Chemistry

It would almost be worth becoming a biochemist to work here.  Almost.
Anne Cattrell's "Flock of Birds" (Photo by K. Collie in Nature 457, 541 )The new biochemistry laboratory at Oxford is designed to encourage collaboration and inspire.  Click on the picture above to see a 360 view.
To prolong the shelf life of foods, manufacturers often add hydrogen to natural oils, a process called hydrogenation. But hydrogenation also results in the production of trans fats, which have adverse health effects such as raising bad cholesterol and increasing the risk for coronary heart diseases.   Trans fats are found in vegetable shortenings, some margarines, crackers, cookies and snacks. Health authorities worldwide recommend that people reduce their consumption of trans fats.

UC Riverside chemists have designed a catalyst  (a substance that accelerates a chemical reaction) that allows hydrogenated oils to be made while minimizing the production of trans fats.
Stradivarius and his violins are so eponymous in our culture that they have become a benchmark for quality - and the mystery of why they sound so good has baffled competitors for centuries.   After 33 years of work, a Texas A&M University professor is confident he knows the secret - chemistry.
The future of the nanotechnology field depends on our ability to reliably and reproducibly assemble nanoparticles into 3D structures we can use to develop new technologies. According to Hao Yan and Yan Liu at Arizona State University, the greatest challenges in this burgeoning field include control over nanoscale 3D structure and imaging these tiny materials.

"The ability to build predicted structures and provide experimental feedback to current theories is critical to the nanotechnology field," said Yan.

One approach to production of nanoscale architecture is creation of nanoparticles that assemble themselves into the desired structure. DNA molecules are an elegant biological example of small particles that self-assemble to form higher order 3D structures.

You may remember the melamine scandal where in September this year over a thousand babies were made ill and four died as a result of producers putting melamine, or worse, melamine scrap  into milk to increase its apparent protein content as determined by standard analytical methods (basically nitrogen determination.)

Chemistry is wonderful. Chemistry now has to play more than ever an interdisciplinary role for new visions. Here are two wonderful studies that I caught singing to me in 2008. Both contain elegant science that promises sheer greatness. Each rocks in a different manner by means of chemistry.



The first one is in polymer chemistry, a dear interest of mine, for molecules that can rotate and slide. The second, an Inventors Hall of Fame winner, solves living-cell networks to cure the sick.



This week I participated in a Social Media Day at NIST. During my talk I provided an overview of our current work in using Web2.0 tools for doing Open Notebook Science in fields related to chemical synthesis and drug discovery.
This week I participated in a Social Media Day at NIST. During my talk I provided an overview of our current work in using Web2.0 tools for doing Open Notebook Science in fields related to chemical synthesis and drug discovery.

During my talks I generally try to place our work in context and give the audience a sense of where I see science evolving. I often start with the increasingly important role of openness and at some point follow up with this slide showing the shift of scientific communication from human-to-human to machine-to-machine.
People said it couldn't be done, but researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and the U.S. Department of Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) in Pittsburgh demonstrated a molecular chain reaction on a metal surface - a single electron caused a self-perpetuating chain reaction that rearranged the bonds in 10 consecutive molecules positioned on a gold surface. As each molecule's original bond was broken by the reaction, the molecule rearranged itself to form a new molecule.
Imagine tiny cracks in your patio table healing by themselves, or the first small scratch on your new car disappearing by itself. This and more may be possible with self-healing coatings being developed at the University of Illinois. 

The new coatings are designed to better protect materials from the effects of environmental exposure. Applications range from automotive paints and marine varnishes to the thick, rubbery coatings on patio furniture and park benches.