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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: February 20, 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

Easing concerns about pollution from manufacture of solar cells

In a finding that could help ease concerns about the potential environmental impact of manufacturing solar cells, scientists report that the manufacture of solar cells produces far fewer air pollutants than conventional fossil fuel technologies. Their report, the first comprehensive study on the pollutants produced during the manufacture of solar cells, is scheduled for the March 15 issue of the ACS' Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly publication.

Solar energy has been touted for years as a safer, cleaner alternative to burning fossil fuels to meet rising energy demands. However, environmentalists and others are increasingly concerned about the potential negative impact of solar cell (photovoltaic) technology. Manufacture of photovoltaic cells requires potentially toxic metals such as lead, mercury and cadmium and produces carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming.

In the new study, Vasilis M. Fthenakis and colleagues gathered air pollution emissions data from 13 solar cell manufacturers in Europe and the United States from 2004-2006. The solar cells include four major commercial types: multicrystalline silicon, monocrystalline silicon, ribbon silicon, and thin-film cadmium telluride. The researchers found that producing electricity from solar cells reduces air pollutants by about 90 percent in comparison to using conventional fossil fuel technologies.

Acid-seeking “warheads” promise safer, more effective cancer weapons

Researchers in California report development of an anti-cancer “warhead” that targets the acidic signature of tumor cells in much the same way that heat-seeking missiles seek and destroy military targets that emit heat. These acid-seeking substances are not toxic to healthy cells, and represent a new class of potentially safer, more effective anti-cancer drugs, they say. Their study is scheduled for the March 6 issue of ACS’ The Journal of Physical Chemistry B, a weekly publication.

For years, scientists tried to develop anti-cancer drugs based on enediynes, a powerful class of natural, tumor-fighting agents derived from soil bacteria. However, as these substances kill both cancerous and healthy cells, their effectiveness as anti-cancer drugs is limited.

In the new study, Elfi Kraka and colleagues describe making unusual substances that become highly active only in the presence of low pH levels, or acidic environments. Since cancer cells have highly acidic environments in comparison to normal cells, compounds containing these substances — called dynemicin-amidines (DADs) — target and destroy tumor cells without affecting healthy cells, the researchers say. The substances represent “the design of the first nontoxic enediyne anti-tumor drugs based on the DAD principle,” the report states.

Toward a healthier food for Fido: Corn provides promising fiber alternative

In addition to helping fill gasoline tanks with alcohol-based fuel, corn may have a new role in filling Fido’s bowl with more healthful food, nutritional biochemists in Illinois are reporting. They found that corn fiber shows promise as a more economical and healthier ingredient in dog food than some of the fibers now in use. Their study is scheduled for the March 26 issue of ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.

George Fahey and colleagues point out that the fiber content of dog food varies widely and is often of inferior quality. Many dog foods use fiber from sugar beet pulp. Corn fiber — available in large amounts as a byproduct of ethanol production — is an attractive alternative. However, researchers have little information on corn fiber’s effects in dogs.

In the new study, researchers studied digestion, food intake, and fecal characteristics in dogs fed either a special food containing corn fiber or a standard food containing beet fiber. Substituting corn fiber for beet fiber “does not dramatically impact nutrient digestibility, food intake, or fecal production and characteristics,” the researchers say. Corn fiber should therefore be considered a promising fiber alternative for use in dog food, they note. Previous studies suggest that corn fiber in animal food could have beneficial effects in reducing risks of obesity and diabetes.

New electrodes may provide safer, more powerful lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries

Researchers in Spain and the United Kingdom are reporting development of a new electrode material that could ease concerns about the safety of those ubiquitous lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, while giving Li-ion batteries a power boost, according to a new study. It is scheduled for the March 11 issue of ACS’ Chemistry of Materials, a bi-weekly journal.

Li-ion batteries power an increasing number of laptop computers and portable electronic devices. They are now being eyed for motor vehicles of the future. However, recent recalls of millions of Li-ion batteries due to overheating have raised safety concerns, with researchers seeking new materials to make safer, more powerful batteries.

In the new study, M. Rosa PalacÍn and colleagues compared the performance of Li-ion batteries made with electrodes composed of lithium nickel nitride (LiNiN) to conventional Li-ion batteries containing carbon electrodes. The new materials are more efficient than the conventional electrodes and less likely to overheat, the researchers suggest. They note that “further improvements can be envisaged by changing the reaction conditions and the processing of the electrode.”

Deadly sugar plant blast underscores need for new regulations

The explosion at a sugar refinery in Georgia earlier this month that killed nine workers underscores the need for tougher industrial safety standards regarding production of combustible dust, according to an article scheduled for the Feb. 25 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.

In the article, C&EN Senior Editor Jeff Johnson points out that hundreds of such dust explosions have occurred over the last 30 years. These explosions can occur without warning and can be triggered by a single spark. Most people do not realize that common substances such as sugar can become highly explosive after being processed into fine dust, whose tiny size requires less energy to ignite, the article notes. The risk grows as huge quantities of these tiny particles accumulate on floors, beams, ceilings and other areas.

Over the years, tighter federal regulations have already prevented combustible dust accidents at grain facilities. However, in light of the recent tragedy, experts feel that tougher, more uniform combustible dust standards and regulations should be expanded to cover all industries that produce combustible dust to prevent these disasters from occurring in the future, the article suggests.

Journalists’ Resources

• 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.

  • 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.

  • Updates on Fast-Breaking Advances in Nanoscience
  • American Chemical Society has launched a new nanoscience and nanotechnology community Website. Called ACS Nanotation, the site aims to become the premiere destination for nanoscience and nanotechnology news, highlights and community. Features include research highlights from ACS journals, career resources, podcasts and other multimedia resources, and interaction with other scientists. Registration is free.
  • ACS Press releases
    A treasure trove of news ideas, background material, news sources, and other information issued by the ACS Office of Communications.
  • General Chemistry Glossary

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
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  • 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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