Chemistry

The world's smallest reaction chamber has a mixing volume that can be measured in femtoliters - that's a million billionths of a liter.

The reaction chamber actually consists of nothing more than a tiny spray of liquid, produced by a technique known as electrospray ionization, in which a liquid is converted into lots of charged droplets by exposing it to a high voltage as it exits the nozzle of a thin capillary.

Like water being sprayed out of a hose, these charged droplets form a cone shape, known as a Taylor cone, as they are emitted from the nozzle. Because the electrospray process transforms any chemical entities within the liquid into ions, it is a commonly used technique for ionizing a liquid sample prior to analysis by mass spectrometry.


Chemists have been using
the SPring-8 synchrotron at the Japan Synchrotron Radiation Research Institute
to get a detailed look at enzymes that could help power the green economy. 

One option for powering clean, environment friendly vehicles is to run them on hydrogen fuel rather than carbon-based fuels. Cheap catalysts to prepare hydrogen gas (H2) are a necessity if this future "hydrogen economy" is to become a reality.

Current man-made catalysts are based on platinum, a rare and precious metal. However, living cells contain enzymes called hydrogenases, based on the abundant metals nickel and iron, which can do the same job. Chemists are very interested in figuring out how these natural catalysts work and trying to mimic them.


The wetting model is a classical problem in surface and biomimetic science.  Wettability is determined by the balance between adhesive and cohesive forces, adhesive which is when a liquid tries to spread on a surface and cohesive when it forms into a ball.

The resultant between adhesive and cohesive forces is called the contact angle. As the tendency of a drop to spread out over a surface increases, the contact angle decreases, making the contact angle an inverse measure of wettability.


Researchers have unveiled a new way to use sunlight to produce steam and other vapors without heating an entire container of fluid to the boiling point. The research could lead to inexpensive, compact devices for purification of drinking water, sterilization of medical instruments and sanitizing sewage. 

Metallic nanoparticles - so small that 1,000 would fit across the width of a human hair - absorb large amounts of light, resulting in a dramatic rise in their temperature. That ability to generate heat has fostered interest among scientists in using nanoparticles in a range of applications. These include photothermal treatment of certain forms of cancer, laser-induced drug release and nanoparticle-enhanced bioimaging.

The Price Revolution in Europe, the runaway inflation that occurred during the years between 1515 to 1650, has been attributed to the sudden influx of silver from Mexico and Peru after discovery of the New World, which led to the decline in the value of of silver, and the growth of the European population and therefore competition for goods, which drove up prices.

The yeast used to make beer has yielded what may be the first gene for beer foam, CFG1, scientists are reporting in a new study. The discovery opens the door to new possibilities for improving the frothy "head" so critical to the aroma and eye appeal of the world's favorite alcoholic beverage, beer. And it gives Science 2.0 another reason to write about beer.

When temperatures get low, close to absolute zero, some chemical reactions still occur at a much higher rate than classical chemistry says they should – in that extreme chill, quantum effects enter the picture. Researchers have now confirmed this experimentally, providing insight into processes in the intriguing quantum world in which particles act as waves and perhaps also explaining how chemical reactions occur in the vast frigid regions of interstellar space.

If you, like me, are possessed with that gene that makes people eat the whole bag of chips (don't laugh - somewhere in that 100,000 words of ENCODE public relations blitzing, I saw it), there is good news; not all of science is busy curing cancer and solving the big mysteries of the universe.
I'm not much of a drinker, never have been. I have always assumed it was because I did competitive athletics until I was about 25, which means I was outside the age where you 'learn' to like the taste of alcohol, so I never picked it up.

Older now, I can drink a beer socially and I sometimes drink a glass of red wine because the consensus says it is good for you in moderation, but I am still not really a drinker.

The world wastes 1.3 billion tons of food per year.  If only scientists could create a "biorefinery" that could change food waste into a key ingredient for making plastics, laundry detergents and scores of other everyday products.  Because wasting less food would just be crazy talk.

The food biorefinery process involves blending the waste foods with a mixture of fungi that excrete enzymes to break down carbohydrates in the food into simple sugars. The blend then goes into a fermenter, a vat where bacteria convert the sugars into succinic acid. Succinic acid is one of those key materials that can be produced from sugars and that could be used to make high-value products - everything from laundry detergents to plastics to medicines.