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  • March 26, 2014
  • 04:38 PM

Fragmented Carbon Nanotube Macrofilms Hold Promise for Better Batteries

by dailyfusion in The Daily Fusion

The electrodes in lithium-ion batteries typically comprise three components: active materials, conductive additives, and binders. Now, a team of researchers at the University of Delaware has discovered that fragmented carbon nanotube macrofilms may eliminate the need for binders.... Read more »

  • March 26, 2014
  • 11:25 AM

New Solar Cell Moonlights as Light Panel

by dailyfusion in The Daily Fusion

Nanyang Technological University (NTU) scientists have developed a next-generation solar cell material which can also emit light, in addition to converting light to electricity.... Read more »

Xing, G., Mathews, N., Lim, S., Yantara, N., Liu, X., Sabba, D., Grätzel, M., Mhaisalkar, S., & Sum, T. (2014) Low-temperature solution-processed wavelength-tunable perovskites for lasing. Nature Materials. DOI: 10.1038/nmat3911  

  • March 23, 2014
  • 02:30 PM

Nanopillars of nanotubes! A novel method to drastically improve charge transport in hybrid nanotube devices

by Jonathan Trinastic in Goodnight Earth

A new article demonstrates a method to drastically increase the conductivity of hybrd CNT-polymer devices using nano-engineering!... Read more »

  • March 22, 2014
  • 06:59 AM

The Explosive Brain

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

A few months ago, I blogged about The Hydraulic Brain – an unorthodox theory which proposed that brain function is not electrical, but mechanical. On this view, neuroscientists have it all wrong, because nerve impulses are in fact physical waves of pressure that travel down neurons as if the brain were made up of billions […]The post The Explosive Brain appeared first on Neuroskeptic.... Read more »

  • March 21, 2014
  • 09:44 AM

New Processing Method Makes LEDs Brighter, More Stable

by dailyfusion in The Daily Fusion

Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a new processing technique that makes light emitting diodes (LEDs) brighter and more resilient by coating the semiconductor material gallium nitride (GaN) with a layer of phosphonic acid derivatives.... Read more »

  • March 21, 2014
  • 06:29 AM

Dioxin exposure and autistic traits?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

As promised in a previous post, today I'm turning my attention to the paper by Muneko Nishijo and colleagues [1] and their conclusion of "a specific impact of perinatal TCDD [2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin] on autistic traits in childhood, which is different from the neurotoxicity of total dioxins (PCDDs/Fs) [polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins/furans]".TCDD @ Wikipedia With all the recent chatter about [surrogate] environmental markers and the numbers of cases of autism spectrum disorders and environmental toxicants and autism risk it is indeed timely that the Nishijo paper comes to publication now. Environmental factors, however you wish to define this, are certainly no stranger to autism research, and are fast finding a place in the autism research psyche, perhaps in part due to the rise and rise of the science of epigenetics (see here) as a bridge between genetics and environment. Genes, or rather the blueprint that is your genome, might not necessarily be your destiny and all that jazz...The Nishijo paper in a little more detail:Set in Vietnam, which it has to be said, has seen more than its fair share of chemical exposures in recent history, the authors looked at the possibility of perinatal dioxin exposure being linked to the presence of autistic traits based on a sample of 153 infants. This follows other work by this group looking at dioxin exposure and more generalised infant neurodevelopment [2] as part of a wider research agenda. Dioxins for those who might not know, are categorised as environmental pollutants, and because of their biological persistence, are deemed pretty hazardous to human and other animal health (see the WHO fact sheet here). It's accurate that I mentioned Agent Orange in reference to the chemical load witnessed in Vietnam because Agent Orange was contaminated with TCDD - the chemical name for dioxin -  and there are some very scary quotes about TCDD being for example "perhaps the most toxic molecule ever synthesized by man". The US IOM report 'Veterans and Agent Orange' provides some sober reading on the topic.Scare tactics aside, the authors assessed the levels of TCDD in breast milk as part of a larger analysis of various other dioxins (PCDDs, PCDFs) based on analysis of samples via GC-MS. Actually quite a good overview of their methods can be found in another paper by this group [3] (open-access). Data from these analyses were transformed to form something called the TEQ (Toxic Equivalent) which basically gives you some idea of the toxicity of these classes of compounds relative to TCDD. TCDD has a value of 1 so setting the gold standard of toxicity. Offspring were followed-up based on the use of the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development, Third Edition (Bayley-III) and specifically with autism in mind, the Autism Spectrum Rating Scales (ASRS).  Results: exposure groups (mild and high) were determined according to a cut-off level of 3.5 pg/g fat of TCDD being detected and results were reported according to gender. So: "The high-2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) exposed groups... showed significantly higher Autism Spectrum Rating Scale (ASRS) scores for both boys and girls than the mild-TCDD exposed groups, without differences in neurodevelopmental scores". This indicates some kind of dose-dependent relationship between TCDD exposure and autistic traits in study participants. When it came to looking at any connection between other PCDDs/Fs and autistic traits, nothing significant was picked up. Ergo, TCDD exposure seemed to have specifically impacted on infant autistic traits.These are interesting results, of that there is no doubt. I could start to go on about correlation not being the same as causation, or how the ASRS might not necessarily have been the best instrument to use in this particular instance given it being standardised on American children and not officially translated into Vietnamese. That also it is not a professionally-administered instrument is another potential gap. But I'm not going to let all that get too far in the way of the Nishijo findings.I see from some of the additional data from this paper that there were some other differences noted across the high and mild TCDD exposure groups which may be relevant to the results. When comparing boys and girls in the high and mild exposure groups, I note that mean birth weight was lower in the high exposed group compared to the mild exposed group (average 2920g vs. 3298g respectively) for boys. Realising that low birth weight is not an exclusively autism-correlated phenomena (see here) one might however consider this to be something which could potentially have affected the results obtained.As per the discussions about the geographical location of this study [4], one of the question which then needs to be asked is whether the possibility of a TCDD exposure link is something applicable to other areas and other cases of autism/autistic traits. I'm no expert on TCDD so cannot readily answer this question aside from directing you to some data from the US Environmental Protection Agency on sources of TCDD. It does appear that there are quite a few potential sources of TCDD; although food seems to be the most widely cited source of exposure in modern times. By saying that I'm not trying to panic anyone, given that many countries do monitor foods for dioxin levels (see here) and act accordingly when high levels are detected.Still, if we assume that there may be many roads towards a diagnosis of autism or the presentation of autistic traits, and that those roads may not be the same in every part of the world, the Nishijo results make for an interesting addition to the research landscape. As to mechanisms of effect, well take your pick; TCDD is categorised an endocrine disruptor so potentially falling into the same type of effect as that discussed by R... Read more »

  • March 20, 2014
  • 06:15 PM

Nanotube Networks Boost Solar Cell Efficiency

by dailyfusion in The Daily Fusion

Researchers at Umeå University in Sweden have discovered that a controlled placement of carbon nanotubes into nanotube networks produces a huge boost in electronic performance.... Read more »

  • March 19, 2014
  • 11:22 AM

Reason Behind Li-Ion Battery Degradation Discovered

by dailyfusion in The Daily Fusion

Even the best Li-ion batteries degrade with time. A reason for this Li-ion battery degradation was now identified by researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin for Materials and Energy (HZB).... Read more »

Rana, J., Stan, M., Kloepsch, R., Li, J., Schumacher, G., Welter, E., Zizak, I., Banhart, J., & Winter, M. (2013) Structural Changes in Li MnO Cathode Material for Li-Ion Batteries . Advanced Energy Materials. DOI: 10.1002/aenm.201300998  

  • March 19, 2014
  • 10:00 AM

Probing the allosteric site of MDM2 during P53 binding using hydrogen/deuterium exchange

by Clay Clark in Biochem Blogs

Exchanging hydrogen for deuterium allows one to explore many facets of protein:protein interactions. Allostery is an important characteristic of some proteins that gives fine tuned control over an active site or substrate binding pocket. MDM2 is an important negative regulator of p53. p53 has a crucial role in many physiological pathways such as DNA repair. When DNA undergoes a […]... Read more »

  • March 17, 2014
  • 01:52 PM

‘Breathing’ Battery Could Extend EVs’ Range

by dailyfusion in The Daily Fusion

Researchers are reporting new progress on a “breathing” battery that has the potential to one day replace the lithium-ion technology of today’s EVs. This lithium-air battery technology could boost the range of EVs toward a 300 miles or even more.... Read more »

  • March 17, 2014
  • 08:56 AM

Process Converts Natural Gas to Liquid Alcohol Fuel

by dailyfusion in The Daily Fusion

America’s current energy boom may take a new direction thanks to the discovery of a new way to turn raw natural gas to liquid alcohol fuel.... Read more »

Hashiguchi, B., Konnick, M., Bischof, S., Gustafson, S., Devarajan, D., Gunsalus, N., Ess, D., & Periana, R. (2014) Main-Group Compounds Selectively Oxidize Mixtures of Methane, Ethane, and Propane to Alcohol Esters. Science, 343(6176), 1232-1237. DOI: 10.1126/science.1249357  

  • March 15, 2014
  • 07:05 AM

Le carbone pyrolytique, c'est fantastique

by Dr. Goulu in Pourquoi Comment Combien

Découvert l'existence d'une forme de carbone méconnue : le carbone pyrolytique. C'est un empilement de couches de graphène moins régulier que dans le graphite *.

Cependant le graphite n'est formé que de minuscules cristaux comme ceux qui partent en poudre au bout de votre mine de crayon, alors qu'on est capable de produire des plaques de carbone pyrolytique de quelques centimètres de côté.

Les propriétés de ce matériau sont vraiment étonnantes.... Read more »

Kobayashi M, & Abe J. (2012) Optical motion control of maglev graphite. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 134(51), 20593-6. PMID: 23234502  

  • March 14, 2014
  • 03:32 PM

The Charge of the Crazy Ant: Chemical Warfare Between Invading Species

by Melissa Chernick in Science Storiented

I’ll be the first to admit that I've been a little blog-negligent lately. Even when all of the ice and snow we've gotten here on the East Coast forced me to stay inside I just binge watched shows on Netflix instead. I’m not sure what brought me out of my procrastination funk and compelled me to do a little reading and writing. If you've been following the Facebook page then you've been getting a lot of yummy sciency tidbits, but it’s time for me to get back on the hard science wagon. I think I’ll start off with a great couple of papers about ant chemical warfare.These papers focus on invasive ants, a big problem in many regions. To really grasp one of the underlying aspects of their warfare strategies you must first understand the basics of an invasive species. Start by recognizing the difference between a native species and an exotic species. Put simply, a native species occurs naturally (or natively) to a habitat, and an exotic species does not. Exotics can come in any biological form, but they are not necessarily a problem to their new habitat (think: earthworms). It’s when an exotic species becomes an invasive species that there is a problem because invasives cause environmental, economic, and/or human health harms. The reason for this is that they did not evolve together with the ecosystem in which they find themselves. There are no checks and balances in place to curb their population growth, things like predators, parasites, and competitors. Their unnaturally large population numbers then become harmful to the native species that suddenly have to deal with and compete against them, dramatically altering the community and habitat. It is often the case that multiple species invade a region. Throughout the rest of this post I’ll be discussing new papers by Michael Kaspari and Michael Weiser and by LeBrun, Jones, and Gilbert (specifically at the latter) that take a look at just such a case in ants. The red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) first came to the United States from South America around 1930. This species is far more aggressive than your typical American ant, not only in how they like the bite the hell out you (that’s a lot of personal experience talking) but also in their predatory abilities and landscape re-engineering. Now enter the tawny crazy ant (Nylanderia fulva). This new exotic invasive species was transported to the southeastern U.S. in the early 1980s and has begun to spread.. These two species have common source assemblages, their native ranges overlapping in northern Argentina, Paraguay, and southern Brazil. Until the introduction of crazy ants, the fire ant has enjoyed an uninterrupted domination of the native grassland ant assemblages. But now that the crazy ant has arrived on the scene they are displacing the fire ants. Why is this?Since the fire and crazy ants have overlapping native habitats, they have evolved to compete directly for resources. The tawny crazy ant easily expels the fire ant from any food items it controls, up to 93 percent of the time. Also, tawny crazy ants have often been found living inside fire ant mounts, having usurped the mound and evicted the owners. Fire ants are strong and resilient and so the crazy ants must have a strong competitive advantage.Now, finally, we get to the meat of the post: chemical warfare. If you've been stung by a fire ant (or ants, plural, as is usually the case) then you know that they pack a wallop! They have an alkaloid venom called Solenopsin that to humans causes a painful, fiery sting, and to other ants acts as a topical insecticide. The crazy ants do not have stingers but instead possess an acidopore (a specialized exocrine gland) on the end of the abdomen that sprays their venom into a mist of formic acid. They will charge into masses of fire ants misting as they go. But the fire ants don’t just stand by idly to be sprayed with venom and die, they fight back. The fire ants “gaster flag,” extruding venom from their stingers and dabbing it onto a nearby attacking ant. Normally this would result in the death of said ant. However, LeBrun and his colleagues have observed what they are calling a “detoxifying behavior” in the attacking tawny crazy ants. In this behavior, an afflicted ant stands on its hind legs, run its front legs through its mandibles, and grooms itself vigorously, periodically reapplying its acidopore to its mandibles (check out the video!).To test this behavior the researchers conducted a series of experiments to see if there is really a detoxifying component, to see where it is coming from, and to evaluate the species-level specificity of the behavior. For the first they staged antagonistic interactions between the two species, sealing a portion of the crazy ant acidopores, and then observing afflicted individuals for behavior and survivorship. They found that those tawny crazy ants that had had their acidopores sealed had a low survival rate (only 48 percent). However, those with working acidophores had a 98 percent survival rate, supporting the detoxifying hypothesis. The Dufour’s and venom glands (exocrine glands used for communication and defense) both duct to the acidopore in this species. To see where the detoxifying agent was coming from they applied solutions of fire ant venom and tawny crazy ant glandular products to Argentine ants (Linepithema humile), which are morphologically similar to crazy ants but do not have the detoxifying capability. These tests showed the venom gland of the crazy ant to contain the detoxifying agent. When the crazy ant’s formic acid was tested it was found to be the compound responsible for detoxifying fire ant venom. The production and application of this antidote is a potentially costly endeavor for the crazy ants. Yes, it is the difference between life and death, but when to apply it must be considered. Why use a costly resource if you don’t have to? The authors conducted a series of ant interaction tests where they had crazy ants interact independently with eight Texas ant species including fire ants, observing when the crazy ants chose to apply their detoxifier. They found that after chemical conflict with fire ants, crazy ants detoxified themselves with almost 7 times more frequently than the average response to other ant species. This suggests that this detoxifying behavior is specifically adapted to competition with fire ants, and it is probably a key factor in the displacement of invasive fire ants now underway in the southern United States.LeBrun, E., Jones, N., & Gilbert, L. (2014). Chemical Warfare Among Invaders: A Detoxification Interaction Facilitates an Ant Invasion Science, 343 (6174), 1014-1017 DOI: 10.1126/science.1245833Kaspari, M., & Weiser, M. (2014). Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss Science, 343 (6174), 974-975 DOI: 10.1126/science.1251272U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's page on Invasive Species... Read more »

  • March 14, 2014
  • 10:00 AM

Why does a glycoprotein need sugar to carry a heart medication?

by Clay Clark in Biochem Blogs

Hydrogen-deuterium exchange (HDX) can tell us a lot about protein structures through its use with mass spectroscopy (MS) and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. Richard Huang of the National Institute of Standards and Technology and Jeffrey Hudgens of the Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research (both from Washington DC suburbs in Maryland) recently used HDX-MS […]... Read more »

  • March 13, 2014
  • 01:31 PM

Scientists Store Hydrogen in Graphene Origami Box

by dailyfusion in The Daily Fusion

Shuze Zhu and Teng Li, of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Maryland, have found that they can make tiny squares of graphene fold into an origami box and store hydrogen in it.... Read more »

  • March 12, 2014
  • 07:41 PM

Canines and Castles: 4th Canine Science Forum Abstract & Early Bird Registration Deadline Friday

by Cobb & Hecht in Do You Believe In Dog?

“Two canine scientists, Julie Hecht and Mia Cobb, met briefly at a conference in Barcelona in late July 2012. They share a passion for canine science, good communication, social media and fun.” So reads the 'About' page at Do You Believe in Dog?. After a brief hello at the 3rd Canine Science Forum in Barcelona, we decided to embark on an adventure as digital pen pals, taking turns blogging on topics related to our own research, that of other research groups and general dog science themes. In the last two years, Do You Believe in Dog? has grown to include a blog with over 100 posts, contributions from guest blogging canine scientists around the world, as well as vibrant Facebook and Twitter communities.Pretty soon, it’ll be time for the 4th Canine Science Forum (Facebook) July 15-17, 2014 in Lincoln, UK! The conference will be proceeded by the 1st Feline Science Forum, July 14, same location, as well as a day dedicated to Companion Animals - Human Health & Disease, July 18, same location (scroll down for the program).This is a reminder that this Friday, March 14, 2014, is the deadline for abstract submission and early bird conference registration.The scientific programme includes a number of already scheduled talks. Read about the invited speakers here: Prof. Benjamin Hart (USA) From the Woods to Home: What Wolves Tell Us About Dog BehaviorDr. Mariana Bentosela (Argentina) ‘Reinforcement effects upon interspecific communication in domestic dogs. What do we know so far?’Dr Erik Axelsson (Sweden) ‘What makes the dog special – The canine genome in comparison with other mammalian genomes’Prof. Clive D. L. Wynne (USA) ‘Comparative Cognition of Dogs and Wolves: What Makes a Dog a Dog?’Prof. Claudio Sillero (UK) ‘What shapes dog society? Cooperation in the wonderfully adaptable Canidae’Dr. John Finarelli (Ireland) ‘Patterns and processes from the fossil record of canids’Prof. James Serpell (USA) Public Lecture ~~Did we mention the Gala Dinner is in a Castle?See you at the 4th Canine Science Forum in Lincoln, UK!Mia and Julie Check out some of the science presented at CSF2012:Cobb M., Branson N. & McGreevy P. (2013). Advancing the welfare of Australia’s iconic working dogs, Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 8 (4) e42-e43. DOI: 10.1016/j.jveb.2013.04.054Hecht J. & Horowitz A. (2013). Physical prompts to anthropomorphism of the domestic dog (Canis familiaris), Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 8 (4) e30. DOI: 10.1016/j.jve... Read more »

Cobb Mia, Branson Nick, & McGreevy Paul. (2013) Advancing the welfare of Australia’s iconic working dogs. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 8(4). DOI: 10.1016/j.jveb.2013.04.054  

Hecht J., & Horowitz A. (2013) Physical prompts to anthropomorphism of the domestic dog (Canis familiaris). Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 8(4). DOI: 10.1016/j.jveb.2013.04.013  

Racca A., Range F., Virányi Z., & Huber L. (2013) Discrimination of familiar human faces in domestic dogs. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 8(4). DOI: 10.1016/j.jveb.2013.04.071  

Howell Tiffani J., Toukhsati Samia, Conduit Russell, & Bennett Pauleen. (2013) Do dogs use a mirror to find hidden food?. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 8(6), 425-430. DOI: 10.1016/j.jveb.2013.07.002  

  • March 12, 2014
  • 10:00 AM

Using amide H/D exchange to analyze conformational changes in Pak2 activation

by Clay Clark in Biochem Blogs

  There are a variety of ways that currently exist to analyze the structure of a protein such as X-ray crystallography or NMR. There are also a variety of ways to analyze the conformational changes of the protein. Amide H/D exchange is one such tool. Already having a crystal or NMR structure of a protein […]... Read more »

  • March 11, 2014
  • 10:25 AM

Suicidal Algae Help Their Relatives and Harm Their Rivals

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

You might say the benefit of staying alive is an actual no-brainer: even brainless lifeforms do their best not to die. For the most part, anyway. When they’re under stress, single-celled organisms may opt to cut up their DNA and neatly implode. A new study hints that by committing suicide in this way, an organism […]The post Suicidal Algae Help Their Relatives and Harm Their Rivals appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

  • March 10, 2014
  • 11:46 PM

Hydrogen peroxide thermochemical oscillator as driver for primordial RNA replication

by Rowena Ball in The Origins of Life

IN THE beginning, there were no living cells and no proteins in the primordial soup on the pre-biotic earth. The authors proposed and tested the hypothesis that thermal cycling to drive cell-free RNA replication and amplification in this environment may have been provided by a natural hydrogen peroxide thermochemical oscillator. This also provides a mechanism for natural selection and evolution. Results also may answer the (previously unanswerable) question of why new life does not emerge from non-living precursors on the modern earth: Quite simply there is no longer the hydrogen peroxide around that there was in the good old days!... Read more »

Rowena Ball, & John Brindley. (2014) Hydrogen peroxide thermochemical oscillator as driver for primordial RNA replication. Journal of the Royal Society Interface. arXiv: 1402.3875v3

  • March 10, 2014
  • 07:42 PM

New Photocathode Material Efficiently Stores Solar Energy in Hydrogen

by dailyfusion in The Daily Fusion

A new study by Berkeley Lab researchers at the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) shows that nearly 90-percent of the electrons generated by a hybrid photocathode material designed to store solar energy in hydrogen are being stored in the target hydrogen molecules.... Read more »

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