Chemistry

A few days ago, while talking about mundane business issues, I learned that today, August 19th, was the birthday of that famous childhood delight, the 'black cow', what would later be called a root beer float.

If you are not up on your carbonated beverage lore, root beer hails from the root of the sassafras tree or the sarsaparilla vine.  When the root mixture is mixed with water, sugar and yeast, it is sweetened and the yeast generates carbon dioxide and carbonates the water.
I expect most of you have heard this song, with its sad words.  It’s full of letters sad and blue, a photograph or two, roses, tokens ….

Not for me!  But as I am clearing out our chemical store, with materials being sent off for disposal prior to the closure of the Reading University Physics Department, some of those bottles do hold memories for me.

There, in an outside brick shed, far enough away to store large quantities of flammable chemicals, sits a jar of sodium nitrite.  But the use to which it was put was somewhat unorthodox. 
If you drink bottled water, soda (or pop, depending on whether you are from Philadelphia or Pittsburgh), or a micro brew-beer in Dallas, Denver or numerous other American cities, you may be carrying an 'iso-signature',  a natural chemical imprint related to that geographic location.

Iso-signatures are a chemical in imprint in hair due to beverages may and could be used to track your travels over time, a new study suggests in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Researchers at the University of Leeds have found that a compound known as pyrophosphite may have been an important energy source for primitive lifeforms.

The findings, published in the journal Chemical Communications, are the first to suggest that pyrophosphite may have been relevant in the shift from basic chemistry to complex biology when life on earth began. Since completing this research, the authors have found even further evidence for the importance of this molecule and plan to further investigate its role in abiogenesis - how life on Earth emerged from inanimate matter billions of years ago.
By analyzing tiny variations in the isotopic composition of silver in meteorites and Earth rocks, scientists are putting together a timetable of how our planet was assembled 4.5 billion years ago. The new study, published in Science, indicates that water and other key volatiles may have been present in at least some of Earth's original building blocks, rather than acquired later from comets, as some scientists have suggested.

Compared to the Solar System as a whole, Earth is depleted in volatile elements, such as hydrogen, carbon, and nitrogen, which likely never condensed on planets formed in the inner, hotter, part of the Solar System. Earth is also depleted in moderately volatile elements, such as silver.
Two new studies conducted by scientists at Emory University have found that simple peptides can organize into bi-layer membranes. The finding suggests a "missing link" between the pre-biotic Earth's chemical inventory and the organizational scaffolding essential to life.

"We've shown that peptides can form the kind of membranes needed to create long-range order," says chemistry graduate student Seth Childers. "What's also interesting is that these peptide membranes may have the potential to function in a complex way, like a protein."

The results were recently published in Angwandte Chemie.


Photo Credit: Emory University)
Lasers can do many things for us, from scanning barcodes at the grocery checkout to searching for life on the surface of Mars. And, according to chemists at Idaho National Laboratory, lasers might be able to help the nation respond in the case of a possible chemical or radiological attack.

Lasers, the INL scientists say, could play a big cleanup role. Lasers could help scrub chemical- or radiation-contaminated buildings clean, returning life to normal as safely and smoothly as possible.

"Lasers could be an important tool in our toolbox," says INL chemist Bob Fox.

Neutralizing dirty bombs: weapons of mass disruption
 A team of chemical engineers have discovered what may be the "ancestral Eve" crystal that billions of years ago gave life on Earth its curious and exclusive preference for so-called left-handed amino acids. The results are published in Crystal Growth and Design.

Researchers used mixtures of both left- and right-handed aspartic acid (an amino acid) in laboratory experiments to see how temperature and other conditions affected formation of crystals of the material.

By Ladd (DePaul University student)

Ethanol is used to make alcohol, distillation of the mixture leads to the isolation of pure ethanol, a good alternative to petrol. there is a debate among ecologists and scientists whether to use corn or cellulose to manufacture ethanol.

There are a group of scientists that believe cellulose is a better feedstock for ethanol than corn. it has been argued that the expansion of corn ethanol is damaging wildlife and the environment. As more cornfields are grown, protected land is being lost, and the birds are unable to use the corn as a habitat.