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.
What started my scientific wondering about popcorn? I was reading press-releases about presentations at the American Chemical Society's 239th meeting happening this week in San Francisco while craving a healthy snack.

Suddenly, I remembered my favorite report from last year's ACS meeting, about popcorn's antioxidant polyphenols.
Scientists have development of a new carbon dating method to determine the age of mummies,  artwork, and other relics without damaging them. 

Presenting at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), they say the method, called Non-Destructive Carbon Dating, could allow scientific analysis of hundreds of artifacts that until now were off limits because museums and private collectors did not want the objects damaged.
The key to silk's pound-for-pound toughness, which exceeds that of steel, is its beta-sheet crystals, the nano-sized cross-linking domains that hold the material together, say researchers writing in Nature Materials.

Using computer models, researchers simulated how the components of beta sheet crystals move and interact with each other. They found that an unusual arrangement of hydrogen bonds--the "glue" that stabilizes the beta-sheet crystals--play an important role in defining the strength of silk.