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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: Wed Mar 07 15:42:03 EST 2007

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News Items in this Edition

Oil Well Fires Did Not Damage Iranian Archaeological Treasures

The black deposits soiling and discoloring monuments at important Iranian archaeological sites are not smoke damage from the oil well fires ignited in Kuwait during the first Gulf War, scientists in Italy have concluded. The findings are scheduled for publication March 15 in the ACS ’journal Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly publication.

Alessandra Bonazza and colleagues explain that Iranian authorities claimed that Persepolis, the Tomb of Cyrus and other cultural treasures in southern provinces had been severely damaged by smoke from the fires, ignited by Iraqi forces, which were withdrawing after their 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Iran filed a claim for compensation with the United Nations, but none was granted because of uncertainty over the cause of the discoloration.

In the new study, researchers used different laboratory techniques to analyze samples from the monuments. They concluded that the discoloration results from crusts of blue-green algae, an organism that often grows naturally on damp rocks and leaves a black residue when dry.

An Advance Toward Smaller, More Powerful Lithium-Ion Batteries

A major advance toward development of more powerful lithium-ion batteries — used in millions of laptop computers, cell telephones and other portable electronic gear — is being reported in an article scheduled for the April 4 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, a weekly publication.

Michael Grätzel and colleagues in Switzerland point out that scientists have been engaged in an intensive effort to improve the poor electronic conductivity of the cathode — the positive electrode — in lithium-ion batteries. In current lithium-ion batteries, large quantities of carbon black, graphite or other conductive materials must be added to improve conductivity of the cathode. “Sometimes, the conductive additives occupy practically half the volume of the active materials to form a continuous conduction network, greatly decreasing the energy density of the cell,” the researchers explain.

Grätzel’s group reports the first use of a “molecular charge transport layer,” consisting of a self-assembled monolayer of triarylamine phosphonate adsorbed at the surface of the cathode material lithium iron phosphate to improve its conductivity. “As compared to the total electrode size, the space occupied by the molecular charge transport layer is negligibly small, which greatly reduces the volume of conductive additive, opening up the possibility to increase substantially the energy storage density and rate capacity at equal amounts of loading of conductive additives,” the report states.

Toward Industrial-Scale Use of Innovating Coating Technology

Scientists are reporting development of a fully automated system for layer-by-layer (LbL) deposition, an emerging technology with applications that may include incorporating electronic devices and solar cells into cloth or paper by layering those surfaces with electronic circuitry. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Paula T. Hammond and colleagues at Michigan State University describe the new process in an article scheduled for the March 13 edition of ACS’ Langmuir, a bi-weekly journal.

The researchers explain that LbL involves depositing multiple layers of ultra-thin films of electrically conductive polymer on surfaces of various materials. Those films can give surfaces a wide range of useful electrical, magnetic, and optical properties. Current deposition methods, however, involve dipping the material into each liquid coating with lengthy processing times that can require more than 12 hours to produce a 25-layer film.

With the new process, coatings are sprayed onto the material’s surface in an ultra-fine mist, producing finished coatings about 25 times faster than the traditional dip process. The researchers describe use of the process to alter the water-repelling properties of a textile material. “This work lays the groundwork for scale-up and future development of an array of such systems capable of coating much larger substrates as well as 3D ones, making spray LbL technology attractive on an industrial scale,” the report concludes.

Preventing Costly Deterioration of Military Fuel

A simple, inexpensive filtering procedure could prevent costly instability and deterioration of diesel fuel stored by the U. S. military, the world’s largest consumer of fuel, a new study is reporting. George Mason University’s George W. Mushrush and colleagues at the U. S. Naval Research Laboratory did the study, scheduled for publication in the March 14 issue of ACS’ Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, a bi-weekly journal.

Instability in stored fuel is a major problem for the Department of Defense, the study notes, because military fuels often are stored for long periods. Civilian fuels, in contrast, typically are used within days or weeks of production. As stored military fuels are used, storage tanks are topped off with new fuel of different ages, refineries and geographic areas.

The mixing of fuels with different chemical characteristics results in instability and formation of sludge and sediments that can damage engines. Sludge can make entire storage tanks of fuel unusable without expensive reprocessing, the study explains. The researchers describe a simple filtering procedure for new fuel being added to storage tanks that can remove chemical compounds responsible for fuel instability and prevent fuel degradation in the tank.

China Poised To Become a Major Player in the Global Pharmaceutical Industry

China’s pharmaceutical industry, reputed for low-quality drugs and virtually no capability for discovering block-buster new drugs, is taking steps that eventually could place it among the world’s major players in the business, according to an article scheduled for the March 12 issue of Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.

The cover story, written by Jean-Franåois Tremblay, a C&EN senior correspondent based in Hong Kong, describes how the Chinese pharmaceutical industry is quietly undergoing a major upgrade. Thousands of Chinese scientists who studied and worked abroad are returning home to the more open-society that exists in China today. This strong dose of talent is injecting world-class knowledge, skills and practices into China’s pharmaceutical industry.

At the same time, the Chinese government has launched spirited initiatives to bolster R&D capabilities at universities and research institutes. International pharmaceutical giants like Roche, Novartis and AstraZeneca are revving up their own R&D activities in China, and the country is revising its new drug approval process to speed innovative new drugs on their route to market.

Journalists’ Resources

  • General Chemistry Glossary
    The General Chemistry Glossary can be found here.
  • Earth Day, April 22
  • Video Contest for Students
    April 10 is the deadline for entries in the ACS’ video contest for college and university students. The cash-award competition is part of the “Chemists Celebrate Earth Day” observance.
  • Earth Day Poetry Contest
    Find more information on ACS’ illustrated haiku contest for students in grades Kindergarten-12.
  • ACS Chemical Biology

Highlights from the American Chemical Society journal, ACS Chemical Biology, are now available on EurekAlert!, the online science news service for reporters. ACS Chemical Biology is a monthly journal exploring cellular function from both chemical and biological perspectives. In addition to research papers and reviews, the journal also publishes “Spotlight” — current research in chemical biology from other journals; “Profile” — experts in the field; and “Points of View” — comments from leading scientists. The journal’s Web site is updated weekly with new content, and features a WIKI and an “Ask the Expert” section.

Mark Your Calendars

ACS National Meeting — Chicago, March 25-29

The American Chemical Society’s 233rd national meeting promises to be one of 2007’s biggest and most productive science conferences, and a bonanza of spot news, feature topics and background for reporters covering science, medicine, energy, environment, food, business or the environment. We expect more than 9,000 scientific papers on topics spanning science’s horizons from astronomy to zoology. Visit the National Meeting page for preliminary program information, media registration and housing.

Special Event: Chicago News Media Tour/Briefing/Reception

News media are invited to a special event at the Art Institute of Chicago, scheduled during the ACS national meeting. The Art Institute, Northwestern University and Argonne National Laboratory are partners in a noted art conservation science program. Reporters will get briefings from program scientists and a behind-the-scenes tour of science and conservation labs, followed by a reception in the beautiful environs of the Institute. The event begins at 4 p.m. on March 26. Space is strictly limited, so register early by contacting Michael Woods at m_woods@acs.org or 202-872-6293.

On the Horizon: ACS Regional Meeting, May 16-19, Philadelphia

The Philadelphia Section, American Chemical Society, and Ursinus College will host the 39th ACS Middle Atlantic Regional Meeting.

The American Chemical Society — the world’s largest scientific society — is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.