Science-Technology

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Sorghum: health food, sweetener and now, clothing dye

Sorghum has long been a staple food in many parts of the world, but in the U.S., it’s best known as a sweetener and livestock feed. As demand for the grain soars, so does the amount of waste husks. To reduce this waste, scientists report in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering a new use for it: a wool dye that can add ultraviolet protection and fluorescence properties to clothing.

Sorghum, which looks like pearl couscous, is a hardy, drought-tolerant crop that is gaining popularity as a health food, livestock feed and source of bioethanol. Additionally, scientists are working on transforming the crop’s waste for a range of applications, including food coloring and waste water purification. Building further on the colorant possibilities, Yiqi Yang, Xiuliang Hou and colleagues wanted to see if they could develop a practical clothing dye out of sorghum husks.

By American Chemical Society - Wednesday, May 24, 2017 - Full Story

Should you pee on a jellyfish sting? (video)

WASHINGTON — Sure, jellyfish look pretty serene, but we all know the evils that come from a run-in with those tentacles. You’ve probably heard the rumor that peeing on a jellyfish sting can make the pain go away, but does this icky old wives tale stand up to science? Filmed at San Francisco’s Aquarium of the Bay, the latest Reactions episode explains the fearsome chemistry of jellyfish stings, and debunks this age-old beach myth.

By American Chemical Society - Tuesday, May 23, 2017 - Full Story

Conductive paper could enable future flexible electronics

Roll-up computer screens and other flexible electronics are getting closer to reality as scientists improve upon a growing number of components that can bend and stretch. One team now reports in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces another development that can contribute to this evolution: a low-cost conductive paper that would be easy to manufacture on a large scale.

Current flexible electronic prototypes are commonly built using polymer thin films. But the cost of these films becomes a factor when they are scaled up. To address this issue, scientists have turned to paper, which is renewable, biodegradable and a fraction of the cost of polymer thin films. The downside of paper is that it’s not conductive, and efforts so far to infuse it with this property have been hindered by scalability and expense. Bin Su, Junfei Tian and colleagues wanted to come up with a new approach.

Using a conventional roller process that’s easy to scale up, the researchers coated paper with soft ionic gels to make it conductive. They sandwiched an emissive film between two layers of the ionic gel paper. When they applied a voltage, the device glowed blue, indicating that electricity was being conducted. It also showed electrical durability, withstanding more than 5,000 cycles of bending and unbending with negligible changes in performance and lasting for more than two months. The researchers say their conductive paper, which costs about $1.30 per square meter and could be fabricated at a rate of 30 meters per minute, could become an integral part of future flexible electronics.

Ionic Gel Paper with Long-Term Bendable Electrical Robustness for Use in Flexible Electroluminescent Devices

By American Chemical Society - Sunday, May 21, 2017 - Full Story

Top Bose SoundTouch a worthy successor to the SoundDock 10

Big sound from a small box, with enough connectivity to please nearly everyone. That’s what Bose’s SoundTouch line of speakers offers, and the flagship of the series is a remarkable unit, indeed.

SoundTouch products have been out for a few of years now; I first experienced them at their introduction in New York back in 2013, and such is their quality and design that they’re still on the market today. That’s unlike the remarkable SoundDock 10 iPod dock speaker system that was my first “modern” experience with Bose - modern meaning within the last 10 years, since Bose itself has been around for more than a half century.

I remember Bose’ SoundDock 10 introductory demo well. The company had set one up behind a Wizard of Oz-like curtain in a private room in a Manhattan restaurant and kicked off the demo with some really great-sounding rumbling thunder. I said then that the demo came “complete with bone rattling realism that sounded as if it were coming from an ‘honest to goodness’ audio system with big speakers and big amplifier power.”

When water levitates (video)

WASHINGTON — Have you ever seen a drop of water navigate a maze? It’s possible thanks to the same phenomenon that lets you know if a griddle is hot enough for pancake batter. Water droplets that dance and skitter across a hot surface instead of boil away on the spot are experiencing the Leidenfrost effect. Understanding Leidenfrost — first described more than 200 years ago — helped engineers make more efficient steam engines. Today, scientists are using high-speed cameras to better characterize how superhot water behaves on metal surfaces. The investigation might lead to improvements in power generation. Watch the superhot dancing droplets here: https://youtu.be/9tlIWlGvkRc.

By News on the Net - Tuesday, May 16, 2017 - Full Story

Your Condo on the Moon

Colonizing the Moon has been claimed to be the stepping stone for colonizing planet Mars (NASA: “En Route to Mars”). Some folks are all in favor, with headlines like “Make American First on the Moon again!

Even the renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking has been adamant in his doom scenario projections: In one hundred year or so, mankind can no longer live on earth. That’s a big “upgrade” from “... one thousand years ...” that Hawking made just a few months ago. No wonder then, the (renewed) race to the moon and planets (not limited to Mars) is just getting underway.

By Dr. Klaus L.E. Kaiser - Saturday, May 13, 2017 - Full Story

‘Heroes of Chemistry’ improve people’s lives through the transforming power of chemistry

WASHINGTON — Scientists who developed products that have led to significant advancements in human health, technology, the food supply, and the environment, will be inducted into a scientific “Hall of Fame” later this summer, becoming the newest Heroes of Chemistry, an honor bestowed by the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society.

By American Chemical Society - Tuesday, May 9, 2017 - Full Story

‘Lab-on-a-glove’ could bring nerve-agent detection to a wearer’s fingertips (video)

There’s a reason why farmers wear protective gear when applying organophosphate pesticides. The substances are very effective at getting rid of unwanted bugs, but they can also make people sick. Related compounds — organophosphate nerve agents — can be used as deadly weapons. Now researchers have developed a fast way to detect the presence of such compounds in the field using a disposable “lab-on-a-glove.” The report on the glove appears in the journal ACS Sensors.

Organophosphate nerve agents, including sarin and VX, are highly toxic and can prevent the nervous system from working properly. Organophosphate pesticides are far less potent but work in a similar way and can cause illness in people who are exposed to them, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Detecting either type of these sets of compounds accurately and quickly could help improve both defense and food security measures. So, Joseph Wang and colleagues set out to develop a wearable sensor that could meet the requirements of field detection.

By American Chemical Society - Friday, May 5, 2017 - Full Story

LG OLED TV a true game changer for home theatres

The quest for the best TV picture possible has been a long one, stretching back to the early days of cathode ray tubes and muddy black and white pictures on small and, compared with even the worst of today’s TV’s, grainy screens.

Then we had colour and, decades later, high definition, both of which were game changers. The next game changer was the evolution from big, fat and heavy CRT’s to liquid crystal, or LCD – the flat screens that have freed up space in our viewing rooms while also offering us better quality and larger pictures. LCD evolved to LED, which are really LCD panels with different "back lighting."

Now there are two new technologies vying for your after tax dollars, one of which is a logical next step  in the high definition evolution – 4K – and one of which is an absolutely ground breaking leap in picture technology: OLED.

The chemistry of whiskey

WASHINGTON — Derby Day is around the corner, and with it comes big hats, horses with funny names, and bourbon. The latest episode of Reactions celebrates the chemical process of distillation that makes bourbon and other whiskey varieties possible. Since water and ethanol, along with tasty flavors, have different boiling points, they can be separated by carefully heating the mash that starts off every whiskey. Each distillery carefully protects their still design, engineered to create their signature liquor. The strongest flavors take aging, but might some innovative whiskey makers find a way to hack maturation time? There’s a barrel-full of chemistry in this video about whiskey.

By American Chemical Society - Tuesday, May 2, 2017 - Full Story

Toward a safer permanent hair dye that mimics melanin

Coloring hair has become a common practice, particularly for people who want to hide their graying locks. But an ingredient in many of today’s commercial hair dyes has been linked to allergic reactions and skin irritation. Now scientists have developed a potentially safer alternative by mimicking the hair’s natural color molecule: melanin. Their report appears in the journal ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering.

The permanent hair dye ingredient p-phenylenediamine (PPD) has been associated, although rarely, with allergic reactions including facial swelling and rashes. Coloring hair with natural melanin would be an intuitive alternative to PPD. But previous research has found that the pigment molecules clump together, forming rods and spheres too large to penetrate into the hair shaft to create lasting color. Jong-Rok Jeon and colleagues wanted to build on the idea of using melanin but with a molecule that mimics the real thing.

The researchers turned to polydopamine, a black substance that is structurally similar to melanin and has been explored for use in a variety of biomedical applications. Polydopamine with iron ions transformed gray hairs into black and lasted through three wash cycles. Lighter shades could also be achieved with polydopamine by pairing it with copper and aluminum ions. And toxicity tests showed that mice treated with the colorant didn’t have noticeable side effects, while those that received a PPD-based dye developed bald spots.

Read More…”Metal-Chelation-Assisted Deposition of Polydopamine on Human Hair: A Ready-to-Use Eumelanin-Based Hair Dyeing Methodology

By American Chemical Society - Sunday, April 30, 2017 - Full Story

Art of paper-cutting inspires self-charging paper device

Despite the many advances in portable electronic devices, one thing remains constant: the need to plug them into a wall socket to recharge. Now researchers, reporting in the journal ACS Nano, have developed a light-weight, paper-based device inspired by the Chinese and Japanese arts of paper-cutting that can harvest and store energy from body movements.

Portable electronic devices, such as watches, hearing aids and heart monitors, often require only a little energy. They usually get that power from conventional rechargeable batteries. But Zhong Lin Wang, Chenguo Hu and colleagues wanted to see if they could untether our small energy needs from the wall socket by harvesting energy from a user’s body movements. Wang and others have been working on this approach in recent years, creating triboelectric nanogenerators (TENGs) that can harness the mechanical energy all around us, such as that created by our footsteps, and then use it to power portable electronics. But most TENG devices take several hours to charge small electronics, such as a sensor, and they’re made of acrylic, which is heavy.

So the researchers turned to an ultra-light, rhombic paper-cut design a few inches long and covered it with different materials to turn it into a power unit. The four outer sides, made of gold- and graphite-coated sand paper, comprised the device’s energy-storing supercapacitor element. The inner surfaces, made of paper and coated in gold and a fluorinated ethylene propylene film, comprised the TENG energy harvester. Pressing and releasing it over just a few minutes charged the device to 1 volt, which was enough to power a remote control, temperature sensor or a watch.


Read more…”Ultralight Cut-Paper-Based Self-Charging Power Unit for Self-Powered Portable Electronic and Medical Systems

By American Chemical Society - Sunday, April 30, 2017 - Full Story

Synthetic two-sided gecko’s foot could enable underwater robotics

Geckos are well known for effortlessly scrambling up walls and upside down across ceilings. Even in slippery rain forests, the lizards maintain their grip. Now scientists have created a double-sided adhesive that copies this reversible ability to stick and unstick to surfaces even in wet conditions. They say their development, reported in ACS’ Journal of Physical Chemistry C, could be useful in underwater robotics, sensors and other bionic devices.

By American Chemical Society - Thursday, April 27, 2017 - Full Story

Degradable electronic components created from corn starch

As consumers upgrade their gadgets at an increasing pace, the amount of electronic waste we generate continues to mount. To help combat this environmental problem, researchers have modified a degradable bioplastic derived from corn starch or other natural sources for use in more eco-friendly electronic components. They report their development in ACS’ journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research.

In 2014, consumers around the world discarded about 42 million metric tons of e-waste, according to a report by the United Nations University. This poses an environmental and human threat because electronic products are made up of many components, some of which are toxic or non-degradable. To help address the issue, Xinlong Wang and colleagues sought to develop a degradable material that could be used for electronic substrates or insulators.

The researchers started with polylactic acid, or PLA, which is a bioplastic that can be derived from corn starch or other natural sources and is already used in the packaging, electronics and automotive industries. PLA by itself, however, is brittle and flammable, and doesn’t have the right electrical properties to be a good electronic substrate or insulator. But the researchers found that blending metal-organic framework nanoparticles with PLA resulted in a transparent film with the mechanical, electrical and flame retardant properties that make the material a promising candidate for use in electronics.—More…

By American Chemical Society - Tuesday, April 25, 2017 - Full Story

What do electrolytes actually do? (video)

WASHINGTON— Sports drink commercials love talking about them, but what are electrolytes, why do we need them, and what happens if we don’t have enough? Electrolytes are salts that, once in our bodies, help our cells move water around. They also enable the nerve impulses that keep our hearts beating, our lungs breathing and our brains learning. But we can also lose them — for example, by sweating. Given all the ins and outs of electrolytes, should you reach for that bright orange sports drink after running around the block?

By American Chemical Society - Tuesday, April 25, 2017 - Full Story

Latest Underworld is ‘gore-geous’ in 4K - while Teen Titans storm onto Blu-ray

Kate Beckinsale is back and kicking werewolf butts in Underworld Blood Wars, which debuts from Sony on 4K UHD disc next week. And if you’re tired of computer generated landscapes, blood and characters, Warner Brothers has a more classically animated superhero title that might catch your eye, though it isn’t available in 4K as of this writing.

Teen Titans was a bit of a trip down memory lane for me, thanks to its Saturday morning cartoon look and feel - the type of superhero animation I used to watch with my kids when they were, well, kids.

But it’s 4K that I’m interested in primarily these days, as the market moves from BD’s to UHD’s the same way it evolved from VHS to DVD and then to Blu-ray. UHD offers four times the resolution of 1080p, with twice the horizontal and vertical pixels (3840x2106 vs. 1920x1080) and, while the difference is noticeable more on bigger screens and even then is sometimes subtle anyway, a good 4K disc can be absolutely stunning.

The weird chemistry threatening masterpiece paintings (video)

WASHINGTON — A good art dealer can really clean up in today’s market, but not when some weird chemistry wreaks havoc on masterpieces. Art conservators started to notice microscopic pockmarks forming on the surfaces of treasured oil paintings that cause the images to look hazy. It turns out the marks are eruptions of paint caused, weirdly, by soap that forms via chemical reactions. Since you have no time to watch paint dry, we explain how paintings from Rembrandts to O’Keefes are threatened by their own compositions — and we don’t mean the imagery.

By American Chemical Society - Thursday, April 20, 2017 - Full Story

Earth’s little garbage people?

WASHINGTON—If you’re enjoying some tasty food today that has at least one ingredient that was farmed somewhere, you probably owe a little thanks to earthworms. How is it that these detritivores – literally dirt eaters – turn what humans find inedible into beloved compost? After the biology and physics of swallowing and “chewing”, like us it’s all chemistry for digestion. But earthworms have an extra enzyme that allows them to munch through cellulose, the ultimate fiber that makes tree bark a non-starter in human diets. Yet all this powerful chemistry means not everyone sees earthworms as the greatest creature to crawl.

By American Chemical Society - Wednesday, April 19, 2017 - Full Story

Glowing bacteria detect buried landmines

Possible application of a system to detect buried landmines using a bacterial sensor. Image courtesy of Hebrew University

Israeli researchers have revealed their high-tech answer to the global need for a safe, efficient way of clearing minefields: a remote system using lasers and bacteria to map the location of buried landmines and unexploded ordnance.

The invention is bound to be sought eagerly worldwide. About half a million people around the world are survivors of mine-inflicted injuries, and each year an additional 15,000 to 20,000 more people are injured or killed by these devices. More than 100 million landmines are believed still to be buried in at least 70 countries.

Surprisingly, the methods currently used for detecting landmines are not much different from those used in World War II, and require personnel to risk life and limb by physically entering the minefields.—More…

By ISRAEL21c - Wednesday, April 19, 2017 - Full Story