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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: July 23, 2008

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The American Chemical Society (ACS) News Service Weekly press package (PressPac) offers information on reports selected from 36 major peer-reviewed journals and Chemical & Engineering News.

This information is intended for your personal use in news gathering and reporting and should not be distributed to others. Anyone using advance ACS News Service Weekly PressPac information for stocks or securities dealing may be guilty of insider trading under the federal Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

Please cite the individual journal, or the American Chemical Society, as the source of this information.

News Items in this Edition

New materials for microwave cookware that heats faster with less energy

You may soon be enjoying microwave popcorn and other ‘nuked’ foods and beverages faster than ever before, while saving on electricity. Researchers in Pennsylvania and Japan report development of new ceramic materials that heat up faster and retain heat longer than conventional microwave cookware while using less energy. Their report is scheduled for the August 26 issue of ACS’ Chemistry of Materials, a bi-weekly Journal.

In the new study, Sridhar Komarneni, Hiroaki Katsuki, and Nobuaki Kamochi note that researchers long have sought a commercially feasible method for using microwaves in the production of new genres of sturdy-heat-resistant ceramic materials. However, no optimal process had been developed.

The scientists describe preparation of ceramic plates from mixtures of magnetite and petalite, two naturally occurring minerals. Those new composite plates heated faster and retained heat for longer periods than commercially available microwave cookware, researchers say. The materials also show promise as an energy-saving component in microwave-based systems for cleaning up organic toxic waste in the environment. — MTS

Toward designer bourbon whiskeys with custom-tailored aromas

In the latest chapter in a 40-year scientific quest to unravel the flavor and aroma secrets of the world’s whiskeys, scientists in Germany are reporting discovery of key substances responsible for the distinctive bouquet of American bourbon whiskey. The study, which aims to help improve bourbon through a better understanding of its individual components, is scheduled for the July 23 issue of ACS’ bi-weekly Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Peter Schieberle and Luigi Poisson point out that more than 300 compounds have been identified over the years in whiskey. However, only a few studies have focused on the key aroma compounds, which are most responsible for the fruity, smoky, vanilla and other harmonics of whiskey.

In the study, Schieberle and Poisson analyzed more than 40 of Bourbon’s compounds — 13 of them newly discovered — that blend to create its rich profile, a signature mixture of scents, including fruity, earthy and cooked apple. The new information could be useful in changing the recipe or manufacturing processes for bourbon in order to produce whiskey with distinctive flavors, they note. — JS

Diamonds may have been life's best friend on primordial Earth

Diamonds may have been life’s best friend. Billions of years ago, the surface of these gems may have provided just the right conditions to foster the chemical reactions believed to have given rise to life on Earth, researchers in Germany report. Their study is scheduled for the August 6 issue of ACS' Crystal Growth & Design, a bi-monthly journal.

In the new study, Andrei Sommer, Dan Zhu, and Hans-Joerg Fecht point out that scientists have theorized for years that the chemical precursors of life gradually evolved from a so-called “primordial soup” of simpler molecules. But the details of how these simpler amino acids molecules, the building blocks of life, were assembled into complex polymers, remains one of science's long-standing mysteries.

To find out, the research team studied diamonds, crystallized forms of carbon which are older than the earliest forms of life on Earth. In a series of laboratory experiments, the scientists showed that after treatment with hydrogen, natural diamond forms crystalline layers of water on its surface, essential for the development of life, and involved in electrical conductivity. When primitive molecules landed on the surface of these hydrogenated diamonds in the atmosphere of early Earth, the resulting reaction may have been sufficient enough to generate more complex organic molecules that eventually gave rise to life, researchers say. — MTS

Water-stingy agriculture reduces arsenic in rice markedly

A new farming method first developed to conserve precious irrigation water may have the added benefit of producing rice containing much less arsenic than rice grown using traditional rice-farming methods, researchers in the United Kingdom report. Their study is scheduled for the August 1 issue of ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal.

In the new study, Fang-Jie Zhao and colleagues point out that rice — a staple crop for 2.5 billion people worldwide — also is a major source of human exposure to arsenic in certain countries. Arsenic has been linked to cancer and other diseases. Arsenic gets in rice in countries such as Bangladesh and India when farmers flood rice paddies with arsenic-contaminated irrigation water.

The scientists compared rice plants grown in “flooded” soil in greenhouse conditions to rice plants grown under aerobic conditions. The other rice contained 10 to 15 times lower arsenic levels than the “flooded” rice, the scientists report. — MTS

Air pollution worries cast cloud over Olympics in Beijing

Winning gold medals won’t be the only thing on the mind of athletes during the Olympic games starting in Beijing next month. There’s growing concern that the city’s high air pollution levels may threaten their health and impair their performance, despite the Chinese government’s pledge to clean-up the air in time for the events, according to an article scheduled for the July 28 issue of Chemical & Engineering News.

In a feature article in the magazine, C&EN Associate Editor Rachel Petkewich points out that Beijing’s air pollution levels have been high for the past five years, exceeding China’s standards for other major cities and stricter U.S. pollution standards. The air pollutants of most concern are ozone and particulate matter, which can cause respiratory problems. Some athletes have even threatened to arrive at the last possible minute before their own competitions — and skipping the opening ceremonies, for example — to minimize their exposure, the article notes.

But there’s been some progress toward reducing air pollution levels in Beijing, including switching many of the city’s coal-fired power plants to cleaner burning, natural gas facilities as well as stricter vehicle emissions controls. But these strides are being undercut by China’s booming economy and increased construction, which have sparked pollution increases. Beijing’s air pollution forecast during the Olympics and in the long-run remains uncertain, the article suggests.

Journalists’ Resources

  • Save the Date: ACS’s 236th National Meeting, August 17-21, Philadelphia

One of 2008’s largest and most important scientific conferences — the 236th National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society will be held Aug. 17-21, 2008, in Philadelphia, Pa. At least 12,000 scientists and others are expected for the event, which will include more than 8,000 reports on new discoveries in chemistry. The multi-disciplinary theme is Chemistry for Health: Catalyzing Transitional Research. Stay tuned for information on registration, housing, press releases, and onsite press briefings that will be available via the Internet.ress releases, chat room sessions, and more from ACS’ 235th National Meeting.

  • The ACS Annual Report

The 2007 ACS annual report, Our Science, Our Lives, Our Stories, can be a valuable resource for journalists trying to keep pace with chemistry and the multiple fields of science that involve chemistry. The report features ACS members describing in their own words why they became chemists, what they find rewarding about their work and how the transforming power of chemistry helps address mounting global problems and improves people’s lives. Some are humorous, some are poignant. All of them are compelling. The newly published report is at: http://www.acsannualreport.org/acsannualreport/2007.

  • Pfizer’s work on penicillin becomes National Historic Chemical Landmark

Pfizer’s deep-tank fermentation — a revolutionary process that enabled mass production of penicillin for use in World War II — was designated a National Historic Chemical Landmark by the American Chemical Society (ACS) in a special ceremony in Brooklyn, N.Y., on June 12. The process ushered in the era of antibiotics and represented a turning point in modern medicine. After World War II, Pfizer applied its deep-tank fermentation to manufacture the antibiotics streptomycin and Terramycin®, which proved effective against a wide range of deadly bacteria. For more information, click here for the press release.

  • ChemMatters Matters for Journalists

This quarterly ACS magazine for high school chemistry students, teachers, and others explains the chemistry that underpins everyday life in a lively, understandable fashion. ChemMatters is available at www.acs.org/chemmatters. You can also receive the most recent issues by contacting the editor, Pat Pages, at: 202-872-6164 or chemmatters@acs.org.

  • ACS Press Releases

General science press releases on a variety of chemistry-related topics.

For Wired Readers

  • Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions

Don’t miss this special series of ACS podcasts on some of the 21st Century’s most daunting challenges, and how cutting-edge research in chemistry matters in the quest for solutions. This sweeping panorama of challenges includes topics such as providing a hungry, thirsty world with ample supplies of safe food and clean water; developing alternatives to petroleum to fuel the global economy; preserving the environment and assuring a sustainable future for our children; and improving human health. An ongoing saga of chemistry for life — chemistry that truly matters — Global Challenges debuts June 25 with new episodes through December. Subscribe at iTunes or listen and access other resources at the ACS web site www.acs.org/GlobalChallenges.

  • Bytesize Science, a podcast for young listeners

Bytesize Science is a science podcast for kids of all ages that aims to entertain as much as it educates.

No iTunes? No problem. Listen to latest episodes of Bytesize Science in your web browser

  • Science Elements: An ACS Science News Podcast
    The ACS Office of Communications is podcasting PressPac contents in order to make cutting-edge scientific discoveries from ACS journals available to a broad public audience at no charge.
  • ACS News



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