ChemWeb Newsletter

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As ever, an eclectic mix of chemistry news this week from The Alchemist. First up expanding magnets that break the nineteenth century rules, how to test vegetables oils for heavy metals, and how a component of urine for blooming marvelous cut flowers. A new class of MOF with intriguing conductivity and thermal response might become useful in energy storage, while Yale chemists have found a way to reduce catalytic deactivation. Finally, this week's award: because she's worth it.

Magnets the total volume of which increases when they are placed in a magnetic field overturns 175 years of magnetic theory that says magnets expand anisotropically. Harsh Deep Chopra of Temple University and Manfred Wuttig of the University of Maryland, USA, have studied iron alloys formed with aluminum, gallium and germanium, the internal microscopic structure of which changes dramatically on heating to 500 Celsius and then cooling rapidly to make these materials behave in a non-Joulian manner. The materials might find use as compact and inexpensive components for actuators for a wide range of applications from biomedical and diagnostics to aerospace engineering.

Understanding the metal ion components and the antioxidant status of different vegetable oils is important for a clear view of the health effects of these widely used foodstuffs. Now, chemists in Brazil have developed an efficient and effective approach to their atomic analysis using optimized ultrasound-assisted liquid-liquid extraction in order to carry out high-resolution continuum source flame atomic absorption spectrometry (HR-CS FAAS) analysis and to measure copper, iron, nickel and zinc ion concentrations. They point out that ultrasound is "a good alternative for the determination of metals in vegetable oils without the use of a time-consuming sample treatment and without the use of concentrated acids."

Cut gerbera blooms will last longer in the vase if you add a dash of urea and a splash of acid to their water, according to research published in the International Journal of Postharvest Technology and Innovation. Gerbera jamesonii also known as the Transvaal daisy or African daisy is one of the most popular species of cut flower. Unfortunately, as with all cut flowers, the blooms rarely last as long as the recipient hopes. But, researchers at the Islamic Azad University Karaj and the University of Tehran, Iran, have come up with a recipe for extending blooms from a few days to two weeks based on adding a specified amount of salicylic, acid malic acid and urea. The formula may well be adopted by flower sellers for domestic use once its efficacy is more widely proven.

A new structural scaffold for supporting palladium catalysts allows them to fulfill the "remain unchanged" at the end of a reaction part of the definition of a catalyst more successfully than their predecessors. This means longer-lasting catalysts and more efficient industrial chemical processes, according to work published by a team from Yale University. Nilay Hazari and colleagues have developed a system that is less prone to deactivation, which could boost synthetic efficiency of pharmaceuticals, plastics, agrochemicals and other chemicals.

A metal-organic framework (MOF) that resembles graphene in its "chickenwire" structure, but comprises an electrically conductive, porous, layered material with an array of nickel ions interconnected through the organic motif, HITP, 2,3,6,7,10,11-hexaiminotriphenylene; two HITPs for every three nickels, looks set to be a rather useful tunable material for battery technology. The material has a linear conductivity between 100 and 500 Kelvin comparable with graphite and at room temperature its conductivity is about 40 Siemens per centimeter. Its properties unusual temperature dependence also bodes well for use in energy storage.

Margaret Brimble of the University of Auckland, New Zealand, has been named as one of the 2015 IUPAC Distinguished Women in Chemistry or Chemical Engineering. Brimble is a L’Oreal Laureate and "For Women in Science" jury member. The biannual awards acknowledge and promote the work of women chemists and chemical engineers and awardees are selected based on excellence in research, teaching and leadership. Brimble was also the 2007 L’Oreal-Unesco Women in Science laureate in materials science for Asia Pacific and winner of the 2008 World Class New Zealand Award and the 2014 Westpac Trust Women on Influence Award in the Science and Technology sector.