Energy solutions for the developing world

ALTERNATIVE ENERGY

While the industrialized countries of the world eagerly seek ways to cut back on their energy consumption, developing nations face a different challenge — ramping up their energy output as quickly and efficiently as possible. “It takes energy to improve people’s standard of living,” says Federico Rosei, a professor at Montreal’s Institut national de la...

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Making short work of long lignin molecules in pulp

POLYMERS

The stubborn polymer assortment of aromatic alcohols known as lignin continues to be a key factor limiting the efficiency of pulp and paper production. Although it gives physical strength to wood at the cellular level, lignin must be removed to produce secondary products such as paper or biofuel. The necessary processes demand harsh solvents and...

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Glorious graphene

MATERIALS CHEMISTRY

The paradoxical observation “less is more” applies perfectly to carbon, for if you think coal and diamonds are valuable, just wait to get your hands on a little bit of graphene. Ideally, this material consists of a single atomic layer of carbon atoms arranged with symmetrical bonds to form sheets. In their purest form, such...

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Analyzing quinoa DNA for growing on Canadian farms

TECHNIQUES

Although quinoa is widely regarded by foodies as an up-and-coming superfood, this nutrition-packed grain is currently grown only in South America’s Andes Mountains. As Canadian tastes and markets for this mild-flavoured product expand, agricultural researchers are considering whether the plant can be adapted for cultivation here. A traditional approach might have included studying generations of...

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A new gold standard of healing with crystalline polymers

NANOTECHNOLOGY

How convenient it would be if we could convince a torn piece of material to return to its undamaged state. Université de Sherbrooke chemist Yue Zhao has been able to purchase just such convenience with some vanishingly small amounts of gold. The substance in question is gold nanoparticles or nanorods, which are inserted into a thin...

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Testing for banned substances in athletes ups its game

ANALYTICAL CHEMISTRY

Just as athletes commit to becoming faster and stronger than ever, so too do the authorities testing these competitors for banned substances. For just that reason, the World Anti-Doping Agency has supported the work of chemist Janusz Pawliszyn of the University of Waterloo in Ontario, who has shown how to make the organization’s testing regime more efficient than ever before.

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Creating the ideal 3D environment for cellular research

ANALYTICAL CHEMISTRY

Scientists around the world study cell cultures laid out in flat, two-dimensional (2D) arrays — a highly practical but ultimately limited way of understanding how those cells behave. “Everyone — and I mean everyone — can agree that three-dimensional (3D) tissue models are far superior...

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Concrete Solutions

MATERIALS

Our modern world continues to be built on physical foundations that would have been all too familiar to the ancient Romans: cement and concrete. These products loom large across the entire spectrum of civil engineering, which annually consumes twice as much concrete and cement as all other building materials combined. Their production has consequently assumed...

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