August 2010



ecc2010_logo

This week, I’m in Nürnberg, in Germany for the 3rd EuCheMS Chemistry Congress. EuCheMS is the European Association for the Chemical and Molecular Sciences, and comprises 47 member societies from 35 countries representing some 150,000 individual chemists in Europe.

This EuCheMS congress is bringing together scientists from industry, academia and government institutions from across Europe. The motto for this meeting is ‘Chemistry – the creative force’ and aims to present the latest research from the core areas of chemistry. Luis Oro, EuCheMS president, stated that the focus of the event will be on the major global challenges and the important contributions that the chemical sciences make toward addressing the challenges. (more…)

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Have a listen to this month’s Chemistry World podcast to hear Mike, Nina and Matt talking about edible chemistry, turning carbon dioxide into plastic and deciphering the structure of molecules just by looking at them (with an atomic force microscope, that is).

trivia

We’ve also got interviews with Yale University’s Allison Carey on how mosquitoes sniff out tasty victims and the chemicals we might use to put them off the scent. And Graham Hutchings from the University of Cardiff, UK, talks about the mystery and allure of gold on the nanoscale.

Plus you can hear the last in our series of rib-tickling chemistry jokes. From next month we want your random and interesting chemistry trivia – send your mind-boggling chemistry facts to chemistryworld@rsc.org to be in with a chance of winning one of our Chemistry World goodie bags.

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CW this week

31August 2010: Have something to say about an article you’ve read on Chemistry World this week? Leave your comments below…

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Some media outlets such as UK National Public Radio (NPR), have reported that Chinese economic growth is showing signs of cooling off. And as if to verify those claims, oil and gas producer and distributor PetroChina has reported that its refining and chemical business has seen a 68 per cent fall in operating profits for the first half year ending 30 June, to Yuan5.46 billion (£500 million) compared with the same period last year, despite sales rising 47.5 per cent to Yuan320 billion.

The fall in operating profits has been attributed to a rise in crude oil prices, a rise in inflation, the implementation by the Chinese government of a series of economic policies and a decrease in market prices.

PetroChina expects the economy in China to sustain rapid growth that will in turn drive demand for petroleum and petrochemical products.

(more…)

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There is no ‘significant relationship’ between the numbers of graduates from Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects and economic growth, according to a recent study conducted by Paul Whiteley, professor of politics at the University of Essex, UK.

© European community, 2006

The results fly in the face of pronouncements made by Lord Mandelson in January, when he was the UK’s business secretary, that Stem graduates would be ‘crucial in securing future prosperity’.

According to an article by Ann Mroz in the Times Higher Education, ‘the government is mistaken to continue arguing that science graduates alone are the key to delivering economic growth’. She also welcomes Whiteley’s analysis that shows that while increased numbers of Stem graduates  do not correlate to increased economic growth, the total number of graduates – regardless of which subject they study – does influence economic growth.

(more…)

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Mythbusters

mythbusters

With the meeting drawing towards a close, I chose this morning to attend a session in the division of chemical education. It was the symposium title that drew me in – ‘Busted: myths of a chemical nature’.

Inflating your tyres with nitrogen is better than using air

busted stamp

busted stamp

Seth Rasmussen from North Dakota State University, US, became aware of this myth when one of his colleagues had problems with her car tyres deflating overnight in the harsh winter. The dealer told her that filling the tyres with nitrogen might solve the problem. (more…)

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Results of a Phase 1 trial on surgical implantation of biosynthetic corneas made out of collagen have been published in Science Translational Medicine by FibroGen – a research-based biotech company in the US. The researchers found that the biosynthetic corneas restored vision and promoted regeneration of nerves in patients who had corneal damage and significant vision loss.

(more…)

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baby-care

Despite having fallen off most people’s radars, the Chinese baby milk crisis appears to still be continuing after Chinese police arrested six people for adulterating milk powder with melamine. A further 41 people have been detained for allegedly participating in the production and distribution of melamine-tainted milk powder and 227 tonnes of milk powder were seized.

The crisis came to light in 2008 when children in China were poisoned by the contaminated milk. According to Chinese state-run media more than 300,000 children were poisoned and at least six died.

(more…)

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SpaceBacteria

Yesterday, I read a story on the BBC website about bacteria that usually live in an earth-bound habitat surviving in space for 553 days – what truly exceptional astronauts!

The bacteria were taken from the cliffs at Beer – a small fishing village on the south coast of the UK – and whilst still attached to small chunks of rock, were placed on the European Space Agency’s (Esa) Technology Exposure Facility – a collection of experimental boxes at the end of the International Space Station’s (ISS) Columbus laboratory. (more…)

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No, I don’t mean I’ve been skipping out of the sessions to go shopping! As I learned in George Whitesides‘s talk this afternoon, skiving also relates to the process of slicing leather into thin sheets for delicate items.

layer cake

What Whitesides’s team and a few others have done is to apply the same kind of principle to manufacture interestingly shaped materials on the nanoscale. The group use relatively cheap and accessible techniques to make shapes out of gold, silica, polymers etc and then chop them into slices about 10nm thick using an ultramicrotome. Ultramicrotomes are more normally used to cut super-thin slices of materials for microscopy, but as Whitesides points out, they are much cheaper than the kind of tools you would need to use electron beam or focused ion beam lithography techniques, and are compatible with a much wider range of materials – particularly organic polymers.

Whitesides showed a dazzling array of different shapes and patterns his group have made. For example, making pillars of polymer, coating them with gold and then chopping across the whole thing makes a sheet of tiny gold rings; whereas stacking up layers of gold and silica (like the cake in the picture) then chopping through and etching away the silica makes a set of parallel wires. The shapes available are limited more or less by your imagination, and each block can be cut into lots of sheets, so it’s quite quick to make large amounts.

(more…)

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