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First on the list in this week's Alchemist, good news for the iPod generation as Korean chemists develop a new anode material for lithium batteries that could keep mp3 players running longer. In analytical research, HPLC has been used to spot dummy tequila and in medical chemistry US radiologists suggest that a dose of modified vitamin D could protect citizens from a dirty bomb attack. Next up, a new approach to addressing qubits allows for faster measurements that could take us a step closer to a quantum computer, while Yorkshire chemists are working out the best mix of starting materials to get the maximum height yield on their tasty products. Finally, this week's award is a record breaker in the State where big is everything.

It's no quantum leap, but a small, giant step has been taken by David Press of Stanford University, California and colleagues there and at the National Institute of Informatics, in Tokyo, Japan, towards a quantum computing system. A basic requirement for quantum information processing systems is the ability to completely control the state of a single qubit. Press and his colleagues have now manipulated and measured a semiconductor qubit approximately 100 times faster than was possible with earlier techniques using a method for rotating the qubit spin using polarized light pulses. The experiment has "pushed quantum dots up to speed with other qubit candidate systems to ultimately build a quantum computer," Press says.

The UK's Royal Society of Chemistry has decreed that a staple of English cuisine, the Yorkshire pudding, which accompanies the classic dish of roast beef, must be 4 inches high. Its ad hoc regulations concerning the whisked flour, milk, and egg delicacy could ultimately be adopted internationally. Yorkshire "puds" are essentially an aerated savory crepe commonly eaten with the Sunday roast but recipes for their creation vary wildly and often fail to rise to the occasion. The RSC's recipe created with the assistance of Yorkshireman and chemistry prof John Emsley in Cambridge specifies the required starting materials, mixing ratios and reflux time for maximum yield. As to stereochemistry, this presumably depends on the direction of rotation of the oven's fan.

A startup company, NanoMedical Systems Inc, founded by Mauro Ferrari of the University of Texas, and colleagues is set to receive a record-breaking funding haul of $3.5m to help it improve anticancer drugs and other medications using nanotechnology and bring them to market. The Commercialization Award is given through the Texas Emerging Technology Fund (ETF). "From the information I have, this is the largest commercialization award (to private companies in collaboration with a university for product development) awarded from the emerging technology fund to date," says Wayne Roberts, associate vice president for public policy at the UT Health Science Center at Houston.

Could very porous silicon help lithium batteries keep our beloved digital devices running longer between recharges? A team led by Jaephil Cho at Hanyang University in Korea has developed a novel material for the anode of so-called lithium-ion batteries that could boost charging capacity significantly extending the talk-time of cellphones, allowing laptop commuters to work longer, and keep mp3 players playing. Lithium batteries produce are charged by shuffling lithium ions into the anode, which is usually made from graphite, but this material does not have as big an appetite for the metal ions as porous silicon prepared in such a way as to resist the stresses and strains of the annealing process to which conventional silicon would succumb, Cho and colleagues have found.

A simple approach to testing tequila that doesn't involve salt and shot glasses can be used to spot fraudulent product that has not been aged in the requisite oak casks. Jesus Cervantes-Martinez of the Center for Research and Assistance in Technology and Design of the State of Jalisco and colleagues turned to high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) to detect the five phenolic-type compounds that leach into tequila as it matures and so act as markers of the aging process. Their method should also be able to distinguish between the reposado and anejo versions of the Mexican spirit.

Radiological health expert Daniel Hayes of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene suggests that a form of vitamin D could be one of our body's main protections against damage from low levels of radiation. Writing in the International Journal of Low Radiation, he explains that calcitriol, the active form of vitamin D, could protect us against background radiation. He also suggests that and could be used as a safe protective agent before or after a low-level nuclear incident or the detonation of a so-called "dirty bomb" by terrorists.