ChemWeb Newsletter

Not a subscriber? Join now.November 11, 2015

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Publishers' select

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overview

The Alchemist focuses on a laser that could heat materials to temperatures hotter than the center of the sun, a liquid full of holes, and a drug that might reverse aging in Alzheimer's disease. We also learn that taste is hard-wired in our brains, how magnetic resonance can be miniaturized to "lab-on-a-chip" scale. Finally, this year's Franklin Award is for pioneering DNA nanotechnology research.




They may be a girl's best friend, forever or simply the hardest natural substance, but they also may not be quite so rare as chemists once thought. “Diamond formation in the deep Earth, the very deep Earth, may be a more common process than we thought,” explains Dimitri Sverjensky of Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. Writing in the journal Nature Communications with doctoral student Fang Huang, the team offers a new quantitative theory of diamond formation. Of course, rarity is also about access and just because a theory of formation suggests that diamonds form more readily than once thought does not mean that they will be near the Earth's crust ripe for mining and marketing.





Singlet fission in organic molecules takes place in real time and could be exploited to create highly efficient solar cells, according to an international team led by scientists at the University of Cambridge. The team used ultrafast laser pulses to observe how a single particle of light, or photon, can be converted into two energetically excited particles, known as spin-triplet excitons, through a process called singlet fission. If singlet fission can be controlled, it could enable solar cells to double the amount of electrical current that can be extracted.





A rarely seen plant that grows in the damp shadows of Chinese mountainsides, Chloranthus oldhamii Solms-Laubach, has yielded several intriguing natural products with entirely novel and previously unseen skeletons. The chlorabietols discovered by Jin-Feng Hu of Fudan University in Shanghai and colleagues present putative new leads for active agents against the enzyme protein tyrosine phosphatase 1B which is a negative regulator of the insulin signaling pathway and also linked to cell proliferation in breast cancer, for instance. As with any discovery of new natural products, much more work is now needed to take the discovery forward and to find out whether it has real promise in medicinal chemistry.





Cracks inevitably appear in concrete especially after several years or decades in place. Now, researchers from the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI and Empa in Switzerland have solved the structure of the material produced in the course of the so-called concrete disease, or AAR (the alkali-aggregate reaction that occurs as moisture ingresses the concrete) at the atomic level reveal a novel crystalline sheet-silicate structure for the material. The work could lead to more durable concrete in the future.





It is almost inevitable that any new technology will come with problems despite its benefits. Now, researchers at the University of California, Riverside have demonstrated that objects produced by some commercial 3D printers are toxic to certain fish embryos. William Grover and his colleagues studied two common types of 3D printer: one that melts plastic to make an object and a second that uses light to turn a liquid into a solid part. The team found that both products were measurably toxic to zebrafish embryos but the liquid-based printer produced objects that were the most toxic. They have now devised an ultraviolet post-printing treatment that can reduce the toxicity of objects made by the liquid-based 3D printer.





Off-patent, off-label medications could help thousands at very little cost. At the time of writing, the UK government is about to get a second reading of a piece of legislation that should it pass will allow doctors to prescribe off-patent generic pharmaceuticals for diseases, such as breast cancer, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease, for which those drugs were not approved initially. Drugs that cost mere pennies once their patents expire do not turn sufficient profit for the original marketing company but can still be profitable for generic manufacturers.