A team of Belgian researchers has shown that the yeasts used to ferment cocoa during chocolate production can modify the aroma of the resulting chocolate. "This makes it possible to create a whole range of boutique chocolates to match everyone's favorite flavor, similar to wines, tea, and coffee," says Jan Steensels, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Leuven, and the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology, Belgium.  

There is some good news for consumers with a sweet tooth. Cornell food scientists have reduced the sweetener stevia's bitter aftertaste by physical - rather than chemical - means.

Cornell professor of food process engineering, Syed Rizvi, co-authored the research "Controlling the Taste Receptor Accessible Structure of Rebaudioside A via Binding to Bovine Serum Albumin," with Samriddh Mudgal, the lead author and former graduate student in Rizvi's lab at Cornell; Ivan Keresztes, director of Cornell's NMR facility in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, and Gerald W. Feigenson, professor of biochemistry, molecular and cell biology.

Researchers have set out to solve the mystery of a degenerative sign of aging in concrete: the alkali-aggregate reaction (AAR), where a material forms that takes up more space than the original concrete and thus gradually cracks the concrete from within as the decades go by.

The researchers have now explored the exact structure of this material. They managed to demonstrate that its atoms are arranged extremely regularly, making it a crystal. They also showed that the structure of this crystal is a so-called sheet-silicate structure. This specific structure had never been observed before. 

A global problem

In what might be a new breakthrough for the spider-control field, researchers have found that oil-based pesticides are more effective than water-based pesticides at killing the contents of brown widow spider egg sacs.

This finding is important because trying to control adult spiders without controlling their eggs is like plucking dandelions without taking out their roots.


This image shows a brown widow spider. Credit: Rick Vetter

Methane hydrates are a kind of ice that contains methane, and that
form at certain depths under the sea or buried in permafrost. They can also form in pipelines that transport oil and gas, leading to clogging. Yet methane hydrates are nearly impossible to study because it is very hard to get samples, and the samples themselves are highly unstable in the laboratory.

A team of scientists from Norway, China and the Netherlands has now shown how the size of grains of the molecules that make up the natural structure of methane hydrates determines how they behave if they are loaded with weight or disturbed.

In a new thesis, 60 garments from Swedish and international clothing chains have been tested and though around a hundred chemicals were preliminary identified, several of the substances were not on the producers' lists and are suspected to be by-products, residues or chemicals added during transport.

Dependent on occurrence, quantity, toxicity and how easily they may penetrate the skin, four groups of substances were chosen for further analysis. The highest concentrations of two of these, quinolines and aromatic amines, were found in polyester. Cotton contained high concentrations of benzothiazoles, even clothes made from organic cotton.

You’ve probably had subscriptions to newspapers, magazines, or even Netflix. Fairly recently the subscription box has emerged like Loot Crate, filled with Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Comic book themed T-shirts, mugs, minifigures and such. Now there’s a subscription box chemistry set from MEL Science.

“We have reinvented educational chemistry sets for kids,” says Vassili Philippov, CEO of Mel Science. “It includes chemical reagents for real experiments, a mobile app, and a virtual reality headset to let you visualize molecules in 3D.”

Processing fabric for the latest fashions and other textile-based products today requires thousands of chemicals, some of which are toxic and cause 20 percent of the world's water pollution. To reduce its environmental footprint, the textile industry is making changes, designing safer chemicals and turning to nature to find replacements to potentially harmful compounds, according to an article in Chemical&Engineering News.

The fishing port of Ondarroa, the Deba marina, the estuary at Gernika (beside the discharge stream of the waste water treatment plant) and the industrial ports of Pasaia and Santurtzi are the scenarios where the research was carried out between May and June 2012.

The fish chosen for the study was the thicklip grey mullet (Chelonlabrosus). Water samples were taken from the above-mentioned locations on the days when the mullet were caught and three months later to relate the samples to the concentrations of the compounds in the fish.

"As we expected, Gernika was where the highest concentration of compounds was found and where the highest number of intersex fish were caught," stressed Asier Vallejo, one of the researchers in the group.

Recent media stories have reported on two new scientific studies involving BPA’s effects on birth weight.  One study reported a statistical association between prenatal exposure to BPA and increased birth weight, while the other reported an association with decreased birth weight.