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Chemicals

It sounds like something from a science-fiction movie, but a biohacking group in California has managed to develop eye drops that temporarily give a human being excellent night vision. The chemicals used are still very much at the experimental stage – this isn't something you'd want to try at home just yet – but the first trial has been a successful one. Read More
The synthesis of complex small molecules in the laboratory is specialized and intricate work that is both difficult and time-consuming. Even highly-trained chemists can take many years to determine how to build each one, let alone discover and describe its functions. In an attempt to improve this situation, a team of chemists at the University of Illinois claim to have created a machine that is able to assemble a vast range of complex molecules at the push of a button. Read More
Scientists haven't created life in the laboratory yet, but when they do, they'll be off and running. Case in point is a University of Glasgow team led by Professor Lee Cronin, the Regius Chair of Chemistry, which has developed the world's first chemical system capable of evolving as part of a project that aims at creating synthetic "life" without DNA. Read More
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt, and Arieh Warshel for the development of multi-scale computer models of chemical reactions. Such computational chemical models are now the foundation for protein, enzyme, and pharmaceutical research, and combine a classical description of the motion and structure of large molecules with a quantum description of the regions within the molecule where a reaction takes place. Read More
Laboratories that deal with dangerous chemicals devote a lot of time and money to ensuring the work environment is safe. Since many toxic substances lack a noticeable smell or color, the trick is finding a detection method that alerts employees to their presence as quickly and clearly as possible. Scientists at the the Fraunhofer Research Institution for Modular Solid State Technologies may have found a simple answer to that problem in the form of a protective glove that immediately changes color when it comes into contact with hazardous materials. Read More
Mobile computing is changing the world. Tasks that could recently only be performed at a desk can now be done anywhere. It may be some time before an entire laboratory can be replaced by an iPhone, but the men behind a new Kickstarter project are taking an ambitious step in that direction. Read More
Remember what it was like in the days before the internet, if you were trying to find out something specific? If you wanted know what flounders eat, for instance, you would have to physically go to the library, look up “marine biology” in the card catalogue, find the appropriate books in the stacks, look up “flounder” in their indexes – and even then, you might not find what you were looking for. It was certainly a lot more work than just typing in “flounder diet” on Google. Well, materials research so far has been kind of like that pre-Google era, in that scientists have had to spend months conducting research in order to determine how different compounds will react with one another. With the launch of MIT’s Materials Project website, however, it looks like that could be about to change. Read More
Scientists are constantly looking for new and better ways of seeing through biological tissue, in order to see cells within it that have been marked with dyes, proteins or other substances. While recent research has involved using marking materials such as carbon nanotubes and firefly protein, scientists from Japan’s RIKEN Brain Science Institute have taken a different approach – they’ve developed a chemical reagent that causes the tissue surrounding the marked cells to become transparent. Read More
Recent research from the University of Washington (UW) has revealed that freshly-scented laundry comes with an unexpected price. In the first study to examine dryer vent exhaust, fragrance components in some of the best-selling liquid clothing detergents, fabric softeners and dryer sheets were found to infuse the vented air with a veritable rogue's gallery of hazardous pollutants, including two known carcinogens. Read More
Lab-on-a-chip devices work by directing small samples of liquid through tiny “microchannels” embedded in a small platform, and are used for analyzing liquids in medical and scientific settings. Earlier this week, we reported on a high school teacher who has invented a way of creating such devices using transparency film and a photocopier. Now, scientists from Indiana’s Purdue University have announced a new method of making them using paper. While previous approaches have involved laying down lines of wax or other hydrophobic (water-repelling) material on hydrophilic (water-absorbing) paper, this method uses store-bought hydrophobic paper, and creates the microchannels by burning away the waterproof coating with a laser. Read More
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