ChemWeb Newsletter

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Publishers' select

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This week The Alchemist gets sticky when wet, learns about drying out on the Red Planet, chooses regular spicy food as a putative elixir for a longer life and discovers yet more evidence that atmospheric chemistry, not solar trends, is to blame for climate change. We also learn of how to make light matter. Finally, remembering Henry Moseley, whose World War I death may have been one of the most costly to humanity.

The level of "roughness" needed to preclude wetting of a surface even if it is fully submerged in water has been determined by engineers at Northwestern University. Valleys and peaks need to be less than one micrometer across to shed water ideally, the team found. Understanding surface wetting better will allow materials scientists to create designer materials for antifouling surfaces for shipping and lower friction pipework for many applications.

Fourier transform near infrared (FT-NIR) spectroscopy can be used as a non-destructive test for the analysis of raw milk to ensure that it is still fresh. The degree of change in a given sample during storage depends primarily on the variables time and temperature. Now, collaborators from China and the USA have applied cheminformatics to FTNIR data to allow them to correlate that data with freshness and so provide the possibility of a simple and rapid inline test for checking the freshness of unpasteurized raw milk.

The unusual clamshell structure of a bacterial protein involved in the insertion of so-called "jumping genes" has been revealed by scientists at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. Jumping genes move out of their usual slot in the genome and insert themselves elsewhere, researchers were already aware that the genes themselves encode the proteins that help them make the leap. The new work shows how the protein IstB bends DNA along the genome and primes it for the jumping gene to be inserted.

A substance familiar to many as the odor of rotten eggs, hydrogen sulfide, has been demonstrated as losing its electrical resistance at -80 Celsius under a pressure of 1.5 million bar, by researchers in Germany. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz have observed a new record high for superconductivity in the substance and report details in the journal Nature. The team suggests that other hydrogen-rich substances might also become superconductors, even hydrogen itself, although that requires 4 megabar of pressure, the team reports.

Two-dimensional materials are notoriously unstable, now a team at the University of Manchester, UK, has found a way to access such materials by adding a protective layer of graphene using computer control in an inert gas environment. The team used this approach to fabricate layers of black phosphorus and niobium diselenide, both of which are normally unstable but have great promise in materials science. The approach should now allow the properties of these 2D crystals to be investigated fully for the first time.

Australia’s leading scientific institution CSIRO has seen its budgets cut as have many other organizations. However, so dedicated to his research is one CSIRO scientist, San Thang that he is working unpaid. Thang fled war-torn Vietnam at the age of 24 and was tipped as one of three favorites for the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry by pundits at Thomas Reuters. Thang is perhaps best known to chemists as having helped invent Reversible Addition-Fragmentation Chain Transfer (RAFT), with Graeme Moad and Ezio Rizzardo. "In Australia, the doors opened [for me] and I still want to be part of CSIRO and elsewhere to make use of my knowledge, I want to inspire people," Thang said.