View the July/August 2013 Canadian Chemical News (ACCN) print issue as a PDF.

The power of spin

INNOVATION

There has been so much thought put into anticipating, avoiding, and destroying tornadoes that I became quite intrigued in early 2007 when I received the following...

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Canadian chemistry in Kuwait

COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS
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This past April, the Kuwait University Department of Chemistry awarded their graduates­ certificates of accreditation based upon standards set by the Canadian­ Society for Chemistry (CSC). The initiative to establish an international accreditation­ partnership was brought to fruition through the work of Jan Kwak, FCIC, professor emeritus at Dalhousie University and John McIntosh, FCIC, professor­ emeritus...

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The many faces of bioplastics

POLYMERS

Plastics get a bad rap. While they improve our lives in countless ways, from food safety to medical care, their inertness and disinclination to break down — the very properties that make them so useful in most applications — raise the spectre of pollution. Spurred on by images of the vast collection of marine debris...

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Ancient fracture fluids could support life

GEOCHEMISTRY

The discovery that billion-year-old water collected from a Timmins, Ont. mine has the right chemistry to support life could have important implications for the habitability of other planets. Barbara Sherwood Lollar holds the Canada Research Chair in Isotope Geochemistry of the Earth and the Environment at the University of Toronto. Sherwood Lollar has been studying...

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DNAzyme could silence bad genes

BIOCHEMISTRY

Researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) have developed an improved system for finding sequences of DNA that can selectively bind and destroy certain RNA sequences. The new molecules could be used in ‘gene silencing’ therapies to combat cancer or HIV. DNAzymes — short sequences of DNA with the ability to catalyse reactions such...

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High school teacher honoured­ with new award

COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS
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Awards manager Gale Thirlwall presents Gyro Inman of Earl of March Secondary School in Kanata, Ont. with the inaugural Chemical Institute of Canada Award for High School/Cégep Chemistry Teachers. Inman, who has an MSc in organic chemistry from the University of Ottawa, received a plaque for excellence in teaching and the promotion of chemistry at...

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Chimie sans frontiers – chemistry without borders

COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS
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The spectacular stone walls of Québec City — the only North American city with fortifications north of Mexico — provide an impressive backdrop for any meeting. But for the thousands who gathered there in late May for the 96th annual Canadian Chemistry Conference and Exhibition (CSC2013), walls are something that must be overcome if chemistry...

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Grapevine

COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS
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Derek Gray, FCIC, was awarded the 30th annual Marcus Wallenberg Prize May 14 at the opening session of the first FIBRE Network conference, held in Cornwall, Ont. Gray, a McGill University chemistry professor, received the award — worth more than $300,000 — for his pioneering study of nanocrystalline...

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Inorganic meeting

COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS
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A record-setting 144 inorganic chemists from the universities of Victoria, Simon Fraser, Washington, Alberta and Calgary gathered in Kelowna at UBC Okanagan May 10-12 for the 2013 Alberta/British Columbia Inorganic Chemistry Discussion Weekend. The meeting...

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Canadian chemistry contest winners

EDUCATION
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The winners of the 2013 annual Canadian Chemistry Contest for secondary school students were announced this past June by the Chemical Education Division of the Chemical Institute of Canada. Nearly 600 chemistry students from across Canada...

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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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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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Chemical outreach through conversation — not ad campaigns

COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS

We might never be able to get the general public to fully understand and appreciate the chemical sectors and professions — and in my personal opinion we should not waste the energy, time and resources to try. Chemical trade associations like the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada tried to change public opinion through Responsible Care...

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Chemists need professional designation for the public good

COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS

Provincial chemical associations across Canada are working very hard right now to get their respective governments to enact legislation formalizing the practice of chemistry. Quebec has already been successful; most of the other provinces are in the process. Some provinces have too few chemists to organize an effective approach to their governments. In Ontario, anyone...

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Pfizer case proves disclosure is the best policy

INTELLECTUAL MATTERS

While I wasn’t necessarily looking for them, some may have noticed prominent advertisements last fall announcing that the price of Viagra had dropped considerably. The price reduction was a direct result of the Supreme Court of Canada’s headline-making decision to invalidate Pfizer’s patent that protected the drug. After the patent was invalidated, generic drugs went...

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Then and now

HISTORY
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As horrific as war is, it has historically spurred innovation and the invention of many useful gadgets that benefitted a peacetime citizenry. The Second World War was no exception. To replace embargoed natural rubber from Asia, the Crown corporation Polymer Corp was created. Based in Sarnia Ont., Polymer made history, mass-producing synthetic rubber to support...

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Humble acetone helped win the Second World War

CHEMFUSION

Say acetone, and what comes to a chemist’s mind? Washing laboratory glassware is a good bet. Actually, the prime use of acetone is to produce polymethyl methacrylate, better known as Plexiglas. Much of the five million tons of acetone produced annually in the world goes towards satisfying the hunger for Plexiglas. Skylights, light fixtures, automobile...

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Student merit award winners

COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS
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This year’s Canadian Society for Chemistry Merit Award winners are: 1st place, the University of Toronto at Mississauga and honourable mention...

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