“Your greatness is measured by your kindness; your education and intellect by your modesty; your ignorance is betrayed by your suspicions and prejudices, and your real caliber is measured by the consideration and tolerance you have for others.” – William J. H. Boetcker
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Biofuels like the ethanol in U.S. gasoline could get cheaper thanks to experts at Rutgers University-New Brunswick and Michigan State University.
They’ve demonstrated how to design and genetically engineer enzyme surfaces so they bind less to corn stalks and other cellulosic biomass, reducing enzyme costs in biofuels production, according to a study published this month on the cover of the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering.
“The bottom line is we can cut down the cost of converting biomass into biofuels,” said Shishir P. S. Chundawat, senior author of the study and an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.
Typically, the enzymes tapped to help turn switchgrass, corn stover (corn stalks, leaves and other leftovers) and poplar into biofuels amount to about 20 percent of production costs, said Chundawat, whose department is in the School of Engineering. Enzymes cost about 50 cents per gallon of ethanol, so recycling or using fewer enzymes would make biofuels more inexpensive.
In the United States, gasoline typically contains up to 10 percent ethanol and corn grain is the primary feedstock of ethanol, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Biorefineries produce about 15 billion gallons of ethanol a year.
In the last few years, some refineries began converting the inedible parts of corn plants into ethanol, Chundawat said.
“The challenge is breaking down cellulose (plant) material, using enzymes, into sugars that can be fermented into ethanol,” he said. “So any advances on making the enzyme processing step cheaper will make the cost of biofuel cheaper. This is a fairly intractable problem that requires you to attack it from various perspectives, so it does take time.”
Biomass contains lignin, an organic polymer that binds to and strengthens plant fibers. But lignin inactivates enzymes that bind to it, hampering efforts to reduce enzyme use and costs, according to Chundawat.
The Rutgers and Michigan State University researchers showed how specially designed enzymes (proteins) can limit their binding to and inactivation by lignin. That would ultimately lower enzyme use and make enzyme recycling feasible for biorefineries in the near future, Chundawat said.
Squid-inspired proteins can act as programmable assemblers of 2D materials, like graphene oxide, to form hybrid materials with minute spacing between layers suitable for high-efficiency devices including flexible electronics, energy storage systems and mechanical actuators, according to an interdisciplinary team of Penn State researchers.
“2D layered materials can be made by vacuum (chemical vapor) deposition,” said Melik C. Demirel, Pierce Development Professor and professor of engineering science and mechanics . “But the process is expensive and takes a long time. With chemical vapor deposition the problem also is we can’t scale up.”
Materials like graphene oxide are composed of single layers of molecules connected in a plain. While the length and breadth of the sheet can be anything, the height is only that of one molecule. To make usable composites and devices, 2D materials must be stacked either in piles of identical sheets or combinations of sheets of different composition stacked to specification. Together with Mauricio Terrones, professor of physics, chemistry and materials science and engineering, and director of 2D Atomic Center, Penn State, Demirel and his team are currently looking at stacking sheets of identical materials using a solvent approach that self assembles.
“Using the solvent approach the molecules are self-assembling, self-healing and flexible,” said Demirel. “Currently we are stacking identical layers, but they don’t have to be the same.”
To make these molecular composites using solvent technology, the researchers combined the sheets of graphene oxide with synthetic polymers patterned after proteins found in squid ring teeth. One end of the protein strand attaches to the edge of a graphene oxide sheet and the other end attaches to the edge of another graphene dioxide sheet. The sheets of graphene oxide self-assemble to stack up with proteins linking the edges of the sheets. The length of these tandem repeat proteins — their molecular weight — determines the distance between sheets.
“Up until now, no one has been able to stack composite layers closer than 1 nanometer,” said Demirel. “We can stack them at atomistic precision with 0.4, 0.6 or 0.9 nanometer resolution by choosing the right molecular weight of the same protein. Respectively.”
The researchers tested this material’s ability to make tiny devices by creating bimorph thermal actuators. A bimorph activator is a small piece of material made from two different layers and placed perpendicular to a surface. When activated, usually by an electric current, the bimorph actuator bends from the perpendicular.
The researchers report in the July issue of Carbon that “these novel molecular composite bimorph actuators can facilitate thermal actuation at voltages as low as about 2 volts, and they boast energy efficiencies 18 times better than regular bimorph actuators assembled using bulk graphene oxide and tandem repeat films.” They believe that higher molecular weight proteins could reach much higher displacements.
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“Let me pick up the pieces that lay scattered. Let me mend the heart, that I once with a lie shattered. Let me heal your wounded heart, and put the pieces together. Let me take you by the hand, and lead the way. Let me hug you tight and push your fears away. Let us be happy and erase all the hurt!…” – Philip T. M.
While the negative health and environmental effects of mining and burning coal are well documented, simply transporting and storing coal can also adversely affect the health outcomes of individuals living near coal-fired power plants. New research explores the health and environmental costs of coal storage and transportation, finding that increases in the level of coal stockpiles held by U.S. power plants increase local air pollution levels, which in turn increases the average infant and adult mortality rates in the communities near these plants.
The new National Bureau of Economic Research working paper, “Handle with Care: The Local Air Pollution Costs of Coal Storage,” was written by Akshaya Jha of Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College and Nicholas Muller of Middlebury College.
“Despite the thicket of environmental regulations relevant to coal, our paper uncovers an as yet unstudied dimension of coal use that we argue requires policy intervention — the environmental consequences of the coal purchase and storage behavior of U.S. power plants,” said Jha.
Jha and Muller utilized monthly, plant-level data on coal purchases and stockpiles provided by the Energy Information Administration as well as air quality data from the Environmental Protection Agency for the period of 2002 to 2012 to determine how coal stockpiles affect concentration of fine particulates (PM2.5) within 25 miles of coal plants. They assessed how increases in PM2.5 affect mortality rates by studying mortality data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Using these data, they estimated that a 10 percent increase in coal stockpiles led to a 0.07 percent increase in air pollution for communities up to 25 miles away from coal plants. They next demonstrated that a 10 percent increase in PM2.5 levels causes average adult mortality rates to rise by 1.1 percent and average infant mortality rates to rise by 6.6 percent in those communities.
Finally, the authors combined their estimates for the effect of coal transportation and storage on PM2.5 and the effect of PM2.5 on mortality rates to calculate the local air pollution costs of coal procurement to areas around power plants. They determined that the local environmental cost of PM2.5 increases is $182.67 per ton of coal stockpiled and the local air pollution cost per ton of coal delivered is $202.51. To put these figures in perspective, the average U.S. coal-fired power plant pays $48.00 per ton for coal, stockpiles 212,781.6 tons of coal and has 106,235 tons of coal delivered to it each month.
The authors’ results suggest that most of the local air pollution costs of coal procurement and storage are borne by the communities within 25 miles of a coal plant. As stated in the paper: “as people living in census tracts with power plants have lower per-capita incomes and educational attainment on average relative to residents of census tracts without power plants, the highly localized environmental costs of coal procurement disproportionately affect economically disadvantaged communities.”
The authors propose low-cost policy solutions that might help mitigate these negative effects. Requiring that coal stockpiles and railcars containing coal be covered is a less expensive and unobtrusive way to reduce PM2.5 levels and reduce the environmental costs. “These types of policies should be easier to implement relative to global anti-pollution policy initiatives since jurisdictions do not need to coordinate with one another,” said Jha. “Given that the local environmental costs of coal storage and handling are incurred primarily by communities living near coal-fired power plants, we hope that local policymakers will consider these simple and easy solutions.”
Find the report at: http://www.nber.org/papers/w23417
Materials provided by Carnegie Mellon University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
Chemists at Nagoya Institute of Technology have developed an innovative chemical reaction system, which could have applications for developing starter molecules for additional synthetic procedures in organic chemistry, as well as pharmaceutical candidates with a potentially wide range of biological activities.
Nagoya, Japan — Given their three-dimensional nature, many chemical compounds can exist in two different forms that are mirror images of each other, called enantiomers. These can have markedly different effects on the human body, so it is often necessary to isolate only one of the forms prior to administration. To avoid this problem, it is possible to develop chemical synthesis methods that produce mostly or exclusively one of the possible enantiomers. This is a salient issue for a class of molecule called aziridines, which include important antibiotics and chemotherapeutic agents, but there still remains substantial scope for manipulating and modifying the reactions by which they are synthesized for a range of applications.
In a new study reported in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition, a team of researchers at Nagoya Institute of Technology (NIT) have established a new reaction whereby a group of molecules called 2H-azirines react with phosphite with the help of a catalyst. By applying a variety of catalysts and conditions to this reaction, they managed to produce aziridines at high yield and with a single enantiomer comprising as much as 98% of the total product.
Little previous work has focused on trying to produce a high level of a single enantiomer from reactions with 2H-azirines because these compounds are not very reactive. Here, the researchers chose to employ a phosphite, comprising phosphor and oxygen atoms, for the reaction with the 2H-azirines because of its ability to contribute or donate electrons in this reaction, promoting the transformation of azirines to aziridines.
“In the reaction of 2H-azirines with phosphite, we applied various chiral catalysts to see their effects,” says Daiki Hayama of the Graduate School of Engineering, NIT. “Once we identified a catalyst that gave both a good overall yield and a high proportion of a single enantiomer in the reaction, we then focused on also optimizing the reaction conditions.”
Once a particularly effective combination of conditions was identified, the team also tested structural variations of the azirine used as starting material in the reaction along with the best catalyst found in the previous experiment, again achieving high yields and high rates of production of one of the possible enantiomers.
“Our results show that this reaction is very enantioselective and works well for a wide range of azirines,” Prof. Shuichi Nakamura says. “This approach should be very useful for developing new chiral molecules potentially with interesting features, both for medical applications and for further work in the field of organic chemistry.”
Materials provided by Nagoya Institute of Technology. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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In the harshest of environments in far-east Russia, Monash scientists have played a leading role in the discovery of a new mineral, which could revolutionise the future of the mining industry.
The mineral — Nataliyamalikite — is new, and did not exist before, explains Professor Joël Brugger, the lead author in a recently published paper in American Mineralogist.
It contains thallium, a rare heavy metal most famous for its qualities as a poison.
“The discovery of this new mineral means we will be able to better understand how metals are extracted from deep-seated sources within our planet, and concentrated at shallow levels to form economic ore deposits,” Professor Brugger said.
“This will give us a unique insight into the processes responsible for the geochemical evolution of our planet.
“And this understanding is required to sustain mining — a key to Australia’s ongoing economic prosperity,” Professor Brugger said.
A significant part of the recently published paper is about the formal description and naming of the new mineral (a process overseen by the International Mineralogical Association).
“Our Russian colleague was the first to see the mineral under the electron microscope,” Professor Brugger said.
“However, Monash was key to making the naming of the new mineral possible: we combined state-of-the-art sample preparation at our Monash Centre for Electronic Microscopy facility, along with the unique capabilities of the Australian Synchrotron, to obtain the crystal structure of the mineral.
“Understanding the crystal structure is akin to getting the full genome of the new mineral,” Professor Brugger said.
“And in the case of Nataliyamalikite this was incredibly difficult as the grains are tiny and almost invisible.”
The new mineral was discovered in the Kamchatka Peninsula — one of the most active volcanic zones in the world, featuring 160 volcanoes including 29 that are active.
According to Professor Brugger, who spent six weeks in the region, it is also one of the few remaining wild oases on this planet, a result of politics (off-limit for a long time due to its military significance for the Soviets) as well as geographical isolation (no road connection to mainland Russia) and harsh climate.
Around 150 new minerals are discovered around the world every year, and the recently published article by Professor Brugger marks the official birth of one of them. Read Professor Brugger’s article at: http://www.minsocam.org/msa/Ammin/AM_Preprints/6057BruggerPrepringAug.pdf
FRANKFURT Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) is not in advanced talks over frozen bonus payments, former board member Hugo Baenziger told Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.
Baenziger’s remarks run counter to comments made by the bank’s current chairman Paul Achleitner who said the lender was in talks to persuade former board members to make a financial contribution toward the costs of paying for the bank’s involvement in past misconduct.
“What Achleiter is referring to, I do not know. Until the annual general meeting I had not been in contact with him for nine months,” Baenziger was quoted as saying.
Deutsche Bank’s current and former board members have not been found guilty of personal misconduct. But the lender chose to freeze some bonus payments for senior bankers, in a bid to persuade shareholders that managers are being incentivised to stop any misconduct at the bank.
Baenziger, a former risk manager at Deutsche Bank, also told the newspaper he saw no legal basis for action against former board members. Baenziger could not be reached for comment.
Deutsche Bank declined to comment on Baenziger’s remarks but referred to comments made by Achleitner when he told shareholders the bank was exploring legal ways for the bank to get former board members to take personal and collective responsibility for the bank’s legal troubles.
(Reporting by Tom Sims; Writing by Edward Taylor. Editing by Jane Merriman)
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Dear Under-Performing Over-Achiever,
In his classic book on wealth and success, Think And Grow Rich (1937), Dr Napoleon Hill interviewed the wealthiest and most powerful men and women of the day in order to unlock their success secrets.
(Plus another 500 or so more, over a 20 year period…)
And one of the most intriguing conclusions Hill came to, after over 20 years of research, was that:
Now I know what you might be thinking — “Of course they don’t. Most wealthy people start with family connections, a trust fund or a lavish inheritance they can fall back on.”
The intriguing part is, Dr Hill found that was NOT the case. Most of the great men and women he interviewed didn’t come from “money”. They didn’t have a trust fund or inheritance to get them started. Many even started from a position of total poverty.
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Joyce Meyer Blessed Sermon Thinking Your Way Out of Bondage.