David Kirkpatrick

September 2, 2010

Food for not so easy thought

Everyone thought the biggest threat from China was the sheer volume of Treasuries held by that nation and the potential stranglehold it has over the U.S. economy. Realistically that has never been a real issue because as such a heavy investor in the U.S. economy, China has a vested interest in our financial sector remaining strong.

Now squeezing us on manufacturing vital elements of computing and electronics by taking complete control over rare earth metals is a different angle of attack altogether. You know the U.S. government is taking this very seriously when it has both the energy department and the DoD on the job.

The release:

China’s monopoly on 17 key elements sets stage for supply crisis

China’s monopoly on the global supply of elements critical for production of computer hard disc drives, hybrid-electric cars, military weapons, and other key products — and its increasingly strict limits on exports — is setting the stage for a crisis in the United States. That’s the topic of the cover story of Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.

C&EN Senior Editor Mitch Jacoby and Contributing Editor Jessie Jiang explain that the situation involves a family of chemical elements that may soon start to live up to their name, the “rare earths.” China has virtually cornered the global market on them, and produces most of the world’s supply. Since 2005, China has been raising prices and restricting exports, most recently in 2010, fostering a potential supply crisis in the U.S.

The article describes how the U.S. is now responding to this emerging crisis. To boost supplies, for instance, plans are being developed to resume production at the largest U.S. rare-earth mine — Mountain Pass in southern California — which has been dormant since 2002. The U.S. Department of Energy and the Department of Defense are among the government agencies grappling with the problem.

###

ARTICLE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE “Securing the Supply of Rare Earths”

This story is available at http://pubs.acs.org/cen/coverstory/88/8835cover.html

August 26, 2010

Dry water

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 8:47 am

You know, all you have to do is just add water. Oh, wait …

Seriously, here’s the release:

‘Dry water’ could make a big splash commercially

This release is also available in Chinese on EurekAlert! Chinese.

IMAGE: Powdered material called “dry water ” could provide a new way to store carbon dioxide in an effort to fight global warming.

Click here for more information.

BOSTON, Aug. 25, 2010 — An unusual substance known as “dry water,” which resembles powdered sugar, could provide a new way to absorb and store carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming, scientists reported here today at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society.

The powder shows bright promise for a number of other uses, they said. It may, for instance, be a greener, more energy-efficient way of jumpstarting the chemical reactions used to make hundreds of consumer products. Dry water also could provide a safer way to store and transport potentially harmful industrial materials.

“There’s nothing else quite like it,” said Ben Carter, Ph.D., researcher for study leader Professor Andrew Cooper. “Hopefully, we may see ‘dry water’ making waves in the future.”

Carter explained that the substance became known as “dry water” because it consists of 95 percent water and yet is a dry powder. Each powder particle contains a water droplet surrounded by modified silica, the stuff that makes up ordinary beach sand. The silica coating prevents the water droplets from combining and turning back into a liquid. The result is a fine powder that can slurp up gases, which chemically combine with the water molecules to form what chemists term a hydrate.

Dry water was discovered in 1968 and got attention for its potential use in cosmetics. Scientists at the University of Hull, U.K. rediscovered it in 2006 in order to study its structure, and Cooper’s group at the University of Liverpool has since expanded its range of potential applications.

One of the most recent involves using dry water as a storage material for gases, including carbon dioxide. In laboratory-scale research, Cooper and co-workers found that dry water absorbed over three times as much carbon dioxide as ordinary, uncombined water and silica in the same space of time. This ability to absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide gas as a hydrate could make it useful in helping to reduce global warming, the scientists suggested.

Cooper and colleagues demonstrated in previous studies that dry water is also useful for storing methane, a component of natural gas, and may help expand its use as a future energy source. In particular, they hope that engineers can use the powder to collect and transport stranded deposits of natural gas. This also exists on the ocean floor in the form of gas hydrates, a form of frozen methane also known as the “ice that burns.” The powder could also provide a safer, more convenient way to store methane fuel for use in vehicles powered by natural gas. “A great deal of work remains to be done before we could reach that stage,” Carter added.

In another potential new application, the scientists also showed that dry water is a promising means to speed up catalyzed reactions between hydrogen gas and maleic acid to produce succinic acid, a feedstock or raw material widely used to make drugs, food ingredients, and other consumer products. Manufacturers usually have to stir these substances together to get them to react. By developing dry water particles that contain maleic acid, Cooper and colleagues showed that they could speed up the acid’s reaction with hydrogen without any stirring, resulting in a greener, more energy-efficient process.

“If you can remove the need to stir your reactions, then potentially you’re making considerable energy savings,” Carter said.

Prof. Cooper’s team describes an additional new application in which dry water technology shows promise for storing liquids, particularly emulsions. Emulsions are mixtures of two or more unblendable liquids, such as the oil and water mixture in mayonnaise. The scientists showed that they could transform a simple emulsion into a dry powder that is similar to dry water. The resulting powder could make it safer and easier for manufacturers to store and transport potentially harmful liquids.

Carter noted that he and his colleagues are seeking commercial or academic collaboration to further develop the dry water technology. The U.K. Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Center for Materials Discovery provided funding and technical support for this study.

###

The American Chemical Society is a non-profit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 161,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

August 23, 2010

200x fuel cell efficiency boost

The idea of a personalized energy system is very attractive. Talk about being able to go off the grid …

The release:

200-fold boost in fuel cell efficiency advances ‘personalized energy systems’

IMAGE: A new catalyst could help speed development of inexpensive home-brewed solar energy systems for powering homes and plug-in cars during the day (left) and for producing electricity from a fuel…

Click here for more information.

BOSTON, Aug. 23, 2010 — The era of personalized energy systems — in which individual homes and small businesses produce their own energy for heating, cooling and powering cars — took another step toward reality today as scientists reported discovery of a powerful new catalyst that is a key element in such a system. They described the advance, which could help free homes and businesses from dependence on the electric company and the corner gasoline station, at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, being held here this week.

“Our goal is to make each home its own power station,” said study leader Daniel Nocera, Ph.D. “We’re working toward development of ‘personalized’ energy units that can be manufactured, distributed and installed inexpensively. There certainly are major obstacles to be overcome — existing fuel cells and solar cells must be improved, for instance. Nevertheless, one can envision villages in India and Africa not long from now purchasing an affordable basic system.”

Such a system would consist of rooftop solar energy panels to produce electricity for heating, cooking, lighting, and to charge the batteries on the homeowners’ electric cars. Surplus electricity would go to an “electrolyzer,” a device that breaks down ordinary water into its two components, hydrogen and oxygen. Both would be stored in tanks. In the dark of night, when the solar panels cease production, the system would shift gears, feeding the stored hydrogen and oxygen into a fuel cell that produces electricity (and clean drinking water as a byproduct). Such a system would produce clean electricity 24 hours a day, seven days a week — even when the sun isn’t shining.

Nocera’s report focused on the electrolyzer, which needs catalysts — materials that jumpstart chemical reactions like the ones that break water up into hydrogen and oxygen. He is with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass. Good catalysts already are available for the part of the electrolyzer that produces hydrogen. Lacking, however, have been inexpensive, long-lasting catalysts for the production of oxygen. The new catalyst fills that gap and boosts oxygen production by 200-fold. It eliminates the need for expensive platinum catalysts and potentially toxic chemicals used in making them.

The new catalyst has been licensed to Sun Catalytix, which envisions developing safe, super-efficient versions of the electrolyzer, suitable for homes and small businesses, within two years.

The National Science Foundation and the Chesonis Family Foundation provided funding for this study. Nocera did the research with post-doctoral researcher Mircea Dinca and doctoral candidate Yogesh Surendranath. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency has recently awarded the team with a grant, which it plans to use to search for related compounds that can further increase the efficiency of its electrolyzer technology. The team hopes that nickel-borate belongs to a family of compounds that can be optimized for super-efficient, long-term energy storage technologies.

###

The American Chemical Society is a non-profit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 161,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

Update 9/2/10 — Someone really likes this story because here’s a follow-up release from yesterday.

August 22, 2010

Keeping solar panels clean

By using technology developed for Mars missions. The budget for NASA gets debated, scoffed at and cut, but all too often people against giving NASA money forget how many products and processes developed for space travel ended up with solidly terrestrial applications.

The release:

Self-cleaning technology from Mars can keep terrestrial solar panels dust free

IMAGE: Researchers have developed technology for large-scale solar power installations to self-clean.

Click here for more information.

BOSTON, Aug. 22, 2010 — Find dusting those tables and dressers a chore or a bore? Dread washing the windows? Imagine keeping dust and grime off objects spread out over an area of 25 to 50 football fields. That’s the problem facing companies that deploy large-scale solar power installations, and scientists today presented the development of one solution — self-dusting solar panels ― based on technology developed for space missions to Mars.

In a report at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), they described how a self-cleaning coating on the surface of solar cells could increase the efficiency of producing electricity from sunlight and reduce maintenance costs for large-scale solar installations.

“We think our self-cleaning panels used in areas of high dust and particulate pollutant concentrations will highly benefit the systems’ solar energy output,” study leader Malay K. Mazumder, Ph.D. said. “Our technology can be used in both small- and large-scale photovoltaic systems. To our knowledge, this is the only technology for automatic dust cleaning that doesn’t require water or mechanical movement.”

Mazumder, who is with Boston University, said the need for that technology is growing with the popularity of solar energy. Use of solar, or photovoltaic, panels increased by 50 percent from 2003 to 2008, and forecasts suggest a growth rate of at least 25 percent annually into the future. Fostering the growth, he said, is emphasis on alternative energy sources and society-wide concerns about sustainability (using resources today in ways that do not jeopardize the ability of future generations to meet their needs).

Large-scale solar installations already exist in the United States, Spain, Germany, the Middle East, Australia, and India. These installations usually are located in sun-drenched desert areas where dry weather and winds sweep dust into the air and deposit it onto the surface of solar panel. Just like grime on a household window, that dust reduces the amount of light that can enter the business part of the solar panel, decreasing the amount of electricity produced. Clean water tends to be scarce in these areas, making it expensive to clean the solar panels.

“A dust layer of one-seventh of an ounce per square yard decreases solar power conversion by 40 percent,” Mazumder explains. “In Arizona, dust is deposited each month at about 4 times that amount. Deposition rates are even higher in the Middle East, Australia, and India.”

Working with NASA, Mazumder and colleagues initially developed the self-cleaning solar panel technology for use in lunar and Mars missions. “Mars of course is a dusty and dry environment,” Mazumder said, “and solar panels powering rovers and future manned and robotic missions must not succumb to dust deposition. But neither should the solar panels here on Earth.”

The self-cleaning technology involves deposition of a transparent, electrically sensitive material deposited on glass or a transparent plastic sheet covering the panels. Sensors monitor dust levels on the surface of the panel and energize the material when dust concentration reaches a critical level. The electric charge sends a dust-repelling wave cascading over the surface of the material, lifting away the dust and transporting it off of the screen’s edges.

Mazumder said that within two minutes, the process removes about 90 percent of the dust deposited on a solar panel and requires only a small amount of the electricity generated by the panel for cleaning operations.

The current market size for solar panels is about $24 billion, Mazumder said. “Less than 0.04 percent of global energy production is derived from solar panels, but if only four percent of the world’s deserts were dedicated to solar power harvesting, our energy needs could be completely met worldwide. This self-cleaning technology can play an important role.”

###

The American Chemical Society is a non-profit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 161,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

July 23, 2010

If something sounds too good to be true …

… it probably is. I will have to admit, if this tech is the least bit feasible it would be something of a climate issue miracle.

From the link:

By using the sun’s visible light and heat to power an electrolysis cell that captures and converts carbon dioxide from the air, a new technique could impressively clean the atmosphere and produce fuel feedstock at the same time. The key advantage of the new solar carbon capture process is that it simultaneously uses the solar visible and solar thermal components, whereas the latter is usually regarded as detrimental due to the degradation that heat causes to photovoltaic materials. However, the new method uses the sun’s heat to convert more solar energy into carbon than either photovoltaic or solar thermal processes alone.

The new process, called Solar Thermal Electrochemical Photo (STEP) , was recently suggested theoretically by a team of scientists from George Washington University and Howard University, both in Washington, DC. Now, in a paper just published in The  Letters, the scientists have experimentally demonstrated the STEP process for the first time.

“The significance of the study is twofold,” Stuart Licht, a chemistry professor at George Washington University, told PhysOrg.com. “, a non-reactive and normally difficult-to-remove compound, can be easily captured with  using our new low-energy, lithium carbonate electrolysis STEP process, and with scale-up, sufficient resources exist for STEP to decrease carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere to pre-industrial levels within 10 years.”

In the Solar Thermal Electrochemical Photo (STEP) carbon capture process, the sun’s visible light and heat are used to capture large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it to solid carbon for storage or carbon monoxide for fuel generation.

Image copyright: Stuart Licht, et al. ©2010 American Chemical Society.

July 2, 2010

Nanotechnology and dentistry

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:08 am

Okay, for many, many years I’ve been reading about all sorts of breakthroughs, innovations and miraculous-sounding dental treatments that never really seem to pan out (remember that cavity removing painless gel anyone?), but I couldn’t resist throwing this bit of nanotech out there.

The release:

Nano-sized advance toward next big treatment era in dentistry

IMAGE: Dentists may use a special nano-sized film in the future to bring diseased teeth back to life rather than remove them.

Click here for more information.

Scientists are reporting an advance toward the next big treatment revolution in dentistry — the era in which root canal therapy brings diseased teeth back to life, rather than leaving a “non-vital” or dead tooth in the mouth. In a report in the monthly journal ACS Nano, they describe a first-of-its-kind, nano-sized dental film that shows early promise for achieving this long-sought goal.

Nadia Benkirane-Jessel and colleagues note that root canal procedures help prevent tooth loss in millions of people each year. During the procedure, a dentist removes the painful, inflamed pulp, the soft tissue inside the diseased or injured tooth that contains nerves and blood vessels. Regenerative endodontics, the development and delivery of tissues to replace diseased or damaged dental pulp, has the potential to provide a revolutionary alternative to pulp removal.

The scientists are reporting development of a multilayered, nano-sized film — only 1/50,000th the thickness of a human hair — containing a substance that could help regenerate dental pulp. Previous studies show that the substance, called alpha melanocyte stimulating hormone, or alpha-MSH, has anti-inflammatory properties. The scientists showed in laboratory tests alpha-MSH combined with a widely-used polymer produced a material that fights inflammation in dental pulp fibroblasts. Fibroblasts are the main type of cell found in dental pulp. Nano-films containing alpha-MSH also increased the number of these cells. This could help revitalize damaged teeth and reduce the need for a root canal procedure, the scientists suggest.

###

ARTICLE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
“Nanostructured Assemblies for Dental Application”

DOWNLOAD FULL TEXT ARTICLE
http://pubs.acs.org/stoken/presspac/presspac/full/10.1021/nn100713m

May 1, 2010

US government puts $145M into anti-cancer nanotech research

I’ve done a ton of blogging on cancer fighting nanotechnology, so I’m particularly pleased to read about this government initiative. Nanotech may well be the “magic bullet” researchers have been searching for in the battle against cancer.

From the second link, the release:

New advances in science of the ultra-small promise big benefits for cancer patients

IMAGE: Gold nanoparticles, the bright structures attached to the cultured human cell in this electron microscope image, are among the ultra-small technologies that may help improve the diagnosis and treatment of…

Click here for more information.

A $145-million Federal Government effort to harness the power of nanotechnology to improve the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of cancer is producing innovations that will radically improve care for the disease. That’s the conclusion of an update on the status of the program, called the National Cancer Institute Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer. It appears in ACS Nano, a monthly journal published by the American Chemical Society.

Piotr Grodzinski and colleagues note in the article that the alliance, launched in 2004, funds and coordinates research specifically intended to move knowledge about the small science out of laboratories and into hospitals and doctors offices in a big way. It builds on more than 50 years of advances in cancer care that although substantial, still leave cancer as the No. 1 cause of death in the United States and globally.

The article describes a range of advances, including some showing significant promise in clinical trials that are poised to make a big impact on cancer. They promise earlier disease diagnosis, highly targeted treatments that kill cancer cells but leave normal cells alone, fewer side effects, and improved survival, the article

###

ARTICLE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE “Recent Advances from the National Cancer Institute Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer”

DOWNLOAD FULL TEXT ARTICLE http://pubs.acs.org/stoken/presspac/presspac/full/10.1021/nn100073g

March 17, 2010

In the nick of time …

Filed under: et.al., Media, Science — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:47 pm

… for tonight’s revelries, the American Chemical Society comes through with the science on just why that hangover is ruining your life.

From the link:

When your head is pounding and you can’t stomach even a dry piece of toast, who among us has not asked why? Not, “Why did I drink so much?” but “Why is this happening to me?”

March 11, 2010

Mass producing graphene cheaply

Filed under: Business, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:36 pm

Commercial production of graphene is coming and we can expect to see some of those “miracle material” claims begin to show fruition.

The release:

A huge step toward mass production of coveted form of carbon

IMAGE: This graphic represents an atom-thin sheet of graphene, a form of carbon that could replace silicon in future electronic devices. Scientists have developed a simple manufacturing method that could allow…

Click here for more information.

Scientists have leaped over a major hurdle in efforts to begin commercial production of a form of carbon that could rival silicon in its potential for revolutionizing electronics devices ranging from supercomputers to cell phones. Called graphene, the material consists of a layer of graphite 50,000 times thinner than a human hair with unique electronic properties. Their study appears in ACS’ Nano Letters, a monthly journal.

Victor Aristov and colleagues indicate that graphene has the potential to replace silicon in high-speed computer processors and other devices. Standing in the way, however, are today’s cumbersome, expensive production methods, which result in poor-quality graphene and are not practical for industrial scale applications.

Aristov and colleagues report that they have developed “a very simple procedure for making graphene on the cheap.” They describe growing high-quality graphene on the surface of commercially available silicon carbide wafers to produce material with excellent electronic properties. It “represents a huge step toward technological application of this material as the synthesis is compatible with industrial mass production,” their

###

ARTICLE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE “Graphene Synthesis on Cubic SiC/Si Wafers. Perspectives for Mass Production of Graphene-Based Electronic Devices”

DOWNLOAD FULL TEXT ARTICLE http://pubs.acs.org/stoken/presspac/presspac/full/10.1021/nl904115h

February 12, 2010

Nanogenerators and electric clothes

(Number two of two posts on nanotechnology and electricity. Hit this link for part one)

The idea of smart clothes has been around for ages. Looks like this might just be a breakthrough to electric clothing becoming a reality.

That oughta bring a whole new meaning to “social networking.” Thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all weekend. Be sure and come back tomorrow for the complimentary Saturday buffet and half-price happy hour.

The release:

New fiber nanogenerators could lead to electric clothing

By Sarah Yang, Media Relations | 12 February 2010

BERKELEY — In research that gives literal meaning to the term “power suit,” University of California, Berkeley, engineers have created energy-scavenging nanofibers that could one day be woven into clothing and textiles.

These nano-sized generators have “piezoelectric” properties that allow them to convert into electricity the energy created through mechanical stress, stretches and twists.

“This technology could eventually lead to wearable ‘smart clothes’ that can power hand-held electronics through ordinary body movements,” said Liwei Lin, UC Berkeley professor of mechanical engineering and head of the international research team that developed the fiber nanogenerators.

Because the nanofibers are made from organic polyvinylidene fluoride, or PVDF, they are flexible and relatively easy and cheap to manufacture.

Although they are still working out the exact calculations, the researchers noted that more vigorous movements, such as the kind one would create while dancing the electric boogaloo, should theoretically generate more power. “And because the nanofibers are so small, we could weave them right into clothes with no perceptible change in comfort for the user,” said Lin, who is also co-director of the Berkeley Sensor and Actuator Center at UC Berkeley.

The fiber nanogenerators are described in this month’s issue of Nano Letters, a peer-reviewed journal published by the American Chemical Society.

The goal of harvesting energy from mechanical movements through wearable nanogenerators is not new. Other research teams have previously made nanogenerators out of inorganic semiconducting materials, such as zinc oxide or barium titanate. “Inorganic nanogenerators — in contrast to the organic nanogenerators we created — are more brittle and harder to grow in significant quantities,” Lin said.

The tiny nanogenerators have diameters as small as 500 nanometers, or about 100 times thinner than a human hair and one-tenth the width of common cloth fibers. The researchers repeatedly tugged and tweaked the nanofibers, generating electrical outputs ranging from 5 to 30 millivolts and 0.5 to 3 nanoamps.

Furthermore, the researchers report no noticeable degradation after stretching and releasing the nanofibers for 100 minutes at a frequency of 0.5 hertz (cycles per second).

Lin’s team at UC Berkeley pioneered the near-field electrospinning technique used to create and position the polymeric nanogenerators 50 micrometers apart in a grid pattern. The technology enables greater control of the placement of the nanofibers onto a surface, allowing researchers to properly align the fiber nanogenerators so that positive and negative poles are on opposite ends, similar to the poles on a battery.

Without this control, the researchers explained, the negative and positive poles might cancel each other out and reducing energy efficiency.

The researchers demonstrated energy conversion efficiencies as high as 21.8 percent, with an average of 12.5 percent.

“Surprisingly, the energy efficiency ratings of the nanofibers are much greater than the 0.5 to 4 percent achieved in typical power generators made from experimental piezoelectric PVDF thin films, and the 6.8 percent in nanogenerators made from zinc oxide fine wires,” said the study’s lead author, Chieh Chang, who conducted the experiments while he was a graduate student in mechanical engineering at UC Berkeley.

“We think the efficiency likely could be raised further,” Lin said. “For our preliminary results, we see a trend that the smaller the fiber we have, the better the energy efficiency. We don’t know what the limit is.”

Other co-authors of the study are Yiin-Kuen Fuh, a UC Berkeley graduate student in mechanical engineering; Van H. Tran, a graduate student at the Technische Universität München (Technical University of Munich) in Germany; and Junbo Wang, a researcher at the Institute of Electronics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, China.

The National Science Foundation and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency helped support this research.

fiber nanogenerator
Shown is a fiber nanogenerator on a plastic substrate created by UC Berkeley scientists. The nanofibers can convert energy from mechanical stresses and into electricity, and could one day be used to create clothing that can power small electronics. (Chieh Chang, UC Berkeley)

February 4, 2010

Medical imaging and art forgery

A lesson on applying technology across entire disciplines. Usually the cutting edge of imaging tech is found in medicine for obvious reasons, but that same tech can be applied in other fields to sometimes startling effect.

The release:

Imaging method for eye disease used to eye art forgeries

IMAGE: The oil painting on the left fluoresces to reveal hidden details (right) when exposed to a new noninvasive imaging technique that uses ultraviolet light.

Click here for more information.

Scientists in Poland are describing how a medical imaging technique has taken on a second life in revealing forgery of an artist’s signature and changes in inscriptions on paintings that are hundreds of years old. A report on the technique, called optical coherence tomography (OCT), is in ACS’ Accounts of Chemical Research, a monthly journal.

Piotr Targowski notes that easel paintings prepared according to traditional techniques consist of multiple layers. The artist, for instance, first applies a glue sizing over the canvas to ensure proper adhesion of later layers. Those layers may include an outline of the painting, the painting itself, layers of semitransparent glazes, and finally transparent varnish. Art conservators and other experts resort to a variety of technologies to see below the surface and detect changes, including forged signatures and other alterations in a painting. But those approaches may damage artistic treasures or not be sensitive enough to detect finer details.

The scientists describe how OCT, used to produce three-dimensional images of the layers of the retina of the eye, overcomes those difficulties. They used OCT to analyze two oil paintings from the 18th and 19th centuries. In one, “Saint Leonard of Porto Maurizio,” OCT revealed evidence that the inscription “St. Leonard” was added approximately fifty years after completion of the painting. In the other, “Portrait of an unknown woman,” OCT found evidence of the possible of forgery of the artist’s signature.

###

ARTICLE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
“Structural Examination of Easel Paintings with Optical Coherence Tomography”

DOWNLOAD FULL TEXT ARTICLE
http://pubs.acs.org/stoken/presspac/presspac/full/10.1021/ar900195d

November 5, 2009

Solar energy and the artificial leaf

Very interesting solar breakthrough, or near to it at least. Plus more on the state of the solar industry.

The release:

Chemists describe solar energy progress and challenges, including the ‘artificial leaf’

WASHINGTON, Nov. 5, 2009 — Scientists are making progress toward development of an “artificial leaf” that mimics a real leaf’s chemical magic with photosynthesis — but instead converts sunlight and water into a liquid fuel such as methanol for cars and trucks. That is among the conclusions in a newly-available report from top authorities on solar energy who met at the 1st Annual Chemical Sciences and Society Symposium. The gathering launched a new effort to initiate international cooperation and innovative thinking on the global energy challenge.

The three-day symposium, which took place in Germany this past summer, included 30 chemists from China, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. It was organized through a joint effort of the science and technology funding agencies and chemical societies of each country, including the U. S. National Science Foundation and the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society. The symposium series was initiated though the ACS Committee on International Activities in order to offer a unique forum whereby global challenges could be tackled in an open, discussion-based setting, fostering innovative solutions to some of the world’s most daunting challenges.

A “white paper” entitled “Powering the World with Sunlight,” describes highlights of the symposium and is available along with related materials here.

“The sun provides more energy to the Earth in an hour than the world consumes in a year,” the report states. “Compare that single hour to the one million years required for the Earth to accumulate the same amount of energy in the form of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are not a sustainable resource, and we must break our dependence on them. Solar power is among the most promising alternatives.”

The symposium focused on four main topics:

  • Mimicking photosynthesis using synthetic materials such as the “artificial leaf”
  • Production and use of biofuels as a form of stored solar energy
  • Developing innovative, more efficient solar cells
  • Storage and distribution of solar energy

     

The scientists pointed out during the meeting that plants use solar energy when they capture and convert sunlight into chemical fuel through photosynthesis. The process involves the conversion of water and carbon dioxide into sugars as well as oxygen and hydrogen. Scientists have been successful in mimicking this fuel-making process, termed artificial photosynthesis, but now must finds ways of doing so in ways that can be used commercially. Participants described progress toward this goal and the scientific challenges that must be met before solar can be a viable alternative to fossil fuels.

Highlights of the symposium include a talk by Kazunari Domen, Ph.D., of the University of Tokyo in Japan. Domen described current research on developing more efficient and affordable catalysts for producing hydrogen using a new water-splitting technology called “photocatalytic overall water splitting.” The technology uses light-activated nanoparticles, each 1/50,000 the width of a human hair, to convert water to hydrogen. This technique is more efficient and less expensive than current technologies, he said.

Domen noted that the ultimate goal of artificial photosynthesis is to produce a liquid fuel, such as methanol, or “wood alcohol.” Achieving this goal would fulfil the vision of creating an “artificial leaf” that not only splits water but uses the reaction products to create a more usable fuel, similar to what leaves do.

Among the “take-home messages” cited in the report:

  • There’s no single best solution to the energy problem. Scientists must seek more affordable, sustainable solutions to the global energy challenge by considering all the options.
  • Investing in chemistry is investing in the future. Strong basic research is fundamental to realizing the potential of solar energy and making it affordable for large-scale use.
  • Society needs a new generation of “energy scientists” to explore new ways to capture, convert, and store solar energy.

     

“The meeting was an experiment worth trying,” said Teruto Ohta, executive director of the Chemical Society of Japan.

Conference organizers expressed hope that the symposium will be the first of several to tackle “the global challenges of the 21st century and the indispensible role that the chemical sciences play in addressing these issues,” said Klaus Mullen, president of the German Chemistry Association.

“Building on the success of this first symposium, we’re now gearing up for the future, convening top chemical scientists to address other, equally pressing global challenges,” said Julie Callahan of the ACS Office of International Activities and principal investigator on the project. “It is an exciting time to be a chemist!”

###

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 154,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

September 30, 2009

Moving molecules

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:27 pm

A nanotech breakthrough.

The release:

Step forward for nanotechnology: Controlled movement of molecules

IMAGE: In a step forward for nanotechnology, scientists are reporting an advance that allows the controlled movement of individual molecules without help from outside forces. Shown is a model of the…

Click here for more information.

Scientists in the United Kingdom are reporting an advance toward overcoming one of the key challenges in nanotechnology: Getting molecules to move quickly in a desired direction without help from outside forces. Their achievement has broad implications, the scientists say, raising the possibility of coaxing cells to move and grow in specific directions to treat diseases. It also could speed development of some long-awaited nanotech innovations. They include self-healing structures that naturally repair tears in their surface and devices that deliver medication to diseased while sparing healthy tissue. The study is scheduled for the October issue of ACS Nano, a monthly journal.

Mark Geoghegan and colleagues note long-standing efforts to produce directed, controlled movement of individual molecules in the nano world, where objects are about 1/50,000ththe width of a human hair. The main solutions so far have involved use of expensive, complex machines to move the molecules and they have been only partially successful, the scientists say.

The scientists used a special surface with hydrophobic (water repelling) and hydrophilic (water-attracting) sections. The region between the two sections produced a so-called “energy gradient” which can move tiny objects much like a conveyor belt. In lab studies, the scientists showed that plastic nanoparticles (polymer molecules) moved quickly and in a specific direction on this surface. “This could have implications in many technologies such as coaxing cells to move and grow in given directions, which could have major implications for the treatment of paralysis,” the scientists said.

###

RTICLE #1 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
“Directed Single Molecule Diffusion Triggered by Surface Energy Gradients”

DOWNLOAD FULL TEXT ARTICLE http://pubs.acs.org/stoken/presspac/presspac/full/10.1021/nn900991r

September 3, 2009

NanoPen to improve nanotech manufacturing

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:15 am

Nanotech news from the American Chemical Society:

‘NanoPen’ may write new chapter in nanotechnology manufacturing

IMAGE: These highly-magnified images are composed of tiny nanoparticles produced by a “NanoPen. “

Click here for more information.

Researchers in California are reporting development of a so-called “NanoPen” that could provide a quick, convenient way of laying down patterns of nanoparticles — from wires to circuits — for making futuristic electronic devices, medical diagnostic tests, and other much-anticipated nanotech applications. A report on the device, which helps solve a long-standing challenge in nanotechnology, appeared in ACS’ Nano Letters, a monthly journal.

In the new study, Ming Wu and colleagues point out that researchers have already developed several different techniques for producing patterns of nanoparticles, which are barely 1/50,000th the width of a human hair. But current techniques tend to be too complex and slow. They require bulky instrumentation and take minutes or even hours to complete. These techniques also require the use of very high temperatures to apply the nanostructures to their target surfaces. Such limitations prevent widespread application of such techniques, the researchers say.

The scientists say their NanoPen solves these problems. In lab studies, the researchers used it to deposit various nanoparticles into specific patterns in the presence of relatively low light and temperature intensities. The process, which requires the use of special “photoconductive” surfaces, takes only seconds to complete, they note. Manufacturers can adjust the size and density of the patterns by adjusting the voltage, light intensity, and exposure time applied during the process, the researchers say.

###

ARTICLE #4 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
“NanoPen: Dynamic, Low-Power, and Light-Actuated Patterning of Nanoparticles”

DOWNLOAD FULL TEXT ARTICLE: http://pubs.acs.org/stoken/presspac/presspac/full/10.1021/nl901239a

September 2, 2009

Pee + ash = fertilizer

You too can make your own environmentally-friendly fertilizer …

Seriously though, this sounds pretty effective for easy to create organic plant food.

The release:

Sustainable fertilizer: Urine and wood ash produce large harvest

IMAGE: Human urine and wood ash appear to make a potent, inexpensive fertilizer combination for boosting the productivity of food crops, scientists say.

Click here for more information.

Results of the first study evaluating the use of human urine mixed with wood ash as a fertilizer for food crops has found that the combination can be substituted for costly synthetic fertilizers to produce bumper crops of tomatoes without introducing any risk of disease for consumers. The study appears in the current issue of ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.

In the study, Surendra Pradhan and colleagues point out that urine, a good source of nitrogen, has been successfully used to fertilize cucumber, corn, cabbage, and other crops. Only a few studies, however, have investigated the use of wood ash, which is rich in minerals and also reduces the acidity of certain soils. Scientists have not reported on the combinaton of urine and wood ash, they say.

The new study found that plants fertilized with urine produced four times more tomatoes than nonfertilized plants and as much as plants given synthetic fertilizer. Urine plus wood ash produced almost as great a yield, with the added benefit of reducing the acidity of acid soils. “The results suggest that urine with or without wood ash can be used as a substitute for mineral fertilizer to increase the yields of tomato without posing any microbial or chemical risks,” the report says.

###

RTICLE #2 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
“Stored Human Urine Supplemented with Wood Ash as Fertilizer in Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) Cultivation and Its Impacts on Fruit Yield and Quality”

DOWNLOAD FULL TEXT ARTICLE: http://pubs.acs.org/stoken/presspac/presspac/full/10.1021/jf9018917

Magnetic graphene

Graphene news from Virginia Commonwealth University:

Researchers design new graphene-based, nano-material with magnetic properties

A possible pathway to simply synthesize ferromagnetic graphene

Ferromagnetic Graphone Sheet. Puru Jena/VCU.

An international team of researchers has designed a new graphite-based, magnetic nano-material that acts as a semiconductor and could help material scientists create the next generation of electronic devices like microchips.

The team of researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University; Peking University in Beijing, China; the Chinese Academy of Science in Shanghai, China; and Tohoku University in Sedai, Japan; used theoretical computer modeling to design the new material they called graphone, which is derived from an existing material known as graphene.

Graphene, created by scientists five years ago, is 200 times stronger than steel, its electrons are highly mobile and it has unique optical and transport properties. Some experts believe that graphene may be more versatile than carbon nanotubes, and the ability to make graphene magnetic adds to its potential for novel applications in spintronics. Spintronics is a process using electron spin to synthesize new devices for memory and data processing.

Although graphene’s properties can be significantly modified by introducing defects and by saturating with hydrogen, it has been very difficult for scientists to manipulate the structure to make it magnetic.

“The new material we are predicting – graphone – makes graphene magnetic simply by controlling the amount of hydrogen coverage – basically, how much hydrogen is put on graphene. It avoids previous difficulties associated with the synthesis of magnetic graphene,” said Puru Jena, Ph.D., distinguished professor in the VCU Department of Physics.

“There are many possibilities for engineering new functional materials simply by changing their composition and structure. Our findings may guide researchers in the future to discover this material in the laboratory and to explore its potential technological applications,” said Jena.

“One of the important impacts of this research is that semi-hydrogenation provides us a very unique way to tailor magnetism. The resulting ferromagnetic graphone sheet will have unprecedented possibilities for the applications of graphene-based materials,” said Qiang Sun, Ph.D., research associate professor with the VCU team.

The study appeared online Aug. 31 in the journal Nano Letters, a publication of the American Chemical Society. The work was supported by a grant from the National Natural Science Foundation of China, The National Science Foundation and by the U.S. Department of Energy. Read the article abstract here.

The first author of this paper is Jian Zhou, a Ph.D. student at Peking University. The other authors include Qian Wang, Ph.D., a research associate professor at VCU; Xiaoshuan Chen, Ph.D., a professor at the Shanghai Institute of Technical Physics; and Yoshiyuki Kawazoe, Ph.D.,  a professor at Tohoku University.

About VCU and the VCU Medical Center:


Virginia Commonwealth University is the largest university in Virginia with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located on two downtown campuses in Richmond, VCU enrolls 32,000 students in 205 certificate and degree programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Sixty-five of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 15 schools and one college. MCV Hospitals and the health sciences schools of Virginia Commonwealth University compose the VCU Medical Center, one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers. For more, see www.vcu.edu.

August 5, 2009

Solar cells, nanotech and plastics

This release involves using nanotechnology to help create that efficiently turn light into electricity, improving solar cells in the process.

The release:

Plastics that convert light to electricity could have a big impact

IMAGE: David Ginger, a University of Washington associate professor of chemistry, displays the tiny probe for a conductive atomic force microscope, used to record photocurrents on scales of millionths of an…

Click here for more information. 

Researchers the world over are striving to develop organic solar cells that can be produced easily and inexpensively as thin films that could be widely used to generate electricity.

But a major obstacle is coaxing these carbon-based materials to reliably form the proper structure at the nanoscale (tinier than 2-millionths of an inch) to be highly efficient in converting light to electricity. The goal is to develop cells made from low-cost plastics that will transform at least 10 percent of the sunlight that they absorb into usable electricity and can be easily manufactured.

A research team headed by David Ginger, a University of Washington associate professor of chemistry, has found a way to make images of tiny bubbles and channels, roughly 10,000 times smaller than a human hair, inside plastic solar cells. These bubbles and channels form within the polymers as they are being created in a baking process, called annealing, that is used to improve the materials’ performance.

The researchers are able to measure directly how much current each tiny bubble and channel carries, thus developing an understanding of exactly how a solar cell converts light into electricity. Ginger believes that will lead to a better understanding of which materials created under which conditions are most likely to meet the 10 percent efficiency goal.

As researchers approach that threshold, nanostructured plastic solar cells could be put into use on a broad scale, he said. As a start, they could be incorporated into purses or backpacks to charge cellular phones or mp3 players, but eventually they could make in important contribution to the electrical power supply.

Most researchers make plastic solar cells by blending two materials together in a thin film, then baking them to improve their performance. In the process, bubbles and channels form much as they would in a cake batter. The bubbles and channels affect how well the cell converts light into electricity and how much of the electric current actually gets to the wires leading out of the cell. The number of bubbles and channels and their configuration can be altered by how much heat is applied and for how long.

The exact structure of the bubbles and channels is critical to the solar cell’s performance, but the relationship between baking time, bubble size, channel connectivity and efficiency has been difficult to understand. Some models used to guide development of plastic solar cells even ignore the structure issues and assume that blending the two materials into a film for solar cells will produce a smooth and uniform substance. That assumption can make it difficult to understand just how much efficiency can be engineered into a polymer, Ginger said.

For the current research, the scientists worked with a blend of polythiophene and fullerene, model materials considered basic to organic solar cell research because their response to forces such as heating can be readily extrapolated to other materials. The materials were baked together at different temperatures and for different lengths of time.

Ginger is the lead author of a paper documenting the work, published online last month by the American Chemical Society journal Nano Letters and scheduled for a future print edition. Coauthors are Liam Pingree and Obadiah Reid of the UW. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Ginger noted that the polymer tested is not likely to reach the 10 percent efficiency threshold. But the results, he said, will be a useful guide to show which new combinations of materials and at what baking time and temperature could form bubbles and channels in a way that the resulting polymer might meet the standard.

Such testing can be accomplished using a very small tool called an atomic force microscope, which uses a needle similar to the one that plays records on an old-style phonograph to make a nanoscale image of the solar cell. The microscope, developed in Ginger’s lab to record photocurrent, comes to a point just 10 to 20 nanometers across (a human hair is about 60,000 nanometers wide). The tip is coated with platinum or gold to conduct electrical current, and it traces back and forth across the solar cell to record the properties.

As the microscope traces back and forth over a solar cell, it records the channels and bubbles that were created as the material was formed. Using the microscope in conjunction with the knowledge gained from the current research, Ginger said, can help scientists determine quickly whether polymers they are working with are ever likely to reach the 10 percent efficiency threshold.

Making solar cells more efficient is crucial to making them cost effective, he said. And if costs can be brought low enough, solar cells could offset the need for more coal-generated electricity in years to come.

“The solution to the energy problem is going to be a mix, but in the long term solar power is going to be the biggest part of that mix,” he said.

 

###

February 16, 2009

Media tips from the American Chemical Society

Just passing these along — enjoy as you see fit.

The release:

ACS Weekly PressPac — Feb. 11, 2009

Here is the latest American Chemical Society (ACS) Weekly PressPac from the Office of Public Affairs. It has news from ACS’ 34 peer-reviewed journals and Chemical & Engineering News. Please credit the individual journal or the American Chemical Society as the source for this information.

IMAGE: This is a photo of the charcoal combustion heater that Japanese scientists say will offer cleaner, more efficient home heating.

Click here for more information. 

New biomass heater: A “new era” of efficiency and sustainability
Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research
Millions of homes in rural areas of Far Eastern countries are heated by charcoal burned on small, hibachi-style portable grills. Scientists in Japan are now reporting development of an improved “biomass charcoal combustion heater” that they say could open a new era in sustainable and ultra-high efficiency home heating. Their study was published in ACS’ Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, a bi-weekly journal.

In the study, Amit Suri, Masayuki Horio and colleagues note that about 67 percent of Japan is covered with forests, with that biomass the nation’s most abundant renewable energy source. Wider use of biomass could tap that sustainable source of fuel and by their calculations cut annual carbon dioxide emissions by 4.46 million tons.

Using waste biomass charcoal, their heater recorded a thermal efficiency of 60-81 percent compared to an efficiency of 46-54 percent of current biomass stoves in Turkey and the U.S. “The charcoal combustion heater developed in the present work, with its fast startup, high efficiency, and possible automated control, would open a new era of massive but small-scale biomass utilization for a sustainable society,” the authors say. – JS

ARTICLE #1 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
“Development of Biomass Charcoal Combustion Heater for Household Utilization”

DOWNLOAD FULL TEXT ARTICLE:
http://pubs.acs.org/stoken/presspac/presspac/full/10.1021/ie8006243

 


ARTICLE #2 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Antibacterial plaster could put a clean sheen on walls
Crystal Growth & Design
Scientists in China are reporting development and testing of new self-sanitizing plaster with more powerful antibacterial effects than penicillin. The material could be used in wall coatings, paints, art works and other products. The study is in the current issue of ACS’ Crystal Growth & Design, a bi-monthly journal.

Liang-jie Yuan and colleagues note that plaster has been used for centuries as building material and surfaces for great works of art, including Michelangelo’s famed Sistine Chapel ceiling in Vatican City. The new, first-of-its kind plaster —formed from different ingredients from traditional gypsum plaster — still retains similar mechanical properties while having added antibacterial effects.

Lab tests showed that the so-called “supramolecular” plaster has a “very broad” antibacterial spectrum, killing five types of disease-causing bacteria. When compared with penicillin, the plaster was more effective at controlling growth of four kinds of bacteria, including dangerous Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli. “It can be expected that the supramolecular plaster can be used for building, painting, coating and carving, and the coat, brick, or art ware constructed by the plaster do not need additive antiseptic or sterilization,” the authors say. – JS

ARTICLE #2 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
“A Novel Supramolecular Plaster Based on An Organic Acid-Base Compound: Synthesis, Structure, Mechanical Properties, and Sterilizing Performance”

DOWNLOAD FULL TEXT ARTICLE:
http://pubs.acs.org/stoken/presspac/presspac/full/10.1021/cg800552s


IMAGE: Materials from printed circuit boards used in electronics, such as computers and cell phones, could be used to strengthen asphalt paving, scientists report. Above is a micrograph of the modified…

Click here for more information. 

Information superhighway’s trash yields a super highway asphalt
Environmental Science & Technology
Discarded electronic hardware, including bits and pieces that built the information superhighway, can be recycled into an additive that makes super-strong asphalt paving material for real highways, researchers in China are reporting in a new study. It is scheduled for the Feb. 1 issue of ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal. They describe development of a new recycling process that can convert discarded electronic circuit boards into an asphalt “modifier.” The material makes high-performance paving material asphalt that is cheaper, longer lasting, and more environmentally friendly than conventional asphalt, the scientists report.

In the new study, Zhenming Xu and colleagues note that millions of tons of electronic waste (e-waste) pile up each year. The printed circuit boards used in personal computers, cell phones, and other electronic gear, contain toxic metals such as lead and mercury and pose a difficult disposal problem. The boards also are difficult to recycle. Xu’s group, however, realized that the boards, which provide mechanical support and connections for transistors and other electronic components, contain glass fibers and plastic resins that could strengthen asphalt paving.

The scientists describe a new recycling method that quickly separates toxic metals from circuit boards, yielding a fine, metal-free powder. When mixed into asphalt in laboratory tests, the powder produced a stronger paving material less apt to soften at high temperatures, the researchers say. -MTS

ARTICLE #3 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
“Asphalt Modified with Nonmetals Separated from Pulverized Waste Printed Circuit Boards”

DOWNLOAD FULL TEXT ARTICLE:
http://pubs.acs.org/stoken/presspac/presspac/full/10.1021/es8023012

 


IMAGE: Aerogels, a super-lightweight solid sometimes called “frozen smoke, ” may capture oil from wastewater and soak up environmental oil spills.

Click here for more information. 

“Frozen smoke:” The ultimate sponge for cleaning up oil spills
Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research
Scientists in Arizona and New Jersey are reporting that aerogels, a super-lightweight solid sometimes called “frozen smoke,” may serve as the ultimate sponge for capturing oil from wastewater and effectively soaking up environmental oil spills. Their study is in ACS’ Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, a bi-weekly journal.

In the new study, Robert Pfeffer and colleagues point out that the environmental challenges of oil contamination go beyond widely publicized maritime oil spills like the Exxon Valdez incident. Experts estimate that each year people dump more than 200 million gallons of used oil into sewers, streams, and backyards, resulting in polluted wastewater that is difficult to treat. Although there are many different sorbent materials for removing used oil, such as activated carbon, they are often costly and inefficient. Hydrophobic silica aerogels are highly porous and absorbent material, and seemed like an excellent oil sponge.

The scientists packed a batch of tiny aerogel beads into a vertical column and exposed them to flowing water containing soybean oil to simulate the filtration process at a wastewater treatment plant. They showed that the aerogel beads absorbed up to 7 times their weight and removed oil from the wastewater at high efficiency, better than many conventional sorbent materials. – MTS

ARTICLE #4 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
“Removal of Oil from Water by Inverse Fluidization of Aerogels”

DOWNLOAD FULL TEXT ARTICLE:
http://pubs.acs.org/stoken/presspac/presspac/full/10.1021/ie800022e

 


ARTICLE #5 EMBARGOED FOR 9 A.M., EASTERN TIME, Feb. 16, 2009

Greener pesticides, better farming practices help reduce U.S. pesticide use
Chemical & Engineering News
Although few consumers realize it, fruits, veggies, and other agricultural products marketed in the United States today are grown on farms that use less pesticide than 30 years ago, according to an article scheduled for the Feb. 16 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.

C&EN Senior Editor Stephen K. Ritter points out in the magazine’s cover story that pesticide use has dropped in the U.S. due to more efficient pesticides and better agricultural practices. Pesticide use peaked at 1.46 billion pounds in 1979 and fell to 1.23 billion pounds in 2001 — the last year for which comprehensive data are available, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Since then pesticide use has remained at those lower levels, the article states.

Several innovations are responsible for this decline in pesticide use, including better, more selective pesticides that can be applied at lower rates while having less impact on human health and the environment. Other factors include a farming practice called integrated pest management (IPM), which involves withholding the use of synthetic pesticides only until damage reaches a certain threshold. In addition, farmers also are using more so-called biopesticides. These natural substances, derived from plants, microorganisms, and insects, can combat noxious weeds, insects, and fungi with less harm to crops and the environment.

ARTICLE #5 EMBARGOED FOR 9 A.M., EASTERN TIME, Feb. 16, 2009
“Greening The Farm”

This story will be available on Feb. 16 at
http://pubs.acs.org/cen/coverstory/87/8707cover.html

 


 

###

 

The American Chemical Society — the world’s largest scientific society — is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

ARTICLE #4 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ARTICLE #3 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ARTICLE #1 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 9, 2009

Nanotech and battery efficiency

The latest news on nanotechnology and lithium-ion batteries.

The release from today:

Batteries get a boost at Rice

Researchers create hybrid nanocables to improve lithium battery technology

Need to store electricity more efficiently? Put it behind bars.

That’s essentially the finding of a team of Rice University researchers who have created hybrid carbon nanotube metal oxide arrays as electrode material that may improve the performance of lithium-ion batteries.

With battery technology high on the list of priorities in a world demanding electric cars and gadgets that last longer between charges, such innovations are key to the future. Electrochemical capacitors and fuel cells would also benefit, the researchers said.

The team from Pulickel Ajayan’s research group published a paper this week describing the proof-of-concept research in which nanotubes are grown to look – and act – like the coaxial conducting lines used in cables. The coax tubes consist of a manganese oxide shell and a highly conductive nanotube core.

“It’s a nice bit of nanoscale engineering,” said Ajayan, Rice’s Benjamin M. and Mary Greenwood Anderson Professor in Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science.

“We’ve put in two materials – the nanotube, which is highly electrically conducting and can also absorb lithium, and the manganese oxide, which has very high capacity but poor electrical conductivity,” said Arava Leela Mohana Reddy, a Rice postdoc researcher. “But when you combine them, you get something interesting.”

That would be the ability to hold a lot of juice and transmit it efficiently. The researchers expect the number of charge/discharge cycles such batteries can handle will be greatly enhanced, even with a larger capacity.

“Although the combination of these materials has been studied as a composite electrode by several research groups, it’s the coaxial cable design of these materials that offers improved performance as electrodes for lithium batteries,” said Ajayan.

“At this point, we’re trying to engineer and modify the structures to get the best performance,” said Manikoth Shaijumon, also a Rice postdoc. The microscopic nanotubes, only a few nanometers across, can be bundled into any number of configurations. Future batteries may be thin and flexible. “And the whole idea can be transferred to a large scale as well. It is very manufacturable,” Shaijumon said.

The hybrid nanocables grown in a Rice-developed process could also eliminate the need for binders, materials used in current batteries that hold the elements together but hinder their conductivity.

 

###

 

The paper was written by Reddy, Shaijumon, doctoral student Sanketh Gowda and Ajayan. It appears in the online version of the American Chemical Society’s Nano Letters.

The project is supported by funding from the Hartley Family Foundation.

The paper can be found online at: http://tinyurl.com/dz7oe8.

June 11, 2008

A real holodeck? and nanopaper

From KurzweilAI.net, in more science fiction becoming science fact the Star Trek holodeck becomes a bit more real, and news about super strong nanopaper with multiple applications.

Star Trek HoloDeck 1.0 – HoloVizio 3D Makes Its Debut
Scientific Blogging, June 8, 2008

Researchers with the EU-funded COHERENT project have developed the HoloVizio, a 3-D screen that can present realistic, animated 3-D images simultaneously to an unlimited number of freely moving viewers.

Viewers can walk around the screen in a wide field of view, seeing the objects and shadows moving continuously as in the normal perspective. It is even possible to look behind the objects; hidden details appear, while others disappear.

Uses include 3-D anatomical models, collaborative automotive design, and oil exploration.
 
Read Original Article>>

 

 

New Type of Paper Won’t Let You Just Rip It Apart
New York Times, June 10, 2008

Researchers in Sweden and Japan have developed “nanopaper”–a much stronger paper, made from much smaller fibrils of cellulose tens of nanometers wide, with a tensile strength greater than that of cast iron.


(American Chemical Society)

The paper might have applications in construction or as a reinforcing material.
 
Read Original Article>>

April 1, 2008

Chemical “signals” power nanomachines

Filed under: Science, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:24 pm

Link goes to abstract:

Using simulation and theory, we demonstrate how nanoparticles can be harnessed to regulate the interaction between two initially stationary microcapsules on a surface and promote the self-propelled motion of these capsules along the substrate. The first microcapsule, the “signaling” capsule, encases nanoparticles, which diffuse from the interior of this carrier and into the surrounding solution; the second capsule is the “target” capsule, which is initially devoid of particles. Nanoparticles released from the signaling capsule modify the underlying substrate and thereby initiate the motion of the target capsule. The latter motion activates hydrodynamic interactions, which trigger the signaling capsule to follow the target. The continued release of the nanoparticles sustains the motion of both capsules. In effect, the system constitutes a synthetic analogue of biological cell signaling and our findings can shed light on fundamental physical forces that control interactions between cells. Our findings can also yield guidelines for manipulating the interactions of synthetic microcapsules in microfluidic devices.