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The Alchemist Newsletter: Jan 27, 2012

by chemweb last modified 02-22-12 08:04 AM
The Alchemist - January 26, 2012
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January 26, 2012


special message from ChemWeb
issue overview
nano: Tweezing MEMS
analytical: At last: the smoking gun
health: Parabens persist
pharma: Zinc plunger
energy: Burning ice
award: Prize teacher
At the ACS Fall Meeting in Denver.,CO, ChemWeb sponsored an iPad 2 raffle to promote new subscribers. We are happy to announce that Melissa McAlexander, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Natural Sciences at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, California, is one of many new Alchemist subscribers, and our iPad 2 winner. Melissa teaches a wide range of courses including General Chemistry, Contemporary Environmental Issues, Microbiology Laboratory, and Immunology.

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The Alchemist learns how to manipulate tiny polystyrene beads with a set of micro-tweezers this week and spots the smoking gun in forensics using capillary-scale ion chromatography and suppressed conductivity. In the world of chemophobia has asked why parabens are still the focus of research into underarm hygiene and breast cancer despite the lack of evidence linking the two in any way. There is also an elemental discovery this week concerning that lowliest of metals, zinc, which may have activity in reducing the symptoms of the common cold. A venture that sounds truly alchemical sees research into burning ice heating up. Finally, a prize teacher.

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Tweezing MEMS

A set of micro-tweezers developed by scientists at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, could be used to build components for microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). Team leader Cagri Savran explains that the tweezers can be used to manipulate tiny polystyrene spheres and assemble them into three-dimensional structures. The device, which requires no electricity supply, comprises a "thimble" knob from a standard micrometer, a two-pronged tweezer made from silicon, and a "graphite interface," which converts the turning motion of the thimble knob into a pulling-and-pushing action to open and close the tweezer prongs. The same tweezers might also be used to handle spheres of stem cells or other biological entities and place them on to analytical devices or sensors.

arrowNew microtweezers may build tiny 'MEMS' structures

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At last: the smoking gun

Researchers in the UK have turned to capillary-scale ion chromatography and suppressed conductivity detection to develop a new method for the forensic analysis of gunshot residues, sweat and latent fingerprints. The application of statistical techniques allowed them to extract data to reveal whether fingerprints were left by someone who had recently discharged a firearm and even whether or not the suspect is a smoker. The scale of the technology required would enable portable forensic testing as well as being amenable to situations in which analysis of metallic content is not possible.

arrowForensic fingerprinting: The smoking gun

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Parabens persist

Tabloid scare stories and sensationalist emails concerning a wholly unproven link between parabens in underarm hygiene products and female breast cancer were bolstered again this month. A small study showed that of samples from 40 breast cancer patients all contained small quantities of these organic preservatives. The study did not analyse samples from non-patients as controls. Moreover, given that some of the women had never used underarm products yet still showed parabens in their samples suggests not that breast cancer is linked to these products but that they are simply ubiquitous. Epidemiological studies dating back to the early 2000s have shown no link and other studies have demonstrated that parabens are almost always present in urine samples tested.

arrowDeodorant chemical 'found in breast tumours'

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Zinc plunger

Zinc has been The Alchemist's element of choice for warding off an imminent dose of the common cold, but is there any truth in the received wisdom that boosting intake of this trace element can stifle the worst symptoms of rhinovirus infection? It is unlikely that otherwise healthy individuals with a balanced diet who take regular exercise will be deficient in zinc. However, a Cochrane review of 15 randomized clinical trials suggests that taking zinc within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms can ameliorate the worst excesses of the body's response to a common cold and reduce the the number of days of misery.

arrowZinc: The Secret to a Shorter and More Bearable Cold?

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Burning ice

A team at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, PNNL, has carried out a computer analysis of gas hydrates to try and understand key details about their structure. The study is the first to accurately quantify the molecular-scale interactions between hydrogen or methane, the "natural" gas in the hydrates and the water molecules that form hydrogen-bonded molecular cages around them. The PNNL team demonstrated that hydrates can hold hydrogen at an optimal capacity of 5 mass percentage, which is considered a viable figure by the US Department of Energy making gas hydrates a practical and affordable alternative fuel source.

arrowThe great gas hydrate escape

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Prize teacher

Organic chemist Brian Coppola of the University of Michigan is the recipient of the biannual Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching, which is given by Baylor University in Texas, in recognition of outstanding classroom teaching. The awards were established in 1991 to stimulate discussion in the academy about the value of teaching, and to encourage departments and institutions to value their own great teachers. It is named for 1929 Baylor graduate Robert Foster Cherry. Coppola receives $250,000 and his department $25,000. The U-M highlights its recent released payroll report, which cited Coppola's salary as $139,550 in 2011.

arrowUniversity of Michigan chemistry professor wins $275,000 award for teaching

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Previous Issues
Jan 13, 2011
Dec 29, 2011
Dec 16, 2011
Nov 23, 2011
Nov 11, 2011
Oct 28, 2011
Oct 14, 2011
Sep 28, 2011
Sep 16, 2011
Aug 30, 2011
Aug 19, 2011
Jul 27, 2011
Jul 14, 2011
Jun 29, 2011
Jun 17, 2011
May 26, 2011
May 12, 2011
Apr 29, 2011
Apr 15, 2011
Mar 25, 2011
Mar 11, 2011
Feb 25, 2011
Feb 10, 2011
Jan 26, 2011
Jan 12, 2011
Dec 29, 2010
Dec 14, 2010
Nov 23, 2010
Nov 12, 2010
Oct 27, 2010
Oct 13, 2010
Sep 30, 2010
Sep 15, 2010
Aug 25, 2010
Aug 11, 2010
Jul 28, 2010
Jul 14, 2010
Jun 23, 2010
Jun 8, 2010
May 26, 2010
May 17, 2010
Apr 28, 2010
Apr 16, 2010
Mar 23, 2010
Mar 9, 2010
Feb 24, 2010
Feb 9, 2010
Jan 26, 2010
Jan 12, 2010
Dec 23, 2009
Dec 13, 2009
Nov 24, 2009
Nov 11, 2009
Oct 28, 2009
Oct 14, 2009
Sep 21, 2009
Sep 9, 2009
Aug 26, 2009
Aug 11, 2009
Jul 29, 2009
Jul 14, 2009
Jun 24, 2009
Jun 10, 2009
May 27, 2009
May 12, 2009
Apr 28, 2009
Apr 15, 2009
Mar 25, 2009
Mar 10, 2009
Feb 24, 2009
Feb 11, 2009
Jan 27, 2009
Jan 13, 2009
Dec 24, 2008
Dec 10, 2008
Nov 25, 2008
Nov 13, 2008
Oct 28, 2008
Oct 14, 2008
Sep 25, 2008
Sep 10, 2008
Aug 26, 2008
Aug 12, 2008
Jul 23, 2008
Jul 09, 2008
Jun 24, 2008
Jun 11, 2008
May 28, 2008
May 14, 2008
Apr 24, 2008
Apr 9, 2008
Mar 25, 2008
Mar 12, 2008
Feb 27, 2008
Feb 13, 2008
Jan 22, 2008
Jan 08, 2008


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