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The Alchemist gets tied in a tight molecular knot this week, learns how to predict the future at the quantum level, finds out about a non-stick material that shrugs off blood like water off a duck's back, and finds a nutritional explanation as to why some adolescent female students suffer from bad moods, we're also on the trail of the plastic pine this week. Finally, Happy 150th Birthday to German chemistry!


This week, The Alchemist learns about waterproofing for slicker shipping, how crystal structures could open up pharma pipelines, sets up base camp for a hydroxide surrogate, and sees how European agricultural union happened 13000 years ago. We also see chemical sense this week and hear about chemical dreams.

A hydroxide surrogate makes it easier to synthesize complex phenolic compounds without the harsh conditions usually needed. The system developed by chemists at Merck & Co., Inc. in Rahway, New Jersey, USA, could open up new routes to a wide range of pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, and the products of materials science many of which have a phenolic moiety. A palladium catalyst works in concert with benzaldehyde oxime, which acts as the hydroxide surrogate precluding the need for harsh base and allowing direct hydroxylation of aryl halides, for instance.

People migrated from the Near East and spread agriculture around the Mediterranean and throughout Europe much earlier than scientists previously thought, according to new DNA research from the University of Huddersfield, UK. Indeed, the DNA evidence suggests that migrants were growing crops across Europe as long ago as 13000 years during the Late Glacial period when the original hunter-gatherers of the region picked up skills from the immigrants. “This supports a scenario in which the genetic pool of Mediterranean Europe was partly a result of Late Glacial expansions from a Near Eastern refuge, and that this formed an important source pool for subsequent Neolithic expansions into the rest of Europe," the team reports in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Molecular imprinting of a polymer has allowed scientists from the Faculty of Chemistry at Lomonosov Moscow State University to develop an electrochemical sensor for the detection of saccharides and hydroxyl acids. The enzyme-free sensor can thus be used to measure glucose and lactic acid concentrations in biological samples with ease. "We've shown that it's possible to create multisensory systems on the basis of elaborated sensors with different selectivity," team member Vita Nikitina explains.

The Polish and Czech Academies of Sciences have joined forces to launch The Dream Chemistry Award. The young scientists with the most interesting, visionary scientific projects in chemistry and related disciplines will win the 10000 euro award (about US$10000) to help them fulfill their scientific ambitions. The Dream Chemistry Award 2017 is a contest for scientists under 37 years of age who presented their doctoral thesis in 2010 or later and who have been nominated by respected senior researchers worldwide.

A spray-on coating that forms a hydrophobic, durable, and self-healing layer has been developed by researchers at the University of Michigan. The material, a blend of fluorinated polyurethane elastomer and hydrophobic F-POSS, fluorinated polyhedral oligomeric silsesquioxanes, could be used to apply waterproofing to vehicles, clothing, rooftops and countless other surfaces for which current waterproofing treatments are too fragile. It might even be used to lower the resistance of ship hulls and boost the efficiency of ocean-going freight.

Researchers at Arizona State University and their colleagues are using an X-ray free electron laser to probe drug targets that might open up a pharmaceutical pipeline for treating a wide range of lethal diseases. Wei Liu and his colleagues are investigating AT2R, a critical G-protein coupled cell receptor thought to be involved in many different processes associated with cardiovascular conditions, neuropathic pain and tissue growth. The study could open up new avenues of research for drug developers hoping to combat pain and inflammation or to promote tissue regeneration by docking small molecules into the active site of in AT2R’s complex three-dimensional structure.