Nanotech pares platinum to cut catalysis costs

ANALYTICAL CHEMISTRY

Automobile manufacturers have well-established technology for adding an oxygen molecule to the toxic carbon monoxide from vehicles’ tailpipes, so that the output instead consists of CO2. Unfortunately, this active catalytic oxidation does not come chea...

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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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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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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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Lead isotope ratios confirm Earth’s oldest mineral

GEOCHEMISTRY

The cracks in zircon crystals can record seismic events and meteorite­ strikes from our planet’s ancient past. Photo credit: Carles Millan The oldest confirmed piece of our planet turns out to be a chunk of lovely pink crystal of the mineral zircon, which was found at a sheep station in Western Australia more than a decade...

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