by Hayley Birch

New studies may help to explain the high concentration of sulfuric acid in the atmosphere. The research could also have implications for global climate modelling, enabling scientists to reduce uncertainties related to the effects of aerosols in their predictions.

Scientists have struggled for years to reconcile atmospheric concentrations of sulfuric acid with the results of laboratory experiments on particle formation rates. According to Mikko Sipilä at the University of Helsinki in Finland, this is down to the inadequacy of particle detectors in previous experiments - the best could only detect particles of 3nm and above. But now Sipilä and a team of international researchers have developed methods to detect particles barely bigger than a single nanometre.

Farmers buy 88 million tons of nitrogen fertilizer annually to grow staple crops such as corn, wheat and rice. And it takes 3 to 5 percent of the world’s natural gas to make all that fertilizer. That’s frustrating because three-fourths of the Earth’s atmosphere is nitrogen, but it’s in a form that most crops can’t use.

But a few plants, such as alfalfa, soybeans and peanuts, can fertilize themselves, in a way, thanks to a friendly bacterial infection. These legumes recruit bacteria that “inhale” naturally occurring nitrogen from the atmosphere and convert it into the useful form that plants use for food.

by Kate McAlpine

A team of researchers in the Netherlands have devised a trap that can pull carbon dioxide out of the air.  

The researchers, led by Elisabeth Bouwman at the Leiden Institute of Chemistry at Leiden University, have developed a selective copper complex - predisposed to capture CO2 and ignore other atmospheric gasses. Equally important, the trapped CO2 can be removed through electrochemistry, requiring a relatively low electrical potential to replace lost electrons.

In a striking finding that raises new questions about carbon dioxide’s (CO2) impact on marine life, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) scientists report that some shell-building creatures—such as crabs, shrimp and lobsters—unexpectedly build more shell when exposed to ocean acidification caused by elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2).

 Because excess CO2 dissolves in the ocean—causing it to “acidify” —researchers have been concerned about the ability of certain organisms to maintain the strength of their shells. Carbon dioxide is known to trigger a process that reduces the abundance of carbonate ions in seawater—one of the primary materials that marine organisms use to build their calcium carbonate shells and skeletons.

by Simon Hadlington

Scientists from Germany and Israel have caught a fleeting glimpse of carbonic acid, the simple yet elusive molecule that plays a key role in nature, from regulating the pH of blood to mediating crucial events in the global carbon cycle. And it appears that the acid is not as weak as the textbooks would have us believe.

A spoonful of herbicide helps the sugar break down in a most delightful way.

Researchers at Brigham Young University have developed a fuel cell – basically a battery with a gas tank – that harvests electricity from glucose and other sugars known as carbohydrates.

The human body’s preferred energy source could someday power our gadgets, cars or homes.

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This news service is provided by Good Samaritan Institute, located in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida.

GSI is a non-profit dedicated to the advancement of medical research by improving communication among scientists.