ChemWeb Newsletter

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This week, The Alchemist learns how to print a solar panel, figures out it's time to go on a diet for the sake of longevity, puzzles over shape-shifting super molecules, and finds out that size matters when it comes to protein folding. He also learns that our perception of the geochemistry of the solar system may have been skewed by frothy cosmic dust particles. Finally, a nano Sloan award.




Researchers at the University of Toronto, Canada, have devised a method for printing perovskite solar cells. Perovskite solar cells can enable us to use techniques already established in the printing industry to produce solar cells at very low cost. Potentially, perovskites and silicon cells can be married to improve efficiency further, but only with advances in low-temperature processes," explains senior author on the research paper Ted Sargent. The approach developed by Hairen Tan and his team involves a new chemical reaction that enables them to grow an electron-selective layer made of nanoparticles in solution, directly on top of an electrode overcoming a major obstacle in fabricating such solar cells at relatively low processing temperatures.





Reducing the amount of food you eat could be the simplest way to live a longer, healthier life, now researchers at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, think they know why. They have demonstrated that reduced calorie intake in mice slows ribosome activity and gives these cellular protein factories are chance to carry out self-repair. "Food isn't just material to be burned - it�s a signal that tells our body and cells how to respond," BYU's John Price explains. "We're getting down to the mechanisms of aging, which may help us make more educated decisions about what we eat." He points out that a low-calorie diet is not a panacea and the work is yet to be replicated in humans as an anti-aging strategy.





Magic angle spinning (MAS) nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy reveals how the supramolecular structure of a lipophilic guanosine derivative can change as the structures passing between the solid state into solution state (in chloroform) and vice versa. This seems paradoxical as a self-assembled structures formed through specific intermolecular hydrogen bonds in solution should remain the same in the solid state. "A systematic study for complexation with different cations and anions emphasizes that the existence of a stable solution or solid-state structure may not reflect the stability of the same supramolecular entity in another phase," the team reports.





A fifty-year old protein paradox has been solved by researchers in the US. The team can now predict accurately through computational work how volume will change for a given protein between its folded and unfolded state. The study might shed light on the inner workings of life under pressure in the ocean depths and could have implications for understanding alien biochemistry should we ever identify life on other planets. Some proteins can survive crushing pressures by staying folded yet others unfold when the pressure is on. This seeming protein volume paradox dates back to the first X-ray structures of proteins from about the middle of the twentieth century.





Cosmic dust particles from pulverized asteroids containing water-rich minerals survive atmospheric entry better than dry particles, according to researchers from Imperial College London, UK. During the descent through the Earth's atmosphere, this type of cosmic dust melts forming a magma within which any trapped water is quickly superheated causing the magma to become frothy and so less dense and more buoyant. The survival of water cosmic dust in this way may have been skewing our studies of the solar system as dry dust from water-bereft asteroids. "Cosmic dust provides us with direct evidence of events that may have happened in our solar system billions of years ago," explains IC's Matthew Genge. "Scientists now need to take [our finding] into consideration when they are re-constructing ancient cosmic events or trying to develop a more accurate picture of the geological make-up of our solar system."





Ming Lee Tang, assistant professor of chemistry at the University of California, Riverside, USA, has been awarded a Sloan Research Fellowship for her research with nanoparticles, work that could have an impact on the solar power industry and biomedical fields. The fellowships have been awarded since 1955 and identify the rising stars in research and the next generation of leaders in science. The two-year fellowships come with a $60,000 award.