. Scientific Frontline: Chemistry
Showing posts with label Chemistry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chemistry. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Researchers develop new method to synthesize cannabis plant compound

Photo Credit: Matthew Brodeur

A group of researchers at Leipzig University has developed a new method for synthesizing cis-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – a natural substance found in the cannabis plant that produces the characteristic psychoactive effect and has many potential applications, including in the pharmaceutical industry. “Our strategy makes it possible to produce cis-tetrahydrocannabinoids and test them for their biological activity,” explains researcher Caroline Dorsch, who, together with Professor Christoph Schneider from the Institute of Organic Chemistry, has published her findings in the journal Angewandte Chemie.

She points out that until now there has been no way of synthesizing this structural class in a consistent way. With their simple, inexpensive and nature-based synthesis, the Leipzig researchers have for the first time made the substance class of cis-tetrahydrocannabinoids accessible for a broad range of applications. The researcher notes that because previous methods required many steps and large amounts of chemicals and solvents, their approach is clearly superior. The substance can be synthesized with high overall yields and excellent optical purities using the new method.  

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Scientists use X-ray beams to determine role of zinc in development of ovarian follicles

Elemental map of zinc measured by synchrotron-based X-ray fluorescence microscopy demonstrates the increase in total zinc content, and the differential distribution of zinc in ovarian follicles during primordial-through-secondary-stage development. The color scale bar represents the minimum and maximum zinc contents (µg/cm2). Scale bar=10 μm.
Image Credit: NIH/Yu-Ying Chen

To make a baby, first you need an egg. To have an egg, there needs to be a follicle. And in the very beginning of follicle development, there needs to be zinc.

The last of those statements represents the new findings reported recently by a team of researchers from Michigan State University, Northwestern University and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory. The research builds upon earlier work looking at the role of zinc in fertilization and uncovers the importance of the metal earlier in the process of ovulation.

The results were reported in a paper in the Journal of Biological Chemistry that looked at the role of zinc in follicle development. The researchers, led by Teresa Woodruff and Tom O’Halloran of Michigan State University, used the Bionanoprobe at Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source (APS) to examine zinc and other trace elements in the egg cell itself as well as surrounding somatic cells.

Monday, May 15, 2023

Chemists Unravel Reaction Mechanism for Clean Energy Catalyst

Dmitry Polyansky (left) and David Grills in the pulse radiolysis lab where the research was conducted. Here, Grills programs a syringe pump that delivers the catalyst to the radiolysis cell. Polyansky adjusts the radiolysis cell inside a white insulated compartment.
Photo Credit: Brookhaven National Laboratory

Hydrogen, the simplest element on Earth, is a clean fuel that could revolutionize the energy industry. Accessing hydrogen, however, is not a simple or clean process at all. Pure hydrogen is extremely rare in nature, and practical methods to produce it currently rely on fossil fuels. But if scientists find the right chemical catalyst, one that can split the hydrogen and oxygen in water molecules apart, pure hydrogen could be produced from renewable energy sources such as solar power.

Now, scientists are one step closer to finding that catalyst. Chemists at the University of Kansas and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory have unraveled the entire reaction mechanism for a key class of water-splitting catalysts. Their work was published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“It’s very rare that you can get a complete understanding of a full catalytic cycle,” said Brookhaven chemist Dmitry Polyansky, a co-author of the paper. “These reactions go through many steps, some of which are very fast and cannot be easily observed.”

New priming method improves battery life, efficiency

Quan Nguyen (left), Sibani Lisa Biswal and collaborators developed a prelithiation technique that helps improve the performance of lithium-ion batteries with silicon anodes.
Photo Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University

Silicon anode batteries have the potential to revolutionize energy storage capabilities, which is key to meeting climate goals and unlocking the full potential of electric vehicles.

However, the irreversible depletion of lithium ions in silicon anodes puts a major constraint on the development of next-generation lithium-ion batteries.

Scientists at Rice University’s George R. Brown School of Engineering have developed a readily scalable method to optimize prelithiation, a process that helps mitigate lithium loss and improves battery life cycles by coating silicon anodes with stabilized lithium metal particles (SLMPs).

The Rice lab of chemical and biomolecular engineer Sibani Lisa Biswal found that spray-coating the anodes with a mixture of the particles and a surfactant improves battery life by 22% to 44%. Battery cells with a greater amount of the coating initially achieved a higher stability and cycle life. However, there was a drawback: When cycled at full capacity, a larger amount of the particle coating led to more lithium trapping, causing the battery to fade more rapidly in subsequent cycles.

Cost-effective and Non-toxic Substance Helps in the Extraction of Noble Metals

The new technology will help extract valuable components from complex raw materials.
Photo Credit: Rodion Narudinov

Scientists of the Ural Federal University have found a "solvent" (surfactant), lignosulfonate, which facilitates the transfer of noble metals into solution. Lignosulfonate is a waste product of pulp and paper industry, which is cheap and non-toxic. The scientists have effectively solved two serious problems at once: using a waste product along with processing ores and concentrates. The researchers published a description of the solvent's mechanism of action in the scientific journal Langmuir.

"We investigated the mechanism of action of a very complex surfactant that is at the same time a humectant, dispersant and stabilizer in terms of the surface of the ore concentrate. Lignosulfonate has been used in autoclave metal extraction technologies since the 1970s. However, its efficiency has not been sufficiently studied and the mechanism of action has not been subjectively investigated. Taking into account the fact that today different types of ores are processed, the use of lignosulfonate for processing becomes even more important," says Tatyana Lugovitskaya, co-author of the research, Assistant Professor Researcher of the UrFU Department of Non-Ferrous Metallurgy.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

NUS scientists develop a novel light-field sensor for 3D scene construction with unprecedented angular resolution

Prof Liu Xiaogang (right) and Dr Yi Luying from the NUS Department of Chemistry capturing a 3D image of a model using the light-field sensor.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of National University of Singapore

Color-encoding technique for light-field imaging has potential applications in fields such as autonomous driving, virtual reality and biological imaging

A research team from the National University of Singapore (NUS) Faculty of Science, led by Professor Liu Xiaogang from the Department of Chemistry, has developed a 3D imaging sensor that has an extremely high angular resolution, which is the capacity of an optical instrument to distinguish points of an object separated by a small angular distance, of 0.0018o. This innovative sensor operates on a unique angle-to-color conversion principle, allowing it to detect 3D light fields across the X-ray to visible light spectrum.  

A light field encompasses the combined intensity and direction of light rays, which the human eyes can process to precisely detect the spatial relationship between objects. Traditional light sensing technologies, however, are less effective. Most cameras, for instance, can only produce two-dimensional images, which is adequate for regular photography but insufficient for more advanced applications, including virtual reality, self-driving cars, and biological imaging. These applications require precise 3D scene construction of a particular space.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Delivery of antioxidants to liver mitochondria

Damage to the liver induced by acetaminophen (dotted blue outlines) is almost completely mitigated by CoQ10-MITO-Porter (right), compared to the effect of phosphate buffered saline (left) and direct administration of CoQ10(center).
Image Credit: Mitsue Hibino, et al. Scientific Reports. May 10, 2023

A new drug delivery system delivers an antioxidant directly to mitochondria in the liver, mitigating the effects of oxidative stress.

Mitochondria are microscopic organelles found within cells, and are well-known as the “powerhouse of the cell.” They are by far the largest producer of the molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which provides energy to many processes in living cells. The process by which mitochondria synthesize ATP generates a large amount of reactive oxygen species (ROS), chemical groups that are highly reactive. 

In a healthy cell, the ROS is controlled by the mitochondria; however, when this balance is lost, the excess ROS damages the mitochondria and subsequently cells and tissues. This phenomenon, known as oxidative stress, can cause premature aging and disease. The ROS that causes oxidative stress can be controlled by antioxidants.

A research team led by Professor Yuma Yamada, Distinguished Professor Hideyoshi Harashima and Assistant Professor Mitsue Hibino at Hokkaido University have developed a system to deliver antioxidants to mitochondria to mitigate the effects of excess ROS. Their findings were published in Scientific Reports.

Monday, May 8, 2023

Efficient synthesis of indole derivatives, an important component of most drugs, allows the development of new drug candidates

Efficient synthesis of indole derivatives, an important component of most drugs,  allows the development of new drug candidates. 
Illustration Credit: Reiko Matsushita

A research group at Nagoya University in Japan has successfully developed an ultrafast and simple synthetic method for producing indole derivatives. Their findings are expected to make drug production more efficient and increase the range of potential indole-based pharmaceuticals to treat a variety of diseases. Their findings were published in Communications Chemistry

An indole is an organic compound consisting of a benzene ring and a pyrrole ring. Heteroatom alkylation at the carbon atom next to the indole ring is particularly useful to create a wide range of new indole derivatives and many anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and antimicrobial treatments contain them.

In the past, this heteroatom alkylation has proven difficult because indoles easily and rapidly undergo unwanted dimerization/multimerization, processes in which two or more molecules combine during the reaction to form unwanted larger molecules. These unwanted by-products limit the yield of the desired product.  

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

How hallucinogenic substance in psilocybin mushrooms works on the molecular level

Once it was hot research. Then it was banned. Now, research on psychedelic substances is both hot and legal. There is a revival in psilocybin research in labs and clinics all over the world, including at SDU.
Photo Credit: Artur Kornakov

Psilocybin is a hallucinogenic compound found in about 200 mushroom species, including the liberty cap (Psilocybe semilanceata). For millennia, our ancestors have known and used this substance, and in recent years, it has received renewed interest from scientific researchers and therapists.

The substance has the potential to revolutionize the way we treat conditions such as severe depression and substance addiction, according to many. This is also the opinion of SDU researchers Himanshu Khandelia and Ali Asghar Hakami Zanjani from the Department of Physics, Chemistry and Pharmacy.

The two researchers have recently published the scientific paper The Molecular Basis of the Antidepressant Action of the Magic Mushroom extract, Psilocin. The article is the third in a series on the same topic from the two researchers (Interaction of psychedelic tryptamine derivatives with a lipid bilayer and Magic mushroom extracts in lipid membranes). The newest study's co-authors are Teresa Quynh Tram Nguyen and Luise Jacobsen. 

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Perovskite solar cells' instability must be addressed for global adoption

Photo Credit: Chelsea

Mass adoption of perovskite solar cells will never be commercially viable unless the technology overcomes several key challenges, according to researchers from the University of Surrey. 

Perovskite-based cells are widely believed to be the next evolution of solar energy and meet the growing demand for clean energy. However, they are not as stable as traditional solar-based cells.  

The Surrey team found that stabilizing the perovskite "photoactive phases" – the specific part of the material that is responsible for converting light energy into electrical energy – is the key step to extending the lifespan of perovskite solar cells.  

The stability of the photoactive phase is important because if it degrades or breaks down over time, the solar cell will not be able to generate electricity efficiently. Therefore, stabilizing the photoactive phase is a critical step in improving the longevity and effectiveness of perovskite solar cells. 

Discovering Hidden Order in Disordered Crystals New Material Analysis Method Combining Resonant X-Ray Diffraction and Solid-State NMR

Researchers at Tokyo Tech have discovered hidden chemical order of the Mo and Nb atoms in disordered Ba7Nb4MoO20, by combining state-of-the-art techniques, including resonant X-ray diffraction and solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance. This study provides valuable insights into how a material's properties, such as ionic conduction, can be heavily influenced by its hidden chemical order. These results would stimulate significant advances in materials science and engineering.

Determining the precise structure of a crystalline solid is a challenging endeavor. Materials properties such as ion conduction and chemical stability, are heavily influenced by the chemical (occupational) order and disorder. However, the techniques that scientists typically use to elucidate unknown crystal structures suffer from serious limitations.

For instance, X-ray and neutron diffraction methods are powerful techniques to reveal the atomic positions and arrangement in the crystal lattice. However, they may not be adequate for distinguishing different atomic species with similar X-ray scattering factors and similar neutron scattering lengths.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

A simple paper test could offer early cancer diagnosis

MIT engineers have designed a new nanoparticle sensor that can enable cancer diagnosis with a simple urine test. The nanoparticles (blue) carry DNA barcodes (zigzag lines) that can be cleaved by cancer-associated proteases in the body (pac-man shapes). Once cleaved, the DNA barcodes can be detected in a urine sample.
Illustration Credit: Courtesy of the researchers. Edited by MIT News

MIT engineers have designed a new nanoparticle sensor that could enable early diagnosis of cancer with a simple urine test. The sensors, which can detect many different cancerous proteins, could also be used to distinguish the type of a tumor or how it is responding to treatment.

The nanoparticles are designed so that when they encounter a tumor, they shed short sequences of DNA that are excreted in the urine. Analyzing these DNA “barcodes” can reveal distinguishing features of a particular patient’s tumor. The researchers designed their test so that it can be performed using a strip of paper, similar to an at-home Covid test, which they hope could make it affordable and accessible to as many patients as possible.

“We are trying to innovate in a context of making technology available to low- and middle-resource settings. Putting this diagnostic on paper is part of our goal of democratizing diagnostics and creating inexpensive technologies that can give you a fast answer at the point of care,” says Sangeeta Bhatia, the John and Dorothy Wilson Professor of Health Sciences and Technology and of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT and a member of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and Institute for Medical Engineering and Science.

Highly sensitive Raman probe detects enzyme expression in heterogeneous tissues

Raman imaging offers a greater potential for detecting multiple enzyme activities than fluorescence imaging, demonstrate Tokyo Tech researchers by developing 9CN-rhodol-based activatable Raman probes using a novel mechanism for Raman signal activation. The strategy allows a synthesis of highly activatable Raman probes with high aggregation and multiplexing ability, making it a promising tool for extending the range of Raman probes for the detection of multiple enzyme activities in heterogeneous biological tissues.

The involvement of enzymes in a wide range of biological activities makes them ideal biomarkers for the detection of diseases. In fact, cancer-specific diagnostic technologies use fluorescence imaging for detecting upregulated cancer-associated enzymes in the affected cells. Moreover, since tumor tissues are heterogenous, detecting multiple enzyme activities simultaneously could allow precise cancer visualization and diagnosis. However, the inability to detect multiple enzyme activities can potentially limit the application of fluorescence imaging in heterogeneous tumor tissues and other complex biological phenomena.

Monday, April 24, 2023

Earliest animal likely used chemical signaling to evolve into multicellular organism

J.P. Gerdt is an assistant professor of chemistry in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences.
 Photo Credit: Courtesy of J.P. Gerdt

The earliest animal likely used chemical signaling to evolve from a single cell to a multicellular organism, according to a study led by an Indiana University Bloomington scientist. The findings provide new information about how one of the biggest transitions in the history of life on earth likely occurred.

J.P. Gerdt, assistant professor of chemistry in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences, led the study, along with Núria Ros-Rocher of the Institute of Evolutionary Biology in Barcelona, Spain. Their findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“The general view is that animals evolved from a unicellular organism, and this research helps explain how that may have happened and how those cells chose whether to be together or on their own,” Gerdt said. “Our results help us understand more about the first animals and their ancestors.”

Scientists Develop Effective Silicon Surface Processing Technology

The technology will be useful in the creation of solar cells, as well as in biomedicine, chemistry, and IT.
 Photo Credit: Ilya Safarov

A team of scientists from Ekaterinburg (UrFU), Moscow, and St. Petersburg has developed a new technology for processing silicon wafers. It is a hybrid chemical and laser texturing, in which the wafer is treated with a femtosecond laser beam after chemical exposure to various reagents. Pre-chemical etching allows for five times faster laser treatment and improves light absorption over a broad spectral range. The technology will be useful in making solar cells. It could also be used in biomedicine for highly sensitive sensors for DNA analysis and detection of viruses and bacteria. It is also used in chemistry and in information and communication technologies. A description of the new technology has been published in the journal Materials.

"Currently, the formation of light-absorbing micro-reliefs on the surface of silicon wafers is achieved by a chemical process that is relatively inexpensive and used on an industrial scale. However, after chemical treatment, the wafers have a significant reflection coefficient, which reduces the efficiency of solar cells. An alternative method is laser treatment of the wafers. It reduces the reflection, but requires a significant amount of time using a femtosecond laser. Our proposed laser treatment after chemical etching reduces the processing time by a factor of five. At the same time, the reflection coefficient of wafers processed by the hybrid method is 7-10% lower than after chemical treatment," says Vladimir Shur, Director of the Ural Multiple Access Center "Modern Nanotechnologies" of the UrFU.

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Nagoya University researchers develop a new ultra-high-density sulfonic acid polymer electrolyte membrane for fuel cells

Researchers develop a new ultra-high-density sulfonic acid polymer electrolyte membrane  for fuel cells, which can be used for vehicles and combined heat and power systems. 
Illustration Credit: Atsushi Noro

In a project commissioned by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), researchers at Nagoya University in Japan have developed poly (styrenesulfonic acid)-based PEMs with a high density of sulfonic acid groups.

One of the key components of environmentally friendly polymer electrolyte fuel cells is a polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM). It generates electrical energy through a reaction between hydrogen and oxygen gases. Examples of practical fuel cells include fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) and fuel cell combined heat and power (CHP) systems.

The best-known PEM is a membrane based on a perfluorosulfonic acid polymer, such as Nafion, which was developed by DuPont in the 1960s. It has a good proton conductivity of 0.1 S/cm at 70-90 °C under humidified conditions. Under these conditions, protons can be released from sulfonic acid groups. Proton conduction in such membranes typically depends on the proton transport mechanism between protons, sulfonic acid groups, and water molecules. Typically, the higher the density of the sulfonic acid groups in the membrane, the higher the density of protons that can be released from the sulfonic acid groups; therefore, the higher density of the sulfonic acid groups usually results in higher proton conductivities.

Towards More Efficient and Eco-Friendly Thermoelectric Oxides with Hydrogen Substitution

Hydrogen substitution is an innovative strategy for boosting the performance of thermoelectric oxide SrTiO3, find researchers at Tokyo Tech. Their latest study reveals that the approach lowers the thermal conductivity and also realizes high electronic conductivity, paving the way for a more efficient thermoelectric energy conversion of waste heat without using costly or environmentally hazardous elements.

Today, over half of the total energy produced from fossil fuels is discarded as waste heat, which accelerates global warming. If we could convert the waste heat into a more useful form of energy like electricity, we could minimize fuel consumption and reduce our carbon footprint. In this regard, thermoelectric energy conversion has gained momentum as a technology for generating electricity from waste heat.

For efficient conversion, a thermoelectric material must have a high conversion efficiency (ZT). So far, realizing a high ZT has been possible only with the use of heavy elements like lead, bismuth, and tellurium. However, the use of rare, expensive, and environmentally toxic elements such as these has limited the large-scale application of thermoelectric energy conversion.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

I’ll Have My Nano-Sized Donuts with Extra Swirls

Donut shaped skyrmions (left) show polarization swirls in one direction, while half-donut-shaped merons (right) are able to swirl in multiple directions.
Image Credit: Yu-Tsun Shao.

Swirling donuts. That’s what Yu-Tsun Shao thinks about when describing his atomic-scale materials research.

Shao, an assistant professor in the Mork Family Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, aims to understand the atomic-scale behavior of donut-shaped particles that can enable low-power electronics. He has uncovered how strain and heat can shift the shape of the donut particle to give it powerful new energy-efficient and stabilizing properties. His latest work was recently published in Nature Communications.

Shao is working with skyrmions — nanometer-sized objects that resemble donut-like swirling vortexes. The skyrmions have electric polarization in the form of positive or negative charges (dipoles) that move in a continuous direction up and out from the center ‘donut hole” and down and in from the outer edge of the particle.

Lithium can be obtained from hot deep water

View of the laboratory: An adsorbent based on a lithium-manganese oxide with a special crystal structure serves as a lithium-ion sieve.
Photo Credit: Dr. Monika Bäuerle, IAM-ESS / KIT

Researchers at KIT and EnBW show lithium-ion sieve for geothermal soles - lithium extraction can complement electricity generation and heat supply

Geothermal energy not only enables a sustainable supply of electricity and heat, but also a regional lithium extraction. Researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and EnBW have produced a lithium-ion sieve from a lithium-manganese oxide and used it to adsorb lithium from geothermal brines. The use of domestic lithium sources can help to meet the increasing demand for light metal, which is indispensable as energy storage material. The researchers reported in the journal Energy Advances, who now recognizes the work as one of the "Outstanding Paper 2022". 

A sustainable energy supply requires efficient energy storage. Lithium is indispensable - the light metal is in the batteries of many technical devices and vehicles, from smartphones to notebooks to electric cars. Demand has risen sharply worldwide in recent years. Europe is still dependent on imports. However, there are also European lithium deposits, namely thermal waters a few kilometers deep. They contain high concentrations of lithium ions. In this way, geothermal plants that extract hot water from the depths can not only be used for sustainable electricity and heat supply, but also for environmentally friendly regional lithium production.

The wound dressing that can reveal infection

The wound dressing is made of tight mesh nanocellulose, preventing bacteria and other microbes from getting in. At the same time, the material lets gases and liquid through.
Photo Credit: Olof Planthaber

A nanocellulose wound dressing that can reveal early signs of infection without interfering with the healing process has been developed by researchers at Linköping University. Their study, published in Materials Today Bio, is one further step on the road to a new type of wound care.

The skin is the largest organ of the human body. A wound disrupts the normal function of the skin and can take a long time to heal, be very painful for the patient and may, in a worst-case scenario, lead to death if not treated correctly. Also, hard-to-heal wounds pose a great burden on society, representing about half of all costs in out-patient care.

In traditional wound care, dressings are changed regularly, about every two days. To check whether the wound is infected, care staff have to lift the dressing and make an assessment based on appearance and tests. This is a painful procedure that disturbs wound healing as the scab breaks repeatedly. The risk of infection also increases every time the wound is exposed.

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