ChemWeb Newsletter

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Yet more chemical wonder fall under the gaze of The Alchemist this week. First up, spray on radiators coming to a home near you to help cut heating bills by a third while ethanol-imbibing bacteria offer an important clue to preventing biofuel pipeline cracks. In the analytical world a beetle that feasts on the dead offers volatile clues about time-since-death for forensic investigators, and porous compounds that can gulp down radioactive iodine emerge from Sandia National Laboratory. Chemistry, once again, gives advertisers materials to help beer drinkers. Finally, yet another award for a young Thai chemist.

Kajornsak Faungnawakij, Head of Nanomaterials for Energy and Catalysis Lab at NANOTEC is one of four scientists chosen to receive Thailand's 2011 Young Scientist Award given by the Foundation for the Promotion of Science and Technology under the Patronage of the king. This isn't Faungnawakij's first award, in 2010 Faungnawakij received the CST Distinguish Young Chemist Award in Organic Chemistry from the Chemistry Society of Thailand. His research interest is in the area of inorganic chemistry, chemical engineering, especially catalysis, nanotechnology, and biofuels; he has been a researcher at NANOTEC since 2008 having earned his Ph.D. in 2005.

An international team has invented a novel material that can undergo an energy storage phase change without deforming. Researchers at the Chinese campus of the UK's Nottingham University explain that the material absorbs heat when above a certain temperature and releases it again when the ambient temperature falls. It could be used as energy-efficient cladding or simply sprayed on to walls and interior décor to cut heating bills by around a third, the team claims. A patent has now been granted in China and applications are pending elsewhere, with commercialization anticipated in two years.

Acetobacter aceti bacteria that grow on the ethanol in biofuels can produce acidic metabolites that increase the rate of fatigue cracking in steel pipelines. According to researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the heady brew of ethanol and bacteria increases the rate of steel corrosion by some 25 times in tests on common pipeline materials, X52 and X70 steels. In parallel tests, the team found that the biocide glutaraldehyde commonly used in oil and gas operations can slow bacterial growth and so could be used in ethanol transport to avoid pipeline cracks and fuel leaks.

There is no absolute forensic method to determine time since death in a homicide investigation. However, new work with the carrion-eating hide beetle Dermestes maculates suggests that the insect is attracted to a volatile ester emitted by a carcass. Gas chromatography was used to analyze the headspace gases from pig carcasses at different stages of decay. 18 volatile compounds were found to be electroactive and 13 were identified by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, with benzyl butyrate being the most active volatile identified, according to researchers in Germany. The study provides additional insights into the process of insect infestation of a dead body, offering new information homicide investigations.

A metal-organic framework that can adsorb one and a fourth of its weight in molecular iodine could be useful in clean-up of radioactive gas after a nuclear or terrorist "dirty bomb" release incident, according to research from the US. Tina Nenoff of Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and colleagues demonstrated how the zeolitic imidazolate framework-8 (ZIF-8) can permanently trap large volumes of iodine vapor. Current materials for sequestering radioactive iodine have a capacity an order of magnitude lower than this MOF, the team says.

Fans of Coors Light beer may have been wondering how the company's marketing team snagged thermochemistry for their latest sales gimmick. Well, renowned chemistry blogger Adam Aznam has the low down on the cool down. Coors Light bottles are printed with a thermochromic ink in the form of a leuco dye, he explains, these have a colorless form and a colored form. At too-warm-to-drink temperatures, the dye is colorless, but cool to refrigerator temperature and apparently, "the Rockies turn blue," indicating that the beer is at the right temperature to drink (in moderation, of course).