Hewers of wood, drawers of water, pumpers of petroleum

CHEMISTRY FOR ENERGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

Canada’s impressive base of natural resources, along with the hard work and entrepreneurship that has developed them, is a defining feature of the country. Like the fur trade, forestry, and mining, the development of petroleum oil and gas products has most recently added to this national character. Our lives would look substantially different without the...

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Helium: what should Canada do?

MATERIALS & TECHNOLOGY

A global helium shortage has created a crisis for scientists across Canada. Chemists and other researchers depend on this unique element to cool superconducting magnets to 4.2K for nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) experiments and certain low-temperature studies. However, helium supplies are limited, demand from new markets is increasing, and the United States has been emptying...

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Notorious killer yields a life-saving toxin

CHEMISTRY FOR HEALTH

The death-cap looks much like any harmless variety of mushroom and is rumoured to have a pleasant flavour, but as its gruesome name suggests, tasting comes with serious consequences. Known formally as Amanita phalloides, this particular fungus can synthesize various families of toxins, like phallotoxins and amatoxins. One compound in particular gives the death-cap its...

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Countering corrosion

MATERIALS & TECHNOLOGY

Anyone who works with metal recognizes the constant threat of corrosion, a problem that becomes especially profound for structures installed in the world’s oceans. In this complex chemical setting, the breakdown of metallic stability represents a leading safety hazard, which is why it sits uppermost in the mind of Faisal Khan, MCIC, who holds the...

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Microfluidics turns to multipoles

RESEARCH & INNOVATION

The past two decades have been a heyday for the field of microfluidics, which has adapted highly accurate etching methods from the information technology industry to create miniaturized arrays where reactions can occur with minimal amounts of reagents. The resulting “lab on a chip” has set the stage for entirely new categories of analytical hardware,...

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Measuring milk’s many micronutrients

RESEARCH & INNOVATION

Milk may be among our most familiar and venerable parts of the human diet, but its complex chemistry still holds a few mysteries and surprises. Most analyses have focused on the macronutrients, the proteins, fats, and carbohydrates that make up this product. The latest generation of metabolomics methods, however, bring powerful technologies such as mass...

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Alberta pilot plant marks the latest milestone for Forward Water

CHEMISTRY FOR ENERGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT

At the beginning of 2017 Canadian Chemical News offered an introduction to Forward Water, a start-up company that was spun off from research led by Philip Jessop, a professor in the Department of Chemistry at Queen’s University. He had devised a “switchable” solvent whose solubility can be altered with the addition of CO2, which can...

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Oceans facing an acid test

CHEMISTRY FOR ENERGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Global temperatures began to soar as early as May this year, beginning with a 50ºC heat wave that hit India. Meanwhile parts of Europe endured sauna-like conditions, while North America and the Arctic saw temperature records melt like ice cream in summer. While weather and climate are two very different things, such severe warming is...

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Hiding from the light

CHEMISTRY FOR HEALTH

If a potentially powerful antibiotic agent is being kept off the market, there must be a good reason; in the case of marinomycin A, it is the result of a frustrating flaw. Derived from a species of marine bacteria, it represents a family of macrodiolides — macrocyclic ethers with some potent medicinal qualities, in this...

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Natural shells point the way to tougher glass

CHEMISTRY FOR ENERGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Our most sophisticated synthetic materials may boast unprecedented strength and durability but for something that puts them to shame, just visit a pond or tidal pool. The mineralized structure of nacre, a biological composite that makes up the shells of simple organisms such as mollusks, is stiffer and harder than anything we can make. This...

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