OceanScientists have found that a common enzyme can speed up—by 500 times—the rate-limiting part of the chemical reaction that helps the Earth lock away, or sequester, carbon dioxide in the ocean.

“While the new paper is about a basic chemical mechanism, the implication is that we might better mimic the natural process that stores carbon dioxide in the ocean,” says lead author Adam Subhas, a California Institute of Technology (Caltech) graduate student.

Simple problem, complex answer

The researchers used isotopic labeling and two methods for measuring isotope ratios in solutions and solids to study calcite—a form of calcium carbonate—dissolving in seawater and measure how fast it occurs at a molecular level.

It all started with a very simple, very basic problem: measuring how long it takes for calcite to dissolve in seawater.

“Although a seemingly straightforward problem, the kinetics of the reaction is poorly understood,” says Berelson, professor of earth sciences at the University of Southern California Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences.

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Enzyme-embedded polymer

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researcher Sarah Baker measures the amount of methanol produced by the enzyme-embedded polymer.
Image: George Kitrinos/LLNL

A new study has emerged from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory demonstrating that through the combination of biology and 3-D printing, scientists can turn methane into methanol.

In recent years, methanol has shown a lot of promise as a clean burning fuel. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the alcohol’s high-performance and low emission levels could make it an ideal alternative to gasoline for cars.

On the other hand, methane is a potent greenhouse gas that is adding to the acceleration of climate change. While the chemical compound does not stay in the atmosphere as long as carbon dioxide, it is 84 times more potent due to its ability to effectively absorb the sun’s heat and warm the atmosphere. In fact, methane has outpaced carbon dioxide in climate change impact over the least 100 years, with methane’s impact being 25 times greater.

The development from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory not only provide a clean burning fuel alternative, it effectively helps combat the pressing effects of climate change.

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Remembering Harry Kroto

Harry KrotoA giant among giants

Harry Kroto, distinguished chemist and pioneering nanocarbons researcher, passed away on April 30, 2016 at the age of 76. Kroto, a giant among giants, made an immense impact not only on ECS and its scientific discipline – but the world at large.

“Harry Kroto’s passing is a great loss to science and society as a whole,” says Bruce Weisman, professor at Rice University and division chair of the ECS Nanocarbons Division. “He was an exceptional researcher whose 1985 work with Rick Smalley and Bob Curl launched the field of nanocarbons research and nanotechnology.”

Revolutionizing chemistry

That work conducted by Kroto, Smalley, and Curl yielded the discovery of the C60 structure that became known as the buckminsterfullerene (or the “buckyball” for short). Prior to this breakthrough, there were only two known forms of pure carbon: graphite and diamond. The work opened a new branch in chemistry with unbound possibilities, earning the scientists the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

The field of nanocarbons and fullerenes, since the discovery by Kroto and company, has evolved into an area with almost limitless potential. The applications for this scientific discipline are wide-ranging – from energy harvesting to sensing and biosensing to biomedical applications and far beyond. Research in this field continues to fill the pages of scholarly journals, making possible innovations that were not even conceived before the seminal 1985 work.

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Up until the 1948, the lemon-lime soda 7-Up contained lithium salts, a substance most commonly known for its medical qualities used in the treatment of major depressive disorders.

While the additive has long since been removed from 7-Up, the scientists from the YouTube channel Periodic Videos thought it would be interesting to drop a piece of lithium into the current day recipe for the soda.

Initially, the results were as expected: nothing special. But after a few more seconds, the solution began transforming from its clear, bubbly state to a dark, sludgy brown. Watch as Sir Martyn Poliakoff explains the unexpected phenomena.

Observing a Chemical Reaction

In order to improve upon existing technology, researchers typically take a deeper look into current generation models to get a deeper understanding of everything that is happening on the small-scale. Answering questions as to why something happens or when it happens could allow researchers to make current technology more efficient.

One of the things that researchers have been working to more fully understand for some time now is that of a chemical reaction. For the first time ever, researchers from MIT have observed the exact moment when a chemical reaction occurs between two substances. From this, the researchers were able to measure the energy of the transition state—something that was previously thought impossible due to the complexity of chemical reactions.

“Your reactants and products are stable valleys on either side of a mountain range, and the transition state is the pass,” said Josh Baraban, lead author of the study. “It’s the most convenient way to get from one to the other. Because it only exists as you go from as one thing to another, it’s never really been thought of as something that you can easily study directly.”

This from IFL Science:

The team studied a chemical process called isomerization. In this reaction, one molecule is transformed into another molecule that has the same atoms but they are arranged in a different way. The researchers looked at acetylene, a molecule formed by two carbon atoms bound to each other, and each bound to a hydrogen atom.

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Simple, Inexpensive Electrochemical Diagnostics

A team of chemists from the University of Montreal have developed a DNA-based electrochemical diagnostic test that is inexpensive and can provide results in just a few minutes. This development has the potential to lead to point-of-care medical devices that can provide results for diagnoses ranging from cancer to autoimmune diseases in just minutes.

Not only is this development exciting for the advancement of the scientific community, it also has the potential to impact global health due to the low cost and ease of use of the test. The new development could help cut lag time and expenses between diagnosis and treatment for both communicable and non-communicable diseases on a global level.

Molecular Diagnostics at Home

“Despite the power of current diagnostic tests, a significant limitation is that they still require complex laboratory procedures. Patients typically must wait for days or even weeks to receive the results of their blood tests,” Alex Vallée-Bélisle said, head of the research team.

At the core of the DNA-based device is one of the simplest forces in chemistry: steric effects. Essentially, the new development focuses on the phenomenon of atoms getting too close to one another and using force to push off each other. This reaction allows researchers to detect a wide array of protein markers.

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1-utarlingtont

The new solar cell developed by the University of Texas at Arlington team is more efficient and can store solar energy at night.
Image: UT Arlington

A research team from the University of Texas at Arlington comprised of both present and past ECS members has developed a new energy cell for large-scale solar energy storage even when it’s dark.

Solar energy systems that are currently in the market and limited in efficiency levels on cloudy days, and are typically unable to convert energy when the sun goes down.

The team, including ECS student member Chiajen Hsu and two former ECS members, has developed an all-vanadium photoelectrochemical flow cell that allows for energy storage during the night.

“This research has a chance to rewrite how we store and use solar power,” said Fuqiang Liu, past member of ECS and assistant professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department who led the research team. “As renewable energy becomes more prevalent, the ability to store solar energy and use it as a renewable alternative provides a sustainable solution to the problem of energy shortage. It also can effectively harness the inexhaustible energy from the sun.”

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Polymers to Stop Deadly Blood Loss

Blood clots treated with PolySTAT (second from right) had denser fibrin networks, which helps reinforce and strengthen the clots.Image: University of Washington

Blood clots treated with PolySTAT (second from right) had denser fibrin networks, which helps reinforce and strengthen the clots.
Image: University of Washington

University of Washington researchers have developed a new injectable polymer that could keep soldiers and trauma patients from bleeding to death, called the PolySTAT.

The new polymer works to strengthen blood clots once administered into the patient’s bloodstream in a simple shot. The polymer then finds unseen internal injuries and starts working to stop the bleeding.

Researchers believe this could become the first line of defense for anything from battlefield injuries to car accidents. With testing already underway, the polymer has the potential to reach humans in as few as five years.

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Metrohm Announces Young Chemist Award Winner

MetrohmMetrohm USA and Metrohm Canada have announced Chad Atkins as the winner of the 2015 Young Chemist Award for his research in Raman spectroscopy to assess the degradation of stored red blood cells.

Atkins is currently completing his Ph.D. at the University of British Columbia where he works under the supervision of Robin Turner and Michael Blades. Here, he conducts his research in red blood cells to confirm viability prior to transfusion, which leads to a more successful patient outcome.

This is the third year Metrohm USA and Metrohm Canada have awarded the $10,000 Young Chemist Award.

“Metrohm has a history of giving back to the scientific community,” said Edward Colihan, President & CEO of Metrohm USA. “This year we saw a record number of applications for this award, demonstrating ingenuity and a passion for solving very practical problems. We are proud to support the next generation of scientists.”

Atkins will present a short overview of his work at Metrohm’s press conference at Pittcon 2015 in New Orleans. Take a look at his abstract.

The Young Chemist Award is open to all graduate, post-graduate and doctorate students residing and studying in the U.S. and Canada, who are performing novel research in the fields of titration, ion chromatography, spectroscopy and electrochemistry. For more details, click here.

The Science of Love

Best-selling American author Julia Quinn once said, “Love works in mysterious ways.” Well, it turns out love isn’t quite as mysterious as we once thought.

With countries across the world celebrating Valentine’s Day on February 14th, we figured we’d take a look at the science behind romantic love.

However, the answer to the age old question, “What is love?” really comes down to what aspect of science you’re looking at. Here at ECS, we’re going to delve into the chemical reactions that occur to make a person feel sensations associated with love.

While the heart is the most common image associated with the idea of love, it’s really the brain that’s doing all the work. When we make a connection that falls along the path of romantic love, our brain releases a plethora of chemicals that cause us to experience excitement, euphoria, and bonding.

Chemicals such as adrenaline, norepinephrine, and dopamine are released in the early stages of love. Along with being able to see these chemicals at work on a brain scan, electrochemistry also offers us the option to track them and pick up patterns via sensors.

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