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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: February 13, 2008

Note to Journalists and Other Viewers

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

Fighting “fat bloom” can mean a prettier look for Valentine’s Day chocolates

Chemists in England and the Netherlands have discovered a substance that could keep those boxes of Valentine’s Day chocolates, and other goodies, looking fresher and tastier. Their finding, which prevents formation of unsightly white films on the outside of chocolate, is scheduled for the March 12 issue of the ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.

Called “fat bloom,” white films are actually tiny particles of crystalline fat and most often appear on the surface of chocolates that contain nut-based fillings. The films often alarm consumers, who may mistakenly think good chocolates have gone bad. Although the blooms have been studied for decades, the phenomenon is poorly understood and researchers have had difficulty finding an effective method to reduce their formation.

In the new study, Kevin W. Smith and colleagues crafted a candy-size mechanical model of a chocolate bon-bon using a series of stacked, steel washers. They layered the bottom of each cylinder with different concentrations of a substance called “antibloom fat” and then filled the top of each cylinder with cocoa butter to represent a chocolate coating. The scientists showed that increasing the amount of “antibloom” used in the filling slowed the rate of crystal formation, thereby preventing fat bloom. — MTS

A long-sought test for direct detection of disease-causing E. coli bacteria

Biochemists in Japan are reporting development of a long-sought direct test for identifying the presence E. coli bacteria that get into water and food as a result of fecal contamination. That contamination causes millions of cases of food poisoning and other gastrointestinal illness around the world each year. Their study is scheduled for the April 4 issue of ACS’ Biotechnology Progress, a bi-monthly journal.

In the report, Yasunori Tanji and colleagues point out that tests now in use do not directly identify E. coli. Instead, these tests detect “coliform” bacteria that health officials use as indicators for fecal contamination. Coliforms, however, can originate from natural sources, and are not always reliable indicators of fecal contamination. Direct tests for E. coli do exist, but are too time-consuming and complex for general use.

The new study describes successful use of genetically engineered viruses that infect E. coli to identify a wide range of E. coli strains found in sewage. Researchers first engineered the viruses to be harmless to E. coli. Then they gave the viruses genes to produce green fluorescent proteins. The resulting viruses reveal the presence of E. coli by lighting up and glowing after infecting the bacteria. The test uses a fluorescent microscope to detect the glow and the presence of disease-causing bacteria, and takes only a few hours. — MTS

Study of “Ouzo effect” may lead to design of improved drugs, cosmetics

Scientists studying the cloudy emulsions produced by anise-flavored liquors such as Ouzo have discovered new molecular insights into their formation, findings that could lead to the design of better commercial emulsions used in making pharmaceuticals, food products, cosmetics and other materials. Their study is scheduled for the Feb. 19 issue of ACS’ Langmuir, a bi-weekly publication.

Although transparent when bottled, Ouzo, Pastis, Pernod, and other popular anise-flavored alcoholic beverages form milky-white emulsions when diluted with water prior to drinking, a phenomenon commonly known as the “Ouzo effect.” These emulsions occur spontaneously and are stable for weeks and even months, a feature that is attractive to industry. However, scientists are unclear how these mixtures form and stabilize.

In the new study, Erik van der Linden and colleagues measured the stability of various emulsions prepared from commercial Pernod and compared the results to theoretical predictions of their formation. The scientists found that their experimental observations were often opposite the predicted behavior of the emulsions in the presence of various concentrations of oil, water, and alcohol components. “More knowledge of the parameters that determine the stability of these emulsions, besides interfacial tension, solubility, and density difference, might lead to better control of the emulsification process,” the study states. — MTS

New transportation technology for microcargoes

Scientists in Japan are reporting the discovery of a new transportation technology for moving ultra-small cargoes in the coming generation of micromachines and laboratories-on-a-chip. The report by Kenichi Yoshikawa and colleagues is scheduled for the March 6 issue of ACS’ Journal of Physical Chemistry, a weekly publication.

The study describes successful delivery of a simulated microcargo of paper with chemical waves produced by a reaction that has fascinated scientists and students for 50 years. Termed the Belousov-Zhabotinsky (BZ) reaction, it produces a continuing series of waves in a water solution.

In the report, researchers describe the first use of those waves to move objects in a directed, controlled fashion. “They can be used for the transport of material objects through a desired delivery route,” the report states. “The combination of carrying and controlling waves with the proper timing of initiation allows us, in principle, to deliver freight over a chosen path, with the ability to switch the path if desired.” — MW

Improved polymers for lithium ion batteries pave the way for next generation of electric and hybrid cars

W The next generation of electric and hybrid cars may be a step closer thanks to new and improved polymer membranes that allow the development of bigger, safer, and more powerful lithium ion batteries, according to an article http://pubs.acs.org/cen/business/86/8607bus2.html] scheduled for the Feb. 18 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.

In the article, C&EN Senior Editor Alexander H. Tullo notes that polymer membranes are already an essential component of lithium ion batteries that power iPods, laptop computers, and other portable electronic devices. These porous, hair-thin separators control the flow of electrons through the battery. Their failure can result in overheating and even fires. Such problems have recently prompted the widespread recall of millions of lithium ion batteries.

Tullo points out that lithium ion batteries will need to be bigger, safer, and more powerful if they are to be used effectively in motor vehicles. For that purpose, improved polymer separators are needed. Recently, battery manufacturers have stepped up to this challenge by developing new polymer separators with greater porosity for improved power flow and stronger insulation materials for improved safety. At least one manufacturer is already using a new type of polymer separators in a new line of electric vehicles, while other advanced polymers are making their way through the development pipeline, according to the article. “The reality of driving to work under electric power may only be a hair away,” Tullo says.

Journalists’ Resources

  • Black History Month: ACS News Media Resources

Journalists covering Black History Month can obtain a variety of resources from the ACS Office of Communications during February. The resources include a news release honoring the contributions of three African-American chemists: George Washington Carver, Percy Julian, and Norbert Rillieux. Their contributions include new uses for peanuts and other crops grown in the South, a drug to fight blindness, and a sugar refining process. The ACS has designated each of their achievements as National Historic Chemical Landmarks. The resources also include a Kids Science version of the news release, written for a school-age audience, and a Bytesize Science podcast for young listeners about the contributions of these chemists.

• Save the Date: News Media Special Event April 7 in New Orleans

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 (m_woods@acs.org).

  • Media registration opens for ACS National Meeting, New Orleans, April 6-10

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.

For Wired Readers

  • Bytesize Science, a podcast for young listeners The American Chemical Society (ACS) Office of Communications has launched Bytesize Science, an educational, entertaining podcast for young listeners. Bytesize Science translates cutting-edge scientific discoveries from ACS' 36 peer-reviewed journals into stories for young listeners about science, health, medicine, energy, food, and other topics. New installments of Bytesize Science are posted every Monday and available without charge. Bytesize Science is now listed as a “new and notable” podcast on iTunes. It is also being recommended by “Podcasting in Education,” an organization that encourages educators to embrace podcasts as a classroom tool. The archive includes items on environmental threats to killer whales, a scientific explanation for why some people love chocolate, the possible medical uses of an intriguing substance known as “dragon’s blood,” and a hairy tale about "hairy roots." The podcaster for Bytesize Science is Adam Dylewski, an ACS science writer and recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison with degrees in genetics and science communication.
  • to Bytesize Science in iTunes
  • 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. Science Elements includes selected content from ACS’s prestigious suite of 36 peer-reviewed scientific journals and Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’s weekly news magazine member.
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