ChemWeb Newsletter

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overview

New understanding of high-temperature superconductors meshes theory and experiment after twenty years of research and could lead to new developments, even a temperature rise, The Alchemist learns. In energy news, farmyard ordure is on the agenda, while in medicine magnetic nanoparticles could blast tumor cells with heat. A serendipitous discovery in organometallic chemistry could lead to color-change detectors for toxic gases while an open source solution to molecular database management is revealed for the smaller laboratory. Finally, female recognition from the ACSM after 56 years.




Bad metals have trouble carrying an electrical current but can nevertheless become "high-temperature" superconductors under the right conditions. Michael Lawler and colleagues at Binghamton University have now come up with an explanation based on the analysis of previously accrued data on cuprate superconductors. They explain, in the current issue of the journal Science, how liquid crystal phenomena appear active in these materials. Their theory explains the "pseudogap phenomenon", the vanishing of the low-energy electronic excitations in high-temperature superconductors. "In a problem that has gone unsolved for more than 20 years, it is remarkable to find a connection between theory and experiment at this level," Lawler said.





Manure from millions of cattle, pigs, and chickens can be fed into anaerobic digesters to produce methane for electricity generation. There are about 150 anaerobic digesters in the U.S. alone. However, the power costs about double the average cost of energy from fossil fuels. An alternative energy policy that taxed carbon emissions from fossil fuels could make this renewable energy source more economically viable according to David Zaks of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and colleagues. In addition to replacing fossil fuels, the digesters would provide the benefit of reducing methane release from manure, Zaks says.





Iron oxide structures from magnetotactic bacteria can selectively kill tumor cells if held in an alternating magnetic field (AMF) by generating lethally high temperatures in the cells, according to French researchers. Hyperthermia has been used to treat cancer before, the heat source is usually generated using radiation. Now, Edouard Alphandéry and his colleagues from the Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris, have tested natural iron oxide nanoparticles and found that they can induce cell death through hyperthermia using an AMF. Results from clinical trials are expected in three to four years.





Carbon monoxide detectors and food-spoilage indicators could emerge from a chance discovery that modified metals react to different gases by changing color. Cathleen Crudden and colleagues at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, found that their rhodium compound, an N-hetereocyclic carbene complex, changes to yellow in the presence of nitrogen, deep blue in the presence of oxygen, and brown in the presence of carbon monoxide. Uniquely, the attachment of different gas molecules to the complex does not disrupt the crystal structure. The team is no investigating whether the much cheaper metal, cobalt, might also work as a color-change gas detector.





Handling thousands or tens of thousands of chemical structures in a small laboratory is often a daily task but proprietary software capable of the task can be unwieldy and costly. An open source and so modifiable and redistributable alternatives known as MyMolDB has been developed by researchers in the U.K. and China to make life easier for small-lab managers. MyMolDB is based on the Python scripting language and uses a web-based and so platform independent interface. The team describes it as "a micromolecular database solution that supports exact, substructure, similarity, and combined searching." The system can handle up to a million structures easily.





Chemist Mamie Moy of the University of Houston is on a career-long mission to make science fun. And, her 56-year career at UH has now been recognized by the American Chemical Society through its Award for Encouraging Women into Careers in the Chemical Sciences. The award, sponsored by the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, includes a $10,000 grant. Moy plans to use the money to hold a mini-conference for girls in grades K12, as well as female university students.