From World Community Grid (WCG): “15 Years of Shining a Beacon for Science”

New WCG Logo


From World Community Grid (WCG)

15 Nov 2019

To mark World Community Grid’s 15th anniversary, we’re asking you as volunteers, researchers, and supporters to publicly show your support for science on social media, in our forum, and on your own website or blog.

“Basic research is performed without thought of practical ends. It results in general knowledge and understanding of nature and its laws. The general knowledge provides the means of answering a large number of important practical problems, though it may not give a complete specific answer to any one of them.”


Thanks to volunteers, researchers, and supporters of science all over the globe, World Community Grid has been a beacon for scientific research since 2004. What started out as a short-term initiative has grown into a major source of computing power for 30 basic science projects to-date. So far, this has led to breakthrough discoveries for childhood cancer, water filtration, and renewable energy, as well as more than 50 peer-reviewed papers about many smaller discoveries that may one day lead to future breakthroughs.

Future discoveries depend on the basic research of yesterday and today. And basic research projects often uncover knowledge no one expected, and lead to paths that were previously unknown. This past year, World Community Grid’s contribution to advances in basic research included:

Working with the FightAIDS@Home researchers to create a new, more efficient sampling protocol
Helping the Microbiome Immunity Project researchers predict almost 200,000 unique protein structures, which is more than all the experimentally solved protein structures to-date
Providing data to help lay the ground for new tools to analyze protein-protein interactions.

This is only possible because of generous volunteers who donate their unused computing power to research, and scientists who have the unique skills and patience to take on challenging problems that have no obvious answers.

We’re inviting everyone involved with World Community Grid to shine a beacon for science this week to help us celebrate our 15th anniversary. You can do this by:

Creating your own social media posts on your favorite platform (tag us on Twitter or Facebook so we can say thanks, and use the hashtag #Beacon4Science)
Posting your thoughts about being involved in World Community Grid in our forum
Sharing our Facebook post and/or retweeting our tweets on starting on Saturday, November 16
Sending us an email with your thoughts at

Feel free to include pictures or videos, especially if they’re science or World Community Grid-related.

Thanks for helping us shine a beacon for science since 2004, and we look forward to continuing our important work together.

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


“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


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

#basic-research, #biology, #chemistry, #physics, #wcg

From The New York Times: “Ultra-Black Is the New Black”

New York Times

From The New York Times

Nov. 11, 2019
Natalie Angier

A work by the M.I.T. artist-in-residence Diemut Strebe: a 16.78-carat diamond, one of the most brilliant materials on Earth, under a glass dome and cloaked in black carbon nanotube material, the blackest black we know.Credit…Diemut Strebe

On a laboratory bench at the National Institute of Standards and Technology was a square tray with two black disks inside, each about the width of the top of a Dixie cup. Both disks were undeniably black, yet they didn’t look quite the same.

Solomon Woods, 49, a trim, dark-haired, soft-spoken physicist, was about to demonstrate how different they were, and how serenely voracious a black could be.

“The human eye is extraordinarily sensitive to light,” Dr. Woods said. Throw a few dozen photons its way, a few dozen quantum-sized packets of light, and the eye can readily track them.

Dr. Woods pulled a laser pointer from his pocket. “This pointer,” he said, “puts out 100 trillion photons per second.” He switched on the laser and began slowly sweeping its bright beam across the surface of the tray.

On hitting the white background, the light bounced back almost unimpeded, as rude as a glaring headlight in a rearview mirror.

The beam moved to the first black disk, a rondel of engineered carbon now more than a decade old. The light dimmed significantly, as a sizable tranche of the incident photons were absorbed by the black pigment, yet the glow remained surprisingly strong.

Finally Dr. Woods trained his pointer on the second black disk, and suddenly the laser’s brilliant beam, its brash photonic probe, simply — disappeared. Trillions of light particles were striking the black disk, and virtually none were winking back up again. It was like watching a circus performer swallow a sword, or a husband “share” your plate of French fries: Hey, where did it all go?

N.I.S.T. disk number two was an example of advanced ultra-black technology: elaborately engineered arrays of tiny carbon cylinders, or nanotubes, designed to capture and muzzle any light they encounter. Blacker is the new black, and researchers here and abroad are working to create ever more efficient light traps, which means fabricating materials that look ever darker, ever flatter, ever more ripped from the void.

The N.I.S.T. ultra-black absorbs at least 99.99 percent of the light that stumbles into its nanotube forest. But scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reported in September the creation of a carbon nanotube coating that they claim captures better than 99.995 of the incident light [NCBI].

“The blackest black should be a constantly improving number,” said Brian Wardle, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics and an author on the new report. “Folks will find other materials that are blacker than ours.”

Black carbon nanotube discs were arranged by Dr. Solomon Woods at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.Credit Matt Roth for The New York Times.

Dr. Woods, right, giving a tour of his lab to Dr. Nathan Tomlin, who works in Boulder’s N.I.S.T. facility making carbon nanotubes for study.Credit Matt Roth for The New York Times.

It’s not a mere ego-driven dance of the decimal point. The more fastidious and reliable the ultra-black, the more broadly useful it will prove to be — in solar power generators, radiometers, industrial baffles and telescopes primed to detect the faintest light fluxes as a distant planet traverses the face of its star.

The color of cleverness, and rage

Blacker beauties canter through the natural world, too. Biologists lately have identified cases of superblack coloration in birds, spiders and vipers that go far beyond the standard melanin-based pigments of a crow’s plumage or a black cat’s fur, and vie with lab-grown carbon nanotubes in their structural complexity and power to conquer light.

Psychologists have gathered evidence that black is among the most metaphorically loaded of all colors, and that we absorb our often contradictory impressions about black at a young age.

Reporting earlier this year in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, Robin Kramer and Joanne Prior of the University of Lincoln in the United Kingdom compared color associations in a group of 104 children, aged 5 to 10, with those of 100 university students.

The researchers showed subjects drawings in which a lineup of six otherwise identical images differed only in some aspect of color. The T-shirt of a boy taking a test, for example, was switched from black to blue to green to red to white to yellow. The same for a businessman’s necktie, a schoolgirl’s dress, a dog’s collar, a boxer’s gloves.

Participants were asked to link images with traits. Which boy was likeliest to cheat on the test? Which man was likely to be in charge at work? Which girl was the smartest in her class, which dog the scariest?

Again and again, among both children and young adults, black pulled ahead of nearly every color but red. Black was the color of cheating, and black was the color of cleverness. A black tie was the mark of a boss, a black collar the sign of a pit bull. Black was the color of strength and of winning. Black was the color of rage.

“We have strong opinions about black and red,” Dr. Kramer said, “and that doesn’t seem to be true for any other color.”

The contrariness of black has long been expressed in our clothing. As the color best able to hide stains and dirt, black was the color of the laboring classes, and of the pious: people who sought to signal their disinterest in personal vanity and worldly affairs.

“Black was the color of modesty,” said Steven Bleicher, author of “Contemporary Color: Theory and Use,” and a professor of visual arts at Coastal Carolina University. “You still see that today across cultures, in Hasidic Judaism, where people wear all black, or the Amish.”

Black took on an air of cultured urbanity beginning in the Renaissance, when so-called sumptuary laws limited the wearing of rich colors like red and purple to the aristocracy. Newly prosperous merchants, lawyers, scholars and other professionals responded by donning luxurious black outfits of velvet, silk and fine wool, which also proved ideal for the display of gold accessories and brocade. Before long, aristocrats were wild for black clothing, too.

As clothes lost their drapiness and began hugging the body, people discovered another benefit of black. “It’s slimming,” Mr. Bleicher said. “And so we have the little black dress.” Not to mention James Bond’s Euro-cut black tuxedo and Peter Fonda’s black leather pants.

A 1617 engraving of a black square by the physician and astrologer Robert Fludd.Credit Artokoloro Quint Lox Limited, via Alamy.

“Black Square,” by Kazimir Malevich, exhibited at the Fundación Proa in Buenos Aires in 2016.Credit Mariano Garcia, via Alamy.

For artists, black is basal and nonnegotiable, the source of shadow, line, volume, perspective and mood. “There is a black which is old and a black which is fresh,” Ad Reinhardt, the abstract expressionist artist, said. “Lustrous black and dull black, black in sunlight and black in shadow.”

So essential is black to any aesthetic act that, as David Scott Kastan and Stephen Farthing describe in their scholarly yet highly entertaining book, On Color, modern artists have long squabbled over who pioneered the ultimate visual distillation: the all-black painting.

Was it the Russian Constructivist Aleksandr Rodchenko, who in 1918 created a series of eight seemingly all-black canvases? No, insisted the American artist Barnett Newman: Those works were very dark brown, not black. He, Mr. Newman, deserved credit for his 1949 opus, Abraham, which in 1966 he described as “the first and still the only black painting in history.”

But what about Kazimir Malevich’s “Black Square” of 1915? True, it was a black square against a white background, but the black part was the point. Then again, the English polymath Robert Fludd had engraved a black square in a white border back in 1617.

Clearly, said Alfred H. Barr, Jr., the first director of the Museum of Modern Art, “Each generation must paint its own black square.”

Or its own superblack polyhedron. Artists today are experimenting with the new carbon nanotube coatings, to plumb such evergreen themes as the nature of light, absence, perception, deception and jewelry.

Diemut Strebe, an artist in residence at M.I.T., collaborated with Dr. Wardle on a project that would merge carbon at its most absorptive configuration, in the form of carbon nanotubes, with carbon in its most reflective and refractive state, as a diamond. How about if we smother a diamond in a layer of ultra-black carbon nanotubes, Ms. Strebe suggested, and watch its facets disappear?

“It was an exploration of a Heraclitean principle,” Ms. Strebe said. “The extreme opposites of how carbon behaves on exposure to light.”

A yellow diamond worth $2 million forms the core of Diemut Strebe’s work, The Redemption of Vanity.Credit Diemut Strebe.

The diamond covered in black carbon nanotubes. Credit Diemut Strebe.

One of their biggest challenges: finding a jeweler willing to lend them a chunky diamond that would be plastered with what amounts to high-tech soot.

“I tried many companies, Tiffany, others,” Ms. Strebe said. “I got many no’s.” Finally, L.J. West Diamonds, which specializes in colored diamonds, agreed to hand over a $2 million, 16.78-carat yellow diamond, provided the process could be reverse-engineered and the carbon nanotube coating safely removed.

The resulting blackened bling is on view at the New York Stock Exchange, which Ms. Strebe calls “the holy grail of valuation.”

Scamming the eye

The key to true ultra-blackness is creating a material that absorbs light across the electromagnetic spectrum — not just visible light, but out to the far infrared, too.

To manage the task, explained John Lehman, an applied physicist and master ultra-black-smith at N.I.S.T.’s campus in Boulder, Colo., you take a carbon source like graphite and a metal like iron or nickel to serve as template and catalyst, and you cook them together in an oxygen-free setting [Applied Physics Reviews]to a temperature of about 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit.

As the graphite heats up, it saturates the ring-like structure of the metal and starts to push upward into a vertical array of hollow cylinders, each some billionth of an inch thick — the carbon nanotubes.

The final height, density and distribution of those nanotube trees in your nanotube bosk will determine how effectively your material can imprison photons and incorporate their energy into its constituent parts, and hence how extravagantly black it will appear.

“We start with the intrinsic properties of graphite, which already is pretty black,” Dr. Lehman said. “Then we essentially make a lot of little cavities for the light to bounce around in so the photons have a chance to be absorbed by the graphite.”

A male peacock spider, in a mating display. The extreme black of its hairs makes the colors appear even brighter.Credit Adam Fletcher/Biosphoto, via Alamy

A male Victoria’s riflebird. The feathers of superblack birds-of-paradise have an unusual microstructure, with dense, tiny branches that curve and are edged with spikes.Credit Ray Wilson, via Alamy.

A similar interplay between chemistry and physics explains the newly discovered ultra-blacks in nature.

As Dakota McCoy of Harvard University and her colleagues have reported in Nature Communications and the Royal Society Proceedings B, the feathers of some species of birds-of-paradise and the decorative patches on peacock spiders rival the luxurious blackness of a lab-grown carbon nanotube jacket, reflecting well under .5 percent of the light cast upon them.

The researchers determined that, in addition to being flush with the dark pigment melanin, the superblack body parts in both the birds and the spiders had an unusual microstructure.

“If you’re a biologist, you know what a feather should look like,” said Ms. McCoy, who is completing her doctorate. But on examining a black feather from a bird-of-paradise under a microscope, “I almost fell out of my chair.”

Rather than lying in a flat, smooth plane, as normal feathers do, the dense, tiny branches of this feather curved upward by 30 degrees and were edged with spikes. That bristling structure, the researchers showed, created cavities of an ideal size and shape for trapping light.

The peacock spider, by contrast, builds its superblackness convexly. Cannily placed bumps on its cuticle channel incident light toward melanin-rich patches primed to absorb it.

In both birds and spiders, the animal superblacks seem to be part of a masculine ruse. The blacks are always next to bright colors: the vivid splashes of teal, yellow, lime-green, violet and electric blue that males must flaunt in their mating displays.

By aggressively absorbing light in the areas surrounding the colorful bits, the superblacks stanch the sort of visual cues the female might use to judge the relative brightness of the ambient light. Without such comparative information, the female can only conclude the male’s colors are better than brilliant: They’re lit from within.

Little black dresses are slimming — and little black feathers scam the eye.

See the full article here .


Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

Stem Education Coalition

#ultra-black-is-the-new-black, #applied-research-technology, #biology, #chemistry, #nyt, #physics

From Northwestern University: “‘Are we alone?’ Study refines which exoplanets are potentially habitable”

Northwestern U bloc
From Northwestern University

November 11, 2019
Amanda Morris

An artist’s conception shows a hypothetical planet with two moons orbiting within the habitable zone of a red dwarf star. Credit: NASA/Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics/D. Aguilar

In order to search for life in outer space, astronomers first need to know where to look. A new Northwestern University study will help astronomers narrow down the search.

The research team is the first to combine 3D climate modeling with atmospheric chemistry to explore the habitability of planets around M dwarf stars, which comprise about 70% of the total galactic population. Using this tool, the researchers have redefined the conditions that make a planet habitable by taking the star’s radiation and the planet’s rotation rate into account.

Among its findings, the Northwestern team, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder, NASA’s Virtual Planet Laboratory and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, discovered that only planets orbiting active stars — those that emit a lot of ultraviolet (UV) radiation — lose significant water to vaporization. Planets around inactive, or quiet, stars are more likely to maintain life-sustaining liquid water.

The researchers also found that planets with thin ozone layers, which have otherwise habitable surface temperatures, receive dangerous levels of UV dosages, making them hazardous for complex surface life.

“For most of human history, the question of whether or not life exists elsewhere has belonged only within the philosophical realm,” said Northwestern’s Howard Chen, the study’s first author. “It’s only in recent years that we have had the modeling tools and observational technology to address this question.”

“Still, there are a lot of stars and planets out there, which means there are a lot of targets,” added Daniel Horton, senior author of the study. “Our study can help limit the number of places we have to point our telescopes.”

The research will be published online Nov. 14 in The Astrophysical Journal.

The ‘Goldilocks zone’

To sustain complex life, planets need to be able to maintain liquid water. If a planet is too close to its star, then water will vaporize completely. If a planet is too far from its star, then water will freeze, and the greenhouse effect will be unable to keep the surface warm enough for life. This Goldilocks area is called the “circumstellar habitable zone,” a term coined by Professor James Kasting of Penn State University.

Researchers have been working to figure out how close is too close — and how far is too far — for a planet to sustain liquid water. In other words, they are looking for the habitable zone’s “inner edge.”

“The inner edge of our solar system is between Venus and Earth,” Chen explained. “Venus is not habitable; Earth is.”

Horton and Chen are looking beyond our solar system to pinpoint the habitable zones within M dwarf stellar systems. Because they are numerous and easier to find and investigate, M dwarf planets have emerged as frontrunners in the search for habitable planets. They get their name from the small, cool, dim stars around which they orbit, called M dwarfs or “red dwarfs”.

Crucial chemistry

Other researchers have characterized the atmospheres of M dwarf planets by using both 1D and 3D global climate models. These models also are used on Earth to better understand climate and climate change. Previous 3D studies of rocky exoplanets, however, have missed something important: chemistry.

By coupling 3D climate modeling with photochemistry and atmospheric chemistry, Horton and Chen constructed a more complete picture of how a star’s UV radiation interacts with gases, including water vapor and ozone, in the planet’s atmosphere.

In their simulations, Horton and Chen found that a star’s radiation plays a deciding factor in whether or not a planet is habitable. Specifically, they discovered that planets orbiting active stars are vulnerable to losing significant amounts of water due to vaporization. This stands in stark contrast to previous research using climate models without active photochemistry.

The team also found that many planets in the circumstellar habitable zone could not sustain life due to their thin ozone layers. Despite having otherwise habitable surface temperatures, these planets’ ozone layers allow too much UV radiation to pass through and penetrate to the ground. The level of radiation would be hazardous for surface life.

“3D photochemistry plays a huge role because it provides heating or cooling, which can affect the thermodynamics and perhaps the atmospheric composition of a planetary system,” Chen said. “These kinds of models have not really been used at all in the exoplanet literature studying rocky planets because they are so computationally expensive. Other photochemical models studying much larger planets, such as gas giants and hot Jupiters, already show that one cannot neglect chemistry when investigating climate.”

“It has also been difficult to adapt these models because they were originally designed for Earth-based conditions,” Horton said. “To modify the boundary conditions and still have the models run successfully has been challenging.”

‘Are we alone?’

Horton and Chen believe this information will help observational astronomers in the hunt for life elsewhere. Instruments, such as the Hubble Space Telescope and James Webb Space Telescope, have the capability to detect water vapor and ozone on exoplanets. They just need to know where to look.

“‘Are we alone?’ is one of the biggest unanswered questions,” Chen said. “If we can predict which planets are most likely to host life, then we might get that much closer to answering it within our lifetimes.”

Horton and Chen are both members of CIERA (Center for Interdisciplinary and Exploratory Research in Astrophysics).

The study was supported by the Future Investigators in NASA Earth and Space Science and Technology graduate research award (80NSSC19K1523) and a NASA Habitable Worlds grant (80NSSC17K0257). Computational work was completed at Northwestern’s QUEST high-performance computing facility.

See the full article here .


Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

Stem Education Coalition

Northwestern South Campus
South Campus

On May 31, 1850, nine men gathered to begin planning a university that would serve the Northwest Territory.

Given that they had little money, no land and limited higher education experience, their vision was ambitious. But through a combination of creative financing, shrewd politicking, religious inspiration and an abundance of hard work, the founders of Northwestern University were able to make that dream a reality.

In 1853, the founders purchased a 379-acre tract of land on the shore of Lake Michigan 12 miles north of Chicago. They established a campus and developed the land near it, naming the surrounding town Evanston in honor of one of the University’s founders, John Evans. After completing its first building in 1855, Northwestern began classes that fall with two faculty members and 10 students.
Twenty-one presidents have presided over Northwestern in the years since. The University has grown to include 12 schools and colleges, with additional campuses in Chicago and Doha, Qatar.

Northwestern is recognized nationally and internationally for its educational programs.

#are-we-alone-study-refines-which-exoplanets-are-potentially-habitable, #astronomy, #astrophysics, #basic-research, #biology, #chemistry, #cosmology, #northwestern-university, #physics, #planets-around-inactive-or-quiet-stars-are-more-likely-to-maintain-life-sustaining-liquid-water, #the-goldilocks-zone, #the-research-team-is-the-first-to-combine-3d-climate-modeling-with-atmospheric-chemistry-to-explore-the-habitability-of-planets-around-m-dwarf-stars

From University of Copenhagen: “Friendly bacteria collaborate to survive”

From University of Copenhagen

10 October 2019

Søren Johannes Sørensen
Professor, Department Of Biology
Mobile:+ 45 51 82 70 07

Michael Skov Jensen
Communications Officer, SCIENCE Management and Communication


New microbial research at the University of Copenhagen suggests that ‘survival of the friendliest’ outweighs ‘survival of the fittest’ for groups of bacteria. Bacteria make space for one another and sacrifice properties if it benefits the bacterial community as a whole. The discovery is a major step towards understanding complex bacteria interactions and the development of new treatment models for a wide range of human diseases and new green technologies.

New microbial research at the Department of Biology reveals that bacteria would rather unite against external threats, such as antibiotics, rather than fight against each other. The report has just been published in the scientific publication ISME Journal. For a number of years the researchers have studied how combinations of bacteria behave together when in a confined area. After investigating many thousands of combinations it has become clear that bacteria cooperate to survive and that these results contradict what Darwin said in his theories of evolution.

“In the classic Darwinian mindset, competition is the name of the game. The best suited survive and outcompete those less well suited. However, when it comes to microorganisms like bacteria, our findings reveal the most cooperative ones survive,” explains Department of Biology microbiologist, Professor Søren Johannes Sørensen.

Social bacteria work shoulder to shoulder

By isolating bacteria from a small corn husk (where they were forced to “fight” for space) the scientists were able to investigate the degree to which bacteria compete or cooperate to survive. The bacterial strains were selected based upon their ability to grow together. Researchers measured bacterial biofilm, a slimy protective layer that shields bacteria against external threats such as antibiotics or predators. When bacteria are healthy, they produce more biofilm and become stronger and more resilient.

Time after time, the researchers observed the same result: Instead of the strongest outcompeting the others in biofilm production, space was allowed to the weakest, allowing the weak to grow much better than they would have on their own. At the same time the researchers could see that the bacteria split up laborious tasks by shutting down unnecessary mechanisms and sharing them with their neighbors.

“It may well be that Henry Ford thought that he had found something brilliant when he introduced the assembly line and worker specialization, but bacteria have been taking advantage of this strategy for a billion years,” says Søren Johannes Sørensen referring to the oldest known bacterial fossils with biofilm. He adds:

“Our new study demonstrates that bacteria organize themselves in a structured way, distribute work and even to help each other. This means that we can find out which bacteria cooperate, and possibly, which ones depend on each another, by looking at who sits next to who.”


Understanding invisible bacterial synergy

The researchers also investigated what properties bacteria had when they were alone versus when they were with other bacteria. Humans often discuss the work place or group synergy, and how people inspire each other. Bacteria take this one step further when they survive in small communities.

“Bacteria take our understanding of group synergy and inspiration to a completely different level. They induce attributes in their neighbors that would otherwise remain dormant. In this way groups of bacteria can express properties that aren’t possible when they are alone.
When they are together totally new features can suddenly emerge,” Søren Johannes Sørensen explains.

Understanding how bacteria interact in groups has the potential to create a whole new area in biotechnology that traditionally strives to exploit single, isolated strains, one at a time.

“Bio-based society is currently touted as a solution to model many of the challenges that our societies face. However, the vast majority of today’s biotech is based on single organisms. This is in stark contrast to what happens in nature, where all processes are managed by cooperative consortia of organisms. We must learn from nature and introduce solutions to tap the huge potential of biotechnology in the future”, according to Søren Johannes Sørensen.

Read the research article in the the ISME Journal.

See the full article here .


Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

Stem Education Coalition

Niels Bohr Institute Campus

The University of Copenhagen (UCPH) (Danish: Københavns Universitet) is the oldest university and research institution in Denmark. Founded in 1479 as a studium generale, it is the second oldest institution for higher education in Scandinavia after Uppsala University (1477). The university has 23,473 undergraduate students, 17,398 postgraduate students, 2,968 doctoral students and over 9,000 employees. The university has four campuses located in and around Copenhagen, with the headquarters located in central Copenhagen. Most courses are taught in Danish; however, many courses are also offered in English and a few in German. The university has several thousands of foreign students, about half of whom come from Nordic countries.

The university is a member of the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU), along with University of Cambridge, Yale University, The Australian National University, and UC Berkeley, amongst others. The 2016 Academic Ranking of World Universities ranks the University of Copenhagen as the best university in Scandinavia and 30th in the world, the 2016-2017 Times Higher Education World University Rankings as 120th in the world, and the 2016-2017 QS World University Rankings as 68th in the world. The university has had 9 alumni become Nobel laureates and has produced one Turing Award recipient

#friendly-bacteria-collaborate-to-survive, #applied-research-technology, #bacteriology, #biology, #chemistry, #microbiology, #university-of-copenhagen

From Rutgers University: “Protein Data Bank at Rutgers Awarded $34.5 Million Grant”

Rutgers smaller
Our Great Seal.

From Rutgers University

November 4, 2019

Todd Bates

Data bank makes more than 150,000 3D biomolecular structures freely available to the public.

Six proteins in the measles virus work together to infect cells.
Image: David S. Goodsell

The RCSB Protein Data Bank headquartered at Rutgers University–New Brunswick has been awarded $34.5 million in grants over five years from three U.S. government agencies.

The funding – an approximately 5 percent increase over the previous five-year period – covers ongoing operations and will expand the reach of the world’s only open-access, digital data resource for the 3D biomolecular structures of life.

The data bank, housed at Rutgers since 1998, plans to use the increased new funding to enhance services available to researchers, academic institutions, for-profit companies and the public. The operating grants come from the National Science Foundation; U.S. Department of Energy; and the National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and National Institute of General Medical Sciences within the National Institutes of Health.

“These grants are vital and greatly appreciated because the Protein Data Bank plays a central role in the discovery of lifesaving drugs, basic and applied biological and medical research and patent applications by universities as well as biopharmaceutical and biotechnology companies,” said principal investigator Stephen K. Burley, University Professor and Henry Rutgers Chair, who directs the data bank and the Institute for Quantitative Biomedicine. “It is a public good with far-reaching impacts, and with renewed funding we plan to help usher in a new golden age of structural biology.”

The Protein Data Bank archive houses more than 150,000 3D structures for proteins, DNA and RNA that are freely available worldwide. The archive is jointly managed by the Worldwide Protein Data Bank partnership, involving data centers in the United States, Europe and Asia. U.S. operations are led by the RCSB Protein Data Bank at Rutgers, the University of California, San Diego-San Diego Supercomputer Center and the University of California, San Francisco.


Helen M. Berman, Board of Governors Distinguished Professor Emerita of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Rutgers–New Brunswick, co-founded the data bank in 1971, brought it to Rutgers in 1998 and led the organization until 2014.

Proteins play vital roles in all living organisms. Their specific amino acid sequences give proteins their distinct shapes and chemical characteristics. Proteins rely on the recognition of specific 3D molecular shapes to function correctly for defense, transport, enzymes, structure, storage and communication. These protein shapes and functions are highlighted in this collage. Image: Maria Voigt

The data bank is growing by nearly 10 percent per year and is used by millions worldwide. Nearly 2 million molecular structure data files are downloaded every day by researchers, educators, students, citizens, medical professionals, patients, patient advocates and biopharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.

Individuals working in agriculture, basic biology and zoology, biomedicine, computer science, math, physical sciences, materials science, biomedical engineering, bioenergy and renewable energy benefit from the freely available data. It would cost an estimated $15 billion to replicate the contents of the data bank archive.

A Rutgers team of expert bio-curators reviews each new structure deposited to the data bank, and a bicoastal team of software developers builds tools. Planned enhancements include improving the quality of data bank structures and broadening their availability across the sciences.

Rutgers also has an outreach/education team that develops award-winning illustrations and videos as well as curricula and other educational materials. More than 600,000 people a year visit the data bank’s education and outreach website.

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.

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From Rutgers University: “Seeking Sustainable Solutions, a Young Scientist Finds his Calling in Rutgers Graduate Program”

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From Rutgers University

John Chadwick

“I was drawn to the potential for improving the quality of life for society and humanity.”

Alan Goldman and Tariq Bhatti in the lab, which is located in the new chemistry and chemical biology building.

Tariq Bhatti’s career was finally starting to take off.

After graduating in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, he struggled through the Great Recession, working in retail and at his father’s gas station. But eventually he began landing jobs in the chemical industry, including W.R. Grace, the multi-billion dollar conglomerate, where he served as an analytical chemist.

“My last position at Grace was really great,” says Bhatti, a University of Maryland graduate. “They trusted me with important problems while giving me generous support and mentoring.”

Yet something was missing during the five years Bhatti spent in industry. He felt restless, though his passion for chemistry was as strong as ever. Some of the most intriguing questions he wanted to investigate were considered tangential because they were unrelated to business.

An offhand comment by one of his supervisors got him thinking in a new direction.

“He said that if those are the questions that interested me, then I ought to go to graduate school,” he says. “So I did.”

Today, Bhatti is a Ph.D. candidate at the Rutgers University School of Graduate Studies, where he works on the research team of Alan Goldman, a professor of chemistry and chemical biology in the School of Arts and Sciences. In Goldman’s lab, Bhatti is pursuing the questions that fascinate him, and conducting experiments that could have enormous impact on the environment and energy production.

The Goldman lab seeks to develop catalysts to produce important chemicals using less energy and less waste.

“I was really drawn to Dr. Goldman’s lab for the potential for improving the quality of life for society and humanity,” Bhatti says.

And with Goldman, a 30-year veteran at Rutgers and a Distinguished Professor, he has found the ideal mentor and collaborator.

“When I walked into Alan’s office for the first time, there were papers everywhere and a chalkboard covered with formulas and drawings of molecules,” Bhatti recalls. “He was explaining something to me and had to take a moment to pause before deciding which ones he should erase.”

The Goldman Group, comprised of eight graduate students and a post-doc, specializes in organometallic chemistry—using metal atoms and organic molecules to make chemical transformations. The lab seeks to develop catalysts to produce society’s most important chemicals using less energy and with less waste.

Among those chemicals is ammonia, used to make fertilizer to grow the world’s food supply. Since the early 20th century, ammonia has been produced through the Haber-Bosch process, which combines nitrogen and hydrogen. This monumental breakthrough allowed fertilizer to be produced on an industrial scale. But the process, which requires high levels of heat and pressure, burns staggering quantities of natural gas and releases large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.

“It’s an important process, obviously, because it allows us to eat,” Goldman says. “But it would nice to do that without the environmental impact.”

Toward that end, Goldman’s lab is collaborating with scientists from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Yale University in a National Science Foundation-funded project to develop new chemistry that would produce ammonia without reliance on fossil fuels, in part by obtaining the hydrogen from water, and using renewable electricity.

Another of the lab’s major projects could ultimately lead to the production of clean-burning synthetic diesel fuel through the development of a two-step catalytic process to convert simple hydrocarbon molecules.

“We are focused on the basic chemistry and where it can take us,” says Goldman in describing the overall mission of his lab. “Whether it can take us to sustainable production of ammonia or to synthetic fuel, we look for important applications of the interesting, fundamental chemistry.”

Bhatti has enjoyed the change from industry to academia. “I have more time to study a particular problem or question, and to really understand not just which reaction might work, but why it works and how it works,” he explains.

He still keeps in close contact and has productive working relations with industry. Indeed, he received a one-year fellowship from BASF Corporation last year.

Bhatti didn’t automatically gravitate to organometallic chemistry. As an undergraduate he was interested in the human health applications of chemistry, such as drug development. But he was wary of the economic woes affecting the pharmaceutical industry in the early 2000s.

“Then around 2011 I saw a really cool paper on turning carbon dioxide into methanol by this triple catalyst system,” he says. “That piqued my interest in organometallic chemistry.”

Goldman had a similar moment of discovery at around the same age. He was a graduate student at Columbia University when scientists discovered the potential for reactions between the type of organometallic complexes he had been working on and simple hydrocarbon molecules, known as alkanes, which are the major constituent of petroleum.

“Alkanes are the simplest and most abundant organic molecules and were regarded as nearly impossible to use for controlled chemical reaction,” he explains. “The idea of doing transformations on the simplest molecules, and at the same having an understanding that they are the most important molecules, has always been compelling to me.”

Beyond the potential benefits of their work, Bhatti and Goldman say there is an enduring beauty and mystery to their field. Bhatti recalls taking a class in art theory and learning about Emmanuel Kant and his understanding of beauty.

“To Kant, beauty was not just something that looks nice, but something that arrests you and makes you feel humbled,” Bhatti says. “I think that is what organometallic chemistry is. You see things that are so striking, it seems that nature is sharing a secret.”

Goldman agrees. “There is a very visual beauty in molecules, but it goes deeper than that. It’s the beauty of solving a puzzle where the solution is a deep understanding of how something works.”

See the full article here .


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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.

#alan-goldman-mentor, #applied-research-technology, #chemistry, #organometallic-chemistry, #rutgers-university, #tariq-bhatti, #the-goldman-lab-seeks-to-develop-catalysts-to-produce-important-chemicals-using-less-energy-and-less-waste

From Brookhaven National Lab: “Tethered Chem Combos Could Revolutionize Artificial Photosynthesis”

From Brookhaven National Lab

November 4, 2019
Karen McNulty Walsh,
(631) 344-8350

Peter Genzer,
(631) 344-3174

New approach improves efficiency of converting sunlight to hydrogen fuel; provides platform for testing different combos of light-absorbers and catalysts.

Brookhaven Lab chemist Javier Concepcion and Lei Wang, a graduate student at Stony Brook University, devised a scheme for assembling light-absorbing molecules and water-splitting catalysts on a nanoparticle-coated electrode. The result: production of hydrogen gas fuel via artificial photosynthesis and a platform for testing different combos to further improve efficiency.

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory have doubled the efficiency of a chemical combo that captures light and splits water molecules so the building blocks can be used to produce hydrogen fuel. Their study, selected as an American Chemical Society “Editors’ Choice” that will be featured on the cover* of the Journal of Physical Chemistry C, provides a platform for developing revolutionary improvements in so-called artificial photosynthesis—a lab-based mimic of the natural process aimed at generating clean energy from sunlight.

In natural photosynthesis, green plants use sunlight to transform water (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2) into carbohydrates such as sugar and starches. The energy from the sunlight is stored in the chemical bonds holding those molecules together.

Many artificial photosynthesis strategies start by looking for ways to use light to split water into its constituents, hydrogen and oxygen, so the hydrogen can later be combined with other elements—ideally the carbon from carbon dioxide—to make fuels. But even getting the hydrogen atoms to recombine as pure hydrogen gas (H2) is a step toward solar-powered clean-fuel generation.

To achieve water splitting, scientists have been exploring a wide range of light-absorbing molecules (also called chromophores, or dyes) paired with chemical catalysts that can pry apart water’s very strong hydrogen-oxygen bonds. The new approach uses molecular “tethers”—simple carbon chains that have a high affinity for one another—to attach the chromophore to the catalyst. The tethers hold the particles close enough together to transfer electrons from the catalyst to the chromophore—an essential step for activating the catalyst—but keeps them far enough apart that the electrons don’t jump back to the catalyst.

Generating fuel from sunlight: First, tin oxide (SnO2) nanoparticles get coated with a titanium dioxide (TiO2) shell. Next, scientists coat the nanoparticles with light-absorbing dye molecules that have dangling tethers. Then they add catalyst molecules that attach by their own tethers. In the final setup, sunlight excites the dye, kicking electrons from dye to nanoparticle shell, nanoparticle core, and then out of the electrode via a wire. The electron-deficient dye, in turn, grabs electrons from the catalyst. Once the catalyst has lost four electrons, it can steal four electrons from two water molecules, thereby splitting water into hydrogen ions and oxygen. At a second electrode, the hydrogen ions recombine with electrons to produce H2 — hydrogen gas fuel. Animation credit: Stony Brook University graduate student and study coauthor Lei Wang

“Electrons move fast, but chemical reactions are much slower. So, to give the system time for the water-splitting reaction to take place without the electrons moving back to the catalyst, you have to separate those charges,” explained Brookhaven Lab chemist Javier Concepcion, who led the project.

In the complete setup, the chromophores (tethered to the catalyst) are embedded in a layer of nanoparticles on an electrode. Each nanoparticle is made of a core of tin dioxide (SnO2) surrounded by a titanium dioxide (TiO2) shell. These different components provide efficient, stepwise shuttling of electrons to keep pulling the negatively charged particles away from the catalyst and sending them to where they are needed to make fuel.

Here’s how it works from start to finish: Light strikes the chromophore and gives an electron enough of a jolt to send it from the chromophore to the surface of the nanoparticle. From there the electron moves to the nanoparticle core, and then out of the electrode through a wire. Meanwhile, the chromophore, having lost one electron, pulls an electron from the catalyst. As long as there’s light, this process repeats, sending electrons flowing from catalyst to chromophore to nanoparticle to wire.

Each time the catalyst loses four electrons, it becomes activated with a big enough positive charge to steal four electrons from two water molecules. That breaks the hydrogen and oxygen apart. The oxygen bubbles out as a gas (in natural photosynthesis, this is how plants make the oxygen we breathe!) while the hydrogen atoms (now ions because they are positively charged) diffuse through a membrane to another electrode. There they recombine with the electrons carried by the wire to produce hydrogen gas—fuel!

Building on experience

The Brookhaven team had tried an earlier version of this chromophore-catalyst setup [ACS Energy Letters] where the light-absorbing dye and catalyst particles were connected much more closely with direct chemical bonds instead of tethers.

“This was very difficult to do, taking many steps of synthesis and purification, and it took several months to make the molecules,” Concepcion said. “And the performance was not that good in the end.”

In contrast, attaching the carbon-chain tethers to both molecules allows them to self-assemble.

“You just dip the electrode coated with the chromophores into a solution in which the catalyst is suspended and the tethers on the two types of molecules find one another and link up,” said Stony Brook University graduate student Lei Wang, a coauthor on the current paper and lead author on a paper published earlier this year [Journal of the American Chemical Society] that described the self-assembly strategy.

The new paper includes data showing that the system with tethered connections is considerably more stable than the directly connected components, and it generated twice the amount of current—the number of electrons flowing through the system.

“The more electrons you generate from the light coming in, the more you have available to generate hydrogen fuel,” Concepcion said.

The scientists also measured the amount of oxygen produced.

“We found that this system, using visible light, is capable of reaching remarkable efficiencies for light-driven water splitting,” Concepcion said.

But there’s still room for improvement, he noted. “What we’ve done to this point works to make hydrogen. But we would like to move to making higher value hydrocarbon fuels.” Now that they have a system where they can easily interchange components and experiment with other variables, they are set to explore the possibilities.

“One of the most important aspects of this setup is not just the performance, but the ease of assembly,” Concepcion said.

“Because these combinations of chromophores and catalysts are so easy to make, and the tethers give us so much control over the distance between them, now we can study, for example, what is the optimal distance. And we can do experiments combining different chromophores and catalysts without having to do much complex synthesis to find the best combinations,” he said. “The versatility of this approach will allow us to do fundamental studies that would not have been possible without this system.”

This research was funded by the DOE Office of Science and was conducted in collaboration with scientists from the Alliance for Molecular PhotoElectrode Design for Solar Fuels EFRC, a DOE Office of Science Energy Frontier Research Center at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. UNC scientists provided the core-shell nanoparticles. Design and synthesis of the system were done at Brookhaven Lab; transient kinetics and photoelectrochemistry studies were carried out at UNC.

See the full article here .


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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.

#tethered-chem-combos-could-revolutionize-artificial-photosynthesis, #applied-research-technology, #you-just-dip-the-electrode-coated-with-the-chromophores-into-a-solution-in-which-the-catalyst-is-suspended-and-the-tethers-on-the-two-types-of-molecules-find-one-another-and-link-up, #bnl, #chemistry, #getting-hydrogen-atoms-to-recombine-as-pure-hydrogen-gas-h2-is-a-step-toward-solar-powered-clean-fuel-generation, #production-of-hydrogen-gas-fuel-via-artificial-photosynthesis-and-a-platform-for-testing-different-combos-to-further-improve-efficiency