ChemWeb Newsletter

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The Alchemist grabs a wine-free slug of resveratrol in this week's news round-up. If he were of a mind to take a drink, then avoiding toxic pewter ware would make sense. He also learns of carbon modifications denser than diamond while reading about how vibrations can give you slick MEMS without lube. The perennial issue of risk-benefit is raised with respect to statins demonstrating that patients should keep taking their medicine despite what the tabloids say. Finally, green awards demonstrate the environmental credentials of a range of companies and researchers.

Three new forms of carbon are predicted in computational studies carried out by researchers in Spain and the US. The work suggests that the new structures would be denser than diamond, albeit by just 3%, although not harder. The higher density should translate into the materials' electrons showing higher kinetic energies and the calculations support diverse electronic properties. The band gaps for the materials range from 3.0 to 7.3 eV, which might allow the properties to be tuned. The 7.3 eV value predicted for the "tP12" modification is the largest value among any form of carbon.

Reducing friction in the sub-microscopic domain will be essential for many applications in nanotechnology. Now, Italian scientists have devised a lubricant-free solution to making nano friction free. But, here's the rub…you have to shake it. The team looked at the behaviour of the tip of an atomic force microscope in contact with a one-dimensional surface and discovered that they could overcome stick-slip friction, which is caused by the atoms in contact with each other rearranging to minimize their energy, by vibrating the system. Change the vibration and they can switch on and off this form of friction. The discovery could allow microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) to fulfil their early promise, until now stymied by stick-slip friction, or stiction.

Reports in the British tabloid press recently suggested that statins, the cholesterol-lowering drugs, could increase patient risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. The headlines were based on a review of published trials data. However, the papers also pointed out that intensive use reduces the risk of cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks or strokes, and warned readers not to stop taking their statins on the basis of the report. The UK's National Health Service, in its behind the headlines site, NHS Choices, highlighted the fact that the absolute increase in risk was very small and that there are several shortcomings in the review and the studies it analysed. The research nevertheless provides a good illustration of the balance of benefits and risks that exists with any pharmaceutical.

Annual awards that show how chemistry can reduce our environmental burden across the globe were this year given to organic chemist Bruce H. Lipshutz of the University of California, Santa Barbara, for work on room-temperature transition-metal catalysis, Industrial biotechnology firm BioAmber for a sustainable synthesis of succinic acid, Paints and coatings specialist Sherwin-Williams Co. for its water-based alkyd paints, Industrial biotechnology company Genomatica for low-cost fermentation production of 1,4-butanediol from carbohydrates, and Houston-based Kraton Performance Polymers landed the award for Greener Reaction Conditions for developing a family of halogen-free, high-flow, polymer membranes for more energy efficient water-purification applications. The Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards are run by the US Environmental Protection Agency and sponsored in part by the American Chemical Society.

Selective synthesis of a wide range of natural polyphenolic compounds related to the well-known resveratrol antioxidant found in red wine, is now possible thanks to research by Scott Snyder, Andreas Gollner and Maria Chiriac at Columbia University in New York. Their synthesis of these stilbenoid compounds consisting of three phenols on two aromatic rings linked by a short hydrocarbon chain opens up the possibility of more controlled testing of the possible health benefits of this group of compounds. The unique characteristic of their approach is that rather than focusing on how to synthesize a single compound, the team can generate a whole family of structures in the same reaction.

Pewter ware, alloyed tin products, such as drinking vessels and jugs are seeing a resurgence of interest particularly as tourist souvenirs and artisanal keepsakes. While metals such as antimony and copper are acceptable as alloying allies. Lead and cadmium are banned around the world. However, atomic absorption spectroscopy analysis of a range of products in Brazil not only provides quality control and regulatory agencies with new benchmark for standardizing products but also shows that some manufacturers may be flouting the law.