October 2013



Guest post by Dr. Elisa Meschini

Anyone who has ever worked in a chemistry lab will be all too familiar with the “trials and tribulations” that Unsworth and Taylor so vividly describe in this review article, in which they recount their journey towards the total synthesis of the natural product ‘upenamide.

‘Upenamide is a fascinating molecule with many challenging structural features, which has raised considerable interest from the synthetic organic chemistry community. It contains a 20-membered macrocyclic ring and 8 stereogenic centres (including two unusual N,O-acetals). Biosynthetically, ‘upenamide is thought to derive from a similar synthetic pathway to that of another marine alkaloid, manzamine. ‘Upenamide is a promising anticancer target, although biological studies against cancer cell lines necessitate the total synthesis of the natural product. (more…)

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Does flushing condoms down the toilet pose a risk to aquatic ecosystems? An initial study published in Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts suggests that they don’t.

Filters at wastewater treatment plants are not fail-safe when it comes to removing condoms. Materials degrade en-route so smaller particles can sneak through filters and flooding can result in effluent bypassing treatment procedures completely.

Distribution of predicted condom derivative concentrations (µg/L) across the Ouse and Derwent region of England: (a) annual average concentrations after applying a 50 % screening efficiency (map identifies the major urban centres); (b) annual average concentrations after applying a 80 % screening efficiency (map identifies the major catchment rivers).

Condom derivative concentrations – Ouse and Derwent catchment

To investigate the scale of the problem, researchers in the UK initiated an anonymous survey quizzing people about how often they flushed condoms down the toilet. The survey, which is part of a wider study that is trying to understand the environmental impact of polymer-based materials and their degradation products, discovered that almost 3% of condoms bought were consigned to the sewers. (more…)

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It’s that time of year again – next week, the winners of this year’s round of Nobel prizes are due to be announced. We’re certainly getting pretty excited at Chemistry World HQ and, as usual, the predictions have been flying around.

For physics, the big question isn’t so much ‘what?’ as ‘who?’ will take home the prize this year. Most people seem to agree that the discovery of the Higgs boson is the strongest contender. But as there are a handful of theorists and experimental teams who were involved in its discovery – and a maximum of three can share the prize – who will be deemed worthy of the physics Nobel is anyone’s guess.

But what about the chemistry prize? As usual, Thomson Reuters have generated their list of predictions using most cited topics and authors. They do this every year and claim to have correctly predicted more Nobel prize winners than anyone else, having accurately forecast 27 winners over the last 11 years. I’m not so sure they’ll be right about the chemistry prize this time around though, as some of the innovations they’ve picked seem a little too recent. Alongside modular click chemistry and the Ames test for mutagenicity, they highlight DNA nanotechnology as a potential winner, and named none other than this year’s CW entrepreneur of the year Chad Mirkin as one of the leaders in this field. While the range of potential applications of DNA nanotech is huge, I think it’s still a little too early for this to be Nobel-worthy…but you never know! (more…)

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