Category: Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN)

February 15, 2018

How Lanthanides Keep Volcanic Bacteria Alive

By Mark Peplow, special to C&EN

Ten years ago, in a steaming volcanic mudpot in Italy, microbiologists discovered a bizarre bacterium—the first known organism that couldn’t live without lanthanides. To help it feed on methane, Methylacidiphilum fumariolicum relies on a methanol dehydrogenase (MDH) enzyme that has a rare-earth element such as cerium or lanthanum at its heart. Now, Eric J. Schelter of the University of […]

February 2, 2018

Why Baking Soda Could Help Boost the Killing Power of Some Antibiotics

By Erika Gebel Berg for C&EN

With antibiotic resistance on the rise, scientists are looking everywhere for better treatment approaches, even inside a box of baking soda—otherwise known as sodium bicarbonate. Bicarbonate ions, like the ones in this kitchen staple, act as a ubiquitous buffer in the human body. In a new study, scientists have figured out that bicarbonate diminishes the […]

January 24, 2018

Diagnosing Ebola Immunity with a Paper Test

By Prachi Patel for C&EN

To combat deadly outbreaks of Ebola, researchers need a variety of simple, portable tests that help them control and treat infections. Now researchers have developed a paper-based strip that detects immunity against this viral infection. The new test uses a color-changing paper strip similar to store-bought pregnancy kits and is read using a smartphone. Traditional […]

January 22, 2018

Tropical Tree Seeds Provide Sustainable Water Filtration

By Deirdre Lockwood, for C&EN

Researchers have designed a simple drinking water filtration method using sand combined with the extract of seeds from a tree commonly found in equatorial regions. A small prototype filter completely removed bacteria from water in which the concentration of Escherichia coli was more than 100,000 times as great as that of wastewater. The researchers hope to develop […]

January 17, 2018

Two-Dimensional Materials Could Enable Low-Power Telecommunications

By Katherine Bourzac for C&EN

Two-dimensional materials can be exploited to make a new kind of electronic device that researchers have dubbed an atomristor. In early stage studies, the researchers have demonstrated a possible application for atomristors in low-power communications circuits. The device’s name comes from “atomically thin memristor.” Memristors are the odd cousin of the electronics family, capable of […]

January 11, 2018

Spinning Yarn for a Wash-and-Wear Energy Harvester

By Katherine Bourzac for C&EN

To Georgia Tech’s Zhong Lin Wang, even tossing and turning in bed is a possible source of renewable energy. Wang’s group has made energy-harvesting yarns—primarily composed of common garment materials like polyester, cotton, silk, and wool—that can be woven into brightly colored, washable, power-generating textiles. Sewn into socks, sweaters, and other clothes, the fabrics can harvest […]

January 8, 2018

Ironing Out Graphene’s Wrinkles

By Katherine Bourzac for C&EN

With a carefully engineered substrate, researchers can grow high-quality graphene free of troublesome wrinkles that often form during manufacture. The supersmooth two-dimensional material has improved electrical properties over rumpled graphene grown by the usual methods. In theory, pristine graphene has superlative electrical, mechanical, and other properties that could be used to make speedy, energy-efficient electronics […]

January 5, 2018

Detergent-Based Artificial Tongue Identifies Bottled Water Brands

By Prachi Patel for C&EN

A new, easy-to-make artificial tongue can distinguish different brands of bottled water. The simple chemical sensor uses a single type of fluorescent molecule to detect and quantify 13 different metal ions. Fluorescent sensors are excellent for detecting minute, nanomolar levels of target chemicals in solution in real time. In these applications, molecules typically include two […]

January 4, 2018

A Greener Way to Get Lithium?

By Deirdre Lockwood, for C&EN

The lightest metal is in heavy demand, thanks to the ever-growing market for cell phones, electric cars, and other products that rely on lithium-ion batteries. Experts debate whether the supply of lithium can keep up with this demand. A newly improved sorbent could offer an environmentally friendly way to get lithium from a relatively untapped […]

December 8, 2017

Luminescent Nanoparticles Leave a Glowing Fingerprint

By Melissae Fellet, for C&EN

A new fingerprinting technique that uses long-lived luminescent nanoparticles provides sharp images of otherwise invisible prints. The method offers better resolution than standard fingerprinting for forensic investigation, the researchers say. When collecting fingerprints at crime scenes, investigators choose from a handful of reagents to reveal the patterns deposited on surfaces by skin oils and proteins. […]

November 24, 2017

Supercharged Bleach Powers Greener Oxidations

By Louisa Dalton, for C&EN

Run-of-the-mill liquid bleach, aqueous NaOCl, is an attractive green option for industrial oxidations. It’s cheap, doesn’t tend toward explosive reactions like hydrogen peroxide, doesn’t require metal catalysts, and its waste product is table salt. But it is tough to work with and inefficient on a large scale. Now researchers have determined that an extra-pure, crystallized […]

November 22, 2017

Pressure Pumps Up Protein Reaction Yields

By Jyoti Madhusoodanan, for C&EN

Protein-based drugs are often used to treat conditions such as multiple sclerosis, hemophilia, or gout. But if used in their native form, they can be short-lived or trigger harmful inflammation. To prevent this, drugmakers attach polyethylene glycol (PEG), a polymer that stabilizes therapeutic proteins and enhances their efficacy, to specific sites within the protein—a reaction […]

November 15, 2017

Baking Soda Washes Pesticides from Apples

By Janet Pelley, for C&EN

Rinsing produce with tap water removes germs and also significantly reduces pesticide residues. But some pesticides persist on produce after getting doused under the faucet, raising health concerns about chronic, low-level exposure to the compounds. A new study finds that a baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) wash can completely remove residues of two pesticides from the […]

Cannabis Chemistry

November 6, 2017

Cannabis Chemistry: A Closer Look at Toxicant Formation in Dabbing

By Jesse Stanchak

The most-read paper in ACS Omega during September 2017 looked the formation of methacrolein, benzene, and toxicants while “dabbing” with butane hash oil.  This context,“ dabbing” means to put a small amount of cannabis-containing liquid such as butane hash oil on a hot surface, then inhale the vapors via a water pipe. Since cannabis chemistry […]

October 27, 2017

Sulfur Dioxide Pollution Tied to Degraded Sperm Quality

By Janet Pelley, for C&EN

Men’s sperm counts have plummeted by up to 60% over the last 40 years in Western countries and by nearly 30% since 2001 in China. Experts lack firm answers regarding the cause of the sperm deficit but suspect that behaviors such as smoking or exposures to hormone-disrupting compounds in plastics or pesticides are to blame. […]

October 20, 2017

Forgery of Ancient Silk Leaves Chemical Footprint

By Louisa Dalton, for C&EN

Chemists have pulled back the veil on suspected ancient silk forgeries by revealing telltale chemical traces in the fabric. They show that amino acid analysis can tell real ancient silk from fake, and their analysis method reveals the manner of deception: Amino acid measurements from forged silks match modern silks that have been soaked in […]

October 13, 2017

Fluorescent Sensor Measures Ionic Strength in Living Cells

By Melissae Fellet, for C&EN

A fluorescent biosensor is the first to quantify the ionic strength inside living cells. The sensor could enable cell biologists to follow changes in ionic strength over time or at different locations in a cell, changes that are key for controlling protein aggregation. Ionic strength measures the concentration of unbound ions floating in a cell. […]

October 12, 2017

Microneedle Skin Patch Fights Fat

By Prachi Patel for C&EN

A new skin patch can burn fat at the site where it’s applied. Dozens of tiny microneedles on the patch slowly and painlessly deliver a drug that transforms energy-storing white fat into calorie-burning brown fat. Tested on obese mice, the patch reduced abdominal fat, increased metabolism, and brought down glucose levels. It could offer an […]

October 11, 2017

An Easier Way to Tell Fossil Fuels From Biofuels

By Deirdre Lockwood, for C&EN

For those seeking carbon credits for selling or using biofuels, it’s important to know that the fuel actually came from plants that were recently alive, and not from fossil fuels, which are made of plant matter that’s been dead for hundreds of millions of years. Researchers now have an easier way of determining the source […]

October 6, 2017

Fluorescent Sensor Measures Ionic Strength in Living Cells

By Melissae Fellet, for C&EN

A fluorescent biosensor is the first to quantify the ionic strength inside living cells. The sensor could enable cell biologists to follow changes in ionic strength over time or at different locations in a cell, changes that are key for controlling protein aggregation. Ionic strength measures the concentration of unbound ions floating in a cell. […]

October 3, 2017

Antibiotic Resistance Could Spread Through Feed at Fish Farms

By Deirdre Lockwood, for C&EN

“Farm to table” has become a catch phrase for eating locally grown food bought directly from producers—but unfortunately it can also apply to antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics applied as part of farming practices for livestock and farmed seafood can fuel the proliferation of antibiotic-resistance genes among bacteria—including pathogenic strains. When such pathogens end up in the […]

September 27, 2017

Metallopeptide Catalyst Eases Synthesis of Antibody-Drug Conjugates

By Wudan Yan, for C&EN

Antibody-drug conjugates are promising next-generation cancer therapies that can target and selectively kill malignant cells while sparing healthy ones. These conjugates—in which a drug is bound to an antibody through a small chemical linker—harness the antibody’s ability to recognize markers specific to cancer cells and bring the potent drugs to their intended site of action. […]

September 22, 2017

Self-Folding Electronics Take Shape

By Katherine Bourzac for C&EN

After being peeled from the platform of a three-dimensional printer, a flat electronic component begins to fold its four legs into position. In just a few minutes, it is fully formed and can stand. Researchers can now print self-folding electronic devices like this one thanks to a new polymer ink that builds up mechanical strain […]

Nobel Prize Predictions

September 21, 2017

Get Expert Predictions for the 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

By Jesse Stanchak

We won’t know who the winner (or winners) of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry will be until Oct. 4. But if you can’t wait that long — or you just love to speculate — we’ve got a panel of experts who are willing to put forth some educated chemistry Nobel Prize predictions. Chemical & Engineering […]

  • 2017 Nobel Prize

September 21, 2017

Trees with a Probiotic Boost Clean Up a Carcinogen

By Deirdre Lockwood, for C&EN

Planting poplar trees that harbor a secret weapon—pollutant-busting microbes—could help clean up sites contaminated with the carcinogen trichloroethylene, a new study shows. In the first field trial of this approach at a Superfund hazardous waste site, poplar trees boosted by bacteria within their tissues brought groundwater concentrations of TCE to below the maximum contaminant level […]

September 20, 2017

Touching Thermal Receipts May Extend BPA Exposure

By Deirdre Lockwood, for C&EN

When people handle receipts printed on thermal paper containing the endocrine disruptor bisphenol A (BPA), the chemical could linger in the body for a week or more, according to a new study. BPA ingested from food, however, is excreted within a day. Jonathan W. Martin of Stockholm University and Jiaying Liu of the University of […]

September 19, 2017

Making the Diabetes Drug Exenatide More Stable

By Katherine Gammon, for C&EN

Exenatide, a widely used diabetes drug, requires that patients give themselves a subcutaneous injection at least once per week. But because of a new development, less frequent injections might soon be possible. By tweaking one amino acid of exenatide and attaching it to hydrogel microspheres, researchers have developed a longer-acting version and tested it in […]

September 18, 2017

One-Pot Synthesis Yields Grapevine Moth Sex Pheromone

By Louisa Dalton, for C&EN

The European grapevine moth (Lobesia botrana) spoils vineyard fruit across the globe. One of the most effective weapons against the widespread pest is the moth’s own sex pheromone. When sprayed into the air around the grapevines, it leads males on a fruitless chase to find females, disrupting mating. However, the pheromone is about 60% more […]

August 28, 2017

Viruslike Nanoparticles Kill Drug-Resistant Bacteria

By Prachi Patel for C&EN

Viruslike polymer nanoparticles can target and kill different types of bacteria—including antibiotic-resistant strains—while sparing human cells, according to a new study. What’s more, fine-tuning the size and shape of these fuzzy polymer nanoparticles alters their potency. The strategy could represent a step towards a new class of antimicrobials that could fight infections while avoiding antibiotic […]

August 15, 2017

What Goes into Selecting C&EN’s Talented 12?

By Jesse Stanchak

Many fields have awards recognizing rising stars. Recording artists have the Grammy Award for Best New Artist. Baseball players have the Rookie of the Year Award. And chemists have the Talented 12. Each year Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN) unveils a new class of 12 promising young chemists at the Fall ACS National Meeting & […]

August 14, 2017

Frozen Fish Embryos Warm Up Better with Nanorods

By Jyoti Madhusoodanan, for C&EN

Zebrafish (Danio rerio) are widely used as a model organism for developmental biology. But after being frozen and thawed, zebrafish embryos rarely survive, meaning that researchers can only do experiments on live ones and can’t store embryos for later experiments or to share with other labs. Now, researchers report that injecting zebrafish embryos with gold […]

August 11, 2017

Join ACS Publications in Washington D.C. for These Exciting Events!

By Stephanie Monasky

The 254th ACS National Meeting in Washington, DC is less than two weeks away! Mark your calendars and join ACS Publications and C&EN for events and activities throughout the meeting. Help us take a GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ title, meet top ACS Editors, and help create a mural of 2016’s most-prolific author. Take a Quiz and […]

  • 254th American Chemical Society National Meeting & Exhibition

August 11, 2017

Keeping a Close Eye on Lithium Ions

By Katherine Bourzac for C&EN

After a year or so, lithium-ion batteries—used in cell phones, laptops, and electric cars—need more frequent recharging. And on rare occasions, the batteries can fail catastrophically. A new way to directly image lithium ions could help researchers better understand why these problems happen, helping them to improve battery design. Li-ion batteries can catch fire when […]

August 4, 2017

Cane Toad Microbiome Transforms its Toxins

By Melissae Fellet, for C&EN

Australia’s invasive cane toads are a scourge to native species, poisoning predators with toxic secretions. But now researchers have discovered that bacteria in the glands of adult cane toads transform these toxins into hydroxylated versions found in cane toad eggs and tadpoles. Manipulating this microbe-mediated toxin transformation could offer a new route for controlling the […]

August 3, 2017

Understanding How Mother-of-Pearl Promotes Bone Growth

By Melissa Pandika

The Mayans used seashells as dental implants, and researchers have shown that small chunks of mother-of-pearl, the iridescent lining of oysters’ and other mollusks’ shells, induce bone formation in both cell culture and animal studies. Why this works, however, has been a mystery. Researchers are now a step closer to the answer. A new work […]

July 26, 2017

Training of Bomb-Sniffing Dogs Could Improve with New Mass Spectrometry Tool

By Melissa Pandika

Law enforcement has long relied on canines to sniff out dangerous explosives, but large discrepancies exist between individual dogs’ performances that are at least partially attributable to training differences. Now, analytical chemistry may help give the dogs’ powerful sense of smell a keener edge. Researchers have developed a device that could improve dogs’ training by […]

July 25, 2017

Plants Inspire Exceptionally Strong and Elastic Graphene Aerogels

By Prachi Patel for C&EN

Ultralight and exceptionally strong, graphene aerogels are attractive materials for use as catalysts, electrodes, and flexible electronics. But so far it has been hard to make them both strong and elastic. Researchers have now overcome that hurdle by making a squishable graphene aerogel that mimics an aquatic plant’s highly ordered porous structure. The new, conductive […]

July 20, 2017

Making Macrocyclic Compounds for DNA-Encoded Libraries

By XiaoZhi Lim, for C&EN

A simple tweak to a tool for making macrocyclic compounds could help increase the diversity of DNA-encoded libraries used by drug developers to rapidly screen and identify promising drug candidates. Building such libraries involves attaching short, unique DNA sequences to small molecules and then reacting those DNA-tagged building blocks together to create myriad products, which […]

July 7, 2017

Nutmeg Compound is Even Cooler than Menthol

By Deirdre Lockwood, for C&EN

When you rinse with a menthol-flavored mouthwash, your mouth tingles because the compound triggers a cold-sensitive ion channel in sensory neurons in your mouth. Now scientists have found a new compound that is even more chilling. Isolated from nutmeg, this new chemical is the most potent activator of that cooling channel yet found in nature. […]

July 6, 2017

Organic Onions Richer in Flavonoids

By Alla Katsnelson, for C&EN

Many grocery store shoppers believe that organic vegetables are healthier than their conventional counterparts, but studies comparing nutritional content have produced mixed results. Now, researchers have completed the first-ever multiyear field test of a crop grown with organic methods versus conventional ones. They report that organic onions contain a significantly higher amount of two types […]