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This week, The Alchemist is worried about the latest synchrotron news pertaining to supervolcano eruptions, but is happy to learn that photonics could soon be printed from solution. In the world of materials science we learn of 2D hybrids, while bisphenol A research turns out to have a flipside. In electronics, we go organic again for a faster than ever semiconductor. Finally, a Pittcon award for biosensors and electrocatalysts.




There are no external triggers need to spark the eruption of a supervolcano according to research published in the journal Nature Geosciences. European scientists have reproduced the conditions inside the magma chamber of a supervolcano and used synchrotron X-rays to study the geochemistry allowing them to rule out the need for an external trigger for an eruption. The team comprising Wim Malfait and Carmen Sanchez-Valle of ETH Zurich, Switzerland, and colleagues at the Paul Scherrer Institute in Villigen, also in Switzerland, at Okayama University, Japan, the Laboratory of Geology of CNRS, at the University of Lyon and ENS Lyon France, and the European Synchrotron (ESRF) in Grenoble, France, offers new hope for understanding and predicting the behavior of these stupendous geological features. A dormant supervolcano, or caldera, lies under Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, USA, and is thought to be long overdue for a massive and potentially devastating eruption.





Research at the National University of Singapore led by Loh Kian Ping has successfully developed a way to chemically exfoliate molybdenum disulfide crystals to make high-quality monolayer flakes. The high-yielding method for exfoliated flakes could be exploited to create an ink-like material that could be used to print photonics and electronic devices using nothing more elaborate than a modified inkjet printer. The same technique should work with other two-dimensional chalcogenide materials including tungsten diselenide and titanium disulfide. The NUS team collaborated with scientists from the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology in Korea.





Researchers at the US Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee, in Knoxville have developed a novel approach to making two-dimensional, single-atom sheets from two different materials with a seamless boundary. The technique allowed the researchers to combine two of the most exciting substances in materials science today - graphene and boron nitride. People call graphene a wonder material that could revolutionize the landscape of nanotechnology and electronics, ORNL's An-Ping Li explains. Indeed, graphene has a lot of potential, but it has limits. To make use of graphene in applications or devices, we need to integrate graphene with other materials, such as boron nitride. The study, published in the journal Science, might lead to other hybrid 2D materials for various technological applications and fundamental research.





Bisphenol A has been the target of many pressure groups because of its putative role as a hormone disrupter but an explanation as to why it might be harmful has been based on hearsay and punditry in many cases. Now, researchers from the Ruhr-Universität Bochum and the University of Wuppertal, Germany, have shown that bisphenol A can impair the function of switch proteins vital to cell growth processes. Until now, it was assumed that bisphenol A binds to hormone receptors only, but the German team has shown that it can also interfere with small GTPase enzymes. Our research provides further evidence that the physiological effects of bisphenol A may be even more complex than previously assumed, explains team member Raphael Stoll. However, the team's work with related compounds has potential for disrupting these enzymes to positive effect when those enzymes are involved in tumor growth. They may thus have anticancer potential.





Teams from Stanford and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln have joined forces develop thin, transparent semiconductors that could become the foundation for cheap, high-performance displays. Since the early 1980s and perhaps even before that researchers have been trying to exploit inexpensive, organic compounds as semiconductors. Research teams led by Zhenan Bao, professor of chemical engineering at Stanford, and Jinsong Huang, assistant professor of mechanical and materials engineering at UNL used their new process to make organic thin-film transistors with electronic characteristics comparable to those found in expensive, curved-screen television displays based on a form of silicon technology. The collaborators made two important changes to the basic process of spinning coating their thin layers on to a substrate: first they spun the platter faster. Second they only coated a tiny portion of the spinning surface, equivalent to the size of a postage stamp.





One of the functions of the Pittsburgh Analytical Chemistry Conference, Pittcon, is to recognize and honor those scientists who have made an outstanding contribution to analytical chemistry and applied spectroscopy. This year's winners include Richard M. Crooks of The University of Texas at Austin. Crooks has an independent career split between Texas A&M University and the University of Texas-Austin where he presently holds the Welch Chair in Materials Chemistry. His scientific research focuses on biosensing and electrocatalysis.