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This week's award represents more than four decades of surface science and will be received by UCB's Gabor Somorjai at the meeting of the American Chemical Society. In science news German chemists have constructed nanoscopic balls from DNA, researchers in the UK have discovered natural antibiotics in Greek cheese that could prevent food poisoning, and Stateside, researchers have developed a low-pressure hydrogen storage material. Finally, this week, The Alchemist learns all about ancient color and another chemical scare story hits the headlines.




The American Chemical Society's most prestigious award, the Priestley Medal, this year is awarded to Gabor Somorjai of the University of California at Berkeley for his pioneering work in surface science and catalysis over the last four decades. Since becoming a professor at UCB in the 1960s, Somorjai has studied structure, bonding, and reactivity at the molecular level on solid surfaces. He has used and developed various novel techniques, such as low-energy electron diffraction surface crystallography and high-pressure tunneling microscopy, which have led to an array of discoveries in surface science.





Günter von Kiedrowski at the Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany, and colleagues have pieced together a dodecahedron from DNA building blocks using self-assembly processes. The researchers used computer modeling to identify a set of 30 independent, 15-base-pair-long, double-stranded DNA sequences with similar physical properties that could be used to construct the hollow molecular ball. They assigned the double-stranded sequences to the individual edges of the dodecahedron and to specific vertices for termination and then determined which three single-stranded sequences needed to be attached to each three-legged junction for the predetermined structure to form. Twenty individual trisoligonucleotides comprised three-legged branching junctions were chosen to pieces together the final dodecahedron. Functionalizing the surface could give such structures a passing resemblance to little viruses, the researchers say.





If you plan to holiday in Greece this year, then sampling the local feta cheese made from raw (unpasteurized) milk while eating food from street vendors could help reduce your chances of food poisoning. Speaking at the Society for General Microbiology's 162nd meeting in Edinburgh April 2, Panagiotis Chanos, a researcher at the University of Lincoln, England, explains how lactic acid bacteria found in raw sheep's milk farmed in Macedonia, northern Greece produce a range of antibiotic natural products that kill other bacteria, such as listeria. The researchers suggest that such bacteria might be used to reduce reliance on synthetic food preservatives.





A future "hydrogen economy" will rely on finding a safe and efficient way to store the gas for powering fuel cell vehicles. Now, A research team from the California Institute of Technology, the national Institute of Standards and Technology, and the University of Maryland have developed a new metal-organic frameworks (MOF) compound, MOF-74, which they say can store hydrogen without requiring impractically high pressures or temperature. "When we started doing experiments, we realized the metal interaction doesn't just increase the temperature at which hydrogen can be stored, but it also increases the density above that in solid hydrogen," Brown says. "This is absolutely the first time this has been encountered without having to use pressure," says team member Craig Brown. .





Despite popular perception ancient statues and reliefs from Greece and Rome were not left dully and gray but were colorfully painted. Now nanotechnology has brought to colorful life two decades of work to show, in a traveling exhibition organized by the Glyptothek museum in Munich, Germany, just how such artifacts may have originally appeared. Archaeologist Vinzenz Brinkmann, a leading authority in this field, has used rapid prototyping stereolithography together with a photopolymer, NanoTool and non-crystalline nanoparticles, to create a smooth and authentic finish to pieces such as a reproduction of the Alexander Sarcophagus.





Lab tests have demonstrated that bisphenol A, which is used in plastics production, could be carcinogenic to healthy breast cells from women at high risk of breast cancer. The compound has achieved notoriety as an estrogen mimic and pressure groups have for many years called for it to be banned. The publication of results from workers at the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute and the Stanford Genome Technology Center coincides with legislation being considered in California that would place the compound on the Prop 65 list of hazardous chemicals. Senator Fiona Ma has proposed legislation that would ban BPA in products used by children. The press release describing the results suggest that the "findings are significant because BPA is found in many plastic water bottles, in plastic baby bottles, in the lining in food cans, as well as in sealants used by dentists to protect teeth."