ChemWeb Newsletter

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Chemical splitting gets a reaction from The Alchemist this week, as does Neanderthal glue, smart water filters for desalination, a Martian mass spec, and how photons interact with matter. Finally, this year's Grady-Stack award for science communication.




Graphene, often hailed as a wonder material, is proving its mettle once again with the development by an international team of a smart membrane that can desalinate brackish water. The membrane performs better than current membrane coatings and could provide clean water solutions in a wide variety of situations where drinking water is inaccessible. “Our dream is to create a smart membrane that combines high flow rates, high efficiency, long lifetime, self-healing and eliminates bio and inorganic fouling in order to provide clean water solutions for the many parts of the world where clean water is scarce,” explains team member Mauricio Terrones of Pennsylvania State University whose team worked with colleagues at Shinshu University, Japan.





New insights into how light interacts with matter have been found by researchers in the US. Rick Lytel, Mark Kuzyk, and colleagues, at Washington State University, Pullman, have developed a heuristic approach that first involves throwing a metaphorical dart at the materials target and hoping, if not for a bullseye, then a high score in terms of photon interaction with the structure of the material. Once they have a hint of a powerful response, they can use computational methods to nudge their dart closer to the bullseye until they find a structure that will respond in the desired way.





New insights into how light interacts with matter have been found by researchers in the US. Rick Lytel, Mark Kuzyk, and colleagues, at Washington State University, Pullman, have developed a heuristic approach that first involves throwing a metaphorical dart at the materials target and hoping, if not for a bullseye, then a high score in terms of photon interaction with the structure of the material. Once they have a hint of a powerful response, they can use computational methods to nudge their dart closer to the bullseye until they find a structure that will respond in the desired way.





University of Wisconsin-Madison chemist Bassam Shakhashiri is this year's winner of the American Chemical Society’s James T. Grady-James H. Stack Award for Interpreting Chemistry for the Public. Shakhashiri has given more than 1500 invited public presentations, his entertaining demonstrations pack lecture theaters around the world. With the help of fire, dry ice, gases and solutions, Shakhashiri’s demonstrations help audiences grasp diverse scientific concepts, but the biggest lesson he shares is that “Science is Fun.”





A boost to technology for splitting water to make hydrogen gas and carbon dioxide (CO2) to release carbon monoxide (CO) as feedstock chemicals for industry and fuel cells has been developed by a team at North Carolina State University. The water-splitting process converts 90 percent of water into hydrogen gas, while the CO2-splitting process converts more than 98 percent of the CO2 into CO. The former uses strontium ferrite dispersed in a chemically inert matrix of calcium oxide or manganese oxide and the latter iron-doped barium manganese oxide particles.





Paul Kozowyk and Geeske Langejans of Leiden University have demonstrated that there are at least three different ways to extract tar from birch bark and suggest that Neanderthals may have exploited one of the processes to make the first glue some 200,000 years ago. The discovery offers an explanation for the fact that Neanderthal spears most commonly comprise two parts, a piece of sharpened flint for the point, and a stick for the shaft. What held them together has remained an archeological puzzle for many years. A simple method to make glue involving a roll of birch bark and an open fire could solve the problem, according to the team.