C&EN Roundup: Detecting Antibodies, Improving Batteries and Testing Beer

Chemical & Engineering News covers the world of chemistry, from research and education to business and policy. Here’s a sampling of their coverage of research from ACS journals:

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New Test May Be Able to Detect Antibodies in Saliva

Detecting antibodies for a given illness can be a useful way of diagnosing a patient, but even the gold standard antibody test, an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, doesn’t always work. Now researchers have developed a polymerase chain reaction test for antibodies that’s 1,000 times as sensitive as ELISA. The new test could have a major impact in public health circles since it may be sensitive enough to detect antibodies via a quick, simple saliva test that could be administered in developing areas.

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Reducing Mechanical Strain May Help Improve Battery Performance

New research into how mechanical strain hinders the performance of battery cathodes could provide insights into that creation of more efficient power storage. The lithium-ion batteries used in power tools and certain kinds of cars need to be able to deliver power in quick bursts, but these switches place strain on a battery’s cathode, degrading its performance.  Researchers used intense X-rays to study how charges and discharges strain battery material, information that could one day help develop batteries designed to better withstand the strain of frequent switches.

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Catalyst Could Prove Financial Boon to Biorefineries

Elephant grass can be converted into an alternative fuel source, but doing so requires stripping out a polymer called lignin. Now researchers have found a low-cost nickel-based catalyst capable of converting the majority of that lignin into valuable aromatic compounds. The breakthrough could help biorefineries become more economically viable by allowing them to sell these value-added compounds.

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Computational Model Could Help Spot Liver-Damaging Drugs Ahead of Trials

Before a new drug can be tested on humans, researchers must figure out if the new compound is likely to cause liver damage, which can be tricky since liver damage sometimes manifests after years of exposure. A new computational model could make this task simpler by comparing the new drug to other compounds known to cause liver damage. The new model relies on a much larger database than previous attempts and allows for inconclusive results, rather than labeling all compounds as either safe or unsafe.

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Smartphone Test Measures Beer Freshness With Brewery-Level Accuracy

It is now possible to test beer’s freshness using nothing but a smartphone and a color-changing film. The test uses a smartphone app to evaluate a test disc of polymer film that detects concentrations of furfural, a compound that forms when beer is heated and gives the beverage an unpleasant taste. While the test is simple enough to perform at home, it is more likely to be used by manufacturers looking to spot-check a batch of beer right before shipping.

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That’s just a small sample of the robust coverage C&EN provides. Get the latest news in your discipline with weekly e-mail updates.

 

If you have comments or questions for the author of this post, please e-mail: Axial@acs.org.