ChemWeb Newsletter

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Spring has sprung for the Alchemist, who, under the northern sun, takes on a marginal copper tone this week. First up, a copper catalyst that can make aromatics all meta, copper nanorods for 3D computer chips, and buckyballs come of age with their development as drug delivery agents for MS drugs. Manufacturers and legislators are banning toxic ingredients from consumer plastics, while electrochemists are using magnets to move microscopic particles which they track through field fluctuations. Finally, the launch of the journal Nature Chemistry represents a new prospect for the chemistry community.




Tracking the precise movements of microscopic particles in a liquid is a difficult task now made all the easier by a team from Oxford and Cambridge universities in the UK. Richard Compton and colleagues have devised a new, electrochemical method for locating microscale objects as they move through a liquid. The detector is based on a simple arrangement of four tiny electrodes at the bottom of a small cell, each of which can be addressed individually. The team demonstrated proof of principle by tracking a microscopic basalt sphere moved with a magnet underneath the base of the cell. The technique could have applications in the development of lab-on-a-chip devices and in single-cell studies in biology. The team is now working to reduce the scale of the device still further.





The Nature Publishing Group has launched a new journal aimed squarely at the chemistry community and named quite obviously - Nature Chemistry. The publisher is reinventing the way it publishes chemistry and asked eight prominent chemists to share their vision of chemistry in the inaugural issue of the journal published officially April 1. Ryoji Noyori, Harry Gray, Jim Clark, Barbara Imperiali, Gary Hieftje, Mark Johnson, Achim Müller, and Fraser Stoddart all wax lyrical on their particular fields. A clutch of peer-reviewed papers showcase the new technologies used including embedded InChIs and annotations. By coincidence, the RSC has recently enhanced its Prospect system.





Substituting aromatic compounds at the meta position could be facilitated by a copper triflate catalyst demonstrated by Matthew Gaunt and colleagues at the University of Cambridge. meta-substituted aromatics usually require a multistep procedure and electron-withdrawing substituents to lower reactivity but Gaunt's method allows direct access to these molecules in a single step. The team used amide-substituted benzene rings with phenyl electrophiles in the presence of copper triflate to generate meta product exclusively.





A new technique for growing slimmer copper nanorods has been developed by US researchers. The vapour deposition method could be a key step for advancing integrated 3D chip technology. The team periodically interrupts the oblique deposition of copper atoms. Pei-I Wang and colleagues at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute found that they could anneal copper nanorods at much lower temperatures, 300 Celsius, which could make their approach ideal for sticking together heat-sensitive nanoelectronics components.





Fullerenes the hollow, all-carbon molecules discovered in the early 1990s look set to become the next generation of drug-delivery agents for multiple sclerosis sufferers. Howard Weiner of Brigham and Women's Hospital at Harvard Medical School, Michael Gozin from Tel Aviv University's School of Chemistry and their colleagues have synthesized an antioxidant for treating damaged brain cells. "I wanted to target with antioxidants specific receptors in the brain, which are involved in the disease progress, to stall the deterioration of motor function in MS sufferers," explains Gozin. Animal trials have proved successful and the work also shows promise for treating Alzheimer's disease too.





C&EN reports that chemistry is under attack once more, this time from product manufacturers themselves as well as legislators. The makers of dozens of household cleaning and other products are under pressure to eradicate compounds such as bisphenol A and phthalates from their wares. While Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) and Representative Edward Markey (D-Mass) are introducing legislation to ban bisphenol A from food and beverage containers. BPA and other compounds are known to be endocrine disrupters at specific levels and have been at the center of controversial debate for many years. Evidence of the health risks associated with the use of these materials in consumer products such as polycarbonate baby bottles and infant formula cans is mounting. Six major US baby-bottle manufacturers have agreed to voluntarily eliminate BPA from their products ahead of the legislation.