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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: Wed Oct 15 16:42:03 EDT 2008

Note to Journalists and Other Viewers

Here is the latest American Chemical Society (ACS) News Service Weekly PressPac with news from ACS’ 36 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

High intensity light reduces facial wrinkles

Researchers in Germany are describing a potential alternative to Botox and cosmetic surgery for easing facial wrinkles. Their study, scheduled for the November 5 issue of ACS’ Crystal Growth & Design, a bi-monthly journal, reports that high intensity visible light from light emitting diodes (LEDs) applied daily for several weeks resulted in “rejuvenated skin, reduced wrinkle levels, juvenile complexion and lasting resilience.” LEDs are the miniature lights used in an array of products, from TV remote controls to traffic lights.

In the study, Andrei P. Sommer and Dan Zhu point out that high-intensity visible light has been used in medicine for more than 40 years to speed healing of wounds. That light actually penetrates into the skin, causing changes in the sub-surface tissue. Until now, however, scientists have not known the physicochemical nature of those changes.

They report identifying how the visible light works — by changing the molecular structure of a glue-like layer of water on elastin, the protein that provides elasticity in skin, blood vessels, heart and other body structures. Figuratively speaking, the light strips away those water molecules that are involved in the immobilization of elastin, gradually restoring its elastic function and thus reducing facial wrinkles. “We are justified in believing that our approach can be easily converted to deep body rejuvenation programs,” the researchers state. — AD

Spinning natural proteins into fabrics for new wound-repair products

Scientists in Israel are reporting the first successful spinning of a key natural protein into strong nano-sized fibers about 1/50,000th the width of a human hair. The advance could lead to a new generation of stronger, longer-lasting biocompatible sutures and bandages to treat wounds. The study is scheduled for the November 10 issue of ACS’ Biomacromolecules, a monthly journal.

Eyal Zussman and colleagues point out that researchers have tried for years to develop wound repair materials from natural proteins, hoping that such fibers would be more compatible with body tissue than existing materials. Scientists recently focused on producing these fibers through “electrospinning,” a high-tech weaving process that uses electrical charges to draw out nano-sized fibers from a liquid. But the approach has achieved poor results until now.

In the new study, the scientists describe a new method for producing electrospun polymers using bovine serum albumin (BSA), a so-called “globular” protein found in cow’s blood. BSA is similar to serum albumin, one of the most abundant proteins in the human body. The method involves adding certain chemicals to a solution of BSA to loosen the bonds that hold these highly-folded proteins together. That results in a thinner, more spinnable protein solution. Using electrospinning, the process resulted in strong fibers that are easily spun into suture-like threads or thick mats resembling conventional wound dressings. This approach is being followed by the groups of Zvi Nevo and Abraham Katzir at Tel-Aviv University, the researchers said, noting that the new method also can be applied to other types of natural proteins. — MTS

Alternative fuels may drain dwindling water supplies

As the search for new fuels intensifies, researchers in Texas report that switching to certain alternative fuels to power cars, trucks, and SUVs may require the use of much more water than conventional petroleum-based gasoline and diesel. The findings suggest that producing alternative fuels could strain already limited water supplies in some regions of the country. Their study is scheduled for the October 15 issue of ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal.

In the study, Carey King and Michael Webber point out that as the need for alternative transportation fuels increases, it is important to understand how fuels based on raw materials other than petroleum could affect other essential resources, such as water. While petroleum-based fuels have had a small impact on U.S. water reserves, alternative fuels could put a much larger dent in our water supply.

The scientists analyzed the amount of water withdrawn (used and returned directly to its source) and consumed (not directly returned to its source) during the production and use of different fuels. They found that vehicles running on electricity and hydrogen produced with electricity withdraw up to 20 times more water and consume more than five times more water than those using petroleum-based gasoline. But not all fuels are created the same — hydrogen and electricity can also be derived from renewable energy sources that use no water, they note. The authors suggest that additional research could determine viable areas where fuels can be mined, farmed, refined, and consumed to minimize regional impacts while maximizing water resource and energy sustainability. — KSD

Squeezing more synthetic fuel from abundant supplies of coal

Scientists in Italy are reporting that a new process could eliminate key obstacles to expanded use of coal gasification to transform that abundant domestic energy resource into synthetic liquid fuels for cars and trucks. The study is scheduled for the November 19 issue of ACS’ bi-monthly journal, Energy & Fuels.

In the study, Maria Sudiro and colleagues note that coal is the only conventional energy source with the potential for meeting global energy demands in the near future. World coal reserves, they note, are 25 percent greater than crude oil and the United States alone has enough coal to supply its own energy needs for centuries. However, existing processes for converting coal into much-needed liquid fuels are uneconomical and release too much carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, and other air pollutants.

Based on laboratory simulations and comparisons with conventional coal gasification, their system was 70 percent more energy efficient, yielded 40 percent more fuel and released 32 per cent less carbon dioxide. “The new process configuration can represent a valuable alternative route to obtain syngas both for electric power generation and for synthetic fuel production,” the report states. — MTS

Race for better superconductors heats up

Scientists have discovered a new family of superconductors — materials that carry electricity more efficiently than copper and other metals — whose properties rekindle enthusiasm about the possibility that these exotic materials could have practical applications in ultra-efficient electrical motors, power-generating stations, and other areas. The latest developments are chronicled in an article scheduled for the Oct. 20 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.

In the C&EN cover story, Senior Editor Mitch Jacoby notes that traditional superconductors, the first examples of which were discovered almost a century ago, must be cooled to very low temperatures with expensive liquid helium. In the mid-1980s, however, scientists discovered so-called high-temperature superconductors, which could be cooled more economically with liquid nitrogen. But even then, the cost of cooling the conductors, as well as the difficulty in forming the materials in wires and other practical shapes, ruled out practical large-scale applications, such as municipal power systems.

Jacoby describes the discovery earlier this year of new superconductors whose compositions include iron and arsenic that still must be chilled below liquid-nitrogen temperatures but could lead to HTSCs that work at much higher temperatures. Until now, researchers thought that this high-temperature behavior was limited to superconductors composed of copper oxides, the article notes. The discovery has reignited an international scientific race to discover additional HTSCs that require less cooling — perhaps even no cooling — and that could have many practical applications, the article notes.

Journalists’ Resources

  • Have a Ball with National Chemistry Week Oct. 19 - 25

Activities will be held in communities around the United States Oct. 19-25 during National Chemistry Week, the American Chemical Society’s annual showcase of chemistry’s central role in everyday life. The theme will be “Having a Ball with Chemistry,” emphasizing the role chemistry plays in fitness and athletics. Thousands of students will learn about chemistry’s role in providing new materials and technology to improve athletic equipment and performance, and the importance of nutrition and maintaining an active lifestyle. For more information, including the location of local NCW events, please visit http://www.chemistryweek.org.

  • Press releases, chat room sessions, and more from ACS' 236th National Meeting

It's never too late to explore a treasure trove of news sources, background material and story ideas available from the ACS' latest National Meeting, which was held in Philadelphia from August 17-21, 2008. Reporters can view press releases, search an archive with abstracts of more than 9,000 scientific presentations and hundreds of non-technical summaries of those presentations, and access other resources at: www.eurekalert.org/acsmeet.php.

The ACS Office of Public Affairs also offers recorded video versions of its national meeting "chat room" briefings and accompanying chat transcripts by going to http://www.ustream.tv/channel/acslive. To use this site, you must first register with Ustream.tv by going to http://ustream.tv/sign-up-step-1. It's free and only takes a minute or two to sign up. To view the archived chat room sessions, proceed by clicking the "Login" button at the top right of the Ustream window and then selecting "Past Clips." Please note that Ustream requires the latest version of Adobe Flash, which can be downloaded without charge at http://www.adobe.com/products/flashplayer.

  • 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

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.

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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.