There are four factors to making the perfect cup of coffee. Credit: Andy Ciordia/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

By Don Brushett

It’s hard to get a bad coffee these days.

Plenty of baristas have fine-tuned the process of making espresso, but really there are only a handful of variables they can control:

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical that is used in a variety of consumer products, such as water bottles, dental composites and resins used to line metal food and beverage containers. 

It is also used in thermal paper cash register receipts and a new paper finds that is cause for concern. BPA has not been found to be harmful by the Centers for Disease Control, they say levels from all sources is 1/1000th safe levels for the US, the EU and Canada, but it is controversial due to publicity by environmental groups and the guilt-by-association taint of endocrine disruption.  The FDA agrees.

Frying in oil is one of the world's most popular ways to prepare food — chicken and French-fried potatoes are staples but even candy bars and whole turkeys have joined the list of deep-friend goodness. 

Lots of oil make health claims but there is a whole range of physical, chemical and nutritional properties that can degrade oil quality when heated so a paper in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry  tested four different refined oils — olive, corn, soybean and sunflower — and reused the oil 10 times to determine which is truly the best.

People concerned about human-insecticide exposure have stimulated interest in alternative bed bug control materials, including oil-based pesticides and detergent insecticides.

But how well do they work? Researchers from Rutgers University evaluated the efficacy of nine essential oil-based products and two detergents that are labeled and marketed as 'natural' bed bug control. 

The non-synthetic bed bug pesticides contain ingredients such as geraniol, rosemary oil, mint oil, cinnamon oil, peppermint oil, eugenol, clove oil, lemongrass oil, sodium lauryl sulfate, 2-Phenethyl propionate, potassium sorbate, and sodium chloride, included the following products:

Winners of the Nobel Prize in chemistry: Eric Betzig, Stefan Hell and William Moerner. Credit: Matt Staley, HHMI / Bernd Schuller, Max-Planck-Institut / K. Lowder

By Mark Lorch, University of Hull

Robert Hooke was a pioneer of microscopy, when back in the 17th century he drew stunning images of insects, plant cells and fossils. Since then microscopes that use light to magnify things we can’t see with the naked eye have, of course, improved. But, surprisingly, 300 years of engineering lenses hasn’t improved things all that much.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Eric Betzig of Janelia Research Campus, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Stefan W. Hell of the 
Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry and William E. Moerner of Stanford University “for the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy”.

Optical microscopy was once held back by a limitation: that it could never obtain a better resolution than half the wavelength of light. Helped by fluorescent molecules the Nobel Laureates in Chemistry 2014 ingeniously circumvented this limitation and brought optical microscopy into the nanodimension.

Scientists have time detected a carbon-bearing molecule with a "branched" structure in interstellar space.

The molecule, iso-propyl cyanide (i-C3H7CN), was discovered in the giant gas cloud Sagittarius B2, a region of ongoing star formation close to the center of our galaxy that is a hot-spot for molecule-hunting astronomers.

If good things come in small packages, then nanoparticles are going to make engineers very happy.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recently issued Reference Material (RM) 8027, the smallest known reference material ever created for validating measurements of these man-made, ultra-fine particles between 1 and 100 nanometers (billionths of a meter) in size.

Earth's atmosphere is a complicated dance of molecules involving the output of plants, animals and human industry in sequences of chemical reactions.

Such processes help maintain the atmosphere's chemical balance; most topically during protest week in New York City, they break down pollutants emitted from the burning of fossil fuels.

Understanding exactly how these reactions proceed is critical for predicting how the atmosphere will respond to environmental changes, but some of the steps of this dance are so quick that all of the molecules involved haven't been measured in the wild.

The appeal of artificial photosynthesis, in which the electrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide is used to produce clean, green and sustainable fuels, is that we can turn an atmospheric byproduct into a renewable energy technology.

However, finding a catalyst for reducing carbon dioxide that is highly selective and efficient has proven to be a huge scientific challenge.

Peidong Yang, a chemist with Berkeley Lab's Materials Sciences Division, led a study in which bimetallic nanoparticles of gold and copper were used as the catalyst for the carbon dioxide reduction. The results experimentally revealed for the first time the critical influence of the electronic and geometric effects in the reduction reaction.