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The Alchemist Newsletter: March 25, 2008

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March 25, 2008

issue overview
grants and awards: Sweet award
tech: Enlightened organic chemistry
cheminformatics: Making chemistry globally accessible
pyrotechnics: Green fireworks
politics: Exciting women through chemistry
nano: FDA goes nano



The Russell Berrie Foundation is the subject of this week's award, it having donated $28 million to diabetes research with the aim of improving care and perhaps ultimately finding a cure. Scanning the commercial world for a change in the Alchemist's first find this week, we learn that General Electric is hoping to revolutionize OLED manufacture. A chemical web pioneer is offering a solution making open chemistry commercially viable through the concept of information credits. While firework pollution could go up with a bang if the latest research into eco-friendly pyrotechnics is commercialized. Back down to earth, efforts to inspire girls in science, particularly chemistry, are apparently working, at least during National Girl Scout and National Chemistry weeks. Finally, the FDA is hoping to muscle in on the nanotech world but experts warn that it faces a daunting task with limited resources to approach this burgeoning field.

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Sweet award

A massive $28million is to be pumped into research aimed at finding a cure for type II diabetes. The Russell Berrie Foundation has donated $28 million to Columbia University Medical Center and New York-Presbyterian Hospital, as part of a focused effort to provide comprehensive care to diabetes patients while working, through concentrated research initiatives, toward a cure. Total commitment from the Foundation over the last decade amounts to $63m.

Columbia University Medical Center/NYPH receive $28 million donation toward curing diabetes

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Enlightened organic chemistry

General Electric has announced a new approach to the manufacture of organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs) that could help the technology fulfill one its early promises as very low-energy lighting. OLEDs are thin, organic materials sandwiched between two electrodes, which illuminate when an electrical charge is applied. They could represent the next evolution in lighting products, says GE. The company is rolling out a new manufacturing process that essentially prints the OLED on to a substrate like a printing press produces printed pages from a roll of paper. "Researchers have long dreamed of making OLEDs using a newspaper-printing like roll-to-roll process," said Anil Duggal, manager of GE's Advanced Technology Program in Organic Electronics, "Now we’ve shown that it is possible."

GE Demonstrates World’s First “Roll-to-Roll” Manufactured Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLEDs)

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Making chemistry globally accessible

Chemical web guru Peter Murray-Rust of Cambridge University writes in Nature Horizons how Moves by chemists to help computers access the scientific literature have boosted the drive to make scientific information freely available to all. He explains how the emerging world of e-science or "cyberscholarship", is leading to so-called web 2.0 tools that support multidisciplinary and collaborative science and allow chemists and others to share information in a form that is readable globally. He points out that if chemistry is to help us address worldwide problems then it must be as open as possible and suggests a new model based on chemical-information credits, as opposed to journal subscriptions that might enable such openness to become commercially viable.

Chemistry for everyone

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Green fireworks

Fireworks are big polluters, that's according to Thomas Klapötke of the University of Munich, Germany. He and his colleagues are working to change all that and are developing nitrogen-rich compounds and other strategies to ameliorate the problem of pyrotechnic pollution. Pyrotechnics isn't limited to nocturnal outdoor entertainment, other applications fall into the category - airbags, signal flares, propellants and charges for civil and military purposes. Pyrotechnic materials contain an oxidizer and a reducing agent, and depending on the application binders, propellant charges, colorants, smoke- and sound-producing agents and other compounds. Their explosive release unleashes a cascade of heavy metals and other pollutants into the atmosphere. Klapötke and his colleagues are investigating how tetrazoles and tetrazines together with nontoxic metals can be used to produce red, orange, violet, purple, and pink colored flames for use in fireworks without the pollution .

Eco-Friendly Pyrotechnics

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Exciting women through chemistry

40,275 grams of slime, 4,030 ink dots, 3,876 M&Ms, 977 baby diapers, 489 cups of milk and a few electrified pickles could make all the difference in whether adolescent girls become engaged in science. Aside from the deliberately ironic precision of those values, there is a serious message as numbers of females entering science, and particularly, chemistry continues to fall. University of Missouri researcher Sheryl Tucker is combating this issue through the creation of a program that has kept girls interested in science. Results reported in Science show that her program of rotating workshops held in conjunction with National Girl Scout and National Chemistry weeks. The follow-up studies have shown that more four out of five girls taking part in the "Magic of Chemistry" professed an interest in learning more about science and related careers.

MU researcher discovers how to ignite, retain female interest in the study of science

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FDA goes nano

The Food & Drug Administration believes it has the authority to regular nanomaterials. The FDA faces a daunting task, however, in accruing the necessary resources and expertise. A conference held in Washington, D.C. by the nonprofit Food & Drug Law Institute heard that law, regulations, and policy are going to have to take a giant leap if they are to keep up with the pace of nanotechnology development, according to FDLI President James Kelly. "Nanoengineered materials may become part of any or all of the products that are regulated by the agency," said FDA's Norris Alderson. Public perception of nanotech safety will be key to commercial success, experts at the FDLI conference agreed that the FDA will play a crucial role in this acceptance.

FDA Confronts Nanotechnology

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-- David Bradley, Science Journalist



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Mar 12, 2008
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