is the foundation for all life on land. Cracks and fractures within bedrock provide pathways for air and water, which chemically react to break down rock, forming soil -- an essential ingredient for all terrestrial organisms. Scientists have dubbed this layer Earth's 'critical zone.' Now scientists have found a way to predict the spatial extent of bedrock weathering.

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Simple mathematical formula models lithium-ion battery aging

Hybrid electric vehicles, cell phones, digital cameras, and the Mars Curiosity rover are just a few of the many devices that use rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. Now a team of researchers has a simple mathematical formula to predict what factors most influence lithium-ion battery aging.

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Halloween Chemistry: Cinder Toffee!



How about a spot of halloween chemistry? With nice simple explanations for the trick or treaters.

Cinder toffee!!

You’ll need:

  • Sugar
  • Golden syrup
  • A jam/jelly thermometer
  • Bicarbonate of soda
  • Grease proof paper
  • A baking tray
  • A saucepan

Safety:

The toffee mix gets very hot, be careful when handling in and make sure there’s an adult helping.


What to do:

1. Weigh out 100grams (3.5 oz) of sugar into the saucepan.
2. Add 3 tablespoons of syrup
3. Heat the mixture on a stove whilst stirring it.
4. Check the temperature of the mixture.
5. Carry on heating until it reaches 145-150oC (293-302).
6. Quickly stir in 1 teaspoon of bicarb. It will suddenly bubble up.
7. Now pour it into the baking tray, lined with grease proof paper.
8. Leave it to cool.

9. Break it all up (best done with a hammer) and enjoy!

What’s going on?
So that’s a nice simple recipe for a tasty treat but where is the science?

First off there’s the sugar and syrup. There are actually loads of different types of sugars, the stuff you put in your coffee and the granulated sugar used here is sucrose. It looks like this:

Sucrose
Golden syrup is a mixture of water, sucrose and two other sugars called fructose and glucose. They look like this:
Fructose
Glucose
Sucrose is actually made up of a fructose and glucose molecule that have been joined together.
So why do we need these three sugars to make the toffee? Well, when they are mixed all together they interfere with crystal formation. To explain how this works let’s represent each of the sugars with a different shape.
If we have one type of sugar then the molecules can pack together nice and neatly, like in the diagram. And that is exactly what happens in a crystal. But if you mix them all together they can’t form ordered patterns and so you don’t get crystals forming.
So if we tried to make the toffee with just one type of sugar then we’d end up with crystals forming which make for hard dense toffee (more like a boiled sweet). But by using 3 different sugars the crystals don’t form and instead you end up with a brittle, crunchy, glass like toffee.
Then there’s the bicarbonate of soda. You normally put this in cakes to make them rise. That’s because when you heat up the bicarb it turns to carbon dioxide gas (hence the bubbles in your cakes). The same thing happens here. When you spoon the bicarb into the hot sugar it almost instantly gets converted to carbon dioxide and causes the mixture to foam up.

Hope you enjoy the toffee and whilst you do you can find out more about the science of cinder toffer here.



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Friday, October 30, 2015

Volkswagen's emissions cheat to cause 60 premature deaths in US

Excess emissions from Volkswagen's defeat devices will cause around 60 people in the US to die 10 to 20 years prematurely, say researchers. In total, Volkswagen's excess emissions will generate $450 million in health expenses and other social costs, the study projects. But a total vehicle recall by the end of 2016 may save up to $840 million in further health and social costs.

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New catalyst features unsurpassed selectivity

Catalysts that power chemical reactions to produce the nylon used in clothing, cookware, machinery and electronics could get a lift with a new formulation that saves time, energy and natural resources.

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Solving 80-year-old mystery, chemist discovers way to isolate single-crystal ice surfaces

A chemist has discovered a way to select specific surfaces of single-crystal ice for study, a long-sought breakthrough that could help researchers answer essential questions about climate and the environment.

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Molecules in Minecraft

Thursday, October 29, 2015

New design points a path to the 'ultimate' battery

Researchers have successfully demonstrated how several of the problems impeding the practical development of the so-called 'ultimate' battery could be overcome.

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Life cycle assessment approach combines environmental with economic factors to determine greenhouse gas reductions for varying forms of bioenergy

A new study sets out to calculate the true costs and benefits associated with replacing fossil fuels with bioenergy in varying forms for numerous s applications. The life cycle assessment approach takes into account entire bioenergy systems, including every step along the supply chain.

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Single-agent phototherapy system offers significant new tool to fight cancer

Researchers have announced an important advance in the field of cancer imaging and phototherapy, using a single-agent system that may ultimately change the efficacy of cancer surgery and treatment around the world.

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Researchers have the chemistry to make a star

Chemists have created a star-shaped molecule previously thought to be too unstable to be made.The team created the five-pronged molecule [5]radialene, in work that could lead to more efficient ways to make medicinal agents.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Ph.D. student stumbles upon a new way for producing oldest chemical compounds

A chemistry Ph.D. student has found a simple way for the first time of producing two chemical compounds that were first discovered in late 19th century, entirely by accident. The discovery could have implications for fighting disease and growing crops, where the sulfur containing compounds called sultones and sultines, play a significant role.

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Scientists synthesize hexagonal boron nitride

Researchers have assiduously studied the relationship between insulators and conductors. The international team has extensively tested layered hexagonal boron nitride (h-BN) – an insulating two-dimensional material (2-D) of remarkable properties. All the atoms in 2-D layer materials are exposed to the surface, the related physical and chemical properties are strongly influenced by adjoining materials and sometimes surface corrugation.

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Researchers create technology to produce lighter, long-lasting batteries from silicon

Substantially smaller and longer-lasting batteries for everything from portable electronic devices to electric cars could be come a reality thanks to an innovative technology developed researchers.

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Upcoming UN Climate Summit can't overlook China's support of global coal power

When global leaders converge on Paris on Nov. 30 for the 2015 United Nations climate change conference, they should create guidelines and incentives for developing nations to cooperate with one another on lower-carbon energy projects, according to a new report. Failure to do so could contribute to an unchecked expansion of coal energy in developing counties, which has already accelerated in recent years with the help of Chinese firms going global.

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Revolutionary research work on glassy materials

Scientists have discovered a new method of manufacturing glass.

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Review: MEL Science’s 21st Century Chemistry Sets.



As a kid I loved my chemistry set. Many an afternoon was whiled away in my dad’s shed, totally ignoring the set’s instructions and randomly mixing the contents of the various bottles. To be honest I can’t really remember learning much chemistry, beyond the fact that it was possible to generate some pretty noxious fumes.

I guess its that sort of behaviour that rang the death knell for those sets of old. Today’s high street chemistry offerings seem to have been sanitised to the point of tedium, whilst some even proclaim to be chemical-free (shudder).

But there is hope. MEL science have launched a product that brings the chemistry set smack into the 21st Century. And I was pretty excited to get my hands on one.

IMG_6683

MEL chemistry starter pack and 5 experiment boxes.

MEL chemistry is supplied via a subscription model. The starter pack is £29.95, and includes some glassware, safety specs, a solid fuel burner, a google-cardboard VR clone, a tray, a neat macro lens that clips onto a smartphone and other bits and bobs. On the face of things this looks a little steep, but you should also  take into account a really very good IOS/Android app, which shows various 3D representations (when used with the VR goggles) of all the reagents you are likely to encounter later.

IMG_6689

Tin set unboxed

All the experiments are sold separately, at £9.95 per month. The idea being that you each month you receive a new kit. This seems really very reasonable to me, and is just the sort of model that maintains the excitement. Fresh chemistry coming through the door each month should keep up the interest.

Each experiment was accompanied by a very good instruction card and a detailed online page. The webpage goes into far more depth that you would expect for the target 12+ age group. But its all clear and well written. A very minor criticism is the commentary to the videos, sometimes the heavy (Russian?) accent makes things a little difficult to follow.

We (a small Lorch and I), cracked open the ‘Tin set’ and fired up the accompanying video. Everything is very well packaged with a lot of thought going into how kids should dispense solutions  safely. My lab assistant, for this experiment, has quite a reputation for knocking fluids flying, but in this case, and despite a couple of up ended bottles, nothing was spilt.

So over to the real action. The ‘Tin set’ contains two experiments. First, the tin hedgehog, which simply involves dropping a zinc pellet into a solution of tin (II) chloride. Tin crystals quickly form on the pellet, these are quite small and would be difficult to see without the help of the clip-on macro lens. So with the expanding crystals captured live on my phone’s screen  my co-experimenter was quite impressed.

Then we moved on to the tin dendrites. Again the method was easy for my pre-teen helper to follow. And this time, as the beautiful branches of tin struck out across the petri dish there was some genuine amazement in the room.

IMG_6694

Tin hedgehog, as seen via the kit’s macro lens.

IMG_6698

Tin dendrites

     

So far so very impressed. By linking all the experiments with excellent online and smart resources they should really engage the budding chemist and ensure they learn a heck of a lot more than just how to gas themselves. In short they are fun, safe and bang up to date.

I’ve got previews of another 4 experiments to try and will let you know what I think. If they are up to the same standard I’ll be signing up for the other 34.



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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

May the Fifth Force be with you

Discovering possible new forces in nature is no mean task. The discovery of gravity linked to Newton's arguably apocryphal apple experiment has remained anchored in popular culture. In a new article a researcher gives a personal account of how the existence of the gravity-style fifth force has stimulated an unprecedented amount of research in gravitational physics -- even though its existence has not been confirmed by experiment.

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Ionic liquids interesting in extracting molecules from wood

Thanks to their unique properties, ionic liquids are all in the rage as solvents as "green" sustainable chemical processes. Recently, two research teams discovered how enzymes can perform their catalytical processes in a switchable ionic liquid. The discovery paves way for enzymatic refinement of cellulose to precious molecules and industrial products.

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Monday, October 26, 2015

Entanglement at heart of ‘two-for-one’ fission in next-generation solar cells

An international team of scientists have observed how a mysterious quantum phenomenon in organic molecules takes place in real time, which could aid in the development of highly efficient solar cells.

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Chemists find better way to pack natural gas into fuel tanks

Increasing numbers of natural gas-powered trucks and buses are hitting the road, but a major disadvantage is the bulky equipment needed to store compressed NG or to keep liquefied NG cold. Now chemists have developed an innovative new storage material for methane that could lessen the hassle of filling up with NG, and extend the range of such vehicles. The material is a flexible metal organic framework that expands when methane is pumped in.

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Sunday, October 25, 2015

Cobalt atoms on graphene a powerful combo

Cobalt atoms on nitrogen-doped graphene are a robust solid-state catalyst for hydrogen production. The discovery may be an effective replacement for more expensive platinum-activated catalysts in fuel cells and other energy applications.

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Advanced quantum algorithm: Digital quantum simulation of fermionic models

Researchers have developed an advanced quantum algorithm that achieves the implementation of a quantum simulation of electronic models of materials in superconducting circuits. The collaboration has produced a digital fermionic simulator in excess of 300 quantum logic gates on 4 superconducting quantum bits.

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Saturday, October 24, 2015

Wood-based alternatives in chemistry

Researchers have developed a new way to use wood or other kinds of biomass to make chemical materials without relying on the usual non-renewable petrochemical starting materials.

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Physicists learn how to control the movement of electrons in a molecule

Theoretical physicists have just proved to be able to track and control the movement of electrons in molecules. The research falls into the domain of attophysics -- tracking the particles on the time scales of 10 18 second. For the first time in history physicists made observation on an interval of as small as 100 attoseconds. The breakthrough promises to let us control electrons' movement in chemical reactions.

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Manipulating wrinkles could lead to graphene semiconductors

Scientists have used the tip of a scanning tunneling microscope to manipulate the formation of wrinkles in graphene, opening the way to the construction of graphene semiconductors not through chemical means--by adding other elements -- but by manipulating the carbon structure itself in a form of 'graphene engineering.'

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Halloysite: Finally a promising natural nanomaterial?

Halloysite is a natural biocompatible nanomaterial available in thousands of tons at low price, which makes it a good candidate for nanoarchitectural composites. In vitro and in vivo studies on biological cells and worms indicate the safety of halloysite, and furthermore, it can store and release molecules in a controllable manner, making these tiny containers attractive for applications in drug delivery, antimicrobial materials, self-healing polymeric composites, and regenerative medicine.

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Friday, October 23, 2015

Steaming out some of luminol's wrinkles

A potential rival to the storied forensics tool luminol has emerged. Researchers show that using a hand steamer in combination with thermal imaging, a visualization technique they term "steam thermography," can make even 1/1000-diluted blood spots stand out from the background. And it works in some places luminol can't.

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Umbrella-shaped diamond nanostructures make efficient photon collectors

By tweaking the shape of the diamond nanostructures into the form of tiny umbrellas, researchers experimentally showed that the fluorescence intensity of their structures was three to five times greater than that of bulk diamond.

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Chemists invent ‘tool’ for assembling life molecules

Researchers report a single chemical reaction that couples two constituent chemicals into a carbon-carbon bond, while simultaneously introducing a nitrogen component.

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Evaporation takes place differently than previously thought: Implications for global warming

The process of evaporation, one of the most widespread on our planet, takes place differently than we once thought -- this has been shown by new computer simulations. The discovery has far-reaching consequences for, among others, current global climate models, where a key role is played by evaporation of the oceans.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Synthetic batteries for the energy revolution

A team of researchers made a decisive step towards a redox-flow battery which is simple to handle, safe and economical at the same time: They developed a system on the basis of organic polymers and a harmless saline solution. The new redox-flow battery can withstand up to 10,000 charging cycles without losing a crucial amount of capacity.

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Scientists predict cool new phase of superionic ice

Scientists have predicted a new phase of superionic ice, a special form of ice that could exist on Uranus and Neptune, in a theoretical study performed by a team of researchers.

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Anammox synthesizes 'rocket fuel' hydrazine with special protein

Anaerobic ammonium-oxidizing (anammox) bacteria are known for their ability to convert ammonium into nitrogen gas without using oxygen. The chemical compound hydrazine, also used as rocket fuel and the strongest reductant on earth, is central in this process. An international team of microbiologists now describes the protein that synthesizes hydrazine in anammox in full detail.

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Monday, October 19, 2015

Are cars nanotube factories on wheels?

Scientists detect the presence of carbon nanotubes in cells extracted from the airways of Parisian children with asthma. Their results suggest nanotubes may be common components of airborne pollution and vehicles may be a source.

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Scientists help safeguard nuclear reactors

In March 2011 at Fukushima, the fuel's cladding, a zirconium alloy used to contain the fuel and radioactive fission products, reacted with boiling coolant water to form hydrogen gas, which then exploded, resulting in the biggest nuclear power-related disaster since Chernobyl. Challenged by this event, two research teams have made progress in developing fuel claddings that are capable of withstanding the high temperatures resulting from a Loss of Coolant Accident (LOCA), like that at Fukushima.

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Unveiling distribution of defects in proton conductors

Researchers have developed a new idea to improve proton conductivity in rare-earth doped BaZrO3 to be used as an electrolyte material in intermediate temperature solid oxide fuel cells (IT-SOFCs). The team suggests that a key to liberate trapped protons, which are the cause of low proton conductivity at the intermediate temperature range, is to introduce the appropriate amount of oxygen vacancies that cause repulsive interaction with protons.

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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Breakthrough for iron based dyes can lead to cheaper and environmentally friendly solar energy applications

Researchers have found a new way to capture energy from sunlight – by using molecules that contain iron. The hope is to develop efficient and environmentally friendly solar energy applications.

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Fracking chemicals tied to reduced sperm count in mice

Prenatal exposure to a mixture of chemicals used in the oil and natural gas drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, at levels found in the environment lowered sperm counts in male mice when they reached adulthood, according to a new study.

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