Browsing: Chemistry

Carbon boasts the ability to exist in different forms and phases, and now researchers have discovered Q-carbon, a distinct new solid phase of carbon with the potential to make converting carbon into diamonds as easy as making toast (if you make toast with a high powered laser beam). It’s early days yet, but researchers are already claiming that Q-carbon is magnetic, electro-conductive, glows in the dark, is relatively inexpensive to make and has stolen the crown of “world’s hardest substance” from diamond. Professor Jay Narayan of North Carolina State University is the lead author of three papers describing the work…

It isn’t easy to diagnose wound infections before they’ve progressed into a nasty, purulent mess, and many doctors prefer to play it safe by doling out antibiotics early. But a clever new bandage that glows bright green at its first whiff of bad bacteria could help change that. Led by chemistry professor Toby Jenkins at the University of Bath, the new “smart bandage”—although not yet tested in humans—might one day serve as an early warning system, allowing doctors and patients to detect infections before they get out of hand. The mechanism behind it is pretty clever: the bandage contains a…

Natural gas accounts for over 28 percent of US energy consumption. Its main component, methane, is a widely-used fossil fuel but also a major contributor to rising CO2 levels, and thus climate change. To address this issue, researchers from the Institute of Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have developed a process that extracts the energy content of methane, in the form hydrogen, without producing carbon dioxide. In a process called “methane cracking,” the molecular components of methane – hydrogen and carbon – are separated at temperatures of over 750° C (1,382° F), without harmful emissions.…

Along with its use in jewellery, gold also has numerous applications in fields such as electronics and scientific research. It’s a handy material, but – of course – it’s also expensive. That’s why researchers at ETH Zurich have developed a new way of making a small amount of gold go a long way. They’ve created a gold foam that looks much like solid gold, but is actually 98 parts air. As an added bonus, the aerogel-type foam can also be made in non-gold colors such as dark red. According to lead scientist Prof. Raffaele Mezzenga, the foam is one one-thousandths…

The discovery of fresh fingerprints at a crime scene is a promising step towards determining the culprit, though huge databases still need to be sifted through in order to find potential matches and the culprit’s prints need to be included in said databases. So what if many of the suspects could be ruled out before this rigorous search even begins? A new fingerprint identification technology is promising to lighten the load for investigators, by revealing whether prints belong to a male or female. The new approach works on the premise that amino acid levels in the sweat of females are…

As energy production moves towards solar and wind-powered alternatives, battery systems to store intermittently-produced electricity have never been more important. Unfortunately, many of the materials needed to make high-performance batteries for this purpose are rapidly diminishing and becoming increasingly expensive as a result. Now researchers from Empa and ETH Zurich have created a new type of storage battery that is made from a range of cheap and abundant materials and shows promise for high-efficiency performance. The prototype battery uses nanocrystals composed of iron sulfide, better known as pyrite or “fool’s gold”, as the cathode, sodium as the electrolyte and magnesium…

The Italians have a colorful expression – to make a hole in water – to describe an effort with no hope of succeeding. Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB), however, have seemingly managed the impossible, creating a class of liquids that feature permanent holes at the molecular level. The properties of the new materials are still largely unknown, but what has been gleaned so far suggests they could be used for more convenient carbon capturing or as a molecular sieve to quickly separate different gases. Porous materials are a jack-of-all-trades of the engineering world. Their larger surface area, lighter weight…

Bandages are important for stopping germs from entering a wound and making things worse, but could they play a more active role in making things better? New research has brought the idea of wound-healing dressings closer to reality by establishing a method of electrical stimulation that kills off the majority of multi-drug resistant bacterium commonly found in difficult-to-treat infections. Electrical stimulation has long been explored as a means of speeding up the healing process, but exactly how it works hasn’t always been so clear. However, a study earlier this year suggested it does so by triggering a process called angiogenesis,…

Not content with using hybrid artificial photosynthesis to turn CO2 emissions into plastics and biofuel, researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) now claim to have produced an enhanced system that uses water and solar energy to generate hydrogen, which is in turn used to produce methane, the main element of natural gas, from carbon dioxide. Generating such gases from a renewable resource may one day help bolster, or even replace, fossil fuel resources extracted from dwindling sub-surface deposits. Simply put, the process of photosynthesis turns light energy into chemical energy. In plants and certain types of algae, energy…

One potential clean energy future requires an economical, efficient, and relatively simple way to generate copious amounts of hydrogen for use infuel-cells and hydrogen-powered vehicles. Often achieved by using electricity to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen, the ideal method would be to mine hydrogen from water using electricity generated directly from sunlight without the addition of any external power source. Hematite – the mineral form of iron – used in conjunction with silicon has shown some promise in this area, but low conversion efficiencies have slowed research. Now scientists have discovered a way to make great improvements, giving hope to using two of…