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The Alchemist has an eclectic mix of news this week from a new recipe for rechargeable batteries that could keep mobile devices active for longer and make for longer-lived batteries to an ancient recipe for blue pots from the New Kingdom of Egypt. In analytical news we learn that moonshiners may have to scrap their stills thanks to a portable alcohol monitor that works better than FTIR, and supramolecular chemistry in polymer science is the strong link in the chain. In Europe, tension builds as the deadline for registering thousands of chemicals under REACH regulations fast approaches. Finally, no awards this week, but there is a trendy new iPhone app from the American Chemical Society.

Add some tin and sulphur to the recipe for rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and you could deliver electrical power to mobile gadgets for far longer and avoid "aging" problems. The new formula being developed by Bruno Scrosati and Jusef Hassoun at the University of Rome, Italy, uses a carbon/lithium sulfide composite for the cathode, a lithium-ion-containing liquid enclosed in a gel-polymer membrane as the electrolyte, and a nanoscopic tin based anode. The new system has a specific energy of about 1100 Watt hours per kilogram, which surpasses all previous lithium-metal-free batteries.

Pale blue pottery was the height of fashion in the New Kingdom of Egypt three thousand years ago and in particular during the reign of Amenhotep III and Ramesses II. The color is due to cobalt that may have been derived from a mineral mined at an oasis in the eastern Sahara Desert, or so Colin Hope, an expert in blue painted pottery, believed. Jennifer Smith, professor of earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, crawled into the mine to obtain a pristine sample of those minerals for analysis. Her findings suggest that the ancient miners knew precisely which ores to dig to obtain cobalt and the artisans they supplied found a way to concentrate the mineral.

A portable device that can quickly and easily determine the strength of alcoholic drinks is just as accurate as widely used lab-based methods, according to Dirk Lachenmeier and colleagues at the testing agency Chemisches und Veterinäruntersuchungsamt in Karlsruhe, Germany. The flow-through infrared device avoids time-consuming sample preparation steps but is more effective than densimetry and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. The device could be useful in law enforcement and in industry fraud.

Dutch scientists have demonstrated that supramolecular polymerisation occurs through a ring-chain polymerisation process, thus establishing a design for linear polymers based on monomer chains. Bert Meijer and his team at the University of Technology in Eindhoven, linked together a peptide and a protein using a flexible oligo(ethylene glycol) linker. The peptide and the protein end groups bind reversibly forming an active enzyme complex but the complexes can form either between the two linked ends of one of these monomers or between multiple monomers, forming either linear or cyclic super molecules.

Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemical Substances (Reach) regulations in the European Union are fast approaching a major deadline. If companies fail to register high volume and potentially toxic substances before November 30, many products could be forced off the market. The Directors' Contact Group (DCG) was set up earlier this year to tackle problems with the preparation of appropriate registration dossiers. SMEs in particular are hoping that the DCG will sort out some of their difficulties so that they can submit dossiers on time.

It's the trendy thing to do - create an iPhone app, or application. So, it's no surprise that the American Chemical Society would follow in the footsteps of other publishers and make available an inexpensive app for readers of readers of their journal. The app allows users to receive a customized stream of research content and news on an Apple iPhone or iPod Touch device. ACS Mobile launched on March 15 and has an introductory price of $2.99 in the iTunes store. The Alchemist assumes, however, that price does not give you unlimited access to JACS, C&EN and other favorites.