Through the ages, science and the arts have been closely intertwined. Leonardo da Vinci, who painted the world’s most famous portrait, the Mona Lisa, was also an inventor, creating blueprints for fantastical innovations like flying machines.  

Today, science is being utilized in an equally artful manner at Ottawa’s Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI). As revealed in the feature “Chemical Renaissance,” CCI chemists are using the latest analytical equipment to preserve and protect priceless works of fine art as well as modern artifacts, such as Canada’s 1982 Proclamation of the Constitution Act. 

Artful could also be used to describe a new technology being developed by University of British Columbia chemical engineering professor David Wilkinson. His innovation will mitigate — in the same process — CO2 and wastewater emissions from the oil and gas and fracking industries. “Power Couple” describes how Wilkinson’s process simultaneously treats wastewater from oil sands extraction or fracking operations and sequesters waste CO2 to produce such valuable compounds as carbonates and formates. A win-win for the environment and fossil fuel industry. 

Just as interesting is another innovation by the University of Guelph spinoff company Mirexus Biotechnologies, which has identified a naturally occurring, nontoxic and biodegradable nanomaterial isolated in corn. Called Phytospherix, its benign qualities make it a safer alternative for a wide range of commercial applications.  

The Chemical News section presents a host of good reads. They include changing perspectives on charge density waves, something that could breathe new life into the field of high temperature superconductors. The chemical mechanics of glass have always been a mystery and these esoteric qualities are explored. Meanwhile woolly mammoths, despite their extinct status, are proving useful in studying climate change. 

As an endnote to this issue, we discuss one of North America’s favourite addictions: coffee. Are you a purist — needing a jolt of caffeine to get your day going — or do you prefer decaf? Chemfusion columnist Joe Schwarcz gives us the scoop on the complex chemistry of decaffeinated coffee — the perfect read to accompany your first cup of morning java. 

Last but not least, congratulations to Policy Pundit columnist Peter Calamai, who received a Doctor of Science honoris causa this past summer from his alma mater McMaster University. Calamai is an award-winning science journalist, scholar, teacher and a staunch supporter of literacy in Canada. 

ACCN welcomes letters to the editor at Letters should be sent with the writer’s name and daytime phone number. All letters will be edited for clarity and length.