solarpanel.jpgIn a remarkable feat, scientists at Empa, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, have developed thin film solar cells on flexible polymer foils with a new record efficiency of 20.4% for converting sunlight into electricity. The cells are based on CIGS semiconducting material (copper indium gallium (di)selenide) known for its potential to provide cost-effective solar electricity. The technology is currently awaiting scale-up for industrial applications.

graphenecleaner.jpgGraphene oxide has a remarkable ability to quickly remove radioactive material from contaminated water, researchers at Rice University and Lomonosov Moscow State University have found.

A collaborative effort by the Rice lab of chemist James Tour and the Moscow lab of chemist Stepan Kalmykov determined that microscopic, atom-thick flakes of graphene oxide bind quickly to natural and human-made radionuclides and condense them into solids. The flakes are soluble in liquids and easily produced in bulk.

The experimental results were reported in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics.

The discovery, Tour said, could be a boon in the cleanup of contaminated sites like the Fukushima nuclear plants damaged by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. It could also cut the cost of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for oil and gas recovery and help reboot American mining of rare earth metals, he said.

Graphene oxide’s large surface area defines its capacity to adsorb toxins, Kalmykov said. “So the high retention properties are not surprising to us,” he said. “What is astonishing is the very fast kinetics of sorption, which is key.”

molecular_development.jpgAn industrial revolution on a minute scale is taking place in laboratories at The University of Manchester with the development of a highly complex machine that mimics how molecules are made in nature.

The artificial molecular machine developed by Professor David Leigh FRS and his team in the School of Chemistry is the most advanced molecular machine of its type in the world. Its development has been published in the journal Science.

birdsnests.jpgA bit reminiscent of the Terminator T-1000, a new material created by Cornell researchers is so soft that it can flow like a liquid and then, strangely, return to its original shape.

Rather than liquid metal, it is a hydrogel, a mesh of organic molecules with many small empty spaces that can absorb water like a sponge. It qualifies as a "metamaterial" with properties not found in nature and may be the first organic metamaterial with mechanical meta-properties.

Hydrogels have already been considered for use in drug delivery -- the spaces can be filled with drugs that release slowly as the gel biodegrades -- and as frameworks for tissue rebuilding. The ability to form a gel into a desired shape further expands the possibilities. For example, a drug-infused gel could be formed to exactly fit the space inside a wound.

Dan Luo, professor of biological and environmental engineering, and colleagues describe their creation in the Dec. 2 issue of the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

ComputerChemists.jpgThe researchers’ technique, which relies on self-organizing substances known as block copolymers, was described this week in the Nov. 9 issue  of the journal Science. It’s also being given a real-world test run in collaboration with HGST, one of the world’s leading innovators in disk drives.

“In the last few decades there’s been a steady, exponential increase in the amount of information that can be stored on memory devices, but things have now reached a point where we’re running up against physical limits,” said C. Grant Willson, professor of chemistry and biochemistry in the College of Natural Sciences and the Rashid Engineering Regents Chair in the Cockrell School of Engineering.

asthma.jpgGroundbreaking research at Leicester’s Hospitals has identified a promising new treatment for patients suffering with severe asthma.

A team of medics led by Professor Ian Pavord from Glenfield Hospital have spent 10 years researching the best way to treat patients with severe asthma.  They identified a subgroup of patients who might respond to a new antibody therapy called Mepolizumab. More than 600 patients from 13 countries were involved in the DREAM Trial - a controlled drug trial which compared the effect of Mepolizumab and placebo on the number of asthma attacks experienced by patients over a year.

Researchers found that there were 50 per cent fewer asthma attacks when patients were treated with a monthly injection of Mepolizumab.  The drug works best in patients who have frequent asthma attacks.  Importantly, patients who were given this innovative treatment did not report any adverse effects.

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

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