Chemistry

After taking a new approach to developing an effective "electronic tongue" that mimics human taste, scientists in Illinois are reporting development of a small, inexpensive, lab-on-a-chip sensor that quickly and accurately identifies sweetness — one of the five primary tastes. It can identify with 100 percent accuracy the full sweep of natural and artificial sweet substances, including 14 common sweeteners, using easy-to-read color markers.

An insulator can now be transformed to conduct electricity by an ordinary camera flash, says a Northwestern University professor and his students who have found a new way of turning graphite oxide, a low-cost insulator made by oxidizing graphite powder, into graphene, a hotly studied material that conducts electricity. Graphene is the material du jour in studies to produce low-cost carbon-based transparent and flexible electronics.

Previous processes to reduce graphite oxide relied on toxic chemicals or high-temperature treatment.  Instead of that, the Northwestern folks kept it simple, wondering if something like a camera flash could instantly heat up the graphite oxide and turn it into graphene.
Despite the overwhelming abundance of water on the planet and in our lives, the molecular structure of water has remained a mystery.

In all, water exhibits 66 known anomalies, including a strangely varying density, large heat capacity and high surface tension. Contrary to other "normal" liquids, which become denser as they get colder, water reaches its maximum density at about 4° Celsius. Above and below this temperature, water is less dense; this is why, for example, lakes freeze from the surface down.

Water also has an unusually large capacity to store heat, which stabilizes the temperature of the oceans, and a high surface tension, which allows insects to walk on water, droplets to form and trees to transport water to great heights.

The human eye lens consists of a highly concentrated mix of several proteins. Protective proteins keep them from aggregating and clumping. If this protection fails, the lens blurs and the patient develops cataracts. Two research groups at the Department of Chemistry of the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM) have succeeded in explaining the molecular architecture of this kind of protective protein. Their findings, which are published in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

The phenomenon of Brownian motion (after botanist Robert Brown, who discovered it 1828) was described by Albert Einstein in 1905, when he published his statistical molecular theory of liquids. Brownian motion is basically the random movement of particles within a fluid.  
  
  As a new study by University of Illinois scientists shows, Brownian motion is, perhaps, not as mathematically applicable as previously thought.  Einstein thought if the motions of many particles were watched, and the distance each moved in a certain time were recorded, the distribution would resemble the familiar Gaussian, bell-shaped curve used to assign grades in a science class.  But was Einstein right?
 
A team of scientists say they have discovered a method for attaching molecules to semiconducting silicon that may help manufacturers end-run the current limits of Moore's Law in the quest to make microprocessors smaller and more powerful.  Moore's Law is named after Intel co-founder Gordon Moore who said in 1965 that the number of transistors that can be placed on an integrated circuit doubles about every two years. But even Moore said the law cannot be sustained indefinitely.  Or can it?
Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) discovered that the Earth orbits the Sun, thus paving the way for our modern view of the world.  It took a few hundred years for religion to apologize for the reception his discovery got but luckily the  the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) only took a dozen years after the discovery of element 112 to honor him.

Element 112 was discovered at the GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung (Center for Heavy Ion Research) in Darmstadt.
Researchers have developed an environmentally-friendly lubricating grease based on ricin oil and cellulose derivatives, according to the journal Green Chemistry. Bonus: the new formula does not include any of the contaminating components used to manufacture traditional industrial lubricants.

Lubricants used in industry are made from non-biodegradable components, such as synthetic oils or petroleum derivatives, and thickeners made with metallic soaps or polyurea derivatives (a family of synthetic polymers). These are currently the best performers, but they also imply more problems from an environmental perspective. 
Stress and strain research got a boost thanks to research from NIST, where scientists have recently found evidence of an important similarity between the behavior of polycrystalline materials, like metals and ceramics, and glasses.

Most metals and ceramics used in manufacturing are polycrystals. The steel in a bridge girder is formed from innumerable tiny metal crystals that grew together in a patchwork as the molten steel cooled and solidified. Each crystal, or “grain,” is highly ordered on the inside, but in the thin boundaries it shares with the grains around it, the molecules are quite disorderly.
A new National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) assay using a “glow or no glow” technique may soon help the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) defend the nation against a spectrum of biological weapons that could be used in a terrorist attack.

One very dangerous toxin on the list is ricin, a protein derived from castor beans that is lethal in doses as small as 500 micrograms—about the size of a grain of salt.