ChemWeb Newsletter

Not a subscriber? Join now.November 25, 2015

Publishers' select

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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.

Pioneering work in DNA nanotechnology has led to New York University chemist Nadrian Seeman being awarded the 2016 Franklin Award in chemistry. The Institute recognized Seeman for "his conceptualization and demonstration that DNA can be used as a construction material that can spontaneously form sub-microscopic structures of diverse shapes and functions, with potential applications in disease treatment, mechanics, and computation." Previous winners include Thomas Edison, Marie Curie, Max Planck, Jane Goodall, Enrico Fermi, and Stephen Hawking.

A laser could be used to heat materials to a temperature hotter than the centre of the Sun - 10 million Celsius - within a mere 20 femtoseconds, according to new research from Imperial College London, UK. The team at IC has worked out an extremely rapid heating mechanism, which they suggest could allow certain materials to be heated to extremely high temperatures almost instantaneously. Such an ability will be of great interest to those attempting to harness nuclear fusion in power generation.

The world's first permanently porous liquid has been developed by an international team of chemists. By adding rigid organic cage molecules to a bulky solvent, the researchers were able to fill the liquid with holes that are not transient in nature and make the solvent behave in some ways like a liquid version of a zeolite or metal-organic framework (MOF). This is unlike the porous macromolecular liquids containing hollow colloidal silica spheres that have been developed previously, rather the liquid really is full of holes. The porous liquid does not yet have the same vast internal surface area as a zeolite or a MOF, but it is perhaps only a matter of time before that development is achieved and opens up a whole new field of separation science, catalysis and reaction media.

An experimental drug for Alzheimer's disease appears to have some anti-aging effects, according to a team at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California. The drug known as J147 improves memory and cognition, leads to healthier blood vessels in the brain and improves other physiological features in laboratory mice. Basically, the drug seems to make old mice look young, says lead author Antonio Currais. The drug takes a different tack to treating Alzheimer's by focusing on the aging process and halting or even reversing it in some sense rather than targeting the amyloid plaques that accumulate in the brain and kill neurones.

US researchers have demonstrated that our sense of taste is hard-wired in our brains rather than being learned through experience. At least that is how it appears to scientists who used optogenetics and manipulated groups of cells in the brains of laboratory mice and found that they could change the way something tastes to the animals. The experiments formally prove that the sense of taste is completely hardwired, independent of learning or experience, but that is not to say that we cannot learn to enjoy tastes that are at first repellent or grow to dislike sweets flavors for instance.

A crystal of garnet just a micrometer across is at the heart of development of miniaturized magnetic resonance according to a team at the University of Alberta, Canada. The new approach sees MR as both a magnetic and a mechanical phenomenon given that magnetic dipoles possess angular momentum. MR on this scale could find use in space probes for analysis alien samples and even smart phones as a diagnostic tool or for environmental analysis.