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  • February 18, 2014
  • 10:23 AM

Urban Bees Build Their Nests with Plastic

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Scott MacIvor has cracked open hundreds of artificial bee nests. But two he peered inside in Toronto gave him pause. Within their containers, the bees he studies had carefully built homes for their young out of plastic debris. Mixed in with the usual construction materials of leaves and mud, MacIvor could clearly see bits of […]The post Urban Bees Build Their Nests with Plastic appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

  • February 14, 2014
  • 12:17 PM

Lithium-Ion Batteries Get A Boost

by Whitney Campbell in Green Screen

After lithium-ion batteries were introduced to the public in the early 1990s, they've charged all kinds of products, from handheld cell phones to jumbo airplanes. But as their prevalence has grown, so have concerns with their safety.

In January 2013, airlines had to ground their fleets of Boeing Dreamliners due to fires linked to the "thermal runaway" of lithium-ion batteries. Likewise, lithium-ion-powered cars, such as the Tesla Model S, have caught fire "20 or so [times] in the past few years," sparking damaging viral videos (but still paling in comparison to the number of fires related to standard engines).1 Even more recently, a US teen's iPhone ignited in her back pocket because of its li-ion battery, an event the Daily Mail dutifully covered.... Read more »

  • February 13, 2014
  • 09:35 AM

Technology Prevents Spontaneous Combustion in Li-Ion Batteries

by dailyfusion in The Daily Fusion

In studying a material that prevents marine life from sticking to the bottom of ships, researchers led by chemist Joseph DeSimone at UNC-Chapel Hill have identified a surprising replacement for the only inherently flammable component of today’s lithium-ion batteries: the electrolyte.... Read more »

Dominica H. C. Wong, Jacob L. Thelen, Yanbao Fu, Didier Devaux, Ashish A. Pandya, Vincent S. Battaglia, Nitash P. Balsara, and Joseph M. DeSimone. (2014) Nonflammable perfluoropolyether-based electrolytes for lithium batteries. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1314615111  

  • February 10, 2014
  • 11:01 AM

Atomic Force Microscopy Identifies Best Microbes for Biofuel Production

by dailyfusion in The Daily Fusion

While the debate over using crops for fuel continues, scientists are now reporting a new, fast approach to develop biofuel in a way that doesn’t require removing valuable farmland from the food production chain.... Read more »

Monitoring TriAcylGlycerols Accumulation by Atomic Force Microscopy Based Infrared Spectroscopy in Streptomyces Species for Biodiesel Applications. (2014) Ariane Deniset-Besseau, Craig B. Prater, Marie-Joëlle Virolle, and Alexandre Dazzi. Monitoring TriAcylGlycerols Accumulation by Atomic Force Microscopy Based Infrared Spectroscopy in Streptomyces Species for Biodiesel Applications, 654-658. DOI: 10.1021/jz402393a  

  • February 9, 2014
  • 08:55 AM

Gas Separation Membrane Can Reduce Chemical Industry Energy Consumption

by dailyfusion in The Daily Fusion

Researchers at the MESA research institute at the University of Twente, Netherlands, have developed a new type of hybrid membrane that allows to separate gases from each other in an energy-saving way, even under extreme conditions.... Read more »

Michiel J. T. Raaijmakers, Mark A. Hempenius, Peter M. Schön, G. Julius Vancso, Arian Nijmeijer, Matthias Wessling, and Nieck E. Benes. (2014) Sieving of Hot Gases by Hyper-Cross-Linked Nanoscale-Hybrid Membranes. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 136(1), 330-335. DOI: 10.1021/ja410047u  

  • February 7, 2014
  • 03:02 PM


by Amy Swanston in Antisense Science

Microscopy is a technique used in the lab to look at things that you can’t see with the naked eye. There are a number of different microscopes that have been developed to do this, but today I’m going to focus on fluorescence microscopy as that’s what I have experience using! It’s also (I think) pretty interesting.

This technique is actually really simple, and is based upon the principle that when you shine high energy light onto certain substances they will absorb and emit this light at different wavelengths. If you can attach one of these fluorescent substances to whatever you’re trying to visualise, then you can look at it via a microscope.... Read more »

  • February 6, 2014
  • 04:18 PM

Scientists Make Gasoline-Like Fuel From Plant Waste

by dailyfusion in The Daily Fusion

Gasoline-like fuels can be produced from cellulosic materials such as farm and forestry waste using a new process invented by chemists at the University of California, Davis. ... Read more »

  • February 4, 2014
  • 12:43 PM

Scientists Improve Perovskite Solar Cell Production Process

by dailyfusion in The Daily Fusion

UCLA engineers have invented a new process for manufacturing highly efficient photovoltaic materials that shows promise for low-cost industrial perovskite solar cell production.... Read more »

Qi Chen, Huanping Zhou, Ziruo Hong, Song Luo, Hsin-Sheng Duan, Hsin-Hua Wang, Yongsheng Liu, Gang Li, and Yang Yang. (2014) Planar Heterojunction Perovskite Solar Cells via Vapor-Assisted Solution Process. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 136(2), 622-625. DOI: 10.1021/ja411509g  

  • February 4, 2014
  • 06:50 AM

Stereotypical dogs: repetitive and pointless?

by Cobb & Hecht in Do You Believe In Dog?

"I'm a labrador" does not = "I'm hungry" (source)Hey Julie,it's great to get an updated view of what's on the canine science cards for you in 2014 - looks like we're both going to be keeping busy - and wouldn't have it any other way!I can't believe we're already into February, to be honest. There are so many great new publications coming out, it's quite exciting to be able to share them with you here! You know I'm always thinking about the welfare of kennelled dogs (because PhD!) and I noticed a new study from the University of Bristol titled Repetitive behaviour in kennelled domestic dog: Stereotypical or not? (reference given below). Now of course, you know we're not talking about "all labradors are greedy" or "all little dogs are yappy" kind of stereotypes here, we're talking about describing a specific type of behaviour.I know you're interested in stereotypical animal behaviour too, so I wanted to share this with you! As you know, stereotypical behaviours have traditionally be thought of as repetitive and invariant behaviour patterns with no obvious goal or function.  Typical stereotypies that many people would be familiar with, include elephants in zoos/circuses swinging their trunks and/or swaying side to side; horses 'weaving' in stables; and bears route tracing when in captivity:In these situations, it's generally understood that the behaviour is the result of the animal feeling frustrated, fearful, restrained, stressed or lacking stimulation and when seen frequently, is often considered an indicator of poor welfare. Determining whether such behaviours are 'without function' has proven difficult. Research over the past decade has shed more light on the reasons animals might develop these behaviour patterns, and suggests that performing the behaviour is not always without a function, but can actually serve a role in helping animals to cope. We have discovered that the animals showing frequent stereotypical behaviour may not be the individuals suffering the most (you know that old saying - it's the quiet ones you've got to watch!).   As such, a refined definition better separates 'abnormal repetitive behaviours' from 'stereotypical behaviours' (which are considered to be caused by inadequate housing that causes frustration and may be overcome with appropriate change of environment including social and/or environmental enrichment). Dog-focussed research in this area has shown that kennelled dogs kept in restricted environments (such as laboratories or rescue shelters) may show behaviour as pacing, circling, spinning, wall bouncing or barking:The new research from Bristol set out to investigate if every dog observed in a working dog facility showing repetitive behaviour could really be described as stereotypical (which would suggest they were experiencing compromised welfare). The researchers examined the behaviour and physiology (using the urine's cortisol/creatinine ratio) of 30 German Shepherd Police dogs. They saw repetitive behaviours in over 40% of the behavioural samples in response to ten deliberately arousing activities (such as a kennel staff member standing outside the kennel yard, clicking the clip of a leash - indicating exercise time; or a full food bowl being placed outside the front of the kennel enclosure; or a stranger walking through the kennel complex). Only two individual dogs were not observed performing any repetitive behaviour.The study confirmed that dogs housed in kennel facilities long-term commonly exhibit repetitive behaviours when presented with a variety of routine activities as stimuli; also showing that individual dogs differ in the way that they respond.Some dogs only engaged in repetitive behaviours only during husbandry events when a person was there. Most dogs showed more than one of: circle, spin, bounce, pace, generally in some kind of combination (the spin an... Read more »

  • February 3, 2014
  • 03:09 PM

Catalyst Converts Greenhouse Gas Into Useful Chemicals

by dailyfusion in The Daily Fusion

A team of researchers at the University of Delaware has developed a highly selective catalyst capable of electrochemically converting carbon dioxide—a greenhouse gas—to carbon monoxide with 92% efficiency. The carbon monoxide then can be used to develop useful chemicals.... Read more »

Qi Lu, Jonathan Rosen, Yang Zhou, Gregory S. Hutchings, Yannick C. Kimmel, Jingguang G. Chen, Feng Jiao. (2014) A selective and efficient electrocatalyst for carbon dioxide reduction. Nature Communications, 3242. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms4242  

  • February 3, 2014
  • 11:59 AM

New Safeguards Tool for Plutonium Analysis Proposed

by dailyfusion in The Daily Fusion

A promising new safeguards tool for plutonium analysis has been developed by the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority of Finland (STUK) and the Joint Research Center (JRC), the EU in-house scientific service.... Read more »

K. Peräjärvi, J. Turunen, S. Ihantola, V. Kämäräinen, S. Pommé, R. Pöllänen, T. Siiskonen, H. Sipilä, H. Toivonen. (2014) Feasibility of conversion electron spectrometry using a Peltier-cooled silicon drift detector. Journal of Radioanalytical and Nuclear Chemistry , 1(299), 229-234. DOI: 10.1007/s10967-013-2788-0  

  • February 3, 2014
  • 06:00 AM

Ancient California Islanders Relied on Drifting ‘Tarballs’ for Petroleum, Study Finds

by Blake de Pastino in Western Digs

New research suggests that, for as much as 8,000 years, people on the Channel Islands didn’t have to look to the mainland for their supply of asphaltum. Instead they appeared to have enjoyed a kind of ancient economic independence.... Read more »

Kaitlin M. Brown, Jacques Connan, Nicholas W. Poister, René L. Vellanoweth, John Zumberge, & Michael H. Engel. (2014) Sourcing archaeological asphaltum (bitumen) from the California Channel Islands to submarine seeps. Journal of Archaeological Science. DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2013.12.012  

  • February 3, 2014
  • 05:24 AM

Smoking, Nicotine Addiction, and why it's Hard to Kick the Habit!

by Robb Hollis in Antisense Science

So we all know smoking is bad for us – we were told when we were kids, and even the packets have warning messages and gruesome pictures to try and help us kick the habit! So why do people still smoke?


As most of you will already know, it’s the nicotine in cigarettes that is the primary cause of smoking addiction. The nicotine is absorbed when cigarette smoke is inhaled and goes on to affect normal body functions, as well as mood and cognition – this is because it binds to receptors in the body called nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChs). These are usually activated by the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, but they are also sensitive to nicotine, and it’s this sensitivity that underlies nicotine addiction. Nicotine can induce mild euphoria, can stimulate attention focus, decrease appetite and relieve anxiety.

... Read more »

Grunberg NE. (2007) A neurobiological basis for nicotine withdrawal. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 104(46), 17901-2. PMID: 17989218  

George O, Ghozland S, Azar MR, Cottone P, Zorrilla EP, Parsons LH, O'Dell LE, Richardson HN, & Koob GF. (2007) CRF-CRF1 system activation mediates withdrawal-induced increases in nicotine self-administration in nicotine-dependent rats. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 104(43), 17198-203. PMID: 17921249  

  • February 2, 2014
  • 06:36 AM

Mitochondrial Movements in Cancer

by Jalees Rehman in Fragments of Truth

Research projects evolve in a fortuitous manner, often guided by a convergence of novel observations, intuition, helpful colleagues and unique personal circumstances. It is precisely this constellation that prompted two cardiologists to study the mitochondrial networks in lung cancer cells.... Read more »

Jalees Rehman, Hannah J. Zhang, Peter T. Toth, Yanmin Zhang, Glenn Marsboom, Zhigang Hong, Ravi Salgia, Aliya N. Husain, Christian Wietholt, & Stephen L. Archer. (2012) Inhibition of mitochondrial fission prevents cell cycle progression in lung cancer. FASEB Journal. DOI: 10.1096/fj.11-196543  

  • February 1, 2014
  • 09:14 PM

DDT and Alzheimer's disease risk

by neurosci in Neuroscientifically Challenged

Dichlordiphenyltrichloroethane, also known as DDT, emerged during World War II as something of a miracle chemical. The war had left cities across Europe devastated and struggling to cope with (among other things) poor sanitation, which created a fertile environment for the spread of disease. When Allied forces entered Naples soon after the Germans retreated, they discovered a typhus epidemic that was killing 25% of those infected; the number of infected was into the thousands. The Germans, before leaving, had laid waste to Naples’ water and sewer system, with the hopes of bringing about some sort of humanitarian crisis as punishment for Naples’ uprising against occupying German forces. They had succeeded.The typhus epidemic in Naples was spread by lice, and so Allied forces needed a way to rid the city of the disease-carrying parasites. If you’ve ever had the misfortune of having to deal with a lice infestation of your own, you can imagine the difficulty of trying to accomplish this on a city-wide scale. Fortunately, the Marines had recently contracted DuPont Chemical to produce tons of DDT for them to reduce malaria rates among soldiers (by spraying to kill mosquitos). They sprayed Neapolitan citizens with DDT in an assembly-line fashion, and the epidemic was over within a month.DDT was used in the late 1940s and 1950s to reduce malaria rates in many areas of the world. In 1948 the discoverer of DDT’s insecticide properties, Paul H. Muller, won a Nobel Prize in Medicine. However, as DDT use increased over these decades, there was a growing murmur about negative health effects that might be associated with DDT. This murmur grew to a roar in 1962 with the publication of scientist and author Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring, which implicated pesticides like DDT in endangering the environment, wildlife, and humans. Carson’s book sparked the environmentalist movement in the United States, which precipitated a ban on DDT use in the U.S. in 1972, except in cases where it was necessary for public health (e.g. curbing epidemics). Most countries in the world have now signed on to a similar ban of DDT use.You would expect that, because the ban was put into effect in the early 1970s, any health effects associated with DDT in the U.S. would have disappeared by now. But DDT is highly resistant to degradation, as are the products it primarily breaks down into: DDE and DDD. The half-life of DDT in soil can be up to 15 years, and in water it may extend up to 150 years. In the human body, DDT’s half-life is around 6 years; DDE's is 10 years. Because DDT and its breakdown products remain in the environment for a long period of time, and because they persist in the human body for years after exposure, most of us have some level of these chemicals in our blood today. The unanswered question, however, is: are those levels affecting our health?In an attempt to answer that question, Richardson et al. published a study this week in The Journal of the American Medical Association that compared levels of DDE in patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) to levels in control patients who didn’t have the disease. The authors found levels of DDE in AD patients that were 3.8 times higher than the levels found in their control group. They determined that the participants in the top ⅓ of their sample in terms of high DDE levels had more than 4 times the risk of developing AD than those with lower blood DDE levels. Participants in the ⅓ with the highest DDE blood levels also had the lowest scores in a questionnaire that assesses cognitive impairment. The researchers also looked at the participants who possessed a form of a gene called Apolipoprotein E4 (ApoE 4), which is known to increase AD risk. They found that those who had the ApoE 4 variant (as opposed to ApoE 3, which doesn’t suggest AD risk) had the lowest cognitive scores in the sample, suggesting that this population might be most susceptible to any effect DDT might have on increasing AD risk.This study by Richardson et al. is what is known as a case-control study, meaning that DDE levels were compared between participants known to have the disease and those without it. A case-control study, however, does not have the ability to determine a causal link between an exposure and a disease due to a number of inherent limitations to the design (such as the fact that there could have been a variety of other influences on the participants’ development of AD). However, the Richardson et al. study provides a basis for further investigation into a link between DDT and AD.... Read more »

Richardson JR, Roy A, Shalat SL, von Stein RT, Hossain MM, Buckley B, Gearing M, Levey AI, & German DC. (2014) Elevated Serum Pesticide Levels and Risk for Alzheimer Disease. JAMA neurology. PMID: 24473795  

  • January 29, 2014
  • 10:16 AM

Biobutanol: Re-wiring the cell to produce a potential ethanol replacement

by Clay Clark in Biochem Blogs

  I’ll admit it; I’m guilty of watching my share of doomsday documentaries in the past. Most of them are ridiculous, but it remains interesting to think about the future and our trajectory as a society. What will the world look like in the next hundred years? Will it be a world without disease? Will […]... Read more »

  • January 28, 2014
  • 10:30 AM

Straw-Fired Plants Can Achieve 70 to 94% Greenhouse Gas Savings

by dailyfusion in The Daily Fusion

A recent JRC study shows that electricity from straw-fired plants can achieve 70 to 94% greenhouse gas savings, compared both with existing coal plants and with the European electricity mix.... Read more »

  • January 27, 2014
  • 04:57 PM

New Solar Cell Material Efficiently Captures High-Energy Photons

by dailyfusion in The Daily Fusion

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Texas at Austin have together developed a new, inexpensive material that has the potential to capture and convert solar energy—particularly from the bluer part of the spectrum—much more efficiently than ever before.... Read more »

Matthew G. Panthani, C. Jackson Stolle, Dariya K. Reid, Dong Joon Rhee, Taylor B. Harvey, Vahid A. Akhavan, Yixuan Yu, Brian A. Korgel. (2013) CuInSe2 Quantum Dot Solar Cells with High Open-Circuit Voltage. The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, 4(12), 2030-2034. DOI: 10.1021/jz4010015  

  • January 27, 2014
  • 02:01 PM

Energy-Dense Sugar Battery Developed at Virginia Tech

by dailyfusion in The Daily Fusion

A Virginia Tech research team has developed a battery that runs on sugar and has an unmatched energy density, a development that could replace conventional batteries with ones that are cheaper, refillable, and biodegradable.... Read more »

  • January 24, 2014
  • 10:17 AM

One-Atom Thick Catalyst May Help Produce Cheap Hydrogen

by dailyfusion in The Daily Fusion

Researchers at North Carolina State University have shown that a one-atom thick film of molybdenum sulfide (MoS2) may work as an effective catalyst for creating cheap hydrogen.... Read more »

Yu Y., Huang S.Y., Li Y., Steinmann S.N., Yang W., & Cao L. (2014) Layer-Dependent Electrocatalysis of MoS2 for Hydrogen Evolution. Nano Letters. PMID: 24397410  

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