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The Alchemist catches site of two chemical Nobel prizes this year, one in chemistry and one in physics. But, tragedy in environmental news for Europe and the industry. In catalytic news new computational insights as to why nanoparticulate gold is so effective. Small molecules can be sneaked into the microbial cell wall. Finally, an NSF award for nanoimprint lithography offers new opportunities for a wide range of studies.




Richard F. Heck, Ei-ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki are the 2010 recipients of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work on "palladium-catalyzed cross couplings in organic synthesis". One of the toughest tasks facing an organic chemist is to link together two relatively unresponsive carbon atoms to form novel, and more functionally rich molecules. The three Nobel chemists each developed techniques for making carbon-carbon bonds without spewing out side-products and without the reactions having to be carried out under extreme conditions. The Heck, Negishi and Suzuki reactions all use the noble metal palladium, to do their work and have become indispensible tools in the organic chemist's toolkit of reactions.





Once again an allotrope of carbon wins a Nobel Prize, although perhaps surprisingly, unlike the fullerenes, this allotrope earned its recipients, Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov the 2010 Physics Prize. Their Nobel citation gives "groundbreaking experiments regarding the two-dimensional material graphene" as the reason for their well-deserved Prize. Of course, Geim and Novoselov's discovery of graphene, which you might consider to be a monolayer of the carbon allotrope graphite, emphasizes just how indistinct the boundaries between disciplines can be. Where does the physics of the discovery end and the chemistry of the physics begin?





The site of millions of gallons of red sludge spilled across West Hungary and pouring into waterways and leading to the deaths of at least five people, brings into sharp relief the environmental impact of the aluminum industry. Bauxite refining generates twice the mass of waste products as it does aluminum end product and the plant in Ajka, Hungary, is just one of dozens of plants across the globe that between them produce 70 million tons of red sludge.





Nanoparticles of gold can catalyze oxidation reactions, but how they do this is something of a mystery. Now, researchers at the Nanoscience Centre (NSC) of the University of Jyväskylä in Finland have puzzled out the reactions using their computational prowess. It appears that nanoclusters of gold use ambient oxygen to oxidize themselves first, even at room temperature, and then transfer their raised oxidation state to the substrate compound. Intensive experimental work since the early 1980s has indicated that gold nanoparticles exhibit unexpected catalytic activity towards many industrially important chemical reactions. Moreover, the fact that they operate at room temperature gives them an energy-saving advantage over other approaches that is becoming an increasingly pressing issue for the "greening" of chemistry.





Staphylococcus aureus bacteria can be tricked it into incorporating foreign small molecules into their cell wall, according to researchers at Yale University. By being able to manipulate the cell wall, in this way, the researchers explain that they can, in theory, perturb the bacteria's ability to interact with human tissues and host cells. The discovery could lead the way to a new approach to combating the bacteria responsible for many of the most infectious diseases, including pneumonia and "strep" throat infections. It might even open up new avenues to fighting microbes that have evolved resistance to antibiotics.





Eu-Hyeok Yang of the Stevens Institute of Technology, is set to receive funding from the National Science Foundation to acquire a Nanoimprint Lithography System for nanoscience research and education based on low-dimensional materials. The equipment, a Nanonex 1000 Nanoimprint Lithography System is a whole-wafer, high-resolution (10nm) nanoimprinter for thermoplastic resins. "The NIL system is the latest piece of equipment in completing the fabrication process flow for micro/nano devices at Stevens," Yang explains. "The MDL's capabilities for research and education increase significantly with this system."