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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: Mon Jun 26 16:42:03 EDT 2006

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News Items in this Edition

Smart cellulose may mean paper airplanes that fly like butterflies

Old-fashioned paper airplanes may be just plane fun for kids, but the next generation of paper flying objects could flap their wings like butterflies and pack micro-cameras and sensors for battlefield surveillance or security monitoring.

Those and a range of other new applications for cellulose — the stuff of paper — may be on the horizon, scientists report, after their discovery that cellulose is a “smart” material. Such materials flap, bend and move in other ways when given a tiny jolt of electricity. Jaehwan Kim, of Inha University in Korea, and colleagues describe the discovery in an article scheduled for the June 27 issue of the ACS journal Macromolecules.

Kim’s group terms smart cellulose “electroactive paper” (EAPap), a chemically treated paper with thin electrodes on both sides. When electrical voltage is applied on the electrodes, the EAPap bends. No wires or batteries are needed because a special microstrip antenna and other lightweight electronic components can be integrated into the EAPap. Radio waves beamed to the antenna then would be converted into electricity that moves the EAPap.

“This means that EAPap actuators can be remotely driven using microwaves, making them attractive candidates for ultra-lightweight multifunctional applications, such as micro-insect robots, flapping wings for flying objects, smart wallpaper, micro electro-mechanical systems and so on,” the authors state.

Ground-level ozone pollution impacts laboratory research

Ground level ozone pollution — a familiar summertime health concern in urban areas — also poses a newly recognized threat to the outcome of certain kinds of scientific research. Steven L. Cohen, of Merck Research Laboratories, is reporting that ozone seeping indoors can affect the outcome of a widely used research technique termed MALDI mass spectrometry (MALDI-MS). His report is scheduled for the July 1 issue of ACS’ Analytical Chemistry.

Previous studies detailed how ground-level ozone could skew two other unrelated chemistry techniques — the assembly of DNA micro-arrays and the stability of some forms of self-assembled monolayers. "The common thread is that all three technologies involve the deposition and/or presence of thin layers of liquid exposed to ambient air, so there are probably other methodologies which can be affected," Cohen said.

MALDI-MS's uses include looking for biomarkers for disease and auto-immunity; measuring differences in expression levels of proteins between normal and diseased cells; and in characterizing and ensuring the integrity of components in vaccines and therapeutic protein products. "Fortunately, once recognized, the ozone oxidation effects can be easily prevented," Cohen added.

Toward an early diagnostic test for ovarian cancer

In an advance toward eventual development of a much-needed early diagnostic test for ovarian cancer, scientists have identified at least 15 biomarkers for the disease that are present in cancer patients but absent in healthy individuals. Carlito B. Lebrilla and colleagues at the University of California at Davis describe the discovery in a report scheduled for the July 7 issue of the ACS Journal of Proteome Research.

No accurate test for early diagnosis of ovarian cancer currently exists. Many of the 23,000 annual cases are diagnosed only after the disease is advanced and more difficult to treat. Lebrilla’s group identified the biomarkers — which could become the basis of a test — with an exciting new technology spawned by the human genome project. Called glycomics, it focuses on the structure and function of chains of sugars or “oligosaccharides” that have key functions in the body.

The scientists identified and studied oligosaccharides in substances that ovarian cancer cells shed during growth. Some had never been detected before. Researchers now are moving ahead with studies involving more patients and controls in an effort to find biomarkers that could be used in an ovarian cancer test.

Dietary supplements do not reverse the chemistry of emotional stress

Eating extra amounts of certain fats linked to numerous health benefits does not reverse the underlying metabolic changes that occur in emotional stress, an international group of researchers report. Their study is scheduled for the July 7 issue of the ACS Journal of Proteome Research.

The fats, termed long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs), are used to make infant formulas more like breast milk. Research has suggested that LC-PUFA supplements may help control inflammatory bowel disease, a condition in which stress plays a role. There also are hints that LC-PUFAs may help to prevent or delay the effects of cancer, diabetes, clinical depression, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis and other chronic diseases.

Jeremy K. Nicholson, of Imperial College London, and colleagues used a powerful metabolic research tool in the study. The approach is called metabonomics, and can reveal the biochemical consequences of dietary changes and disease. The researchers studied metabolic changes in stressed laboratory rats fed standard diets and diets enriched in LC-PUFAs. Contrary to expectation and widely held beliefs, dietary enrichment with LC-PUFAs did not reverse any of the stress-induced biochemical changes.

Key players in the large-screen TV boom face tough challenges

Demand for those flat panel liquid crystal displays (LCD) is putting the squeeze on companies that often are forgotten players in bringing large-screen televisions and other products to consumers. An article by Jean-Francois Tremblay in the June 26 issue of Chemical & Engineering News focuses on these firms − materials suppliers for the LCD industry.

Suppliers have to keep pace with soaring demand, in which sales of LCD television sets are expected to more than double, from 40 million in 2005 to 100 million in 2010. Demand has put suppliers under pressure to raise output at a time when their own costs are rising and high growth sometimes does not mean higher profits.

One aspect of the squeeze involves shortages of key materials, such as indium, a metal essential for making indium tin oxide, one of the first layers of material deposited on the glass sheet in an LCD panel. Indium that once cost $100 per kilogram (2.2 pounds), peaked at $1,000 per kilogram and now fetches $800. Prices could rise further if Chinese zinc mines, major suppliers of indium, are closed for environmental reasons.

C&EN notes that indium has become so precious that recyclers may begin scraping the material off discarded LCDs. Manufacturers also are seeking ways to use less costly alternatives, such as zinc oxide.

Journalists’ Resources

  • Green Chemistry Blog
    Green chemistry is a far-ranging effort to reduce the environmental impact of the chemical enterprise. It focuses on developing and using technologies that are cleaner, smarter, less costly and more sustainable than approaches traditionally used in chemistry and chemical engineering. Authorities on green chemistry are gathering in Washington, D.C., June 26-30 for a conference that promises to be a bonanza of news and background for science and environmental journalists. It is the 10th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference. Tune into the ACS News Service blog for sights, sounds and newsbytes from the conference. For information and media registration, contact newsroom@acs.org or (202) 872-4440.

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