tl, dr January

news · 5 years ago
by Krisztián Niesz

Hi Folks! TL, DR is back for the New Year. Happy and Prosperous 2014 Everyone!

A Novel Surface Characterization Method Revealed Metal-Free Battery Designed A New Cancer Treating Strategy on the Horizon Solar Cell Technology News A Great Success of Synthetic Biology and Chemistry US Science Gets a Boost from Congress Accelrys Aquired by French 3D Design Software Company

#1 Scientists from the University of Wisconsin have developed a surface characterization technique that can be the surface analog of solution-based NMR in many aspects.1This new technique is based on the nonlinear laser spectroscopy called sum frequency generation (SFG). Briefly, in SFG two laser beams are overlapping on the surface of the sample material (one fixed visible wavelength laser and a tunable IR) to scan over the vibrational spectrum of the interfacial region. The outcome is a beam that has the frequency of the sum of the two inputs. Although SFG is a unique and powerful technique it has its limitations. This brand new and novel method that is called the 2D-SFG overcomes some of these limitations and provides a better, more complete picture of the surface adsorbed molecules. In a nutshell, this method uses a sequential infrared light pulses (similarly to 2D-IR in solution phase) to scan over the vibrational spectrum and to enable scientist to investigate the orientation of different molecular parts with respect to each other.

#2 One of the most attractive scientific problems of our age is to find sustainable energy sources. Not only the desired battery solutions should feature high energy density, good cyclability; they’d also have to be environmental friendly as well as cost efficient. Researchers from Harvard School of Engineering have come up with a potential solution, and developed a metal–free aqueous flow battery.2 Their entire system is built on combining inexpensive carbon electrodes with a metal-free quinone/hydroquinone - Br2/Br- redox couple, and provides good power density values with great cyclability performance (high storage capacity retention per cycles). They claim that the use of π-aromatic organic redox materials, instead of metals, will open the door to store massive amount of energy in a cost effective and somewhat environmental friendly way.

#3 Undergraduate researchers discovered a potentially new way treating cancer and got awarded by the grand prize in the American East Division of the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition. They engineered a bacteria that is able to release its cell killing payload when reaching tumors and exposed to light.3 In the November issue you could read about a similar method, engineered polymer nanoparticles releasing their anticancer drug by the exposing them to UV light. Although both methods still have a lot to tackle to gain success in the area, it is getting obvious that light exposure driven non-invasive methods are getting a lot of attention, and are the way towards controlled drug release.

#4 Just above we had a note about Energy Storage, let’s talk about the news in the Energy Conversion area. In collaboration between DOE’s Argonne national Laboratory and the University of Texas scientists have developed an inexpensive inorganic photovoltaic material that can convert the higher energy part of the solar spectrum (blue) much more efficiently than any material investigated before.4 How to achieve this? Take a copper indium selenide film and induce multiexciton generation (exciton = electron + hole) via shining blue light on it. Obviously it is not as simple, there is still a lot of heat generated via recombination, but the material can be generated at a reduced cost and holds a lot of promise due to initial results. Integrating it into real-life devices is still ahead of us.

#5 Did you know that synthetic biologists and chemists could create the world’s first functional biological cell from polymers?5 They coated a water droplet, containing polystyrene beads with different enzymes responsible for different chemical reactions inside, with plastic. The resulting “artificial cell” you can think of as a catalytic reactor containing lots of functionalities in compartments that are capable of carrying out complex multistep reactions. People go as far as expecting from this to understand more and more how biological cells work, and therefore to be able to mimic nature’s processes (e.g. photosynthesis and biomass to biofuel) in lab.

#6 US Congress set a budget for 2014 that will boost the fund of nearly all scientific agencies in the country.6 The overall more than $1 trillion omnibus spending bill means that NSF, NIH as well as DOE will receive funds significantly up from the 2013 sequestration levels ($288m, $1b, $1.317b, respectively).

#7 Can’t close my eyes on this, since it very much influences the area ChemAxon is operating. Accelrys was acquired by Dassault Systemes, a French company focusing on Product Lifecycle Management solutions and 3D simulations, for $750m.7 I guess it’s too early to say what will happen, and can only speculate how this will reshape the landscape of cheminformatics solution providers, but I(we) are very interested in your opinion on this. So, please share it with us.

References 1) http://cen.acs.org/articles/92/i2/New-Tool-Surface-Structures.html 2) http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v505/n7482/full/nature12909.html 3) http://cen.acs.org/articles/92/web/2014/01/Attacking-Cancer-Light-Controlled-Bacteria.html 4) http://phys.org/news/2014-01-solar-cell-technology-captures-high-energy.html 5) http://www.nature.com/nchem/journal/v6/n1/full/nchem.1840.html 6) http://cen.acs.org/articles/92/i3/Congress-Sets-2014-Budget.html 7) http://www.bio-itworld.com/brief/2014/1/30/accelrys-acquired-by-dassault-systemes-750m.html