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.


In May 2017 during the 231st ECS Meeting, we sat down with 2016-2017 ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship winner, Elizabeth Biddinger, to discuss green chemistry, sustainable engineering, and the future of transportation. The conversation was led by Amanda Staller, ECS’s web content specialist.

Biddinger is an assistant professor at the City College of New York, part of the City University of New York system. There, she leads a research group that covers research areas ranging from electrocatalysis to ionic liquids. Her work in switchable electrolytes earned her a spot among the 2016-2017 fellowship winners.

Listen to the podcast and download this episode and others for free on Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud, Podbean, or our RSS Feed. You can also find us on Stitcher and Acast.


Green chemistry

Researchers Phil Baran (left) and Evan Horn pose in front on an electric car, showcasing how the principals of sustainable transportation pertain to sustainable chemistry in the new allylic oxidation reaction.
Image: The Scripps Research Institute

Researchers from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have developed a new technique that has the potential to boost a traditional chemical reaction, opening doors for new developments in pharmaceuticals and other industries.

The researchers developed an easier, cheaper, and greener way to preform allylic oxidation – a process that typically employs toxic or expensive reagents and has previously been difficult, if not impossible, to implement on a large scale. By using the power of old-fashioned electrochemistry, the TSRI researchers discovered a way to make the process scalable through the use of safe chemicals.

(READ: “Scalable and sustainable electrochemical allylic C-H oxidation“)

“Turns out one of the best reagents you can buy is sitting in your wall socket,” said principal investigator Phil Baran. “The scope of the reaction is just phenomenal. It’s super easy to do, and the overall improvement in environmental sustainability is dramatic.”