ChemWeb Newsletter

Not a subscriber? Join now.January 13, 2012


In the first issue of the putatively but unlikely apocalyptic year of 2012, The Alchemist sniffs out some unsavory effluent from the local "greasy spoon," wonders what are the pitfalls of doing science at Pitt and chases Olympic dreams with a hydrogen relay race. There is serious pollution control heading for the farm, we hear, and there really is no end to silicon in sight. Finally, alternative chemistry awards may be facetious in flavor but have a serious message.

A proof-of-concept unit that incorporates a biofilter and a heat exchanger can reduce ammonia emissions from livestock barns, specifically those housing swine or chickens, and at the same time warm the fresh air that is pumped into the barns. The unit has been developed through a collaboration between researchers at North Carolina State University and West Virginia University with the aim of reducing air pollution from these parts of the food industry. “The technology is best suited for use when an operation wants to vent a facility that has high ammonia concentrations, and pump in cleaner air in preparation for a fresh batch of chicks or piglets - particularly in cold weather. It is also suitable for use when supplemental heat is required for raising the young animals,” explains lead author Sanjay Shah from NSCU.

If you imagined that the microelectronics industry was about to hit some kind of limit to the miniaturization of silicon components and that molecular electronics would soon take up the mantle, think again. A team from the University of New South Wales and Melbourne University in Australia and Purdue University in the US have made the smallest silicon wires ever at just one atom high and four atoms wide. They have also demonstrated that these nanoscopic entities have the same current-carrying capabilities as copper wires. The discovery could open up a new avenue of investigation along the semiconductor roadmap that has seen Moore's Law successfully predict the inexorable shrinking of circuitry for the last four decades.

An alternative awards system from the ChemBark blog sees The Boston College Thionyl Chloride Explosion receiving the award for Accident of the Year, Danny Shechtman of Nobel quasicrystal fame being given the Hero of the Year, and Linus Pauling the recipient of Villain of the Year. The humorous awards may lampoon other celebrity-oriented awards, but serve the purpose of raising awareness of particular issues of importance to the chemical community including safety matters, recognition of mavericks and the burning of papers tigers.

A new cheminformatics approach to analyzing effluent waste water from restaurants and the food industry that can cope with the oil and grease in a sample has been developed by researchers in China. The team uses statistical methods to combine data from UV-Vis spectra, turbidity and other measurements to obtain important indicators of water quality in a fusion approach to analysis. The method could be used to develop online, real-time monitoring of effluent from the food industry and outlets.

One of the most porous materials ever made has been created by a team at the University of Pittsburgh. Nathaniel Rosi and colleagues have used the old "Tinker Toy" analogy to explain their new metal-organic frameworks, which could find applications in pharmaceutical delivery and high-density fuel gas storage. The team's materials follow the usual pattern and comprise metal-carboxylate cluster vertices and long, branched organic linkers, but it is their view on the vertices rather than the linkers that makes them special. They have worked with large metal-biomolecule clusters, such as zinc-adeninate building blocks, to construct "bio-MOF-100", which is a mesoporous MOF with the largest reported pore volume - of 4.3 cubic centimeters per gram.

A relay race of hydrogen atoms has been followed by Thomas Frederiksen, who is currently working in the Donostia International Physics Center (DIPC), Spain and colleagues in Japan, using scanning tunneling microscopy. The relay race takes place in well-defined chains on a metal surface. By sending a pulse of electrons through a water molecule at one end of the chain, hydrogen atoms propagate one by one along the chain like dominoes in motion, the team explains. The result is the transfer of a hydrogen atom, like the baton in a relay, from one end of the chain to the end. This way of manipulating matter could open up new ways to exchange information between novel molecular devices in future electronics.