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Dr. Bryan Dickinson wins the 2022 ACS Chemical Biology Young Investigator Award

The ACS Chemical Biology Young Investigator Award honors the contributions of an early-career individual who is doing outstanding work in chemical biology. The first winner of this annual award, Dr. Bryan Dickinson from The University of Chicago, will present the ACS Chemical Biology Young Investigator Lecture during the ACS Spring 2023 Meeting & Exposition March 26 – 30 in Indianapolis, IN.

The award is sponsored jointly by ACS Chemical Biology and the ACS Division of Biological Chemistry.

“The review committee was delighted to receive a large number of highly-competitive nominations for the inaugural ACS Chemical Biology Young Investigator award,” said Editor-in-Chief Chuan He. “Following detailed deliberations, we are excited to name Dr. Bryan Dickinson as the winner of the 2022 ACS Chemical Biology Young Investigator Award, for his unique and outstanding contributions to designing and applying both small-molecule-driven and bioengineering-based strategies that enable novel means to perturb, probe, or control, numerous important biological regulatory programs spanning from the lipid signaling to epitranscriptome and RNA targeting. Work from the Dickinson laboratory over the past 8 years pushes the boundaries of chemical biology. This laboratory further demonstrates that when studied with depth and breath, how chemical biologists can bring novel interdisciplinary solutions to address important problems in the life sciences.”

Read a Brief Interview With Dr. Bryan Dickinson

Dr. Bryan Dickinson

Dr. Bryan Dickinson

Can you give us a short overview of the research you are currently undertaking and/or the project you are most excited about?

The motivating principle of my group is that our ability as chemists to create functional molecules will lead to new breakthroughs in biology and biotechnology. We are molecule-type agnostic though, engaging in everything from synthetic organic chemistry to create small molecules, molecular evolution to reprogram molecules, and protein/RNA design to develop novel biotechnology platforms. We select problems that we think are important, both in basic biology and translational science, and then do what only chemists can do—think about molecular solutions to those problems, and then go in the lab and create, find, or engineer those molecules!

One subgroup I am very excited about right now is our subgroup developing technologies to harness evolution to engineer and optimize molecules with specific bioactivities. Evolution, nature’s design philosophy, is not only a powerful method for optimizing or redirecting existing molecular function but can also lead to the de novo discovery of novel mechanisms of activity of molecules. I believe this function-first approach to molecular design could be impactful in the ways we discover bioactive molecules, but critically, can also lead to new mechanisms of action.

Over the past seven years, though iterative platform technology development, in particular our group’s proximity-dependent split RNAP biosensing system, we have developed technologies that allow us to rapidly evolve selective molecular interfaces between proteins, to evolve “molecular glues” that drive biomolecular interactions, to evolve biocatalysts, and finally, to evolve selective inhibitors of target biomolecular interactions.

Now, we are using these systems to try to tackle complex biophysical “puzzles” with a disease-focus, such as how to selectively disrupt disease-driving pre-formed protein complexes or how to drive biomolecular interactions with molecular glues to rewire cell signaling. We believe that the throughout and library sizes enabled by our evolution-based systems will yield novel solutions to these puzzles and lay the foundation for new classes of therapeutics.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone just entering the field?

I suggest anyone entering the field of chemical biology really try to identify and follow their passions. There are so many problems facing society today—from seemingly intractable diseases to looming climate and energy disasters. Chemistry can provide some of the solutions to these challenges, and chemical biologists, with their exceptional abilities to build interdisciplinary teams, can help lead those efforts.

I always sought highly interdisciplinary training environments with a “problem-focused,” rather than “technique or model-focused,” approach to science. I would advise burgeoning chemical biologists to find groups to work with that align with your values and passions, who think creatively and interdisciplinarily, and who value team-based science with a mission-driven attitude. At least for me, this has been a fulfilling and energizing way for me to navigate my own career choices and led me to work with two of the best advisors I could possibly imagine for my Ph.D. and postdoc.

Relatedly, one of the things I am most proud of is a PI is my group culture. Our team tackles problems we think are important with bravery, creativity, and a sense of purpose. In short—find science to pursue that you really care about and the people to pursue it with that share your values and passions, and everything will flow beautifully from there!

What new directions in chemical biology do think will be most impactful in the next few years?

I am really interested in the ever-changing role of academic science in the broader biotech and drug discovery ecosystem. Academic science—both discovery and technology development—plays a critically important role in that ecosystem, and increasingly, serves as springboard for young entrepreneurs to build and test innovative ideas and then move them outside of academia to the “real world.”

There are so many exciting therapeutic modalities that emerged from academia that are poised to make major inroads in medicine in the next decade, from CRISPR technologies, to PROTACs and related bifunctional recruiter systems, to RNA-targeting technologies. While chemical biologists have and will continue to serve a critical role as “tool developers” to break down barriers in the study of biology, I think major impacts will be made in changing the paradigms of what a drug can look like and what can be targeted therapeutically.

Related to that goal, I think innovative training environments that help both support and foster diverse trainees to become successful in their futures, which within chemical biology, are increasingly translational and therefore outside of academia, will ensure chemical biology as a field continues to generate leaders in both academia and industry.

In short, there are so many patients in need with seemingly intractable medical problems, but also, so many exciting and innovative ideas out there, I think the next decade will really lead to a golden age of biotechnology, fueled in large part by chemical biology.

Explore Recent ACS Journal Articles by Dr. Bryan Dickinson

  1. Charting the Chemical Space of Acrylamide-Based Inhibitors of zDHHC20. ACS Med. Chem. Lett. 2022, 13, 10, 1648–1654
  2. A High-Throughput Fluorescent Turn-On Assay for Inhibitors of DHHC Family Proteins. ACS Chem. Biol. 2022, 17, 8, 2018–2023
  3. Development of Mild Chemical Catalysis Conditions for m1A-to-m6A Rearrangement on RNA. ACS Chem. Biol. 2022, 17, 6, 1334–1342
  4. Phage-Assisted Continuous Evolution and Selection of Enzymes for Chemical Synthesis. ACS Cent. Sci. 2021, 7, 9, 1581–1590
  5. A System for the Evolution of Protein–Protein Interaction Inducers. ACS Synth. Biol. 2021, 10, 8, 2096–2110
  6. Development of an Acrylamide-Based Inhibitor of Protein S-Acylation. ACS Chem. Biol. 2021, 16, 8, 1546–1556
  7. Small Molecule-Inducible RNA-Targeting Systems for Temporal Control of RNA Regulation. ACS Cent. Sci. 2020, 6, 11, 1987–1996
  8. A Phage-Assisted Continuous Selection Approach for Deep Mutational Scanning of Protein–Protein Interactions. ACS Chem. Biol. 2019, 14, 12, 2757–2767
  9. Activity-Based Sensing of S-Depalmitoylases: Chemical Technologies and Biological Discovery. Acc. Chem. Res. 2019, 52, 11, 3029–3038
  10. Development of a Split Esterase for Protein–Protein Interaction-Dependent Small-Molecule Activation. ACS Cent. Sci. 2019, 5, 11, 1768–1776

Call for Papers: The Exposome and Human Health

This new Special Issue from Environmental Science & Technology, “The Exposome and Human Health,” strives to capture the diversity and range of life-long exposures to a wide range of external factors (e.g., chemicals, diet, psychosocial stressors or physical factors), and their internal biological responses. The theme, Exposome, is defined as the “totality of environmental exposures from conception onwards.”

The Special Issue is seeking high-quality research articles on, but not limited to, the following topics:

  • Novel and innovative approaches for human biomonitoring and human exposome for a broad range of chemicals, including persistent organic pollutants, emerging contaminants (e.g., EDCs, PFAS) and microplastics.
  • Exposure assessment and epidemiology of indoor and outdoor air quality, diet, drinking water.
  • Environmental exposures and multi-omics.
  • Novel and innovative study design (e.g., natural experiment design), to establish causality of the relationship between environmental exposures and human health across the life course.
  • Modelling and impact of chemicals of emerging concern on human exposure and human exposome in general.
  • Innovative studies focused on the link between ecosystem health and human health and their input on chemicals policy and regulation.
  • Application of interdisciplinary research (omics/system biology, environmental epidemiology, toxicology) to better understand adverse health outcomes and their environmental origins.

GUEST EDITORS

  • Pablo Gago Ferrero, Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research, Spain
  • Akhgar Ghassabian, NYU Langone Health, United States
  • Marja Lamoree, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • Leisa-Maree Toms, Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Australia

SUBMISSION DEADLINE

  • June 20, 2023

AUTHOR INSTRUCTIONS

To submit your manuscript, please visit the Environmental Science & Technology website. Please follow the normal procedures for manuscript submission and when in the ACS Paragon Plus submission site, select the Special Issue “The Exposome and Human Health.” All manuscripts will undergo rigorous peer review. For additional submission instructions, please see the Environmental Science & Technology Author Guidelines.

Submit your manuscript by June 20, 2023.

View Submission Guidelines

Submit Your Manuscript

Pairing Up for the Party Season: The Chemistry Behind the Perfect Food and Wine Pairings

The party season is approaching, and once again chemists have offered the world a gift: the science behind the perfect food and wine pairings. For those who would like to progress beyond “red with steak” and “white with fish,”  there is now peer-reviewed research that may help inform a nuanced and elegant choice for every meal.

Whether you are a seasoned connoisseur or an enthusiastic amateur, you are likely well aware that the taste of wine can differ depending on the types of foods you consume with it. Despite an abundance of food pairing hypotheses over the years, there has traditionally been no supporting evidence or studies to examine the rationale, and many remained skeptical that there would be any scientific basis to support individual sensory experiences or preferences.

But just in time for your holiday menu planning, recent research has revealed some of the underlying chemistry behind why some wines and foods (cheese, anyone?) seem to be made for each other—and why some pairings may not work as harmoniously as others.1

The Tannin Tamer: How Lipids Work to Balance Bitterness

Wine, along with many other food products, contains both volatile and non-volatile compounds. Volatile compounds such as thiols contribute to a wine’s aroma, but it is the non-volatile substances that are responsible for taste and mouthfeel. These compounds may be affected by components such as alcohol, sugar, acid, polysaccharides, nucleic acids, and—most notably—phenolic compounds such as tannins, which are commonly associated with the bitterness, astringency, and complexity of red wine.2,3

Many flavor precursors can also derive from other ingredients such as yeasts, as well as containers and vessels—for example, traditional oak barrels.4 However, there is one previously overlooked chemical component that could hold the key to understanding more subtle aspects of wine flavor: lipids.

To further understand the interaction between lipids and wine tannins—and potentially uncover why wine and cheese go so well together—researchers from the University of Bordeaux (in the famous wine region of France) conducted a twofold approach using both biophysical methods and sensory analysis.1

First, they observed the behavior of lipids in an oil–water emulsion after mixing in catechin, a primary component of grape tannins. This resulted in the lipid droplets absorbing the catechin at the membrane surface, increasing in size and producing a “creaming” effect in the upper phase of the emulsion.

These molecular findings were reinforced by the sensory analysis which demonstrated that certain dietary oils, such as grapeseed oil, decreased or even eliminated perceived tannin astringency, while others like olive oil made the wine taste fruity instead of bitter.

This study further validates lipids—such as the fats in cheese, meat, and other charcuterie board favorites—as crucial molecular agents that can both soften the bitter taste of wine and enhance its flavor profile by attracting tannins to their surfaces (and away from your bitter taste receptors).

Lipids are also naturally present within wine itself, although in very low concentrations. A team at Oregon State University (also in a prominent wine region of the U.S.) examined how lipids in wine contribute to taste and mouthfeel by adding various food-grade lipids to a model wine solution. Of the lipids tested, phospholipids most noticeably contributed to an increase in perceived viscosity while also masking bitterness.5

Further research in this area is needed to better understand the full range of effects of lipids on taste and mouthfeel—but there is great potential for winemakers to one day successfully alter lipid composition during the processing phase, yielding wines that are naturally less bitter and more appealing to consumers who desire softer, more mellow flavors.

Red vs. White: Ironing Out the Differences 

So, is there a scientific basis for the original red/white divide when it comes to seafood? Well, possibly. It turns out red wine has more ferrous (iron(II)-containing) ions compared to white wine, as a function of the materials used in the processing. Controlled experiments showed that wines higher in iron can promote lipid oxidation of the unsaturated fatty acids found in fish and seafood, generating an unpleasant associated retronasal smell.

Although iron vessels are less often used in modern processes for red wine, there is no easy way to gauge a wine’s iron content without tasting it first. There are numerous factors beyond wine type that can influence iron content—from soil composition to fermentation processes—making it tricky for a consumer to identify any potential unsavory food pairings just by looking at the label alone.6

But iron-heavy red wines aren’t the only culprit when it comes to unpleasant taste perceptions associated with seafood pairings. Researchers in Japan demonstrated that white wines containing sulfur dioxide (SO2), a sulfite commonly used for wine preservation, resulted in an “off-odor” and undesirable taste when paired with seafood containing high amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids.7

After adding DHA—a polyunsaturated fat present in seafoods such as dried squid and mackerel—to various white wine and sake samples, the team observed accelerated rates of DHA oxidation in the SO2-heavy wines, resulting in a malodorous smell and taste.

The scientists speculate that the widely followed “white wine with fish” tradition may be more accurately applied to seafood pairings such as whitefish, shrimp, crab, and other options that contain lower levels of these fatty acids. Even so, it is now easier than ever to find sulfite-free wines—which, in addition to those with sulfite sensitivities, may be a preferred option for consumers who want to ensure a delicious white wine pairing regardless of fish or seafood choice.

A Matter of Taste

Understanding the science behind wine’s interaction with various compounds on a molecular level can help to better inform many components of wine culture, from perfect food pairings at your next holiday gathering to modifications in grape cultivation and processing. But as the sensory analyses in these studies show, everyone has different preferences and perceptions when it comes to flavor, taste, and mouthfeel—and wine is no exception. Ultimately, if it tastes good to you, go with it. Cheers!

Read More Articles About the Chemistry of Wine from ACS Journals

  1. Gambetta, J. et al. Factors Influencing the Aroma Composition of Chardonnay Wines. J. Agric. Food Chem. 2014, 62, 28, 6512–6534
  2. Begum, P. et al. Development of an Electrochemical Sensing System for Wine Component Analysis. ACS Food Sci. Technol. 2021, 1, 11, 2030–2040
  3. Maioli, F. et al. Monitoring of Sangiovese Red Wine Chemical and Sensory Parameters along One-Year Aging in Different Tank Materials and Glass Bottle. ACS Food Sci. Technol. 2022, 2, 2, 221–239
  4. Hofmann, T. and Hufnagel, J. C. Quantitative Reconstruction of the Nonvolatile Sensometabolome of a Red Wine. J. Agric. Food Chem. 2008, 56, 4, 1376–1386
  5. Li, S. et al. Use of Winemaking Supplements To Modify the Composition and Sensory Properties of Shiraz Wine. J. Agric. Food Chem. 2017, 65, 7, 1353–1364

References

  1. Saad, A. et al. New Insights into Wine Taste: Impact of Dietary Lipids on Sensory Perceptions of Grape Tannins. J. Agric. Food Chem. 2021, 69, 10, 3165–3174
  2. Hufnagel, J. C. and Hofmann, T. Orosensory-Directed Identification of Astringent Mouthfeel and Bitter-Tasting Compounds in Red Wine. J. Agric. Food Chem. 2008, 56, 4, 1376–1386
  3. Jackson, R. S. Wine Tasting: A Professional Handbook. Academic Press 2017.
  4. Parker, M. et al. Aroma Precursors in Grapes and Wine: Flavor Release during Wine Production and Consumption. J. Agric. Food Chem. 2018, 66, 10, 2281–2286
  5. Phan, Q. et al. Contribution of Lipids to Taste and Mouthfeel Perception in a Model Wine Solution. ACS Food Sci. Technol. 2021, 1, 9, 1561–1566
  6. Tamura, T. et al. Iron Is an Essential Cause of Fishy Aftertaste Formation in Wine and Seafood Pairing. J. Agric. Food Chem. 2009, 57, 18, 8550–8556
  7. Fujita, A. et al. Effects of Sulfur Dioxide on Formation of Fishy Off-Odor and Undesirable Taste in Wine Consumed with Seafood. J. Agric. Food Chem.2010, 58, 7, 4414–4420

Call for Papers: Advancing Environmental Research through Computational Modeling

How do we use computers to solve environmental engineering problems?

Research performed on computers can accelerate research performed in the laboratory and real-world settings. Now widely available and readily usable for (environmental) scientists and engineers, computational tools are varied in fundamental scale (i.e., electronic-scale studies with quantum mechanics versus atomistic-scale and continuum-scale studies with classical mechanics), in method (reaction path energy sampling, molecular dynamics, Monte Carlo, etc.), and in volume of generated and analyzable data (machine learning, data management).

However, these tools need to match the scale of the phenomena being studied in water, soil, or air (e.g., chemical adsorption, surface reaction, molecular transport) to derive useful results within a reasonable amount of compute time.

This new Special Issue from ACS ES&T Engineering considers how computational tools contribute new knowledge and potential solutions to environmental engineering problems. It seeks examples of integrated computational and experimental research; and computational-derived insights that motivate future experimentation. The Special Issue will highlight computational technology (akin to nanotechnology and biotechnology) as an important enabler for the advancement of engineered systems towards broad-scale use in practice.

View Submission Guidelines

Submit Your Manuscript

TOPIC EDITOR

  • Professor Michael S. Wong, Rice University, United States

GUEST EDITORS

  • Professor Wen Liu, Peking University, China
  • Assistant Professor Thomas P. Senftle, Rice University, United States

SUBMISSION DEADLINE

  • May 30, 2023

AUTHOR INSTRUCTIONS

To submit your manuscript, please visit the ACS ES&T Engineering website. Please follow the normal procedures for manuscript submission and when in the ACS Paragon Plus submission site, select the Special Issue of “Advancing Environmental Research through Computational Modeling.” All manuscripts will undergo rigorous peer review. For additional submission instructions, please see the ACS ES&T Engineering Author Guidelines.

Submit your manuscript by May 30, 2023.

 

 

Greener Methods for Cleaner Water

Water, water everywhere…but is it clean enough to drink? For more than one-third of the world’s population, the answer is no.1 Access to clean drinking water is currently one of the most challenging global issues, exacerbated by climate change, increasing water scarcity, population growth, demographic changes, and continued urbanization. But scientists are now harnessing the power of the sun to effectively and sustainably turn salty ocean water into a clean, drinkable resource. 

Advances in Solar-Powered Desalination Technology

A Paper-Based Answer to Salt Accumulation

While the majority of the earth’s surface is covered by water, more than 97% is found in the oceans and cannot be consumed due to its high salinity. But chemists have been working to address the global water crisis by developing more efficient and environmentally sustainable seawater desalination techniques.

Solar-powered desalination is steadily becoming a leading force in battling global water scarcity, and there is a strong drive to advance solar desalination methods for more widespread applications in sustainable clean water production. Most traditional solar evaporation systems operate using thermal conduction, but the biggest challenge for these evaporators is excessive salt accumulation on the absorption layer, which hinders evaporation efficiency and makes the devices difficult to clean and maintain.

However, research recently published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces demonstrates a novel solution in the form of a paper-based thermal radiation-enabled evaporation system (TREES).2 This system uses a contactless configuration consisting of a vertical evaporation wall made of filter paper, which surrounds a thermally insulated bottom solar absorber constructed from surface-inked wood and polystyrene foam.

The evaporation wall can efficiently capture thermal energy from the solar absorber while also gaining energy from the warmer environment, enhancing the evaporation process. The wall is also unique in its ability to efficiently collect the salt on its exterior and, through energy down-conversion, enable water to serve as its own absorber and create a dynamic evaporation front from the accumulated salt layer. Furthermore, since the TREES system is contactless, the salt layer does not accumulate on the bottom absorber surface.

After testing the TREES system outdoors for eight consecutive days, the researchers reported that it can enhance evaporation by more than 1000% compared to traditional systems. By overcoming the salt accumulation challenge and improving the evaporation process, TREES exhibits tremendous potential as a driver of next-generation desalination technology. Watch a video of TREES in action.

Doing Double Duty with Hydrogel

Another desalination approach published in ACS ES&T Water uses a hydrogel platform to produce fresh water from both the ocean and the atmosphere.3 Salt accumulation presents a challenge here as well—hydrogel-based solar steam generators currently used for seawater desalination are easily clogged and dirtied by excess salt deposits.

Despite their obstructive nature, researchers observed that these salts could be quite useful for absorbing water from the atmosphere, and they worked to develop a versatile solar-thermal hydrogel (TA-Fe@PAM) that could integrate oceanic desalination and atmospheric water collection within a singular device.

The team constructed the TA-Fe@PAM hydrogel by embedding a tannin-iron (TA-Fe) photothermal complex into a polyacrylamide (PAM) hydrogel system. The hydrogel’s porous nature allowed for efficient photothermal conversion and water transport while effectively trapping large amounts of deliquescent salts during rapid solar desalination. The hydrogel containing the incorporated salts (DS-TA-Fe@PAM) was then dried and tested for atmospheric water collection performance. The DS-TA-Fe@PAM hydrogel was able to successfully capture atmospheric water vapor and then release almost all of the water it had collected.

Finally, the team tested DS-TA-Fe@PAM within a device made from cheap, easy-to-assemble household materials, and it again demonstrated efficient water harvesting and release. This is especially promising for use in developing countries and low-resource settings where it is difficult to regularly access clean water.

Taken together, these new findings provide novel insights into the design of next-generation salt-harvesting solar evaporators and take a step further to advance their applications in sustainable desalination.

Explore Related Research on Desalination from ACS Journals

  1. Zhang, C. et al. Dual-Layer Multichannel Hydrogel Evaporator with High Salt Resistance and a Hemispherical Structure toward Water Desalination and Purification. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2022, 14, 22, 26303–26313
  2. Aleid, S. et al. Salting-in Effect of Zwitterionic Polymer Hydrogel Facilitates Atmospheric Water Harvesting. ACS Materials Lett. 2022, 4, 3, 511–520
  3. Pan, Y. et al. Simple Design of a Porous Solar Evaporator for Salt-Free Desalination and Rapid Evaporation. Sci. Technol. 2022, 56, 16, 11818–11826
  4. Chu, A. et al. Sustainable Self-Cleaning Evaporators for Highly Efficient Solar Desalination Using a Highly Elastic Sponge-like Hydrogel. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2022, 14, 31, 36116–36131
  5. Wilson, H. et al. Highly Efficient and Salt-Rejecting Poly(vinyl alcohol) Hydrogels with Excellent Mechanical Strength for Solar Desalination. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2022, 14, 42, 47800–47809

References

  1. Patel, P. Improving the efficiency of solar desalination. C&EN Global Enterprise 2019, 97, 26, 8-8
  2. Bian, Y. et al. Enhanced Contactless Salt-Collecting Solar Desalination. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2022, 14, 29, 34151–34158
  3. Li, X. et al. Multipurpose Solar-Thermal Hydrogel Platform for Desalination of Seawater and Subsequent Collection of Atmospheric Water. ACS EST Water 2022, Article ASAP

Food Packaging is (Naturally) Getting Smarter

Food packaging and waste are two key issues in the race to address climate change—and they are often one and the same. But several recent studies present innovative solutions for intelligent, sustainable food packaging alternatives to petroleum-based plastics and synthetic dyes.

The food we eat has a dramatic impact on the planet. Much attention is given to the ecological consequences of mass farming, agriculture, and food production processes. But part of the challenge stems from two associated problems: increasing levels of food waste, and the ubiquitous use of plastics in food packaging. In fact, food packaging is the third largest global industry and the single-largest contributor to solid waste.1-3

Since most food packaging is either disposed of improperly or cannot be recycled at all, the damage caused by plastic debris and microplastics is also an important part of the conversation.2 Yet packaging is an essential need for many foods, preventing contamination and extending shelf life. This role in reducing food waste is crucial, since it is estimated that 17% of total global food production is wasted.3

Some argue that removing packaging altogether would result in a heavier dependence on refrigeration, which could drive the problem in a different way by further increasing energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions. So how can we address this issue without compromising hygiene and food quality?

Progress Toward Biodegradable Active Packaging

One proposed solution is through active packaging technology, which—when triggered by changes either to the product itself or to outside environmental conditions—works to release active compounds or isolate gaseous emissions within the package in order to extend freshness.1 Although the concept of active packaging has existed since the early 1900s, significant technological innovations have only begun to gain traction in recent years.

Lately, research in the field has been focusing on exclusively using biodegradable and biocompatible materials for active packaging technology. Options for natural antimicrobial biopolymers in active release packaging include corn starch, collagen, cellulose, and chitosan.1,4 Unfortunately, these biopolymers often have weaker material properties—such as mechanical strength and thermal stability—compared to conventional plastics, which must be improved upon before bio-based active packaging can be a safe, widely accepted solution.

Natural active agents, such as polyphenols from tea or essential oils from clove, marjoram, or thyme, may also be used as antimicrobials.1 Work is ongoing to ensure that the release of these active compounds from packaging can be strictly controlled in order to adhere to food safety regulations—and to ensure they do not affect the smell or taste of the food. Here, the food industry may borrow from medicine, where controlled-release drugs have become the norm in many therapeutic areas. This could mean it is possible to build a controlled-release food packaging environment where natural antimicrobials are induced by external stimuli such as heat or pH. And speaking of pH…

Giving New Meaning to Food Coloring

Another review in ACS Food Science & Technology also highlights more natural approaches to intelligent food packaging, focusing specifically on developments in pH-responsive color indicator technology.5 Color indicators on food packages have gained significant popularity in recent years, making it easier than ever for consumers to quickly assess the pH levels and freshness of foods with shorter shelf lives such as meats, dairy products, and seafood. But almost all current commercial pH indicators use synthetic dyes that could pose great health and safety risks if leaked from the packaging into the food itself.

As a solution, scientists have begun developing new color indicators made from pH-responsive natural colorants such as anthocyanins (found in produce and flowers); curcumin6 (derived from turmeric); alizarin and shikonin (root-derived); and betalains (found in beets). So far, indicators using these natural colorants have performed successfully on packaging for various animal-based food products. Despite their incredible potential, more research and testing must be conducted to further strengthen properties such as pH sensitivity and microbial marker detection before these natural colorant-based indicators make it to your local grocery store.

Many countries show signs of a desire to move towards reusable, recyclable, or compostable packaging, and the development of biodegradable packaging that can compete with plastics on a commercial level is fundamental to this revolution. To date, there have been few scalable successes in the field. But with the problems underpinning the need for sustainable and smart food packaging only growing, it is surely just a matter of time before the chemistry happening in the lab becomes mainstream.

Explore More Articles on Sustainable Food Packaging from ACS Publications

  1. Zare, M. et al. Emerging Trends for ZnO Nanoparticles and Their Applications in Food Packaging. ACS Food Sci. Technol. 2022, 2, 5, 763–781
  2. Li, F. et al. A Naturally Derived Nanocomposite Film with Photodynamic Antibacterial Activity: New Prospect for Sustainable Food Packaging. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2021, 13, 44, 52998–53008
  3. Patel, P. The time is now for edible packaging. Chemical & Engineering News 2020, 98, 4.

References

  1. Westlake, J. R. et al. Biodegradable Active Packaging with Controlled Release: Principles, Progress, and Prospects. ACS Food Sci. Technol. 2022, 2, 8, 1166–1183
  2. Zhao, X. Y. et al. Narrowing the Gap for Bioplastic Use in Food Packaging: An Update. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2020, 54, 8, 4712–4732
  3. UNEP Food Waste Index Report 2021; UNEP, 2021.
  4. Wang, H. et al. Emerging Chitosan-Based Films for Food Packaging Applications. J. Agric. Food Chem. 2018, 66, 2, 395–413
  5. Priyadarshi, R. et al. Recent Advances in Intelligent Food Packaging Applications Using Natural Food Colorants. ACS Food Sci. Technol. 2021, 1, 2, 124–138
  6. Cvek, M. et al. Biodegradable Films of PLA/PPC and Curcumin as Packaging Materials and Smart Indicators of Food Spoilage. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2022, 14, 12, 14654–14667

Call for Papers: Electrified Membranes for Environmental Applications

Environmental pollution and the energy crisis have created an urgent demand to develop high-efficiency, cost-effective and sustainable technologies for water purification.

By integrating the advantages of electrochemistry and membrane separation, the electrified membrane has risen as a new-generation technology, as reflected by a rapid growth in the number of peer-reviewed publications in the last five years. There have been significant advances in the design of various electroactive materials, functionalization strategies, and reactor configurations. Both an understanding of the working mechanism and environmental applications are of essential importance to accelerate research and development, to explain the fundamental mechanisms and to address the practical challenges regarding widespread industrial applications.

This new Special Issue from ACS ES&T Engineering is seeking original and high-quality research and review articles that explore the remediation of environmental hazardous materials using electrified membranes. Both fundamental and applied research papers covering multidisciplinary topics will be considered.

The scope of the Special Issue includes, but is not limited to, the following topics:

  • Electrified membranes for the decontamination of heavy metal ions.
  • Electrified membranes for the inactivation of waterborne pathogens.
  • Electrified membranes for water and wastewater treatment.
  • Full-scale engineering applications of electrified membranes for water treatment.
  • Nanotechnology strengthened electrified membranes for water purification.
  • Electrified membranes for the treatment of emerging contaminants.
  • Advanced electroactive materials and functionalization strategies for water treatment.

Explore Research on Electrified Membranes in ACS Journals

Editors

Guest Editors:

  • Yanbiao Liu, Donghua University, China
  • Zhiwei Wang, Tongji University, China
  • Xing Xie, Georgia Institute of Technology, United States
  • Shijie You, Harbin Institute of Technology, China

Associate Editor:

  • Jaehong Kim, Yale University, United States

Author Instructions

To submit your manuscript, please visit the ACS ES&T Engineering website. Please follow the normal procedures for manuscript submission and when in the ACS Paragon Plus submission site, select the Special Issue of “Electrified Membranes for Environmental Applications.” All manuscripts will undergo rigorous peer review. For additional submission instructions, please see the ACS ES&T Engineering Author Guidelines.

The deadline for submissions is May 2, 2023.

Author Guidelines

Submit Your Manuscript

 

Call for Papers: Special Focus Issue on High Throughput in Mass Spectrometry

Mass spectrometry is a leading and information-rich analytical method that is used and applied in both industrial and academic settings.  For example, liquid chromatographic mass spectrometry is an indispensable technique that is used during the research and development stages of most therapeutic drugs.

This Special Focus Issue in the Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry will highlight high throughput strategies, application solutions and software processing developments, in all aspects of mass spectrometry. Erin S. Baker (JASMS Critical Insight Editor) will manage this Special Focus Issue along with Guest Editors John C. Tran and Iain D. G. Campuzano.

For readers, this Special Focus Issue will be an easily identifiable source of high-quality papers. For authors, it provides increased visibility for the latest high throughput techniques in mass spectrometry.

Focus manuscripts publish ASAP and in-issue as they are ready, and then, once all designated papers have been published, they will be compiled into an online collection.

Author Instructions:

To submit your manuscript, please visit the Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry website. Please follow the normal procedures for manuscript submission, and when in the ACS Paragon Plus submission site, select the special issue of “High Throughput in Mass Spectrometry.” All manuscripts will undergo the normal peer review process. For additional submission instructions, please see the Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry Author Guidelines. The deadline for submissions is January 31, 2023.

Learn More About How to Submit

Sparking Interest in New Firework Colors

Sparklers are a favorite for holidays and celebratory events across the world, providing dramatic and eye-catching bursts of light. While their flames can span the rainbow, the actual sparks that fly and branch out are traditionally limited to dark red, gold, or white light. But chemists are now uncovering new ways to expand the pyrotechnic color palette using rare-earth metals.

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Sparks are tiny pieces of materials that, when heated to a certain temperature, produce visible light. Long-flying sparks formed from hot, incandescent metal particles are essential components of sparklers, fireworks, and other pyrotechnic spectacles—however, these traditional metallic sparks may leave something to be desired due to their limited color range. This is because the color of the spark is controlled exclusively by the temperature of the metal heated by surface combustion, a phenomenon known as black or gray body radiation.

In recent decades, studies have demonstrated the potential for rare-earth metals to be promising agents for more colorful pyrotechnic displays and spark variety due to their low boiling points and ability to burn in the vapor phase. Unfortunately, the metals are consumed very quickly during vapor-phase combustion, resulting in only brief flashes of light rather than the desired effect of long, branching sparks.

But now, a recent study published in ACS Omega reports that rare-earth metals in alloy powder form can produce flashes that shift from gold to green while maintaining continuous branching and sparking effects. This study is thought to be the first investigation into how such alloys expand spark colors beyond the black body limit, as well as their impact on branching behavior.

Overall, the researchers studied 11 commercial and synthesized alloys plus six rare-earth elements. They were able to achieve deep green spark segments based on eutectic ytterbium–zinc (Yb–Zn) and ytterbium–copper (Yb–Cu) powders. Once ignited, Yb–Cu burst into a shower of both gold and green sparks. In contrast to pure Yb, the Yb–Cu sparks successfully traveled outside of the flame, reaching significant lengths of 3–6 cm. The resulting effects appeared as a mixture of surface combustion (gold), vapor combustion (green flashes), and color-changing sparks with deep green and golden stages, repeating several times over.

In addition to color, the researchers demonstrated that rare-earth metal alloys could influence the branching behavior of sparks. Among the various candidates that were analyzed, the neodymium-iron-boron alloy Nd2Fe14B proved to be the most ideal and practical due to its stable phase and ability to produce bright, continuous branching effects. 

The authors conclude that binary metal alloys could one day play a vital role in enhancing the color variety and spark behavior of handheld sparklers and other pyrotechnic devices. However, further research and intensive safety testing must be conducted to ensure commercial viability.

So, as you stand under your next fireworks show or trace shapes in the cold night air with a sparkler, spare a thought for the chemists working to light up the skies and add color to our celebrations.  

To see the research in action, watch the video below created by the ACS Science Communications team:

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Read the Full Press Release

Learn more about the chemistry of pyrotechnics in ACS journals:

  1. Ritchie, T. et al. Evolution of Medieval Gunpowder: Thermodynamic and Combustion Analysis. ACS Omega 2021, 6, 35, 22848–22856
  2. Dong, W. et al. Multidimensional Energetic Coordination Polymers as Flame Colorants: Intriguing Architecture and Excellent Performance. Cryst. Growth Des. 2022, 22, 9, 5449–5458
  3. Cao, W. et al. Access to Green Pyrotechnic Compositions via Constructing Coordination Polymers: A New Approach to the Application of 3,4-Dinitropyrazole. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2022, 14, 28, 32084–32095
  4. Zeman, O. Diketopyrrolopyrrole─A Greener Alternative for Pyrotechnic Smoke Compositions. ACS Sustainable Chem. Eng. 2022, 10, 14, 4788–4791
  5. Fan, S. et al. Are Environmentally Friendly Fireworks Really “Green” for Air Quality? A Study from the 2019 National Day Fireworks Display in Shenzhen. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2021, 55, 6, 3520–3529

Call for Papers: Hot Electrons in Catalysis

The Journal of Physical Chemistry C will publish a Virtual Special Issue on “Hot Electrons in Catalysis.”

The Virtual Special Issue is led by Guest Editors Prof. Reinhard Maurer (University of Warwick) and Prof. Prashant Jain (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign). Together they encourage researchers to submit their new and unpublished work by March 31, 2023.

Learn More About How to Submit

Research areas of particular interest include:

  • Understanding and controlling hot carrier production by optical excitation and other methods
  • Energetics and dynamics of hot electron generation, relaxation, and dissipation through catalytic reactions
  • Mechanisms of catalysis and chemical reactions involving hot electrons
  • New photochemical processes enabled by hot electrons
  • Development and application of new theoretical methods for modeling hot electron chemistry
  • Mechanistic aspects of the syntheses and characteristics of materials for hot electron generation and harvesting

In conceiving this Virtual Special Issue, the Guest Editors were inspired by some recent exciting innovations and discoveries, including:

  • Plasmonically generated hot electrons inducing new reaction pathways and modifying reaction selectivity
  • Energetically unfavorable reactions being driven by carrier photoexcitation
  • Strategies for resolving thermal and non-thermal effects in hot electron chemistry
  • Selective activation of adsorbate vibrational modes by photogenerated hot electrons
  • Recent experimental advances in studying ultrafast dynamics of hot-electron-mediated energy transfer

Read Articles on Hot Electrons in ACS Journals

Submission Instructions

The review process for all submissions for this Virtual Special Issue will be handled by The Journal of Physical Chemistry C’s Senior Editors Stephan Link and Gregory Hartland.

To ensure an unbiased peer-review process, the journal asks that you do not indicate within your manuscript that the submission is intended for the Virtual Special Issue. If you do, your manuscript will be returned for correction. Instead, when you submit your manuscript, please indicate this on your cover letter and note what part and section you feel will be the best fit. You can find a complete list of sections and other important information for authors in The Journal of Physical Chemistry C’s Author Guidelines.

As with all submissions to The Journal of Physical Chemistry C, your manuscript should represent a rigorous scientific report of original research, as it will be peer-reviewed as a regular article. Manuscripts are expected to provide new physical insight and/or present new theoretical or computational methods of broad interest.

Information for Authors

Submit Your Manuscript

If you are unsure if your research is within the Virtual Special Issue’s scope or have other questions about submitting a manuscript to this Virtual Special Issue, please email The Journal of Physical Chemistry C Deputy Editor Gregory Hartland’s office at hartland-office@jpc.acs.org.