Phillip Broadwith


Pseudevernia furfuracea

Pseudevernia furfuracea

Pseudevernia furfuracea - the source of 'tree moss' extract. Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Stemonitis

In various news outlets over the past few days, a lot of noise has been made about the EU calling for a ban on some of the signature ingredients of Chanel No 5 and other high-end perfumes.

These stories stem from an opinion report by the European commission’s scientific committee on consumer safety. The opinion report expands on a list of fragrance ingredients that are demonstrated to cause allergies, and suggests that some should be banned. Perfume makers are currently required to list 26 ingredients on the packaging of products that contain them.

The new list comprises 82 ‘established allergens’ and many more ingredients identified as ‘likely’ or ‘potential’ allergens. That list includes 54 individual chemical ingredients and 28 natural extracts, and it is the inclusion of one specific extract that is causing the majority of the fuss. (more…)

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My mugshot, for those who want to put a face to the name

In response to SeeArrOh’s ChemCoach carnival call, here is an insight into my small part as a cog in the inner workings of Chemistry World towers.

Your current job
I am one of two staff Science Correspondents for Chemistry World magazine. I am responsible for writing news and feature articles covering the whole range of chemistry research, industry, policy etc. I also edit two of our regular columns – Classic kit from the excellent Andrea Sella, and Totally synthetic, written by Paul Docherty (who some of you may know was once my lab- and flat-mate. It’s great when you can keep in touch with friends through your daily work.)

What you do in a standard “work day”
Like Carmen and a lot of others have mentioned, the nature of my role is very fluid. I can be writing and researching articles on anything from Rydberg atoms to Nobel prizes from one day to the next. That means I get to meet and speak to all sorts of interesting people, from the top researchers and industrialists around the world, to politicians and policymakers.

My usual day is spent hunting for news stories in journals and other sources (I read way more journals now than I ever did as a student), before our daily news meeting where we decide what we’re going to cover from what’s been found that day. Then I’ll be writing, researching or editing my latest pieces.

(more…)

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In my blog post the other day about element 113, I mentioned that the process of going from a successful experiment to a successful claim of discovery is tortuous. It relies on researchers convincing a joint panel of experts representing the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (Iupac) and their physics counterpart, Iupap, that their evidence fulfils all the criteria for discovery of a new element.

A joint working party from Iupac and Iupap is currently considering claims relating to elements 113, 115, 117 and higher. Both the Japanese team from RIKEN and a Russian team from the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna submitted claims relating to element 113 in May this year for the working party to consider. Kosuke Morita, the leader of the Japanese team has confirmed that they have asked the panel to take this latest paper into consideration along with their earlier results, but it will be down to the panel to decide. (more…)

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Japanese researchers have staked their claim to discovering element 113, based on results of massive ion bombardment experiments published today.

The team, led by Kosuke Morita at the RIKEN Nishina Centre for Accelerator-based Science in Wako, is hoping that its experiments will lead to the first naming of a new element by Japanese researchers. (more…)

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Oh dear.

On Twitter this morning, various people have alerted us to a rather shocking  TV chemistry blunder. James May, of Top Gear fame, has a series on the BBC called Things you need to know, and last night’s show was about chemistry.

Within the first two minutes of the programme, it became obvious that the people doing the graphics had basically zero chemical knowledge (which is not a problem in itself), and hadn’t even bothered to have one of the chemists they obviously interviewed as part of the show to cast an eye over them (which turns out to be a much bigger problem). As May starts to try and explain what a chemical reaction is, using baking soda and vinegar as an example, this graphic pops up on the screen. (more…)

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Glassblower using newspaper paddle

A Dartington glassblower uses a newspaper paddle to shape a piece of blown glass

A letter in the Financial Times about a month ago piqued my interest. It stated that the characteristic salmon pink pages of the FT play a unique role in producing hand-made crystal glass at Dartington crystal. Since I was about to go on holiday to Devon, and had planned a trip to the Dartington factory anyway, I decided to do a bit of investigating myself.

In the FT letter, the correspondent says that the  reason for using the pink pages of the FT is so that no trace elements are transferred to the crystal ‘when the protective newsprint is peeled away’, as they might be with other, bleached, newspaper.

This sounded a little implausible to the chemist in me. If the newspaper was only being used for protection, surely any interaction with the crystal glass would be confined to the ink, or any contaminants left from the paper processing, rubbing off on the surface? The possibility of significant chemical reaction between the glass and the newsprint at room temperature seemed remote at best. (more…)

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Inorganic chemists and long time readers of Andrea Sella’s Classic kit column (older editions here) will no doubt be familiar with a piece of lab equipment known as Perkin’s triangle. As Andrea revealed in his original article, it was not in fact Perkin who invented the apparatus, but a colleague named Leonard Temple Thorne. How the device came to bear Perkin’s name rather than Thorne’s is not entirely clear – presumably Perkin took versions of it with him and spread the idea around as he moved between laboratories after gaining his doctorate, and either claimed credit or at least didn’t protest too hard when colleagues referred to the apparatus as the ‘Perkin’ triangle. That said, Andrea’s searchings for references to Perkin actually using the device failed to show up much.

One thing we can now be absolutely sure of is that he did definitely use the kit – as attested in this account, discovered by Andrea in his rummaging through the classic literature: (more…)

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Blacks Technicals logo

What is that chemical?

A couple of years ago, a letter popped up in the Chemistry World inbox, wondering about the identity of a chemical-looking logo on the Technicals line of outdoor gear from UK chain Blacks. General concensus at the time was that it could represent some kind of stylised neurochemical, but strictly the logo looked like a saturated hydrocarbon.

Well, two years and an undergraduate synthesis project later, another letter has arrived… (more…)

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Nickel tetracarbonyl

Nickel tetracarbonyl - highly unpleasant, but extremely useful (Credit: Wikimedia commons/ Benjah-bmm27)

For my contribution to Sciencegeist’s toxic blog carnival, I decided to write about a decidedly enigmatic compound. Nickel tetracarbonyl is a transition metal complex but also a foul-smelling (and, given the context of this blog post, naturally highly toxic) gas. These are not generally two molecular properties that coincide. It also forms quite easily when nickel metal comes into contact with carbon monoxide.

Having not personally worked with it, I nevertheless respect and admire nickel tetracarbonyl from afar. However, this is a compound which can provoke intensely personal reactions from people who have had the opportunity to get a little more hands-on. (more…)

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PCSK9 inhibitors for cholesterol problems perform well – $500m for Ista – And light materials from Bayer (more…)

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