David Kirkpatrick

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.

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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

“Development of Biomass Charcoal Combustion Heater for Household Utilization”




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

“A Novel Supramolecular Plaster Based on An Organic Acid-Base Compound: Synthesis, Structure, Mechanical Properties, and Sterilizing Performance”


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…

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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

“Asphalt Modified with Nonmetals Separated from Pulverized Waste Printed Circuit Boards”



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

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“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

“Removal of Oil from Water by Inverse Fluidization of Aerogels”




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.

“Greening The Farm”

This story will be available on Feb. 16 at





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.




November 25, 2008

Media tips from American Society for Microbiology

The release:

Tips from the journals of the American Society for Microbiology

New Vaccines Protect Against Asian H5N1 Influenza A Viruses in Domestic Ducks

Scientists are looking at a novel strategy to prevent the spread of pandemic avian influenza. They have developed a vaccine that protects ducks, a known natural reservoir for the virus. They report their findings in the November 2008 issue of the Journal of Virology

Waterfowl are considered to be the natural reservoir of influenza A viruses due to the isolation of all subtypes from these hosts. Current research indicates that influenza A viruses are continuously evolving within their natural environment and can be transmitted to a variety of animals, including humans. H5N1 avian influenza A viruses are now endemic in domestic poultry in many Asian countries and ducks are believed to be the primary source of infection. Reducing the spread of H5N1 in ducks could play a key role in minimizing the risk of a pandemic outbreak.

In the study researchers first identified dominant pathogenic strains of H5N1 influenza A viruses circulating in Asian poultry and found that four caused symptomatic illness in domestic ducks, but not all were lethal. In addition the researchers reversed the genetics of the viruses in domestic ducks to develop three different inactivated oil emulsion whole-virus H5 influenza vaccines. Following one round of inoculation with the vaccines ducks were completely protected when challenged with a lethal dose of the H5N1 virus.

“The vaccines provided complete protection against the lethal challenge of the homologous and heterologous H5N1 avian influenza A virus with no evidence of morbidity, mortality, or shedding of the challenge virus,” say the researchers. “The complete protection offered by these vaccines will be useful for reducing the shedding of H5N1 avian influenza A viruses among vaccinated agricultural avian populations.”

(J.K. Kim, P. Seiler, H.L. Forrest, A.M. Khalenkov, J. Franks, M. Kumar, W.B. Karesh, M. Gilbert, R. Sodnomdarjaa, B. Douangngeun, E.A. Govorkova, R.G. Webster. 2008. Pathogenicity and vaccine efficacy of different clades of Asian H5N1 avian influenza A viruses in domestic ducks. Journal of Virology, 82. 22: 11374-11382.)



Beetles May Be Source of Food-Borne Pathogens in Broiler Flocks

A new study suggests that darkling beetles and their larvae can transmit harmful food-borne pathogens to chicks in broiler houses in successive rearing cycles. The researchers from Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands and Research Centre, Lelystad, The Netherlands report their findings in the November 2008 issue of the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

Salmonella and Campylobacter are two main sources of human food-borne disease and many of the reported cases can be directly linked to the handling or consumption of contaminated chicken meat. Although exact contamination routes of broiler flocks are not fully understood, certain insects that are persistent in these environments are common reservoirs of zoonotic bacteria such as Salmonella and Campylobacter.

The darkling beetle (Alphitobius diaperinus) and its larvae are known to inhabit broiler houses and are believed to survive between rearing cycles by eating their way into insulation materials and hiding under floors. In the study researchers artificially contaminated several groups of beetles and their larvae with a mixture of Salmonella enterica Serovar Paratyphi B Variant Java and three Campylobacter jejuni strains and fed them to housed chicks either the day of inoculation or one week following to mimic an empty week between rearing cycles. All the broiler chicks that were fed insects contaminated on the same day showed Campylobacter and Salmonella colonization levels of 50 to 100%. Insects that were fed a week after infection resulted in transfer of both pathogens as well, but at lower levels. Naturally infected insects collected at a commercial broiler farm and fed to chicks also resulted in colonization but at lower levels.

“In conclusion, the fact that Salmonella and Campylobacter can be transmitted via beetles and their larvae to flocks in successive rearing cycles indicates that there should be intensive control programs for exclusion of these insects from broiler homes,” say the researchers.

(W.C. Hazeleger, N.M. Bolder, R.R. Beumer, W.F. Jacobs-Reitsma. 2008. Darkling beetles (Alphitobius diapernus) and their larvae as potential vectors for the transfer of Campylobacter jejuni and Salmonella enterica Serovar Paratyphi B Variant Java between successive broiler flocks. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 74. 22: 6887-6891.)



Resistance to TB Vaccine May Be Uncommon, Protects Against Nine Strains in Mice

A new study shows that the current tuberculosis vaccine induces protective immunity against nine strains of the bacteria in mice indicating that strain-specific resistance may be uncommon. The researchers report their findings in the November 2008 issue of the journal Infection and Immunity.

Tuberculosis (TB) is one of the world’s most challenging infectious diseases to date and is responsible for approximately 2 million deaths per year. An attenuated vaccine incorporating Mycobacterium bovis BCG has been used for over 50 years, however, high mortality rates have persisted and researchers attribute multiple factors to its varying effectiveness including that the anti-TB protective immunity induced by the vaccine may be strain-specific.

W-Beijing lineage strains are among the most prominent associated with worldwide outbreaks of TB. In the study researchers investigated the strain specificity of Mycobacterium bovis BCG vaccine-induced antituberculosis protective immunity responses by inoculating mice with the vaccine and challenging them 2 months later with one of nine Mycobacterium tuberculosis strains, four from the W-Beijing lineage, four non-Beijing isolates, and one control. Organ bacterial burdens and lung pathology were examined in vaccinated and naïve mice the day of infection as well as at 4, 12, and 20 weeks postchallenge. Four weeks following an aerosol challenge with each of the strains, results showed the bacterial growth in the lungs and spleens were much lower and lung pathology significantly improved in all vaccinated animals when compared to controls. Animals infected with six of the nine strains exhibited reduced organ bacterial burdens after 12 weeks and lung inflammation in all immunized animals was measurably lower at 20 weeks postchallenge.

“These data demonstrate that BCG vaccination protects against infection with diverse M. tuberculosis strains in the mouse model of pulmonary tuberculosis and suggest that strain-specific resistance to BCG-induced protective immunity may be uncommon,” say the researchers.

(B.Y. Joen, S.C. Derrick, J. Lim, K. Kolibab, V. Dheenadhayalan, A.L. Yang, B. Kreiswirth, S.L. Morris. 2008. Mycobacterium bovis BCG immunization induces protective immunity against nine different Mycobacterium tuberculosis strains in mice. Infection and Immunity, 76. 11: 5173-5180.)



November 14, 2008

Oak Ridge National Laboratory media tips for November

The release:

Story tips — Oak Ridge National Laboratory November 2008

ENERGY — Powering the Big Apple . . .

High temperature superconductor (HTS) technology developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory is being used in a $39 million project to boost and secure Manhattan’s power grid. Project HYDRA, partially funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate, seeks to install and field test HTS cable in New York City’s electrical power grid by 2010. ORNL helps design and test the cable which will boost power delivery 30 percent; increase reliability and security; and limit fault currents caused by tree branches, lightning, and other interruptions that hamper the nation’s electric grid. Industrial partners include American Superconductor Corp., which has shipped more than 56,000 feet of wire for the project; Consolidated Edison Co., which operates Manhattan’s power delivery network; and cable manufacturer Ultera, a joint venture between Southwire Co. and nkt cables.

ENERGY — A DST bonus . . .

Extending Daylight Saving Time by four weeks last year reduced U.S. energy consumption by 17 trillion British thermal units, or the equivalent of enough energy to power 100,000 households for a year. That’s according to a report to Congress from the U.S. Department of Energy by researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Researchers sought to quantify the savings resulting from the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which extended the duration of Daylight Saving Time. The extension went into effect in March 2007. The study found that electricity consumption in 2007 decreased by an average of 0.5 percent per day during the extra four weeks, which adds up to 1.3 billion kilowatt hours. Savings in northern regions were greater than in the south, which may be attributable to increased air-conditioning usage. The work is funded by DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. See the report at: http://www.eere.energy.gov/ba/pba/pdfs/epact_sec_110_edst_report_to_congress_2008.pdf

CLIMATE — Mapping change . . .

Maps showing possible regional impacts of climate change in the Dominican Republic could play a role in setting policy there and beyond. The maps, generated by a group of researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, will be used for climate change policy discussions and published in a future issue of Foreign Policy, a publication widely read by international policy makers. Projected increased temperatures are just one of the extreme regional stresses considered in the comprehensive ORNL study captured in a series of maps that focus on resource scarcity, extreme events and other impacts of climate and population change. The overall study was led by Auroop Ganguly while the maps for the Dominican Republic were primarily generated by Esther Parish with help from Karsten Steinhaeuser, all of the Geographical Information Science and Technology Group. The research was funded by a grant to ORNL from the Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment at the University of Tennessee. Foreign Policy magazine is a non-partisan publication recently acquired by the Washington Post Co. from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

SENSORS — Right on target . . .

Keeping track of weapons at nuclear facilities and other installations could get a lot easier with a technology developed by researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Visible Assets of New Hampshire. The technology, which uses low-frequency magnetic waves to transmit signals from tags installed in a pistol’s grips, solves a huge problem caused by human error during the inventory process. Future system enhancements will make it possible to count the number of shots fired, eliminating any guesswork about when a weapon needs to be serviced or replaced. A team led by Chris Pickett of ORNL’s Global Nuclear Security Technology Division developed the system software and completed the system integration. The team also conducted operational tests and is working with DOE armorers to complete rigorous tests to evaluate the sensor’s performance, durability and security. Those tests will soon be complete, which will clear the path for Department of Energy facilities to purchase the equipment from Sig Sauer, which licensed the technology. Funding was provided by DOE’s Office of Health, Safety and Security.