Molecular motions captured via electron diffraction

TECHNIQUES

A new technique developed at the University of Toronto has captured — with femtosecond accuracy and atomic resolution — real-time images of molecules undergoing structural transitions. (A femtosecond is one quadrillionth of a second.) The breakthrough makes it possible to probe the ultra-fast motions that are involved in overcoming activation energy barriers to drive chemical...

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Polymer glue could heal wounds

POLYMERS

A universal biomembrane adhesive developed at the University of British Columbia (UBC) could have applications in tissue engineering, drug delivery or wound care. Phophatidyl choline (PC) is found in the phospholipids that make up cell membranes in all higher plants and animals. Choline is positively charged, while phosphate is negatively charged. A few years ago,...

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Single-atom catalysts could improve fuel cell performance­

ENERGY

Researchers at Western University have deposited clusters of platinum as small as a single atom on sheets of graphene. The structures could improve catalysis in fuel cells and automotive catalytic converters. Direct methanol fuel cells (DMFCs) generate electricity by oxidizing methanol and could be used in portable power applications such as laptops and mobile phones....

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Iron-based catalysts could provide greener polymers

CATALYSIS

GreenCentre Canada has signed an agreement to commercialize a new class of iron-based catalysts developed by chemists from the Atlantic region. The molecules could lead to greener processes for everything from polymers to pharmaceuticals. Carbon-carbon cross-coupling — a crucial step in many pharmaceutical syntheses — is currently catalyzed almost exclusively with palladium-based compounds. Unfortunately, palladium’s...

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Molten solution

INNOVATION

Neil Camarta just can’t seem to stay retired. After 35 years in the oil industry, including stints at Shell and Suncor, the chemical engineer from Edson, Alta. is now in what he calls the ‘crackpot business,’ taking risks on maverick new technologies. His current project is Western Hydrogen, a company that recently launched the world’s...

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World’s largest green machine

SEQUESTRATION

In May, the National Research Council (NRC), Ontario-based Pond Biofuels and Alberta-based Canadian Natural Resources Limited announced the construction of a $19 million facility that will use algae grown on industrial flue gas to create value-added products, from bio-oil to fertilizer. The algae will be grown on emissions from natural gas burners, used to produce...

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Biosynthetic artemisinin leads to cheaper malaria drugs

PHARMACEUTICALS

An international team, including researchers from the National Research Council (NRC), has published a new semi-synthetic method for producing the anti-malarial drug artemisinin. The system combines biotechnology and industrial chemistry to greatly reduce the cost of the drug and its associated therapies. Artemisinin is currently extracted from sweet wormwood (Artemisia annua) at high cost. “The plant produces only about one per cent dry weight...

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Cold Case

ENVIRONMENTAL CHEMISTRY

As the days wax longer, few of us care to dwell on the snow and ice that dominated the landscape only weeks ago. But for the scientists trying to explain and predict the movement of chemicals in our environment — from contaminants like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) to atmospheric gases like ozone — snow and ice...

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Human Factor

INNOVATION

These days, technical skills alone do not an engineer make. Over the last decade, engineering schools across Canada have focused increasingly...

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