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  • richardmitnick 3:18 pm on October 15, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Chemistry, , , How geology tells the story of evolutionary bottlenecks and life on Earth,   

    From Astrobiology Magazine: “How geology tells the story of evolutionary bottlenecks and life on Earth” 

    Astrobiology Magazine

    From Astrobiology Magazine

    Giant asteroid impacts could have created evolutionary bottlenecks that decided the path that evolution should take. Image credit: NASA/Don Davis.

    Evidence that catastrophic geological events could have created evolutionary bottlenecks that changed the course of life on Earth may be buried within ancient rocks beneath our feet.

    There is a 700-million year gap in Earth’s history, and in that time one of the most transformative events happened: life appeared. This missing epoch could hold not just the secret of humanity’s first ancestor, but could guide our search for life on other planets.

    To this end a recent paper, published in the scientific journal Astrobiology, tries to bring the worlds of geology and chemistry together by laying out what Earth’s ancient geology tells us about when life began on the planet, and how geological constraints – such as those caused by an asteroid impact or evolutionary bottlenecks – can be used to vet the different theories about the evolution of life.

    “Geologists have only weakly constrained the time when the Earth became habitable and the later time when life actually existed to the long interval between about 4.5 billion years ago and 3.85 billion years ago,” Norm Sleep, a geologist at Stanford University in the United States, writes in his paper.

    A dangerous time

    However, this was a dangerous time to be in the vicinity of Earth. Although evidence for it has become increasingly disputed in recent years, many scientists still think that during this period asteroids pummelled the young Earth and its neighbouring planets in what has become known as the Late Heavy Bombardment.

    An asteroid impact is one of the events that could have created what is called an evolutionary bottleneck, whereby a few species are able to dominate, often as the result of a sudden decrease in the number of other organisms, says Sleep.

    If a big asteroid were to hit Earth, the planet’s surface temperature would sky-rocket and the oceans would vaporize into the atmosphere. It would be catastrophic for the majority of life on Earth. But if an organism could survive that, it would be able to take over the planet – and possibly evolve over the course of billions of years to what would eventually become humans.

    “If you wipe out most life geologically, the survivors are going to find a lot of vacant niches to occupy, and there will be rapid evolution,” Sleep tells Astrobiology Magazine. For example, thermophiles (which are heat-loving organisms) may have been able to survive temperatures that would have killed other organisms.

    “This type of bottleneck, we know from the physics,” Sleep says. “The inside of Earth would be cooler, thermal microbes would be comfortable.”

    A fragment of rock from the Acasta Gneiss formation in Canada’s Northwestern Territories, which contains the oldest known exposed rock in the world. Could carbon, sequestered in such rocks, reveal the existence of asteroid impacts that caused evolutionary bottlenecks? Image credit: Pedroalexandrade/Wikimedia Commons.

    Carbon-based evidence

    Unfortunately, ancient asteroid impacts are difficult to detect in Earth’s geology, in part because of our planet’s shifting tectonic plates. However, traces of sequestered carbon trapped in ancient rocks could offer a clue: post-catastrophic asteroid impact, the atmosphere would have contained abundant quantities of carbon dioxide, linked to the high temperatures and high atmospheric pressures that would have made it difficult for live to thrive on Earth. “The Earth did not become habitable until the bulk of this carbon dioxide was subducted into the mantle,” Sleep writes in his paper. So far, scientists have not found reliable evidence of this sequestered carbon dioxide.

    Another evolutionary bottleneck for life could have been innovation: an organism innovates a trait that makes it very fit for its environment, and it is able to outcompete other organisms. “It quickly takes over all suitable habitable places on Earth and it becomes very abundant very quickly,” says Sleep.

    An example would be an organism that evolves the ability to use iron or sulfur to photosynthesize. “The organism goes from being dependent on hydrogen to sunlight, and its biomass increases by an order of magnitude,” he says.

    “Once this threshold was reached, the transition would be rapid, as in human time scale: years, hundreds of years, millennia. The organism could go from just barely eking it out, to multiplying and inhabiting the whole planet.

    “These are all potentially testable hypotheses,” he says.

    His paper notes that the majority of known mineral species owe their existence to biological processes.

    Getting people thinking

    When asked which was the most likely cause of these bottlenecks, Sleep says it was probably a mixture of both. The purpose of his paper was not to advocate one cause over another, but “to get people thinking”

    “It is to get people to work together, [to] pose things in a way that is helpful to everybody, [and] stir up more thinking about it,” he says.

    William Martin, Director of the Institute for Molecular Evolution at Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf, reveals to Astrobiology Magazine that “There is a diversity of views in both disciplines, [and] getting everyone on the same page is no easy task. [Sleep] made a great effort to reach out across disciplines, that is for sure. Views about early evolution change slowly, but [Norm Sleep’s paper] is an important contribution.

    Ultimately geology is crucial, as it defines the environment within which biologists and chemists have to operate, he says.

    Sleep’s research was performed as part of collaboration with the NASA Astrobiology Institute Virtual Planetary Laboratory Lead Team.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 9:37 pm on October 5, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 'Choosy' Electronic Correlations Dominate Metallic State of Iron Superconductor, , , Chemistry, , HTS-high-temperature superconductors, , ,   

    From Brookhaven National Lab: “‘Choosy’ Electronic Correlations Dominate Metallic State of Iron Superconductor” 

    From Brookhaven National Lab

    October 3, 2018
    Ariana Tantillo

    Finding could lead to a universal explanation of how two radically different types of materials—an insulator and a metal—can perfectly carry electrical current at relatively high temperatures.

    Scientists discovered strong electronic correlations in certain orbitals, or energy shells, in the metallic state of the high-temperature superconductor iron selenide (FeSe). A schematic of the arrangement of the Se and Fe atoms is shown on the left; on the right is an image of the Se atoms in the termination layer of an FeSe crystal. Only the electron orbitals from the Fe atoms contribute to the orbital selectivity in the metallic state.

    Two families of high-temperature superconductors (HTS)—materials that can conduct electricity without energy loss at unusually high (but still quite cold) temperatures—may be more closely related than scientists originally thought.

    Beyond their layered crystal structures and the fact that they become superconducting when “doped” with atoms of other elements and cooled to a critical temperature, copper-based and iron-based HTS seemingly have little in common. After all, one material is normally an insulator (copper-based), and the other is a metal (iron-based). But a multi-institutional team of scientists has now presented new evidence suggesting that these radically different materials secretly share an important feature: strong electronic correlations. Such correlations occur when electrons move together in a highly coordinated way.

    “Theory has long predicted that strong electronic correlations can remain hidden in plain sight in a Hund’s metal,” said team member J.C. Seamus Davis, a physicist in the Condensed Matter Physics and Materials Science at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory and the James Gilbert White Distinguished Professor in the Physical Sciences at Cornell University. “A Hund’s metal is a unique new type of electronic fluid in which the electrons from different orbitals, or energy shells, maintain very different degrees of correlation as they move through the material. By visualizing the orbital identity and correlation strength for different electrons in the metal iron selenide (FeSe), we discovered that orbital-selective strong correlations are present in this iron-based HTS.”

    It is yet to be determined if such correlations are characteristic of iron-based HTS in general. If proven to exist across both families of materials, they would provide the universal key ingredient in the recipe for high-temperature superconductivity. Finding this recipe has been a holy grail of condensed matter physics for decades, as it is key to developing more energy-efficient materials for medicine, electronics, transportation, and other applications.

    Experiment meets theory

    Since the discovery of iron-based HTS in 2008 (more than 20 years after that of copper-based HTS), scientists have been trying to understand the behavior of these unique materials. Confusion arose immediately because high-temperature superconductivity in copper-based materials emerges from a strongly correlated insulating state, but in iron-based HTS, it always emerges from a metallic state that lacks direct signatures of correlations. This distinction suggested that strong correlations were not essential—or perhaps even relevant—to high-temperature superconductivity. However, advanced theory soon provided another explanation. Because Fe-based materials have multiple active Fe orbitals, intense electronic correlations could exist but remain hidden due to orbital selectivity in the Hund’s metal state, yet still generate high-temperature superconductivity.

    In this study, recently described in Nature Materials, the team—including Brian Andersen of Copenhagen University, Peter Hirschfeld of the University of Florida, and Paul Canfield of DOE’s Ames National Laboratory—used a scanning tunneling microscope to image the quasiparticle interference of electrons in FeSe samples synthesized and characterized at Ames National Lab. Quasiparticle interference refers to the wave patterns that result when electrons are scattered due to atomic-scale defects—such as impurity atoms or vacancies—in the crystal lattice.

    The spectroscopic imaging scanning tunneling microscope used for this study, in three different views.

    Spectroscopic imaging scanning tunneling microcopy can be used to visualize these interference patterns, which are characteristic of the microscopic behavior of electrons. In this technique, a single-atom probe moves back and forth very close to the sample’s surface in extremely tiny steps (as small as two trillionths of a meter) while measuring the amount of electrical current that is flowing between the single atom on the probe tip and the material, under an applied voltage.

    Their analysis of the interference patterns in FeSe revealed that the electronic correlations are orbitally selective—they depend on which orbital each electron comes from. By measuring the strength of the electronic correlations (i.e., amplitude of the quasiparticle interference patterns), they determined that some orbitals show very weak correlation, whereas others show very strong correlation.

    The next question to investigate is whether the orbital-selective electronic correlations are related to superconductivity. If the correlations act as a “glue” that binds electrons together into the pairs required to carry superconducting current—as is thought to happen in the copper-oxide HTS—a single picture of high-temperature superconductivity may emerge.

    Experimental studies were carried out by the former Center for Emergent Superconductivity, a DOE Energy Frontier Research Center at Brookhaven, and the research was supported by DOE’s Office of Science, the Moore Foundation’s Emergent Phenomena in Quantum Physics (EPiQS) Initiative, and a Lundbeckfond Fellowship.

    See the full article here .


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    BNL RHIC Campus

    BNL/RHIC Star Detector


    One of ten national laboratories overseen and primarily funded by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Brookhaven National Laboratory conducts research in the physical, biomedical, and environmental sciences, as well as in energy technologies and national security. Brookhaven Lab also builds and operates major scientific facilities available to university, industry and government researchers. The Laboratory’s almost 3,000 scientists, engineers, and support staff are joined each year by more than 5,000 visiting researchers from around the world. Brookhaven is operated and managed for DOE’s Office of Science by Brookhaven Science Associates, a limited-liability company founded by Stony Brook University, the largest academic user of Laboratory facilities, and Battelle, a nonprofit, applied science and technology organization.

  • richardmitnick 11:38 am on September 29, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Actinide chemistry, , , , Chemistry, Computational chemistry, , , Microsoft Quantum Development Kit, NWChem an open source high-performance computational chemistry tool funded by DOE, , Quantum Information Science   

    From Pacific Northwest National Lab: “PNNL’s capabilities in quantum information sciences get boost from DOE grant and new Microsoft partnership” 

    From Pacific Northwest National Lab

    September 28, 2018
    Susan Bauer, PNNL,
    (509) 372-6083

    No image caption or credit

    On Monday, September 24, the U.S. Department of Energy announced $218 million in funding for dozens of research awards in the field of Quantum Information Science. Nearly $2 million was awarded to DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for a new quantum computing chemistry project.

    “This award will be used to create novel computational chemistry tools to help solve fundamental problems in catalysis, actinide chemistry, and materials science,” said principal investigator Karol Kowalski. “By collaborating with the quantum computing experts at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the University of Michigan, we believe we can help reshape the landscape of computational chemistry.”

    Kowalski’s proposal was chosen along with 84 others to further the nation’s research in QIS and lay the foundation for the next generation of computing and information processing as well as an array of other innovative technologies.

    While Kowalski’s work will take place over the next three years, computational chemists everywhere will experience a more immediate upgrade to their capabilities in computational chemistry made possible by a new PNNL-Microsoft partnership.

    “We are working with Microsoft to combine their quantum computing software stack with our expertise on high-performance computing approaches to quantum chemistry,” said Sriram Krishnamoorthy who leads PNNL’s side of this collaboration.

    Microsoft will soon release an update to the Microsoft Quantum Development Kit which will include a new chemical simulation library developed in collaboration with PNNL. The library is used in conjunction with NWChem, an open source, high-performance computational chemistry tool funded by DOE. Together, the chemistry library and NWChem will help enable quantum solutions and allow researchers and developers a higher level of study and discovery.

    “Researchers everywhere will be able to tackle chemistry challenges with an accuracy and at a scale we haven’t experienced before,” said Nathan Baker, director of PNNL’s Advanced Computing, Mathematics, and Data Division. Wendy Shaw, the lab’s division director for physical sciences, agrees with Baker. “Development and applications of quantum computing to catalysis problems has the ability to revolutionize our ability to predict robust catalysts that mimic features of naturally occurring, high-performing catalysts, like nitrogenase,” said Shaw about the application of QIS to her team’s work.

    PNNL’s aggressive focus on quantum information science is driven by a research interest in the capability and by national priorities. In September, the White House published the National Strategic Overview for Quantum Information Science and hosted a summit on the topic. Through their efforts, researchers hope to unleash quantum’s unprecedented processing power and challenge traditional limits for scaling and performance.

    In addition to the new DOE funding, PNNL is also pushing work in quantum conversion through internal investments. Researchers are determining which software architectures allow for efficient use of QIS platforms, designing QIS systems for specific technologies, imagining what scientific problems can best be solved using QIS systems, and identifying materials and properties to build quantum systems. The effort is cross-disciplinary; PNNL scientists from its computing, chemistry, physics, and applied mathematics domains are all collaborating on quantum research and pushing to apply their discoveries. “The idea for this internal investment is that PNNL scientists will take that knowledge to build capabilities impacting catalysis, computational chemistry, materials science, and many other areas,” said Krishnamoorthy.

    Krishnamoorthy wants QIS to be among the priorities that researchers think about applying to all of PNNL’s mission areas. With continued investment from the DOE and partnerships with industry leaders like Microsoft, that just might happen.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is one of the United States Department of Energy National Laboratories, managed by the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. The main campus of the laboratory is in Richland, Washington.

    PNNL scientists conduct basic and applied research and development to strengthen U.S. scientific foundations for fundamental research and innovation; prevent and counter acts of terrorism through applied research in information analysis, cyber security, and the nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction; increase the U.S. energy capacity and reduce dependence on imported oil; and reduce the effects of human activity on the environment. PNNL has been operated by Battelle Memorial Institute since 1965.


  • richardmitnick 4:51 pm on September 28, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Chemistry, , ,   

    From World Community Grid (WCG): “A Graduation, a Paper, and a Continuing Search for the ‘Help Stop TB’ Researchers” 

    New WCG Logo


    From World Community Grid (WCG)

    By: Dr. Anna Croft
    University of Nottingham, UK
    28 Sep 2018

    In this update, principal investigator Dr. Anna Croft shares two recent milestones for the Help Stop TB research team, and discusses their continuing search for additional researchers.

    The Help Stop TB (HSTB) project uses the massive computing power of World Community Grid to examine part of the coating of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes tuberculosis. We hope that by learning more about the mycolic acids that are part of this coating, we can contribute to the search for better treatments for tuberculosis, which is one of the world’s deadliest diseases.

    Graduation Ceremony for Dr. Athina Meletiou

    In recent news for the HSTB project, Dr. Athina Meletiou has now officially graduated. It was a lovely day, finished off with some Pimms and Lemonade in the British tradition.

    Athina (center) with supervisors Christof (left) and Anna (right)

    Athina and her scientific “body-guard,” Christof

    Search for New Team Members Continues

    We are still looking for suitably qualified chemists, biochemists, mathematicians, engineers and computer scientists to join our team, especially to develop the new analytical approaches (including machine-learning approaches) to understand the substantial data generated by the World Community Grid volunteers.

    We will be talking to students from our BBSRC-funded doctoral training scheme in the next few days and encouraging them to join the project. Click here for more details.

    Paper Published

    Dr. Wilma Groenwald, one of the founding researchers for the HSTB project, recently published a paper describing some of the precursor work to the project. The paper, which discusses the folding behavior of mycolic acids, is now freely available on ChemRXiv Revealing Solvent-Dependent Folding Behavior of Mycolic Acids from Mycobacterium Tuberculosis by Advanced Simulation Analysis.

    We hope to have Athina’s first papers with World Community Grid data available later in the year, and will keep you updated.

    Thank you to all volunteers for your support.

    See the full article here.


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Ways to access the blog:
    World Community Grid (WCG) brings people together from across the globe to create the largest non-profit computing grid benefiting humanity. It does this by pooling surplus computer processing power. We believe that innovation combined with visionary scientific research and large-scale volunteerism can help make the planet smarter. Our success depends on like-minded individuals – like you.”
    WCG projects run on BOINC software from UC Berkeley.

    BOINC is a leader in the field(s) of Distributed Computing, Grid Computing and Citizen Cyberscience.BOINC is more properly the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing.

    BOINC WallPaper


    My BOINC
    “Download and install secure, free software that captures your computer’s spare power when it is on, but idle. You will then be a World Community Grid volunteer. It’s that simple!” You can download the software at either WCG or BOINC.

    Please visit the project pages-

    Microbiome Immunity Project

    FightAIDS@home Phase II

    FAAH Phase II

    Rutgers Open Zika

    Help Stop TB
    WCG Help Stop TB
    Outsmart Ebola together

    Outsmart Ebola Together

    Mapping Cancer Markers

    Uncovering Genome Mysteries
    Uncovering Genome Mysteries

    Say No to Schistosoma

    GO Fight Against Malaria

    Drug Search for Leishmaniasis

    Computing for Clean Water

    The Clean Energy Project

    Discovering Dengue Drugs – Together

    Help Cure Muscular Dystrophy

    Help Fight Childhood Cancer

    Help Conquer Cancer

    Human Proteome Folding




    World Community Grid is a social initiative of IBM Corporation
    IBM Corporation

    IBM – Smarter Planet

  • richardmitnick 11:00 am on September 28, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Chemistry, GRIK1, How a Molecular Signal Helps Plant Cells Decide When to Make Oil, How a sugar-signaling molecule helps regulate oil production in plant cells, KIN10, Microscale thermophoresis, The work could point to new ways to engineer plants to produce substantial amounts of oil for use as biofuels or in the production of other oil-based products, Trehalose 6-phosphate (T6P)   

    From Brookhaven National Lab: “How a Molecular Signal Helps Plant Cells Decide When to Make Oil” 

    From Brookhaven National Lab

    September 24, 2018
    Karen McNulty Walsh
    (631) 344-8350

    Peter Genzer
    (631) 344-3174

    Details of mechanism suggest new strategy for engineering plants to make more oil.

    Jantana Keereetaweep, John Shanklin, and Zhiyang Zhai prepare samples for studying the biochemical pathways that regulate oil production in plants.

    A study at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory identifies new details of how a sugar-signaling molecule helps regulate oil production in plant cells. As described in a paper appearing in the journal The Plant Cell, the work could point to new ways to engineer plants to produce substantial amounts of oil for use as biofuels or in the production of other oil-based products.

    The study builds on previous research led by Brookhaven Lab biochemist John Shanklin that established clear links between a protein complex that senses sugar levels in plant cells (specifically a subunit called KIN10) and another protein that serves as the “on switch” for oil production (WRINKLED1) [The Plant Cell]. Using this knowledge, Shanklin’s team recently demonstrated that they could use combinations of genetic variants that increase sugar accumulation in plant leaves to drive up oil production. The new work provides a more detailed understanding of the link between sugar signaling and oil production, identifying precisely which molecules regulate the balance and how.

    “If you were a cell, you’d want to know if you should be making new compounds or breaking existing ones down,” said Shanklin. “Making oil is demanding; you want to make it when you have lots of energy—which in cells is measured by the amount of sugar available. By understanding how the availability of sugar drives oil production, we hope to find ways to get plants to boost the priority of making oil.”

    The team’s earlier research revealed some key biochemical details of the sugar-oil balancing act. Specifically, they found that when sugar levels are low, the KIN10 portion of the sugar-sensing complex shuts off oil production by triggering degradation of the oil “on” switch (WRINKLED1). High sugar levels somehow prevented this degradation, leaving the on-switch protein stabilized to crank out oil. But the scientists didn’t understand exactly how.

    For the new paper, first authors Zhiyang Zhai and Jantana Keereetaweep led a detailed investigation to unravel how these molecular players interact to drive up oil production when sugar is abundant.

    The team used an emerging technique, called microscale thermophoresis, which uses fluorescent dyes and heat to precisely measure the strength of molecular interactions.

    “You label the molecules with a fluorescent dye and measure how they move away from a heat source,” Shanklin explained. “Then, if you add another molecule that binds to the labeled molecule, it changes the rate at which the labeled molecule moves away from the heat.”

    “Jan and Zhiyang’s rapid application of this novel technique to this tough research problem was key to solving it,” Shanklin said.

    When a plant is low on sugar (left), a cascade of molecular interactions degrades (DEG) a protein (W) that turns on fatty acid synthesis (FAS). However, when sugar levels are high (right), key steps in this process are blocked, leaving the W protein intact to start fatty acid (oil) production. KEY: K = KIN10, G = GRIK1, P = phosphoryl group, W = WRINKLED1, FAS = fatty acid synthesis, DEG = degradation, T6P = trehalose 6-phosphate. Faded molecules and pathways are less active than those shown in bold colors.

    Among the substances included in the study was a molecule known as trehalose 6-phosphate (T6P), the levels of which rise and fall with those of sugar. The study revealed that T6P interacts directly with the KIN10 component of the sugar-sensing complex. And it showed how that binding interferes with KIN10’s ability to shut off oil biosynthesis.

    “By measuring the interactions among many different molecules, we determined that the sugar-signaling molecule, T6P, binds with KIN10 and interferes with its interaction with a previously unidentified intermediate in this process, known as GRIK1, which is needed for KIN10 to tag WRINKLED1 for destruction. This explains how the signal affects the chain of events and leads to increased oil production,” Shanklin said. “It’s not just sugar but the signaling molecule that rises and falls with sugar that inhibits the oil shut-off mechanism.”

    To put this knowledge into action to increase oil production, the scientists will need even more details. So, the next step will be to get a close-up look at the interaction of T6P with its target protein, KIN10, at Brookhaven’s National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II). This DOE Office of Science user facility produces extremely bright x-rays, which the team will use to reveal exactly how the interacting molecules fit together.

    “With NSLS-II at Brookhaven Lab, we are in the perfect place to bring this research to the next stage,” Shanklin said. “There are unique tools available at the Light Source that will allow us to add atomic-level details to the interactions that we discovered.”


    And those details could point to ways to change the sequence of KIN10, T6P’s target protein, to mimic the effects of the interaction and modify the cell’s regulatory circuitry to prioritize the production of oil.

    This work was funded by the DOE Office of Science. John Lunn and Regina Feil from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology in Potsdam-Golm, Germany, collaborated on this study.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    BNL Campus



    BNL RHIC Campus

    BNL/RHIC Star Detector


    One of ten national laboratories overseen and primarily funded by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Brookhaven National Laboratory conducts research in the physical, biomedical, and environmental sciences, as well as in energy technologies and national security. Brookhaven Lab also builds and operates major scientific facilities available to university, industry and government researchers. The Laboratory’s almost 3,000 scientists, engineers, and support staff are joined each year by more than 5,000 visiting researchers from around the world. Brookhaven is operated and managed for DOE’s Office of Science by Brookhaven Science Associates, a limited-liability company founded by Stony Brook University, the largest academic user of Laboratory facilities, and Battelle, a nonprofit, applied science and technology organization.

  • richardmitnick 12:18 pm on September 24, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Chemistry, Liquid metal chemistry, Liquid metal discovery to make toxic water safe and drinkable, This filter is cheap, Turn water contaminated with heavy metals into safe drinking water in a matter of minutes,   

    From University of New South Wales: “Liquid metal discovery to make toxic water safe and drinkable” 

    U NSW bloc

    From University of New South Wales

    24 Sep 2018
    Lachlan Gilbert

    An innovation in liquid metal chemistry could help one tenth of the planet’s population get access to clean drinking water at very low cost following breakthrough research from UNSW Sydney and RMIT.

    Low-cost aluminium oxide filters processed by liquid gallium will remove lead and other heavy metals from water in minutes. Picture: Shutterstock

    UNSW and RMIT researchers have discovered a revolutionary and cheap way to make filters that can turn water contaminated with heavy metals into safe drinking water in a matter of minutes.

    Recent UNSW SHARP hire Professor Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh and his former colleagues at RMIT showed that nano-filters made of aluminium oxide could be cheaply produced using virtually no energy from a fixed amount of liquid metal gallium.

    In a paper published in Advanced Functional Materials, lead author Dr Ali Zavabeti (RMIT) and Professor Kalantar-zadeh explained that when a chunk of aluminium is added to the core of liquid gallium at room temperature, layers of aluminium oxide are quickly produced at the surface of the gallium.

    The authors discovered that these aluminium oxide nano-sheets were highly porous and went on to prove they were suitable for filtering both heavy metal ions and oil contamination at unprecedented, ultra-fast rates.

    Professor Kalantar-zadeh, who was recently awarded an ARC Australian Laureate Fellowship soon after joining UNSW’s School of Chemical Engineering, said that low cost and portable filters produced by this new liquid metal based manufacturing process could be used by people without access to clean drinking water to remove substances like lead and other toxic metals in a matter of minutes.

    “Because it’s super porous, water passes through very rapidly,” Professor Kalantar-zadeh said.

    “Lead and other heavy metals have a very high affinity to aluminium oxide. As the water passes through billions of layers, each one of these lead ions get attracted to one of these aluminium oxide sheets.

    “But at the same time, it’s very safe because with repeated use, the water flow cannot detach the heavy metal ions from the aluminium oxide.”

    Professor Kalantar-zadeh believes the technology could be put to good use in Africa and Asia in places where heavy metal ions in the water are at levels well beyond safe human consumption. It is estimated that 790 million people, or one in 10 of the Earth’s population, do not have access to clean water.

    “If you’ve got bad quality water, you just take a gadget with one of these filters with you,” he said.

    “You pour the contaminated water in the top of a flask with the aluminium oxide filter. Wait two minutes and the water that passes through the filter is now very clean water, completely drinkable.

    “And the good thing is, this filter is cheap.”

    There are portable filtration products available that do remove heavy metals from water, but they are comparatively expensive, often costing more than $100.

    By contrast, aluminium oxide filters produced from liquid gallium could be produced for as little as 10 cents, making them attractive to prospective manufacturers.

    A liquid metal droplet with flakes of aluminium oxide compounds grown on its surface. Each 0.03mm flake is made up of about 20,000 nano-sheets stacked together. No image credit.

    “Up until now, to produce aluminium oxide, you need to process aluminium at above 1000 degrees or use other energy intensive processes,” Professor Kalantar-zadeh said.

    “It would normally consume so much energy to make anything like this filter, making it hugely expensive.

    “Now we’re talking about something you can do even under the sun in summer at 35 degrees.”

    While aluminium is a plentiful and cheap metal, gallium is relatively expensive. But what makes gallium the hero in the process is the fact that it remains pure and unchanged after each production of aluminium oxide.

    “You just add aluminium to the gallium and out comes aluminium oxide when its surface is exposed to water. You can use gallium again and again. Gallium never participates in the reaction,” Professor Kalanter-zadeh said.

    Professor Kalantar-zadeh said the manufacture process is so cheap and requiring such low expenditure of energy, these filters could even be made out of a kitchen.

    “We are publishing this concept and releasing it to the public domain, so people around the world can use the idea for free and implement it for enhancing the quality of their lives,” he said.

    “This is all about a new paradigm. We haven’t even begun to explore how we can use liquid metals as a base for manufacturing things that are cheap, green and safe for humans.”

    The work led by Professor Kalantar-zadeh and Dr Zavabeti was funded by The ARC Centre for Future Low-Energy Electronics Technologies (FLEET).

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U NSW Campus

    Welcome to UNSW Australia (The University of New South Wales), one of Australia’s leading research and teaching universities. At UNSW, we take pride in the broad range and high quality of our teaching programs. Our teaching gains strength and currency from our research activities, strong industry links and our international nature; UNSW has a strong regional and global engagement.

    In developing new ideas and promoting lasting knowledge we are creating an academic environment where outstanding students and scholars from around the world can be inspired to excel in their programs of study and research. Partnerships with both local and global communities allow UNSW to share knowledge, debate and research outcomes. UNSW’s public events include concert performances, open days and public forums on issues such as the environment, healthcare and global politics. We encourage you to explore the UNSW website so you can find out more about what we do.

  • richardmitnick 4:01 pm on September 20, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Chemistry, His first award in 1954 was in chemistry. His second eight years later was the Peace Prize, Linus Pauling: The man who won two Nobel Prizes   

    From COSMOS Magazine: “Linus Pauling: The man who won two Nobel Prizes” 

    Cosmos Magazine bloc

    From COSMOS Magazine

    20 September 2018

    Credit: Jeffrey Phillips

    Technically speaking, Linus Carl Pauling failed high school, even though he was ferociously smart.

    By the age of 15 – this would have been in 1916 – he had earned enough high school credits to win admission to Oregon State University. However, because he had not completed two mandatory American history courses the school refused to give him a diploma.

    He was finally presented with the all-important piece of paper 45 years later, by which point it was arguably a redundant gesture. After all, by then Pauling had won two Nobel Prizes, and was generally regarded as one of the most important scientists of all time.

    Pauling – born in the US city of Portland, Oregon, in 1901 – is one of only four people to be awarded two Nobels, and one of only two to achieve the feat in completely different fields.*

    His first award, in 1954, was in chemistry. His second, eight years later, was the Peace Prize, recognising an energetic commitment to nuclear disarmament that began in 1946 when he joined an organisation called the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists, alongside Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell and a small group of other prominent researchers.

    As a chemist, Pauling’s work was truly foundational in fields as distant as organic chemistry and molecular biology. For instance, his research served as the basis of later investigations by Francis Crick, Rosalind Franklin and James Watson that resulted in the discovery of the structure of DNA.

    He is regularly included in lists of the all-time great scientists, but if it wasn’t for a chance experience during his childhood his life may have taken an entirely different shape.

    Following the birth of his sister, Pauline, Linus Pauling’s parents uprooted the family and, after a couple of intermediate stops, relocated to the Oregon town of Condon. By then a second sister, Lucile, had joined the family.

    His father, Herman, was a travelling salesman and later drugstore owner, who died from a perforated ulcer when Linus was just nine, leaving his mother, Lucy, to raise the family.

    One day, when he was about 10, he visited a friend, who happened to be playing with small chemistry kit. Pauling was immediately entranced, and from that moment dreamed of nothing but becoming a chemist. (The friend, Lloyd Jeffress, went on to become a professor of experimental psychology at the University of Texas.)

    Spurred into action, and while still at school, Pauling and another mate set up a laboratory in a basement and offered to run quality tests on butterfat for local dairy farmers. It was not a successful venture.

    In order to put himself through university, Linus took a variety of jobs, including working as a grocery retailer, a machinist and a photographic developer. On campus, he quickly distinguished himself, and was offered teaching positions before even earning his first degree. After leaving Oregon State he went to Caltech and received his PhD in physical chemistry and mathematical physics.

    By the time he died in 1994, Pauling had published more than 1,200 books and papers. Despite his success, and his willingness to campaign hard for the causes in which he believed, he was not without his critics.

    The difference between genius and eccentricity is sometimes difficult to distinguish and in his later years, following a bout of kidney disease, he became increasingly obsessed with the role of vitamins in treating illness.

    It is almost entirely because of his advocacy that today vitamin C is firmly associated with good health. Sometimes that advocacy crossed the boundary between science and obsession. Throughout the second half of his life he continued to suggest that high doses of vitamin C could cure cancer, despite many studies finding no evidence to support the contention.

    Despite this, however, today he is remembered primarily as a brilliant researcher who made very real and substantial contributions to areas as diverse as quantum mechanics and medicine. His memory is honoured across the US and beyond. Oregon has a public holiday bearing his name, which also adorns several streets in various states, a research centre at Oxford University in the UK – and an asteroid that orbits the sun every 926 days.

    *Marie Curie was the other one, in case you were wondering.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

  • richardmitnick 9:36 am on September 17, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Chemistry, Rutgers Opens State-of-the-Art Chemistry and Chemical Biology Building,   

    From Rutgers University: “Rutgers Opens State-of-the-Art Chemistry and Chemical Biology Building” 

    Rutgers smaller
    Our Great Seal.

    From Rutgers University

    September 13, 2018
    Neal Buccino

    Peter March, executive dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, speaks at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new 144,000-square-foot Chemistry and Chemical Biology building.
    Photo: Nick Romanenko

    New Chemistry and Chemical Biology Building. Flad Architects

    The new home for the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Rutgers University–New Brunswick, which provides expanded teaching, laboratory and support space, is open for classes and research.

    Rutgers University President Robert Barchi and Rutgers–New Brunswick Interim Chancellor Christopher Molloy on Friday unveiled the building that launches a new era in research and education.

    The four-story, 144,000-square-foot facility will help accelerate innovative work in biophysical chemistry related to human health, drug design and synthesis, alternative energy, biomaterials, nanotechnology and other fields. The $115 million project was funded largely by New Jersey’s 2012 Building Our Future Bond Act.

    “We’re grateful to the people of the state for their investment in the bond act, and we’ve created a facility they can be proud of,” President Barchi said. “It is both visually appealing in its architecture and equipped with state-of-the-art laboratories that will enable our scientists and students to make important new discoveries.”

    Interim Chancellor Molloy said, “Rutgers’ chemistry and chemical biology research is discovering new ways to improve lives, from clean energy solutions, to potential new treatments for cancer and HIV, to high-speed computing. We’re preparing students for success in fields from pharmaceuticals to flavors, from petroleum to semiconductors. This new building will allow us to do even more.”

    “The Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology educates thousands of undergraduates and graduate students, and produces research that benefits health, energy, and the environment,” said School of Arts and Sciences Executive Dean Peter March. “Now the department has a fitting 21st century home.”

    “Designed with an eye toward collaboration, combining instructional spaces with flexible research spaces, and inviting common areas, the building will enhance already excellent teaching and research,” said Arts and Sciences Vice Dean of Research and Graduate Studies and Distinguished Professor of Chemistry Jean Baum. “The new possibilities will attract graduate students and new faculty and bolster our partnership with industry.”

    Graduate student Tariq Bhatti leads visitors on a tour in the new Chemistry and Chemical Biology building. Photo: Nick Romanenko.

    More than 6,000 Rutgers students take chemistry courses each semester, and they will benefit from the new classrooms and labs. The building allows the university to expand upon its tradition of collaborative research with leading academic labs, federal agencies and private companies in New Jersey and around the world. The building includes a microscopy suite and optical spectroscopy, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and X-ray crystallography laboratories. The facility’s modular design and versatile infrastructure allow reconfiguration of labs and classrooms to respond as teaching methods and technology evolve and the needs of students and faculty change. Common areas are designed to promote collaborations.

    Adjacent to the Wright-Reiman Chemistry complex on the Busch campus, the new building’s front courtyard features The PhD Molecule, a 27-foot-tall sculpture by Larry Kirkland, which includes a stainless steel depiction of a caffeine molecule on a black granite base representing a blackboard with etched chemistry symbols.

    In addition to conforming to New Jersey energy mandates and guidelines, Rutgers seeks to achieve a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification for the building by reducing its energy usage. Green features include windows that maximize natural light and manage heat gain, advanced air handling and exhaust systems, construction materials made from a significant percentage of recycled content and native vegetation to encourage biodiversity and reduce the need for irrigation.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition


    Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is a leading national research university and the state’s preeminent, comprehensive public institution of higher education. Rutgers is dedicated to teaching that meets the highest standards of excellence; to conducting research that breaks new ground; and to providing services, solutions, and clinical care that help individuals and the local, national, and global communities where they live.

    Founded in 1766, Rutgers teaches across the full educational spectrum: preschool to precollege; undergraduate to graduate; postdoctoral fellowships to residencies; and continuing education for professional and personal advancement.

    As a ’67 graduate of University college, second in my class, I am proud to be a member of

    Alpha Sigma Lamda, National Honor Society of non-tradional students.

  • richardmitnick 9:55 am on September 16, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: A new level of “self-awareness” to Earth’s self-regulation which is at the heart of the original Gaia theory, , , , Chemistry, Creating transformative solutions to the global changes that humans are now causing is a key focus of the University of Exeter’s new Global Systems Institute, , GAIA 2.0, , , Selection by survival alone, Self-regulating system, Stability comes from “sequential selection”   

    From Astrobiology Magazine: ” Famous theory of the living Earth upgraded to ‘Gaia 2.0’ “ 

    Astrobiology Magazine

    From Astrobiology Magazine



    Sep 15, 2018
    No writer credit

    The original Gaia Theory was developed in the late 1960’s by James Lovelock, a British scientist and inventor. Credit: NASA

    James Lovelock. The original uploader was Bruno Comby at English Wikipedia.

    A time-honoured theory into why conditions on Earth have remained stable enough for life to evolve over billions of years has been given a new, innovative twist.

    For around half a century, the ‘Gaia’ hypothesis has provided a unique way of understanding how life has persisted on Earth.

    It champions the idea that living organisms and their inorganic surroundings evolved together as a single, self-regulating system that has kept the planet habitable for life – despite threats such as a brightening Sun, volcanoes and meteorite strikes.

    However, Professor Tim Lenton from the University of Exeter and famed French sociologist of science Professor Bruno Latour are now arguing that humans have the potential to ‘upgrade’ this planetary operating system to create “Gaia 2.0”.

    They believe that the evolution of both humans and their technology could add a new level of “self-awareness” to Earth’s self-regulation, which is at the heart of the original Gaia theory.

    As humans become more aware of the global consequences of their actions, including climate change, a new kind of deliberate self-regulation becomes possible where we limit our impacts on the planet.

    Professors Lenton and Latour suggest that this “conscience choice” to self-regulate introduces a “fundamental new state of Gaia” – which could help us achieve greater global sustainability in the future.

    However, such self-aware self-regulation relies on our ability to continually monitor and model the state of the planet and our effects upon it.

    Professor Lenton, Director of Exeter’s new Global Systems Institute, said: “If we are to create a better world for the growing human population this century then we need to regulate our impacts on our life support-system, and deliberately create a more circular economy that relies – like the biosphere – on the recycling of materials powered by sustainable energy.”

    The original Gaia Theory was developed in the late 1960’s by James Lovelock, a British scientist and inventor. It suggested that both the organic and inorganic components of Earth evolved together as one single, self-regulating system which can control global temperature and atmospheric composition to maintain its own habitability.

    The new perspective article is published in leading journal Science on September 14, 2018.

    It follows recent research, led by Professor Lenton, which offered a fresh solution to how the Gaia hypothesis works in real terms: Stability comes from “sequential selection” in which situations where life destabilises the environment tend to be short-lived and result in further change until a stable situation emerges, which then tends to persist.

    Once this happens, the system has more time to acquire further properties that help to stabilise and maintain it – a process known as “selection by survival alone”.

    Creating transformative solutions to the global changes that humans are now causing is a key focus of the University of Exeter’s new Global Systems Institute.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

  • richardmitnick 12:50 pm on September 14, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Chemistry, , Synthesis studies transform waste sugar for sustainable energy storage applications   

    From Oak Ridge National Laboratory: “Synthesis studies transform waste sugar for sustainable energy storage applications” 


    From Oak Ridge National Laboratory

    September 6, 2018
    Scott Jones, Communications

    A molecular dynamics simulation depicts solid (black) and hollow (multicolored) carbon spheres derived from the waste sugar streams of biorefineries. The properties of the hollow spheres are ideal for developing energy storage devices called supercapacitors. Credit: Monojoy Goswami/ORNL

    Biorefinery facilities are critical to fueling the economy—converting wood chips, grass clippings, and other biological materials into fuels, heat, power, and chemicals.

    A research team at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Oak Ridge National Laboratory has now discovered a way to create functional materials from the impure waste sugars produced in the biorefining processes.

    Using hydrothermal carbonization, a synthesis technique that converts biomass into carbon under high temperature and pressure conditions, the team transformed waste sugar into spherical carbon materials. These carbon spheres could be used to form improved supercapacitors, which are energy storage devices that help power technologies including smartphones, hybrid vehicles, and security alarm systems. The team’s results are published in Scientific Reports, a Nature research journal.

    “The significant finding is that we found a way to take sugar from plants and other organic matter and use it to make different structures,” said Amit Naskar, a senior researcher in ORNL’s Materials Science and Technology Division. “Knowing the physics behind how those structures form can help us improve components of energy storage.”

    By modifying the synthesis process, the researchers created two varieties of the novel carbon spheres. Combining sugar and water under pressure resulted in solid spheres, whereas replacing water with an emulsion substance (a liquid that uses chemicals to combine oil and water) typically produced hollow spheres instead.

    “Just by substituting water for this other liquid, we can control the shape of the carbon, which could have huge implications for supercapacitor performance,” said Hoi Chun Ho, a PhD candidate working with Naskar at the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education, a joint venture of ORNL and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. The team also discovered that altering the duration of synthesis directly affected the size and shape of the spheres.

    To further explore the discrepancies between solid and hollow carbon structures, the team ran synthesis simulations on the Cray XK7 Titan supercomputer at the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF), a DOE Office of Science User Facility located at ORNL.

    ORNL Cray Titan XK7 Supercomputer

    They also used transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and small-angle x-ray scattering (SAXS) tools at the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences (CNMS), another DOE Office of Science User Facility, to characterize the capabilities and structure of the carbon samples.

    From left, Andrew Lupini and Juan Carlos Idrobo use ORNL’s new monochromated, aberration-corrected scanning transmission electron microscope, a Nion HERMES to take the temperatures of materials at the nanoscale. Image credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy; photographer Jason Richards

    “We wanted to determine what kind of surface area is good for energy storage applications, and we learned that the hollow spheres are more suitable,” said ORNL researcher Monojoy Goswami of CNMS and the Computer Science and Engineering Division. “Without these simulations and resources, we wouldn’t have been able to reach this fundamental understanding.”

    With this data the team tested a supercapacitor with electrodes made from hollow carbon spheres, which retained about 90 percent capacitance—the ability to store an electric charge—after 5,000 charge cycles. Although supercapacitors cannot store as much energy as batteries can store, they have many advantages over batteries, such as faster charging and exceptionally long lifetimes. Some technologies contain both batteries to provide everyday energy and supercapacitors to provide additional support during peak power demands.

    “Batteries often support smartphones and other electronic devices alone, but supercapacitors can be useful for many high-power applications,” Ho said. “For example, if a vehicle is driving up a steep hill with many passengers, the extra strain may cause the supercapacitor to kick in.”

    The pathway from waste sugar to hollow carbon spheres to supercapacitors demonstrates new potential for previously untapped byproducts from biorefineries. The researchers are planning projects to find and test other applications for carbon materials derived from waste sugar such as reinforcing polymer composites with carbon fibers.

    “Carbon can serve many useful purposes in addition to improving supercapacitors,” Ho said. “There is more work to be done to fully understand the structural evolution of carbon materials.”

    Making use of waste streams could also help scientists pursue forms of sustainable energy on a broader scale. According to the ORNL team, biorefineries can produce beneficial combinations of renewable energy and chemicals but are not yet profitable enough to compete with traditional energy sources. However, the researchers anticipate that developing useful materials from waste could help improve efficiency and reduce costs, making outputs from these facilities viable alternatives to oil and other fossil fuels.

    “Our goal is to use waste energy for green applications,” Goswami said. “That’s good for the environment, for the biorefinery industry, and for commerce.”

    Coauthors with Goswami, Ho, and Naskar are CNMS researchers Jihua Chen, who collected TEM data, and Jong Keum, who collected SAXS data. The research was supported by the Laboratory Directed Research and Development Program at ORNL with additional support from the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Bioenergy Technologies Office.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time.


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