The American Chemical Society (ACS) News Service Weekly press package (PressPac) offers information on reports selected from 36 major peer-reviewed journals and Chemical & Engineering News.
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In a major advance in alternative fuel technology, researchers report development of a sponge-like material with the highest methane storage capacity ever measured. It can hold almost one-third more methane than the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) target level for methane-powered cars, they report in a new study. It is scheduled for the Jan. 23 issue of ACS’ Journal of the American Chemical Society, a weekly publication.
Hong-Cai Zhou and colleagues note that lack of an effective, economical and safe on-board storage system for methane gas has been one of the major hurdles preventing methane-driven automobiles from competing with traditional ones. Recently, highly-porous, crystalline materials called metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) have emerged as promising storage materials due to their high surface areas. However, none of the MOF compounds have reached DOE target levels considered practical for fuel storage applications, the scientists say.
The report describes development of a new type of MOF, called PCN-14, that has a high surface area of over 2000 m2/g. Laboratory studies show that the compound, composed of clusters of nano-sized cages, has a methane storage capacity 28 percent higher than the DOE target, a record high for methane-storage materials, the researchers say. — MTS
Researchers in Hong Kong have miniaturized technology needed to perform the versatile polymerase chain reaction (PCR) — widely used in criminal investigations, disease diagnosis, and a range of other key applications. In a study scheduled for the Jan. 15 issue of ACS’ Analytical Chemistry, a semi-monthly journal, they report development of a long-sought PCR microchip that could permit use of PCR at crime scenes, in doctors’ offices, and other out-of-lab locations.
I-Ming Hsing and colleagues note that PCR works like a biological copy machine, transforming a few wisps of DNA into billions of copies. However, existing PCR machines are so big and complex that they can be used only in laboratories. Scientists have searched for years for a portable, PCR technique that can be used outside the lab.
The study describes a new PCR technique that uses electrochemical DNA sensors to provide simultaneous DNA amplification and detection on a silicon-glass microchip. Their performance tests show that the new technique, called electrochemical real-time PCR (ERT-PCR), is about as fast and sensitive as conventional PCR. The new technique shows “tremendous” promise as a portable system for moving DNA analysis out of the lab and into remote locations, the researchers say. — MTS
Batches of homemade chicken soup — fondly known as “Grandma’s Penicillin” — will be more appealing to stuffy-nosed cold and flu victims this winter if prepared with plenty of celery. That’s the take-home message from a study scheduled for the Jan. 23 issue of ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication, which reports identification of the flavor-boosting components in celery.
In the new study, Kikue Kubota and colleagues note that cooks have long recognized celery’s “remarkable” ability to enchance the complex flavors of soups and broths. Almost magically, celery takes on a sweet-spicy flavor after boiling, helping to give food a thick, full-bodied, satisfying taste. Until now, however, scientists have been unable to track down the roots of celery’s effects.
The scientists prepared batches of chicken broth with and without a volatile extract from celery. Panels of tasters confirmed that the flavor of soup made with celery extract was more intense. In particular, celery’s extract enhanced the sweetness and umami (meaty or savory) taste of the broth, even though the extract had virtually no flavor of its own.
From the extract, researchers identified three compounds responsible for celery’s flavor-enhancement. The compounds were phthalides, and they had the ability to enhance flavors despite being tasteless themselves. — MTS
Amid growing consumer demand for more environmentally-friendly cleaning products, chemical suppliers are stepping-up their efforts to provide greener ingredients with the same effectiveness of conventional ones, according to an article scheduled for the Jan. 21 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.
In the magazine’s cover story, C&EN Assistant Managing Editor Michael McCoy notes that “green” cleaning supplies were once the province of fringe industries but are now attracting the attention of big corporations in the United States and beyond. Increasingly, suppliers are generating consumer cleaning products that contain natural or naturally-derived ingredients, avoid the use of environmentally-harmful chemicals, and generate less carbon dioxide during manufacturing and use, McCoy states. Consumer products giant Clorox will join the bandwagon this month by rolling out a new line of green cleaning products with the earth-friendly name Green Works, he notes.
Under pressure from groups including consumers, the government and the news media, chemical suppliers are feverishly working to come up with new ingredients that are both environmentally-friendly and perform as well as conventional cleaning products, the writer notes. But the road to green is not necessarily a smooth one. For one thing, there is no consensus on what is considered natural. Moreover, environmental standards can vary from region to region, the article points out. Still, there are clear signs that greener cleaning supplies will become more commonplace and more competitive with conventional ones, a trend that could make for a cleaner, greener future, the article suggests.
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