Chemistry

Agricultural science has made magnificent strides in the last few decades. Where once was rampant concern about mass starvation and food riots, farmers in developed nations are now producing more food on more land than once thought possible.

But the quest to use even fewer pesticides continues. Products need to protect plants against fungal and insect attack but the goal is to do that with fewer negative effects on the environment. Researchers are working to improve plant protection and one strategy is optimizing the interaction between the plant's barrier, plant protection products and adjuvants that are added to increase the effect of plant protection. 

Conventional touchscreens often use coatings made of indium tin oxide (ITO) which are  brittle, may shatter and increasingly costly to manufacture but polymer scientists have developed a transparent electrode that could make displays shatterproof.

In a recent paper, they demonstrated how a transparent layer of electrodes on a polymer surface could be extraordinarily tough and flexible, withstanding repeated scotch tape peeling and bending tests.  


The nation's sewer system is aging and that means it is also wearing out with the risk of broken pipes leaking raw sewage into streets and living rooms. 


Essential oils have boomed in popularity as alternatives for synthetic cleaning products, anti-mosquito sprays and even medicines.

Why not use them to preserve food in a way that will appeal to the natural medicine crowd? 

Essential oils have been used therapeutically for centuries, mostly for mood altering and also for preservation. Today, they are being studied by tobacco companies, the cosmetics industry and, of course, food chemists. A study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reports the development of new edible films containing oils from clove and oregano that preserve bread longer than commercial additives.


If you visit the best noodle houses in Asia, they will happily tell you their secret: The amino acid glutamate, boiled from dried seaweed or fermented soy, or gotten from a can, where it has been stabilized with salt and given the name monosodium glutamate (MSG). 

MSG is safe but some epidemiological and animal model studies have linked it to obesity and disorders associated with metabolic syndrome, including progressive liver disease. Other studies have disputed that.


Melanin — and specifically, the form called eumelanin — is the primary pigment that gives humans the coloring of their skin, hair, and eyes. It protects the body from the hazards of ultraviolet and other radiation that can damage cells and lead to skin cancer, but the exact reason why the compound is so effective at blocking such a broad spectrum of sunlight has remained something of a mystery.


A new analysis of ancient Jian wares reveals that the distinctive pottery contains an unexpected and highly unusual form of iron oxide - a rare compound called epsilon-phase iron oxide which was only recently discovered and characterized by scientists and so far has been extremely difficult to create with modern techniques.

Understanding 1,000 year old synthesis conditions used by Chinese potters could lead to an easier, more reliable synthesis of epsilon-phase iron oxide, enabling better, cheaper magnetic materials - including those used for data storage.

Scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory have found that certain enzymes responsible for desaturating fatty acids, the building blocks of oils, can link up to efficiently pass intermediate products from one enzyme to another.

Getting plants to accumulate high levels of more healthful polyunsaturated fatty acids, or unusual fatty acids that could be used as raw materials in place of petroleum-derived chemicals in industrial processes, are a few possible outcomes.


Metabolic channeling


University of Illinois researchers have developed materials that not only heal, but regenerate - and not just tiny microscopic cracks, large cracks and holes. All by regrowing material.


The regenerating capabilities build on the team's previous work in developing vascular materials. Using specially formulated fibers that disintegrate, the researchers can create materials with networks of capillaries inspired by biological circulatory systems.

Such self-repair capabilities would be a boon not only for commercial
goods – imagine a mangled car bumper that repairs itself within minutes of an accident – but also for parts and products that are difficult to replace or repair, such as those used in aerospace applications.


If wine leaves a bitter, cotton-like coating on the tongue, don't blame your nose or even your sense of smell, say the authors of a paper in
Chemical Senses.

Instead, blame your nerves. The traditional oak barrel character, also called barrique character, is perceived via the trigeminal nerve, which is responsible for, among other things, pain and temperature perception.