Chemistry

Bisphenol A (BPA) is currently banned from baby bottles so the search is on for alternatives. 

Lignin, the compound that gives wood its
strength, from waste in paper manufacturing could be ready for the market within five years, according to a paper at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society.

There is no evidence of harm due to BPA despite 50 years of common use but some critics allege  it mimics the hormone estrogen and that it might be unsafe for young children and pregnant women in ways as yet undiscovered. Parents scared by the precautionary principle and the Dr. Oz show are not replacing it with a completely unknown alternative no matter how 'green' it claims to be, but alternatives are worthwhile research.


Vibrations in chemical bonds can be used to predict chemical reactions. That means chemists could design better catalysts to speed reactions that make medicines, industrial products and new materials.


Beer drinkers know that hops are what gives the drink its bitterness and aroma. Recently, scientists reported that the part of hops that isn't used for making beer contains healthful antioxidants and could be used to battle cavities and gum disease.

A new identified some of the substances that could be responsible for these healthful effects. 


Synthetic spider silk of fantastical, superhero strength is finally speeding toward commercial reality.

The material, which is five times stronger than steel, could be used in products from bulletproof vests to medical implants, according to an article in Chemical&Engineering News (C&EN).


Analysis of the wood from three 17th century shipwrecks in the Baltic Sea, the Ghost wreck, the Crown and the Sword, showed high concentrations of sulfur and iron using X-ray fluorescence (XRF) scanning.

Scientists from the same team have previously reported large amounts of sulfur and iron accumulation in the warship Vasa. In that study, the scientists found an outbreak of acidity and sulphate salts on the surface of the hull and other wooden objects.


A number of people are concerned about BPA in plastics but that is far less warranted than concern about plastics themselves. 

In 1967's "The Graduate", the following conversation took place between an older man and the young protagonist:

McGuire: I just want to say one word to you. Just one word. 
Benjamin: Yes, sir. 
McGuire: Are you listening? 
Benjamin: Yes, I am. 
McGuire: Plastics.


Human exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) has recently been linked to negative health claims, like a decline in reproductive function in adults and stunted neurodevelopment in children, and so people consumed with the 'natural' fallacy have been up in arms about it.  It hasn't quite become 'BPA causes autism' hysteria, like they did with vaccines, but it is getting close. 

Naturally, companies have listened to the nocebo worries of the natural-obsessed and dutifully created BPA-free products and charged more money for them.


Hemp plants with scientifically enhanced increase in oleic acid could lead to an attractive cooking oil that is similar to olive oil in terms of fatty acid content - but has a much longer shelf life as well as greater heat tolerance and hopefully a lot less fraud associated with it than olive oil has.

Using fast-track molecular plant breeding, the scientists selected hemp plants lacking the active form of an enzyme involved in making polyunsaturated fatty acids. These plants made less poly-unsaturated fatty acids and instead accumulated higher levels of the mono-unsaturated oleic acid. The research team used conventional plant breeding techniques to develop the plants into a “High Oleic Hemp” line and higher oleic acid content was demonstrated in a Yorkshire field trial.

The subject of endocrine disruption is not particularly new, with extensive scientific and regulatory attention to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) over the last 20 years or so. A common definition, from the World Health Organization/International Programme on Chemical Safety, is:

In a previous article I built a magnetic stirrer using littleBits and Erector set parts for the home laboratory. At the end of the article I added a design for a sample rotator (a device used to continuously mix lab samples). I have (somewhat) improved the design of the Erector set and littleBits sample rotator and in this article I document the build.

The Rotator ”Base”