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Heavy metal frosts on Venus sound like the stuff of an Alchemist's nightmares while mustard oil compounds in vegetables are an important health factor in our diets. A zero-power LCD has been developed in Hong Kong while thermal fluids offer new heat-flow solutions, we learn. In the medical world, genetic domains involved in bipolar disorder have been imaged using nanoscopy, the field rewarded in this year's Nobel Chemistry prize. The approach might open up new targets for treating this debilitating disease. Finally, diversity has its rewards for Iowa State chemist Javier Vela.

Allan Treiman and Elise Harrington of Simon Fraser University, in British Columbia, Canada have taken a close look at the bright patches and dark spots revealed by radar scans of the surface of the planet Venus to reveal that this local heavenly body may well experience heavy metal frost. The surface of Venus is at approximately 500 Celsius and has an atmospheric pressure 90 times that measured at sea level on Earth. Astronomers had suggested that a ferro-electric compound might give rise to the brightening and the dark spots, but so far no specific compound has been identified which has the requisite properties.

Mustard oil glycosides, also known as glucosinolates, and their breakdown products are responsible for the flavor and nutritional qualities of many vegetables including broccoli, radishes, and cabbage. Some of these compounds can, conversely, be detrimental in some ways to health, it all depends on the preparation, according to new research from Franziska Hanschen, of the Leibniz-Institut für Gemüse- und Zierpflanzenbau, Grossbeeren, Germany. Glucosinolates comprise a glucose molecule and a variety of sulfur-containing groups. Many are known to be protective against inflammation and cancer. Others are associated with making essential amino acids less bioavailable in people who eat a lot of cabbage, for instance. But, Hanschen explains that different methods of preparation can lead to very different profiles of breakdown products. The early work has been something of a revelation but he adds that, “Further systematic studies of the chemical mechanisms involved and the substances present are necessary.”

A new type of ultrathin liquid crystal display (LCD) technology that requires no power supply can display 3D grayscale images. “Because the proposed LCD does not have any driving electronics, the fabrication is extremely simple," explains Abhishek Srivastava of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. "The bi-stable feature provides a low power consumption display that can store an image for several years,” he adds. At this stage the technology is a proof of principle and is not set to be used in smart phones or televisions if it ever is.

Researchers at the Universitat Jaume I in Valencia, Spain, have developed a nanofluid that has improved thermal conductivity up to temperatures of 400 Celsius with potential applications in heat transfer systems used in solar power plants, nuclear power plants, combined-cycle power plants and heating systems. José Enrique Juliá Bovalar and colleagues explain that the patented multiphase material consisting of a base fluid (diphenyl/diphenyl oxide) and various additives has an operating temperature of 15 to 400 Celsius.

Nanodomains within the gene ANK3 associated with the mental illness bipolar disorder have been imaged at high resolution by researchers in the USA. “We knew that ankyrin-G [the protein expressed by the gene] plays an important role in bipolar disease, but we didn't know how,” explains Peter Penzes of Northwestern Medicine, “through this imaging method we found the gene formed in nanodomain structures in the synapses, and we determined that these structures control or regulate the behavior of synapses," he adds. The biological framework presented in the paper, published in the journal Neuron, could be used in human studies of bipolar disorder in the future, with the goal of developing therapeutic approaches to target the gene.

Assistant Professor in chemistry at Iowa State University Javier Vela, who is also a scientist with the US Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory has been selected as a 2014 recipient of the Stanley C. Israel Regional Award for Advancing Diversity in Chemical Sciences. The American Chemical Society award recognizes those who have developed activities to boost diversity in the chemical enterprise, encouraging underrepresented minority groups, persons with disabilities and women. Vela receive the award and its $1000 grant in November.