GreenGas.jpgThe backbone of our energy infrastructure is carbon-based fuel. In the form of oil, coal and natural gas, carbon compounds run our cars, heat our homes and cook our food. For reasons of energy security and limiting carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, we need to transition to alternative and sustainable fuels. We can minimize the shock of transitioning away from fossil fuels to sustainable sources by using as much existing carbon-based infrastructure as possible.

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 Carl Saxton

High levels of antimony found in fruit juices causes concern for health, say European scientists. 

Antimony has no known biological function and the effects of long term human exposure are unknown. Antimony trioxide, a suspected carcinogen, is used as a catalyst in polyethylene terephthalate (PET) production which is used to package foodstuffs. 

by Michael Spencelayh

Researchers from the UK have designed a test that will help in the search for new anti-malaria medicines. 

Malaria is caused by parasites of the genus Plasmodium and causes over one million deaths per year. Plasmodium has a complex life cycle involving the host and an insect carrier, but a critical step is the invasion of red blood cells. 

A robust new technique for screening drugs' effects on zebrafish behavior is pointing Harvard scientists toward unexpected compounds and pathways that may govern sleep and wakefulness in humans.

Among their more intriguing findings, described this week in the journal Science: Various anti-inflammatory agents in the immune system, long known to induce sleep during infection, may also shape normal sleep/wake cycles. The new research identifies several compounds with surprising effects on sleep and wakefulness in zebrafish. But it also suggests that despite the evolutionary gap between them, zebrafish and mammals may be strikingly similar in the neurochemistry underlying their rest/wake cycles, meaning these same compounds may prove effective in people.

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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.