ChemWeb Newsletter

Not a subscriber? Join now.September 15, 2015

Publishers' select

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This week, The Alchemist learns of an electrochemical catalyst for generating methane from carbon dioxide, a protein that can make warmer ice cream and the wondrous sounds of LSD research. Wild blueberries may bear fruit in the prevention of gum disease, he hears, while Israeli chemists are scribbling away to invent rewritable nanopaper. Finally, dozens of European businesses whittled down from several hundred are now vying for funding in a clean technology competition.

Rafal Klajn and his team at the Weizmann Institute, Israel, are making light work by getting nanoparticles to self-assemble in a way that focuses on the medium in which they are suspended so that they can carry out reversible writing of information. Rather than adding light-sensitive functionality to the nanoparticles the team suspend them in a light-sensitive medium composed of spiropyrans. In addition to durable “rewritable paper", Klajn suggests that future applications might include water remediation or controlled drug delivery.

More than 700 entrepreneurs have been shortlisted down to just 82 from 28 countries across Europe to battle against each other for Climate-KIC accelerator funding in Europe’s largest business ideas competition, ClimateLaunchpad. The 82 startups are pitching their business plans at the time of writing to an international jury and will be judged on the feasibility, scalability, job creation benefits and impact on climate.

A new catalyst developed by chemists at Leiden University can convert carbon dioxide into methane. The conversion could be implemented in a cost-effective and controllable way, according to the catalyst's inventors Marc Koper and Jing Shen. The process involves bubbling CO2 through an acid solution in which sits a low-voltage (0.5 V) graphite electrode. The cobalt-porphyrin catalyst - akin to the core of vitamin B12 - was previously shown to convert CO2 into carbon monoxide and methane with hydrogen as a byproduct. Koper and Shen have now shown for the first time that they can minimise the hydrogen and generate maximum methane.

Just as the northern summer draws to a close, UK researchers announce the slower-melting ice cream. The team from the Universities of Dundee and Edinburgh has identified a natural protein, BslA, a bacterial hydrophobin, that can bind fat and water in ice cream, helping to trap air and creating a super-smooth consistency that melts at a slightly higher temperature than conventional ice cream. The same protein helps avoid the formation of gritty ice crystals too. Coming to soon to summer: no more sticky ice cream fingers.

New research into the hallucinogenic drug, LSD, lysergic acid diethylamide, could help explain why music gives us the tingles and makes us emotional. There is renewed interest from medical science into the mode of action of LSD as well as its potential therapeutic effects. This coupled with its infamous use by musicians and other artists, especially during the 1950s and 1960s, led to a placebo-controlled study that looked at whether or not LSD enhances the emotional response to instrumental music. In a preliminary study with a small group of volunteers, LSD was found to boost emotions such as "wonder", "transcendence", "power" and "tenderness", according to a team from Imperial College London writing in the journal Psychopharmacology (Berl) in August this year.

A polyphenolic compound extracted from wild lowbush blueberries, Vaccinium angustifolium, can target the periodontal bacterium Fusobacterium nucleatum present in dental plaque and a cause of inflammatory gum disease. The finding could lead to a new approach to gum disease that precludes the need for antibiotic treatments. The compound not only inhibited bacterial biofilm growth on teeth it also reduced the inflammatory response in the gums.