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Northwestern University researchers have used a pencil and a sheet of paper to draw up a novel analytical device for detecting toxic gases and measuring strain. When you draw a line on a piece of paper with a pencil, the graphite may shed numerous graphene sheets and students wondered whether that might be put to use. Graphene was famously discovered by removing a single graphite layer from a pencil scrawl on a glass slide by scientists at Manchester University in the UK. Jiaxing Huang and colleagues at Northwestern have now drawn chemiresistors on paper, which act as gas sensors and strain gauges. Details of the new work are reported in the paper Pencil Drawn Strain Gauges and Chemiresistors on Paper, published Scientific Reports.

US researchers have discovered a new type of liquid crystal that is hydrophilic and so has potential applications in medicine and biomedical research. The researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Swarthmore College placed their lyotropic chromonic liquid crystals, or LCLCs, which contain organic salts such as the common food dyes Sunset Yellow or Yellow 6, into water droplets and then put these loaded droplets into oil to form an emulsion. At high enough concentrations within the droplets, the liquid crystals are twisted. But, at higher concentrations still, they form columnar stacks that self-organize into crystal-like structures, transforming the otherwise spherical water droplets into faceted fluid gemstones.

Radioactive materials unearthed by the fracking process can be bound together into solids with other waste products, according to researchers at Duke University. Fracking wastewater and acid mine drainage each pose well-documented environmental and public health risks, explains Avner Vengosh, He and his colleagues have carried out laboratory tests to show that if blended in the appropriate proportions fracking contaminants can easily be removed from waste water before it is discharged back into waterways. This could be an effective way to treat Marcellus Shale hydraulic fracturing wastewater, while providing a beneficial use for acid mine drainage that currently is contaminating waterways in much of the northeastern United States, Vengosh adds.

Researchers from the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences (IPC PAS) in Warsaw and the Faculty of Chemistry, at Warsaw University of Technology, (WUT), Poland have turned to carbon dioxide as the raw material for a range of unprecedented nanomaterials. These materials are highly porous with high internal surface area to volume ratios and could have applications as storage media for energy-dense gases, catalysts or sensors. They have also demonstrated that some are microporous fluorescent materials and can emit light with a quantum yield significantly higher than is seen with conventional materials used in OLED displays, for instance.

We often think of the human nose as not being particularly sensitive, at least compared to our canine companions. However, this is not the case and many people can distinguish between hundreds if not thousands of odors at very low concentrations. Moreover, scientists at the Monell Center have shown that we can detect dietary fat in our food from smell alone. The findings by cognitive neuroscientist Johan Lundström and his colleagues identifies one of the first sensory qualities that helps us assess food before we put it in our mouths. The research could point the way to improving the perception of reduced-fat products aimed at those hoping to reduce their total daily calorie intake.

US President Barack Obama named University of Texas chemist Allen Bard and director emeritus of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, California, Andrew Sessler recipients of this year's Enrico Fermi Award, The award is administered on behalf of the White House by the US Department of Energy and is considered to be the government's oldest and most prestigious award in science. The award carries an honorarium of $50,000, shared equally between recipients, and a medal. Allen Bard and Andy Sessler have advanced the science and technology frontier throughout their distinguished careers and, in doing so, have contributed greatly to sustained US leadership in research and development, explains Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz.