Category: Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN)

June 8, 2018

Microfluidic Device Draws Kidney Dialysis Buffer from Blood

By Jyoti Madhusoodanan, for C&EN

Artificial dialysis mimics the kidneys’ function of filtering wastes from blood, which is crucial to keep patients who are suffering from advanced renal disease alive. Dialysis machines typically work by causing the body’s excess water, urea, creatinine, and other wastes to diffuse into a buffer solution, a process that requires approximately 6 L of dialysis […]

May 24, 2018

Ancient Reaction Inspires Method for Making Porous Catalysts

By Katherine Bourzac for C&EN

A recipe for better electrocatalysts takes inspiration from an ancient reaction used in fireworks, known as the pharaoh’s snakes. With heat and the foaming power of baking soda, a simple mix of ingredients can be turned into a high surface area, nanostructured catalyst for oxygen reduction in fuel cells and zinc-air batteries. Fuel cells offer […]

May 22, 2018

Engineered Silkworms Spin Unusual Amino Acids into Silk

By Erika Gebel Berg for C&EN

Silk is smooth, strong, and biocompatible, making it a prized material for many applications. Scientists have tried all kinds of tricks to improve silk or imbue it with new properties: They have fed silkworms graphene or titanium dioxide to make stronger threads, fed them dyes to incorporate colors, and reprocessed silk to increase its elasticity. In the latest thread of the story, researchers […]

2018 Gordon Hammes Scholar Award Winner Timothy Bumpus

May 4, 2018

Congratulations to Timothy Bumpus of Cornell University, Winner of the 2018 Gordon Hammes Scholar Award

By Charley James

The Gordon Hammes Scholar Award honors the young scientists responsible for the very best papers published in Biochemistry. Established in 2017 and awarded alongside the Gordon Hammes Lectureship Award, the Scholar Award seeks to recognize those at the bench – graduate students, postdocs, and undergraduates – for the outstanding work they do. The award is […]

April 5, 2018

Fluorescent Sensor Provides Early Warning for Blocked Catheters

By Melissae Fellet, for C&EN

Researchers have devised a new early warning system for catheter blockages: a polymer disk, placed in a urine collection bag, that releases a fluorescent dye. Visual confirmation of urinary tract infections involved with blocked catheters may help reduce antibiotic use or unnecessary procedures, the researchers say. The bacterium Proteus mirabilis causes 20 to 45% of catheter-associated urinary […]

April 4, 2018

Delivering DNA on the Tips of Nanospears

By Katherine Bourzac for C&EN

Aiming nanosized spears at cells could be an easy and inexpensive way to dispense gene therapy. In an early proof-of-concept study, nanospears—propelled by a magnetic field—successfully hit target cells in a dish and safely transferred their genetic cargo inside. Gene therapies involve genetically engineering the body’s tissues by inserting DNA into cells. In a dish, […]

April 3, 2018

Hardy Hydrogel Cleans Water

By Louisa Dalton, for C&EN

Contaminants that are small, negatively charged anions are not easy to remove from water sources. But now researchers have come up with a method to do just that: They’ve created a hydrogel that can slurp up anions and then be plucked out of the water, rinsed, and reused.  Unwanted anions in water cause all sorts […]

April 2, 2018

Melting Snow Piles with an Aluminum Blanket

By Prachi Patel for C&EN

Tired of waiting for those mountains of snow hogging precious parking spaces and blocking sidewalks to melt? Now engineers have come up with a simple contraption to shrink those piles quickly: a blanket that absorbs the sun’s rays and conducts heat, melting snow three times as fast as it would melt on its own. Snow […]

March 30, 2018

Improving a Plastic-Degrading Enzyme for Better PET Recycling

By Melissae Fellet, for C&EN

Stabilizing a bacterial enzyme by strategically decorating it with sugars could help it to recycle one of the most widely used plastics and ultimately keep that plastic out of the landfill. Soda, water, and shampoo bottles made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) are typically recycled by grinding them into small flakes, which are then used to […]

March 29, 2018

Kirigami Cuts Create Strong But Removable Adhesive

By Prachi Patel for C&EN

Borrowing a page from the Japanese paper-cutting art of kirigami, researchers have made tape that is 10 times as sticky as uncut tape but is also easy to pull free and then reuse. The reversible adhesive could be used to make wall-climbing robots, wearable tattoolike sensors, and bandages that come off without making you wince. […]

March 28, 2018

Oil and Gas Wastewater Leaves Radium in Pennsylvania Stream Sediments

By Deirdre Lockwood, for C&EN

Despite a 2011 Pennsylvania guideline curbing the discharge of wastewater from the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, industry to water treatment plants, high levels of radium are still settling in some of the state’s stream sediments, according to a new study. The results suggest that some treatment plants that process wastewater derived from conventional oil and […]

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 […]