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Natural quasicrystals, graphene interconnects, and photo-powered nanomotors all come into view through The Alchemist's eyeglass this week. Also in view, is the finding that hydrogen peroxide is more than a bleach, it's a marshal for white blood cells to flood to the body's injury sites. Solar-powered humidity on tap might help solve pure water shortages in some arid parts of the world. Finally, the ACS has named its Washington DC headquarters after Clifford & Kathryn Hach Building following a $33 million donation.




Princeton University's Paul Steinhardt has been investigating quasicrystals for more than a quarter century, but until now has seen no evidence of naturally formed examples. Quasicrystals are a type of solid with structures in between those of crystals and glasses. Now, he and his colleagues including Luca Bindi, head of mineralogy at the University of Florence, Italy, have identified a quasicrystal in an Al-Cu-Fe mineral sample from Russia's Koryak mountains. "We don't know if there will be other natural examples, but it raises new questions in geology and condensed matter physics," says Steinhardt, "I think of it as a beginning."





Graphene, the single-layer form of graphite being touted as the material of choice for a future generation of microelectronics, may have a lesser role to play sooner rather than later. Raghunath Murali and colleagues at Georgia Tech have now found that graphene could make the perfect replacement for the copper interconnects in future integrated circuits. They have measured the resistivity of graphene nanoribbons as narrow as 18 nanometers. They found it to be comparable to even the most optimistic projections for copper interconnects at that scale. This suggests that they might be useful for wiring circuits even before they become the material that supplants silicon.





University of Florida chemists have developed a nanomotor that converts sunlight into motion directly, mimicking on a much smaller scale the tracking of the sun by a sunflower. The device isn't the first photochemical nanomotor, but it is the first to be built from a single piece of DNA. "It is easy to assemble, has fewer parts and theoretically should be more efficient," explains first author on the researcher's Nano Letters paper, Huaizhi Kang. It might be possible to build arrays of these devices that would be synchronized and so exert a great concerted force for possible technological applications.





Hydrogen peroxide, commonly associated with bleaching hair, is the chemical alarm sounded when the body is injured, according to US researchers, at least if you are a zebrafish. Timothy Mitchison, and colleagues at Harvard Medical School and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, have demonstrated in an animal model, how the small molecule marshals white blood cells to the site of a new injury. Writing in the June 4 issue of Nature, the team explains how the rapid response of white blood cells to injury was well known, but until now, no one knew what they were responding to.





Tapping into atmospheric humidity could be the key to providing fresh water to arid regions of the world. A team at the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB in Stuttgart, Germany, working with Logos Innovationen have demonstrated technology that extracts moisture directly from the air and produce drinkable water. "The process we have developed is based exclusively on renewable energy sources such as thermal solar collectors and photovoltaic cells, which makes this method completely energy-autonomous," says Siegfried Egner, head of department at the IGB.





The American Chemical Society named its Washington DC headquarters the Clifford & Kathryn Hach Building during an outdoor ceremony on June 3. The name commemorates the $33 million Hach Scientific Foundation donation to the ACS. Clifford and Kathryn Hach founded Hach Co. in 1947, and went on to become a serious force in water-analysis chemistry. The Hach Scientific Foundation was begun in 1982 to promote chemistry education and was run by the family until January. "It's the best home our foundation could have. [The late] Clifford [Hach] would be tremendously pleased to realize that the work he did is being recognized in this way," widow Kathryn Hach-Darrow says.