Astronomers searching the atmospheres of alien planets for gases that might be produced by life, such as oxygen, ozone, or methane, may be missing the mark - because those gases can be produced non-biologically.

Methane is a carbon atom bound to four hydrogen atoms. On Earth, much of it is produced biologically - burping cows are a classic example - but it can also be made inorganically; for example, volcanoes at the bottom of the ocean can release the gas after it is produced by reactions of rocks with seawater.

Image credit: Pslawinski via Wikimedia |

By Chris Gorski, Inside Science

(Inside Science) -- Xenon is one of the so-called noble gases. It's odorless, colorless and a loner. It very rarely combines with other atoms, or even itself, to form molecules. Like helium, neon, argon, krypton and radon, it's kind of a wallflower that rests on the far right of the periodic table.

Unlike most of those others, though, recent reports show that xenon might improve athletic performance in endurance sports. The gas may also help erase traumatic memories.

In 1929 Linus Pauling came up with Pauling's Rules to describe the principles governing the structure of complex ionic crystals.

These rules essentially describe how the arrangement of atoms in a crystal is critically dependent on the size of the atoms, their charge and type of bonding.

According to scientists from the Biohybrid Materials Group of Aalto University Finland led by Mauri Kostiainen, similar rules can be applied to prepare ionic colloidal crystals consisting of oppositely charged proteins and virus particles. The results can be applied for example in packing and protecting virus particles into crystals that mimic 

A certain type of biomolecule, called a glycoconjugate,  is built like a nano-Christmas tree. Its many branches are bedecked with sugary ornaments that get all the glory. That's because, according to conventional wisdom, the glycoconjugate's lowly "tree" basically holds the sugars in place as they do the important work of reacting with other molecules.

A chemist at Michigan Technological University has discovered that the tree itself — the scaffold — is a good deal more than a simple prop.

The first direct observations of how facets form and develop on platinum nanocubes reveals that a nearly 150 year-old scientific law describing crystal growth breaks down at the nanoscale.

The researchers behind a new study used transmission electron microscopes and an advanced high-resolution, fast-detection camera to capture the physical mechanisms that control the evolution of facets – flat faces – on the surfaces of platinum nanocubes formed in liquids.

Understanding how facets develop on a nanocrystal is critical to controlling the crystal's geometric shape, which in turn is critical to controlling the crystal's chemical and electronic properties.

Researchers have developed a new process which will greatly simplify the process of sorting plastics in recycling plants by enabling automated identification of polymers and facilitating rapid separation of plastics for re-use.

Biofuels production has never lived up to the hype. It does something, so it is less hype than quantum computers have been for 15 years, but biofuels suffer from inefficiencies that have kept it from improving due to time and experience, some of which is that subsidies and mandates lead to less innovation rather than more, and then there is a chemistry problem.

There may be hope for the chemistry problem. A new paper
the Journal of the American Chemical Society finds that water in the conversion process helps form an impurity which slows down key chemical reactions.

There’s an emerging trend, of late, in the seemingly endless saga of the chemical bisphenol A (BPA), which is most commonly used to make polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins.  Although the BPA saga has not yet become completely passé, much of the attention that had been given to BPA is now focused on alt

Chemicals known as hormone mimics may damage our ability to reproduce and pollute the natural environment. Now there may be a new way of capturing them.

In a laboratory in Trondheim, researchers have managed to create minute particles with some very desirable properties, such as the ability to capture and break down any hormone mimics that have ended up in our waste water. These unwanted chemicals come from the kind of consumer items that make our lives easier and more comfortable. But they have consequences.

A catalyst made from a foamy form of copper has vastly different electrochemical properties from catalysts made with smooth copper in reactions involving carbon dioxide, a new study shows. The research suggests that copper foams could provide a new way of converting excess CO2 into useful industrial chemicals.

As levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere continue to rise, researchers are looking for ways to make use of it. One approach is to capture CO2 emitted from power plants and other facilities and use it as a carbon source to make industrial chemicals, most of which are currently made from fossil fuels. The problem is that CO2 is extremely stable, and reducing it to a reactive and useful form isn't easy.