Chemistry

I always wondered why research findings funded by tax dollars are freely available to pharma companies to make big bucks.

It is a vicious cycle. It starts from taxpayer funding research projects that culminate in publishing papers. And It ends in pharmaceutical companies selling products/drugs designed based on same research findings. Unfortunately, the general public pays for both, and my question is, why should they?

A company, when using research findings from a publicly funded project, should pay for it.
This whole week there are write-ups all over the internet about something called dry water. Ben CarterWell, originally the idea was patented in 1968, so its not out of the blue.

But there is a new use to it. Tiny water droplets are coated with water repelling silica (abundant in beach sand) to make it dry.

That way each drop is distinct particle and can not recombine with other droplets to form liquid. It is more than 90% water yet in the form of dry powder!
I am something of a historical repository for my family.   So I have some cool stuff from way back, like a photograph of my great-great-great grandfather, and then also more recent items, like one of my mother's 'ration' books (coupons still attached!) from World War 2 and a wax record my grandfather made for her at a USO(1) before he left to occupy Japan at the war's conclusion.

Recently Scientists have figured that Malagasy spiders spin world’s toughest 
biological material (link to the full article given below). There was another article on the secret of oysters sticking together (link is below). Silk, wool from sheep camel etc, are routinely used,  we know. Why am I writing about spider webs and oyster shells? You might be surprised.

Citric toilet

Citric toilet

Sep 04 2010 | 1 comment(s)

One of the things that I learnt from my father, who was a chemical engineer, is that halide ions are aggressive towards metals, and steels in particular.  Now bleaches contain a lot of chloride ions, and I have just looked at the bottle of limescale remover in our toilet and it contains hydrochloric acid.  It is not advised for use with stainless steel.  Since DIY toilet seats often come with steel or brass hinges, this implies trouble around the corner.

Now my favourite de-ruster is citric acid, which can remove both rust and limescale without attacking the steel.  So I was gratified just now to come across the following scenario for iron-citrate complexes in Science Codex:
Phosphorus is a critical ingredient in fertilizers, pesticides, detergents and various industrial and household chemicals but once phosphorus is mined from rocks, getting it into products is hazardous and expensive, so chemists have been trying to streamline the process for decades.
A video posted on A Blog Around the Clock a few days ago discusses the mechanisms behind hydrogen bonding. The first half of the video is visually basic -- simple diagrams to illustrate the points in the narrator's lesson -- and includes things like different colors for different atoms, and star shapes that appear where a bond forms.

McGill chemists using a technique known as photoacoustic infrared spectroscopy say they can  identify the composition of pigments used in art decades or even centuries old.

Pigments give artist's materials color and they emit sounds when light is shone on them, and Fourier-transform photoacoustic infrared spectroscopy is based on Alexander Graham Bell's 1880 discovery that showed solids could emit sounds when exposed to sunlight, infrared radiation or ultraviolet radiation.

More recent advances in mathematics and computers have enabled chemists to apply the phenomenon to various materials.

One month to go before the Physics Department closes!  And I have the job of classifying and disposing of unwanted and waste chemicals.  This year, when “everything must go”, this is proving a mammoth task.

How did I get this job?  Being the only practicing chemist in the department, in effect I am Snape, the Potions Master.  This in not only because of my academic training, but my work has taught me what chemical can go with which without creating an explosion (for example, NOT acetone and chloroform!)
A completely man-made chemical enzyme has successfully neutralized a toxin found naturally in fruits and vegetables.   Dr. Jeannette Bjerre at the University of Copenhagen showed how a novel 'chemzyme' was able to decompose glycoside esculin, a toxin found in horse-chestnuts.

Chemzymes are designed molecules emulating the targeting and efficiency of naturally occurring enzymes.  
Most people know enzymes as an ingredient in detergents but in our bodies enzymes are in charge of decomposing everything we eat, so that our bodies can absorb the nutrients. They also decompose ingested toxins, ensuring that our bodies survive the encounter.