FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: February 27, 2008
- A nano-sensor for better detection of Mad Cow Disease agent
- The incredible, hypoallergenic egg: New process to help egg-allergy sufferers
- Promising new material for capturing CO2 from smokestacks
- Steel forges foundation for cheaper solar power
- Money and creative freedom draw researchers to elite German research institution
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News Items in this Edition
In an advance in food safety, researchers in New York are reporting development of a nano-sized sensor that detects record low levels of the deadly prion proteins that cause Mad Cow Disease and other so-called prion diseases. The sensor, which detects binding of prion proteins by detecting frequency changes of a micromechanical oscillator, could lead to a reliable blood test for prion diseases in both animals and humans, the researchers say. Their study is scheduled for the April 1 issue of ACS’ Analytical Chemistry, a semi-monthly journal.
Prions are infectious proteins that can cause deadly nerve-damaging diseases such as Mad Cow Disease in cattle, scrapie in sheep, and a human form of Mad Cow Disease called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. Conventional tests are designed to detect the proteins only upon autopsy and the tests are time-consuming and unreliable.
In the new study, Harold G. Craighead and colleagues describe a high-tech, nano-sized device called a nanomechanical resonator array. The device includes a silicon sensor, which resembles a tiny tuning fork, that changes vibrational resonant frequency when prions bind. Its vibration patterns are then measured by a special detector. In experimental trials, the sensor detected prions at concentrations as low as 2 nanograms per milliliter, the smallest levels measured to date, the researchers say. — MTS
People who suffer from egg allergies may soon be able to have their quiche and eat it too. Chemists in Germany and Switzerland report development of a new process that greatly reduces allergens in eggs and may lead to safer, more specialized food products for individuals with egg allergies. Their study is scheduled for the March 12 issue of ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.
Although unusual in adults, egg allergies are among the leading food allergies in infants and children. These allergies can cause severe stomach aches, and rashes. In extremely rare cases, death may occur. As a result, physicians advise those with egg allergies to avoid eggs or egg-based products. Some researchers have tried to reduce allergens in eggs, especially the pasteurized egg product (consisting of shelled eggs) widely used in the food industry. Until now, however, those efforts have been largely unsuccessful.
In the new study, Angelika Paschke and colleagues describe their process, which exposes raw eggs to a combination of high heat and enzymes to break down their main allergens. The researchers then tested their reduced-allergen egg against blood serum collected from people with egg allergies. The modified egg product was 100 times less allergenic than raw egg, the scientists say. It does not significantly affect flavor and texture when used in various products, they add. — MTS
Scientists and engineers in Georgia and Pennsylvania are reporting development of a new, low-cost material for capturing carbon dioxide from the smokestacks of coal-fired electric power plants and other industrial sources before the notorious greenhouse gas enters the atmosphere. Their study is scheduled for the March 19 issue of the ACS’ Journal of the American Chemical Society, a weekly publication.
In the new study, Christopher W. Jones and colleagues point out that existing carbon capture technology is unsuitable for wide use. Absorbent liquids, for instance, are energy intensive and expensive. Current solid adsorbents show promise, but many suffer from low absorption capacities and lack stability after extended use. Stronger, longer-lasting materials are needed, scientists say.
The scientists describe development of a new solid adsorbent coined a hyperbranched aminosilica (HAS) that avoids those problems. When compared to traditional solid adsorbents under simulated emissions from industrial smokestacks, the new material captured up to seven times more carbon dioxide than conventional solid materials, including some of the best carbon dioxide adsorbents currently available, the researchers say. The material also shows greater stability under different temperature extremes, allowing it to be recycled numerous times. — MTS
Steel forged railroads, skyscrapers and the automobile industry. Now it may help solar energy become cheaper and more widely available. In a study scheduled for the March 20 issue of ACS' weekly Journal of Physical Chemistry C, Finnish scientists report an advance in replacing the single most expensive component of a cutting-edge family of solar cells with less costly material.
These so-called “nanostructured dye solar cells (DSCs)” are a relatively new family of photovoltaic devices. Their simple manufacturing methods are hoped to lead to lower production costs compared to conventional solar cells. Traditionally, DSCs are deposited on conductively coated glass sheets which accounts for more than 30 percent of the material costs. Preparing DSCs on flexible stainless steel sheets is one way to reduce the costs and also to enhance mass production, according to Kati Miettunen and colleagues at the Helsinki University of Technology. Uncertainties existed, however, over the performance and stability of stainless steel photovoltaics.
In the new study, researchers describe construction of DSCs with stainless steel components and tests of the devices’ performance. “It was shown that relatively high efficiencies can be obtained with DSC deposited on stainless steel substrate,” the study said. Subsequent work will investigate the durability of the stainless steel components and make further improvements in these promising solar devices. — AD
With Germany’s Max Planck Society (MPS) establishing a biomedical research institute in the Sunshine State — a development that could help turn Florida into a Silicon Valley for biotechnology — an article scheduled for the March 3 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine, provides readers with a behind the scenes look at this elite institution. The move represents the first time that an MPS site has been established in the United States, the reports says.
C&EN’s cover story by Associate Editor Sarah Everts notes that MPS operates a $2.5 billion annual budget to support cutting-edge, non-university research. Since its establishment in 1948, the group’s scientists have won 17 Nobel Prizes, including Gerhardt Ertl’s 2007 prize in chemistry. The Society has also funded key research into the development of improved polymers and high-tech light microscopy. Like the U.S.’s Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a wealthy nonprofit foundation that fund’s some of the nation’s top researchers, MPS has made a name for itself by giving exceptional researchers free reign to do creative and risky research.
Recently, MPS announced that it would establish a new biomedical branch in Florida. The new institute will focus on “devising non-invasive imaging methods to visualize molecular properties of biological tissue,” the article notes. Like the Sunshine State, MPS is keeping the future of research looking bright.
The 2008 edition of the ACS Office of Communications’ popular news media tour/briefing/reception heads for a premier research facility where science connects with everyday life. Reporters will visit the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Southern Regional Research Center (SRRC) in New Orleans. After recovery from Hurricane Katrina’s devastation, SRRC is continuing a 66-year heritage of discovery. SRRC’s landmarks range from development of wrinkle-resistant cotton fabrics to battling the dreaded Formosan subterranean termite in the “Second Battle of New Orleans.” The event begins mid-afternoon on April 7 during the ACS’ 235th national meeting, followed by a reception. To register, contact Michael Woods (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Mark your calendars for one of the year’s largest and most important scientific events — the 235th National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), which will be held April 6-10, 2008, in New Orleans, La.
With more than 160,000 members in the United States and other countries, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society. About 12,000 scientists and others are expected for the event, which will include more than 9,000 reports on new discoveries in chemistry. Those reports span science’s horizons from astronomy to zoology and include a special focus on health, energy, food, environment, and alternative fuels.
In addition to coverage of breaking science news, the meeting provides an opportunity for independent reporting on disaster recovery efforts in the region prior to the June 1 start of the 2008 hurricane season.
For media registration, please click here. Housing reservations are now open for those who plan to attend the meeting. The ACS Press Center will be located in Room 206 of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. It will include a media workroom with staff to assist in arranging interviews, press conferences, wireless Internet access, telephones, computers, photocopy and fax services, and refreshments.
For reporters planning to cover the meeting from their home bases, the ACS Office of Communications will provide an expanded suite of resources, including press releases, non-technical summaries of research presentations, and access to news briefings.
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