Here is the latest American Chemical Society (ACS) Office of Public Affairs Weekly PressPac with news from ACS’ 34 peer-reviewed journals and Chemical & Engineering News.
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Please cite the individual journal, or the American Chemical Society, as the source of this information.
With would-be goblins and ghosts set to drape those huge fake spider webs over doorways and trees for Halloween, scientists in Wyoming are reporting on a long-standing mystery about real spider webs: It is the secret of spider web glue. The findings are an advance toward a new generation of biobased adhesives and glues — “green” glues that replace existing petroleum-based products for a range of uses. A report on the study is in the October issue of ACS’ Biomacromolecules, a monthly journal.
Omer Choresh and colleagues note that much research has been done on spider web silk, which rivals steel in its strength. However, scientists know comparatively little about web glue, which coats the silk threads and is among the world’s strongest biological glues. Past studies revealed that spiders make web glue from glycoproteins, or proteins bits of sugar attached.
The scientists analyzed web glue from the golden orb weaving spider, noted for spinning intricate webs. They identified two new glycoproteins in the glue and showed that domains of these proteins were produced from opposite strands of the same DNA. “Once the cloned genes are over expressed in systems such as insect or bacterial cell cultures, large-scale production of the glycoprotein can be used to develop a new biobased glue for a variety of purposes,” the report notes.
Scientists in Japan are reporting the first scientific explanation for one of the most widely known rules of thumb for pairing wine with food: “Red wine with red meat, white wine with fish.” The scientists are reporting that the unpleasant, fishy aftertaste noticeable when consuming red wine with fish results from naturally occurring iron in red wine. The study is in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.
Takayuki Tamura and colleagues note that wine connoisseurs established the rule of thumb because of the flavor clash between red wine and fish. They point out, however, that there are exceptions to the rule, with some red wines actually going well with seafood. Until now, nobody could consistently predict which wines might trigger a fishy aftertaste because of the lack of knowledge about its cause.
The scientists asked wine tasters to sample 38 red wines and 26 white wines while dining on scallops. Some of the wines contained small amounts of iron, which varied by country of origin, variety, and vintage. They found that wines with high amounts of iron had a more intensely fishy aftertaste. This fishy taste diminished, on the other hand, when the researchers added a substance that binds up iron. The findings indicate that iron is the key factor in the fishy aftertaste of wine-seafood pairings, the researchers say, suggesting that low-iron red wines might be a good match with seafood.
Those pristine-looking Alpine glaciers now melting as global warming sets in may explain the mysterious increase in persistent organic pollutants in sediment from certain lakes since the 1990s, despite decreased use of those compounds in pesticides, electric equipment, paints and other products. That’s the conclusion of a new study, scheduled for the Nov. 1 issue of ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal.
In the study, Christian Bogdal and colleagues focused on organic pollutants in sediment from a model body of water –– glacier-fed Lake Oberaar in the Bernese Alps, Switzerland –– testing for the persistent organic pollutants, including dioxins, PCBs, organochlorine pesticides and synthetic musk fragrances. They found that while contamination decreased to low levels in the 1980s and 1990s due to tougher regulations and improvements in products, since the late 1990s flow of all of these pollutants into the lake has increased sharply. Currently, the flow of organochlorines into the lake is similar to or even higher than in the 1960s and 1970s, the report states.
The study attributed the most recent spike in the flow of pollutants into Lake Oberaar to the accelerated release of organic chemicals from melting Alpine glaciers, where contaminants were deposited earlier and preserved over decades. “Considering ongoing global warming and accelerated massive glacial melting predicted for the future, our study indicates the potential for environmental impacts due to pollutants delivered into pristine mountainous areas,” Bogdal said.
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With potential adverse health and environmental effects often in the news about nanotechnology, scientists in Arkansas are reporting that carbon nanotubes (CNTs) could have beneficial effects in agriculture. Their study, scheduled for the October issue of ACS Nano, a monthly journal, found that tomato seeds exposed to CNTs germinated faster and grew into larger, heavier seedlings than other seeds. That growth-enhancing effect could be a boon for biomass production for plant-based biofuels and other agricultural products, they suggest.
Mariya Khodakovskaya, Alexandru Biris, and colleagues note that considerable scientific research is underway to use nanoparticles — wisps 1/50,000th the width of a human hair — in agriculture. The goals of “nano-agriculture” include improving the productivity of plants for food, fuel, and other uses.
The scientists report the first evidence that CNTs penetrate the hard outer coating of seeds, and have beneficial effects. Nanotube-exposed seeds sprouted up to two times faster than control seeds and the seedlings weighed more than twice as much as the untreated plants. Those effects may occur because nanotubes penetrate the seed coat and boost water uptake, the researchers state. “This observed positive effect of CNTs on the seed germination could have significant economic importance for agriculture, horticulture, and the energy sector, such as for production of biofuels,” they add.
Museums are increasingly seeking help from chemists in an effort to understand and preserve the artistic and cultural heritage of the treasures in their collections. That’s the topic of the cover story in the current issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.
C&EN News Editor William Schultz points out that scientists have done research on art museum collections since at least the 1930s. Over the past 30 years, many museums have been adding scientists to their ranks, particularly chemists, in order to gain new cultural insights into the collections under their care. Called conservation science or cultural heritage science, the field now covers archaeological objects, fine arts collections, archives, buildings, monuments and more. The National Science Foundation recently provided a boost to this effort by announcing plans to issue grants to fund conservation science research specifically, the article notes.
The article describes how scientists are seeking ways to use non-destructive methods to analyze works of art or cultural heritage objects, to study the performance of plasters in order to maximize the preservation of building materials, and to investigate the original colors used in a Roman sculpture. Although conservation science efforts are going strong at larger museums, smaller museums still need help in this area. One conservation scientist emphasizes that “it’s critical to have scientists heavily engaged in studying cultural heritage objects.”
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PressPac information is intended for your personal use in news gathering and reporting and should not be distributed to others. Anyone using advance PressPac information for stocks or securities dealing may be guilty of insider trading under the federal Securities Exchange Act of 1934.
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