FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: March 12, 2008
- Heart-healthy yak cheese
- Toward the next generation of high-efficiency plastic solar cells
- A new industrial-scale process for making big molecules with a big future
- New aspirin-like substances may provide safer way to fight heart disease
- Coal reemerges as important raw material in chemical manufacturing industry
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News Items in this Edition
In a finding likely to get cheese lovers talking, researchers in Nepal and Canada report that yak cheese contains higher levels of heart-healthy fats than cheese from dairy cattle, and may be healthier. Their study is scheduled for the March 12 issue of ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.
Producers make the cheese from the milk of yaks. Those long-haired humped animals are fixtures in Tibet and throughout the Himalayan region of south central Asia, Mongolia, and a few other countries. Yak cheese has only recently become available in the United States and is available in select gourmet food stores. Studies by others have shown that certain types of dairy-derived fatty acids, particularly conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), may help fight heart disease, cancer and even diabetes. However, little was known about the fatty acid composition of yak cheese.
In the new study, Brian W. McBride and colleagues compared the fatty acid composition of yak cheese from Nepal with that of cheddar cheese obtained from Canada. They found that levels of CLAs were four times higher in the yak cheese than the dairy cow cheese. Levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are healthy for the heart, were also significantly higher in the yak cheese, the researchers say.
Researchers in the United States and Austria report an advance toward the next generation of plastic solar cells, which are widely heralded as a low cost, environmentally-friendly alternative to inorganic solar cells for meeting rising energy demands. Their study is scheduled for the March 19 issue of ACS’ Journal of the American Chemical Society, a weekly publication.
Alan J. Heeger and colleagues point out that plastic solar cells, fabricated from bulk heterojunction materials comprising semiconducting polymers and fullerenes, have already demonstrated promising performance. However, researchers do not understand how to control the nano-scale morphology and are looking for ways to optimize the solar cell performance for practical use. Heeger, co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2000 for his pioneering research on conducting polymers, is widely recognized for his ongoing efforts to improve solar cell efficiencies.
In the new study, Heeger and colleagues found that adding a class of chemicals called alkanedithiols as processing additives improves both the morphology and the solar cell performance. They showed that by utilizing alkanedithiols as processing additives, the efficiency of the plastic solar cells increased from 3.4 percent to 5.1 percent, among the highest efficiencies achieved to date for this type of solar cell. “These data provide a better understanding of correlation between the nano-scale morphology of the bulk heterojunction film and the solar cell performance,” the report states.
Scientists are reporting discovery of a new method that will enable manufacturers to produce industrial-size batches of dendrimers for the first time. Dendrimers are giant molecules with tree-like branches with a range of potentially valuable commercial and industrial applications. The study is scheduled for the March 21 issue of ACS’ monthly Journal of Organic Chemistry.
Dendrimers can be produced in custom-designed shapes, sizes, structures and weights suitable for specific uses. Those potential applications range from drug delivery and gene transfer to new materials, coatings, sensors, and herbicides. But because they require multiple steps to make, dendrimers are difficult to produce on an industrial scale.
In their new study, Abdellatif Chouai and Eric E. Simanek describe a practical large-scale synthesis of dendrimers that sidestep this barrier. Their method yields a so-called “uncommitted intermediate,” a dendrimer scaffolding that can be built upon in countless ways. This intermediate “can be elaborated into a wealth of diagnostic and therapeutic dendrimers — some of which are currently being explored in our laboratory,” the researchers add.
Researchers in Italy report development of a new group of aspirin-like substances that may be safer than and as effective as conventional aspirin for fighting heart disease, the leading cause of death in the developed world. Their study is scheduled for the March 27 issue of the ACS’ Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.
Physicians have known for years that daily low-doses of aspirin, or acetylsalicylic acid, reduce the risk of developing heart attacks and stroke in some people. However, prolonged use of aspirin can damage the stomach lining, causing bleeding and ulcers that can be life-threatening. A safer form of aspirin is needed, researchers say.
In the new study, Alberto Gasco and colleagues designed a new form of aspirin by attaching a special chemical structure — called a nitrooxy-acyl group — that allows the drug to resist breakdown by stomach acidity while promoting its absorption by the blood. In laboratory tests using animal models, the new “aspirin-like” substances showed anti-inflammatory activities similar to regular aspirin and caused reduced or no damage to stomach tissue in comparison to equivalent amounts of regular aspirin. Some molecules also reduced platelet aggregation and promoted artery expansion, which are hallmarks of improved heart health, the researchers note.
With oil prices hovering around $100 per barrel, coal is reemerging as a key raw material in the manufacture of the basic chemical materials used to make plastics, fertilizers, and hundreds of other products, according to an article scheduled for the March 17 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly news magazine.
The article, written jointly by C&EN Senior Editor Alex Tullo and Hong Kong-based senior correspondent Jean-Francois Tremblay, notes that coal has been used in the chemical manufacturing industry since the 19th century. Over the years, oil and natural gas gradually eclipsed coal to become the raw materials of choice for manufacturing a wide range of high-volume chemicals. But these days, the high prices of oil and natural gas have given coal — which costs a fraction of the price of crude oil — a substantial cost advantage, the article notes.
Coal’s potential as a raw material is greatest in China, the United States, and India, the article points out. These countries have about half the world’s coal reserves. Coal can be transformed into a gas and subsequently into basic chemical ingredients like ethylene and propylene that are used in the manufacture of hundreds of products, according to the article. Coal “is a relatively cheap feedstock,” declares one expert cited in the article. “It certainly has the ability to compete in today’s world.”
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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