ChemWeb Newsletter

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Publishers' select

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This week, The Alchemist learns how to cook up a new catalyst for the hydrogen economy, how to make electronics with nano-inks, and how to track pain relief with spectroscopy. There are phase transitions to examine this week and a tequila plant extract to investigate that might be useful in treating osteoporosis. Finally, this week's award news is for green and sustainable science.

Molybdenum disulfide prepared in a microwave oven has the potential to be an affordable alternative to the expensive platinum catalysts that are currently used in sustainable hydrogen production, hopefully leading the way to a cheaper hydrogen economy as an alternative to the carbon economy on which we currently rely for fuel. Scientists at the US Center for Nanoscale Materials have demonstrated that a microwave synthesis technique can help create nanostructured molybdenum sulfide catalysts with an improved ability to produce hydrogen. Calculations show the boost comes from a change in the interaction between the hydrogen and molybdenum sulfide edge sites when the space between individual layers of the nanosheets is increased.

A new approach to making transistors will involve depositing sequentially their components in the form of liquid nanocrystal “inks” say researchers at the University of Pennsylvania. The research could lead to flexible electrical components that might be used in wearable devices and other applications. The lower-temperature process makes the possibility of embedding such components in a wide variety of materials as well as making large area devices. According to Cherie Kagan and colleagues the nanocrystal-based field effect transistors were patterned on to flexible plastic supports using spin coating but could be amenable to additive manufacturing systems, such as 3D printing.

The clinical version of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy can be used to track the metabolites of analgesics (painkillers) in the brain, according to new work from Denmark. The team says that NMR can offer direct chemical insights at the molecular level that are not seen in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies, so allowing clinicians to monitor the effects of known or new painkillers and correlate the chemistry objectively with the pain relief experienced by the patient subjectively. The approach could be used to improve administration of pain relief or help in the development of new analgesics.

Researchers in Japan have used a supercomputer to help us understand exactly what happens when a material undergoes the transition from the metallic phase to the insulator phase. The analysis by scientists from the RIKEN Advanced Institute for Computational Science (AICS) in Kobe, published in the journal Physical Review X, shows that there is a direct movement between the two phases, and that this behavior coincides with the loss of mass of the electrons - Dirac electrons - in the materials as they become correlated with one another. The study has fundamental implications for condensed matter physics and may lead the way to novel materials with useful electrical and magnetic properties.

It has been suspected for some time that an extract from the blue variety of the Agave tequilana, a cactus-like, succulent plant used to make the well-known Mexican alcoholic drink, tequila, may have a positive effect on the bone disorder osteoporosis. Now, research conducted at the Center for Research and Advanced Studies (Cinvestav) in central Mexico has shown that substances - fructans - in the plant can improve absorption of calcium and magnesium ions, two minerals essential to bone health. The research points to the possibility of a new treatment for osteoporosis, a disease that afflicts at least 200 million people worldwide.

Yunsang Kim from the University of Georgia, USA, and Suzana Yusup from the Universiti Teknologi Petronas, Malaysia are the winners of the first Green and Sustainable Chemistry Challenge established in 2015 by Leuphana University of Lüneburg, Germany and Elsevier. Kim developed an innovative textile dyeing technology using Nanocellulosic fiber, which will greatly reduce generations of wastewater and release of toxic chemicals in textile dyeing process and receives a 50000 euro prize (about US$ 57000). Yusup's project demonstrates how a unique combination of different plant extracts can be used to develop a water-based biopesticide and earns a 25000 euro prize.