Chemistry

By Marsha Lewis, Inside Science – Each year, about 32 billion bottles of wine are bought and sold around the world.  Each bottle contains about two and a half pounds of grapes, and to transform those grapes into a beverage with the perfect aroma, color, and taste, winemakers carefully monitor the complex chemistry bubbling away in wineries’ fermentation tanks.

“I would say the trickiest part of making wine is getting the flavors right,” said Linda Bisson, a yeast geneticist at the University of California, Davis.

Wearing a computer on your sleeve may be a lot cooler than a plastic watch with an Apple logo on it - researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have designed a responsive hybrid material fueled by an oscillatory chemical reactions.

They can even perform computations based on changes in the environment or movement, and respond to human vital signs. The material system is sufficiently small and flexible enough to be integrated into fabric or introduced as an inset into a shoe.


Recent research has reignited concerns that exposure to chemicals from plastics might be to blame for low sperm counts in young men. I share the concerns about the high prevalence of low sperm counts (one in six young men), and my research is directed at trying to identify what causes it. But whether plastics are to blame isn’t a simple matter.

Before there were cells on Earth, simple, tiny catalysts most likely evolved the ability to speed up and synchronize the chemical reactions necessary for life to rise from the primordial soup. But what those catalysts were, how they appeared at the same time, and how they evolved into the two modern superfamilies of enzymes that translate our genetic code have not been understood.

Scientists have provided what they say is the first direct experimental evidence for how primordial proteins developed the ability to accelerate the central chemical reaction necessary to synthesize proteins and thus allow life to arise not long after Earth was created.


In collaboration with the United States Department of Agriculture, the University of the Basque Country Department of Analytical Chemistry has identified the volatile compounds in damaged walnuts that insects find attractive and which is threatening the harvests of these nuts in California.

These are the first studies carried out on walnuts which are designed to specify the components of the aroma and which can be used to control the moth pests in the most sustainable way, besides helping to cut the use of pesticides and control agents. 


New research has shown that pH lowering of municipal water supplies, a common strategy used to control the release of soluble lead from plumbing materials, can affect corrosion of cast iron water mains, resulting in increased levels of both particulate iron and particulate lead in drinking water.

The results of intensive laboratory and field testing of samples from a municipal system following consumer complaints of "red water" and the link between iron corrosion and lead leaching are described in an article in Environmental Engineering Science.
There are about 10,000 compounds used to make cosmetics, and they are monitored by government agencies in a way that products go inside the body, such as 'alternative' medicine and supplements, are not.

People with home-brewed beer rigs and backyard distilleries already know how to employ yeast to convert sugar into alcohol. - they soon might be able to turn sugar-fed yeast into a microbial factory for producing morphine and potentially other drugs, including antibiotics and anti-cancer therapeutics. 

It might be the age of home-brewed pharmaceuticals, DIY Bio taken to the next level.


Sometimes one food fallacy can conflict with another, and so you must choose - if you like paying over 240 percent more for a gluten-free label and 200 percent more for a probiotics label, you may have to pick between them. 


A new metal matrix composite that is so light that it can float on water, so a boat made of it would not sink despite damage to its structure - and this syntactic foam has good heat resistance too.

Syntactic foams have been around for many years but this is the first lightweight metal matrix syntactic foam, say the researchers from Deep Springs Technology (DST) and the New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering.

Their magnesium alloy matrix composite is reinforced with silicon carbide hollow particles and has a density of only 0.92 grams per cubic centimeter compared to 1.0 g/cc of water. Not only does it have a density lower than that of water, it is strong enough to withstand the rigorous conditions faced in the marine environment.