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Archive for the ‘chemistry’ category

Oct 11, 2019

Congratulations to 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry Winners John B. Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham, and Akira Yoshino

Posted by in categories: chemistry, computing, mobile phones, sustainability, transportation

The 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to John B. Goodenough (The University of Texas at Austin), M. Stanley Whittingham (Binghamton University, State University of New York), and Akira Yoshino (Asahi Kasei Corporation and Meijo University) “for the development of lithium-ion batteries”. With the creation and subsequent optimization of lithium-ion batteries to make them more powerful, lighter, and more robust, the seminal work of Goodenough, Whittingham, and Yoshino has had a profound impact on our modern society. This ubiquitous technology has revolutionized our daily lives by paving the way for portable electronics and made renewable energy sources more viable. While attempts to improve the performance of batteries continue, the lithium-ion battery has remained the world’s most reliable battery system for more than 40 years. The three winners will each receive an equal share of the roughly $1 million award. At 97, Goodenough is now the oldest person ever to win the Nobel Prize.

“A long-awaited recognition for the creators of lithium-ion batteries has come true. The electrochemistry and material science communities – and the greater chemistry community as a whole – are excited to hear the news of the 2019 Nobel Prize award to John B. Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham, and Akira Yoshino for their pioneering contribution to lithium-ion batteries,” said ACS Energy Letters Editor-in-Chief Prashant Kamat. “As we all know, the lithium-ion battery has revolutionized our modern-day activities. From mobile phones to laptops and from electronic gadgets to electric cars, these storage batteries have become part of our everyday life. We at ACS Publications are excited to be part of this celebration.”

Whittingham laid the foundation of the lithium-ion battery while working at Exxon in the 1970s. During that time, the oil crisis in the United States was ongoing, and there was a strong drive to develop methods of energy storage and transport that did not rely on fossil fuels. Whittingham developed a 2V lithium-ion battery based on a titanium disulfide cathode and lithium metal anode. While a seminal contribution to the advancement of the lithium battery, adopting Whittingham’s system for everyday use would be limiting due to the high reactivity of lithium metal and risk of explosion.

Oct 11, 2019

Quantum Teleportation on the Nanoscale Using a Chemical Reaction

Posted by in categories: chemistry, computing, encryption, nanotechnology, quantum physics

A team of Northwestern University researchers is the first to document the role chemistry will play in next generation computing and communication. By applying their expertise to the field of Quantum Information Science (QIS), they discovered how to move quantum information on the nanoscale through quantum teleportation—an emerging topic within the field of QIS. Their findings were published in the journal, Nature Chemistry, on September 23, 2019, and have untold potential to influence future research and application.

Quantum teleportation allows for the transfer of quantum information from one location to another, in addition to a more secure delivery of that information through significantly improved encryption.

The QIS field of research has long been the domain of physicists, and only in the past decade has drawn the attention and involvement of chemists who have applied their expertise to exploit the quantum nature of molecules for QIS applications.

Oct 11, 2019

Periodic table: new version warns of elements that are endangered

Posted by in category: chemistry

As this new version of the periodic table underlines, we must do all we can to conserve and recycle the precious building blocks[…].

If we don’t start taking these problems more seriously, many of the objects and technologies that we now take for granted may be relics of a more abundant age a few generations from now – or available only to richer people.


It is amazing to think that everything around us is made up from just 90 building blocks – the naturally occurring chemical elements. Dmitri Mendeleev put the 63 of these known at the time into order and published his first version of what we now recognise as the periodic table in 1869. In that year, the American civil war was just over, Germany was about to be unified, Tolstoy published War and Peace, and the Suez Canal was opened.

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Oct 5, 2019

Promising steps towards hope for a treatment for schizophrenia

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, chemistry, food, health, neuroscience

Schizophrenia is a severe mental health condition that causes significant disability, and affects 1 in 100 people. Patients with schizophrenia commonly experience negative symptoms, which include lack of motivation, social isolation and inability to experience pleasurable feeling. The current antipsychotics minimally improve these negative symptoms, and there are no currently licensed treatments. In addition, it is estimated that total service costs for schizophrenia in England alone will be £6.5 billion by 2026. In view of this, there is considerable interest in identifying potential treatment targets for these symptoms. However, the nature of the changes in brain chemistry that contribute to these negative symptoms is unknown.

Mu-opioid receptors (MOR) are found in a region of the called the striatum and they play a crucial role in how we experience pleasure and reward. Our bodies naturally produce opioid molecules that include endorphins; which are hormones secreted by the brain that are known to help relieve pain or stress and boost happiness. MORs are receptors that bind these naturally produced endogenous opioid molecules, and stimulation of the MOR system starts a signalling cascade that causes an increase in motivation to seek reward and increase food palatability amongst many other effects. Interestingly, MORs were found to be reduced in the striatum post-mortem in schizophrenia. So, it was unclear whether the availability of these receptors was increased when individuals were alive, or whether reduced MORs was related to the negative symptoms of schizophrenia.

The latest brain scan research from the Psychiatric Imaging group at the MRC LMS published on 3 October in Nature Communications has reported how the MOR system contributes to the negative symptoms displayed in schizophrenia patients. For the first time, this research study showed how MOR levels are significantly reduced in the striatum region of the brain. Thus, a lack of MOR system stimulation in the brain contributes to these negative feelings that schizophrenia patients can experience.

Oct 3, 2019

Sugar-coated RNAs could ‘alter the face of biochemistry as we know it’—if they’re real

Posted by in category: chemistry

Never-before-seen chemical modifications set biochemists abuzz.

Oct 2, 2019

Checkerspot raises $13M Series A to produce biotech-enabled performance materials

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, biotech/medical, chemistry

Checkerspot, a biotech startup using microalgae to produce performance materials, announced today that it has closed its Series A financing for $13 million. The round was led by Builders VC, and included Breakout Ventures, Viking Global Investors, KdT Ventures, Plug and Play Ventures, Sahsen Ventures, and Godfrey Capital, among others.

Checkerspot combines bioengineering, chemistry, and materials science to go from microalgae to next-generation performance materials.

“This is a pretty significant milestone for us,” said Checkerspot CEO Charles Dimmler. He said the funding would support the company’s continued infrastructure development, as well as ongoing commercial activities with Beyond Surface Technologies and DIC that focus on novel triglycerides and polyols. He also said it would help complete the development of a direct-to-consumer product later this year.

Oct 2, 2019

DNA Nanomachines Are Opening Medicine to the World of Physics

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, chemistry, nanotechnology, robotics/AI

When I imagine the inner workings of a robot, I think hard, cold mechanics running on physics: shafts, wheels, gears. Human bodies, in contrast, are more of a contained molecular soup operating on the principles of biochemistry.

Yet similar to robots, our cells are also attuned to mechanical forces—just at a much smaller scale. Tiny pushes and pulls, for example, can urge stem cells to continue dividing, or nudge them into maturity to replace broken tissues. Chemistry isn’t king when it comes to governing our bodies; physical forces are similarly powerful. The problem is how to tap into them.

In a new perspectives article in Science, Dr. Khalid Salaita and graduate student Aaron Blanchard from Emory University in Atlanta point to DNA as the solution. The team painted a futuristic picture of DNA mechanotechnology, in which we use DNA machines to control our biology. Rather than a toxic chemotherapy drip, for example, a cancer patient may one day be injected with DNA nanodevices that help their immune cells better grab onto—and snuff out—cancerous ones.

Oct 2, 2019

Atom-by-atom experiments at the edge of the periodic table

Posted by in categories: chemistry, particle physics

Investigating the heaviest elements known is rewriting our knowledge of chemistry and may even mean the end of the periodic table itself, writes Kit Chapman.

In 2018, Peter Schwerdtfeger published a paper that turned chemistry on its head. According to calculations he and his colleagues performed, oganesson – element 118, the heaviest known – was not a noble gas as you would expect from its position in the periodic table, but a highly reactive solid. Even stranger, it didn’t seem to have electron shells.1

‘Well, that statement is oversimplified,’ says Schwerdtfeger, a theoretical chemist at Massey University in New Zealand. ‘You can still build up the electron densities from orbitals describing individual shells. What happens is that for oganesson the shell structure is barely visible, approaching an electron gas.’

Oct 1, 2019

Researchers synthesize ‘impossible’ superconductor

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, chemistry

Researchers from the U.S., Russia, and China have bent the rules of classical chemistry and synthesized a “forbidden” compound of cerium and hydrogen—CeH9—which exhibits superconductivity at a relatively low pressure of 1 million atmospheres. The paper came out in Nature Communications.

Superconductors are materials capable of conducting an electric current with no resistance whatsoever. They are behind the powerful electromagnets in , maglev trains, MRI scanners, and could theoretically enable power lines that deliver electricity from A to B without losing the precious kilowatts to thermal dissipation.

Unfortunately, the superconductors known today can only work at very low temperatures (below −138 degrees Celsius), and latest record (−13 degrees Celsius) requires extremely high pressures of nearly 2 million atmospheres. This limits the scope of their possible applications and makes the available superconducting technologies expensive, since maintaining their fairly extreme operating conditions is challenging.

Oct 1, 2019

Machine learning finds new metamaterial designs for energy harvesting

Posted by in categories: chemistry, robotics/AI, sustainability

Electrical engineers at Duke University have harnessed the power of machine learning to design dielectric (non-metal) metamaterials that absorb and emit specific frequencies of terahertz radiation. The design technique changed what could have been more than 2000 years of calculation into 23 hours, clearing the way for the design of new, sustainable types of thermal energy harvesters and lighting.

The study was published online on September 16 in the journal Optics Express.

Metamaterials are synthetic materials composed of many individual engineered features, which together produce properties not found in nature through their structure rather than their chemistry. In this case, the terahertz metamaterial is built up from a two-by-two grid of silicon cylinders resembling a short, square Lego.

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