what's the buzz...

what's the buzz...

Testing artificial photosynthesis

Berkeley Lab researchers, working at the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP), have developed the first fully integrated microfluidic test-bed for evaluating and optimising solar-driven electrochemical energy conversion systems. This test-bed system has already been used to study schemes for photovoltaic electrolysis of water, and can be readily adapted to study proposed artificial photosynthesis and fuel cell technologies.

“We’ve demonstrated a microfluidic electrolyzer for water splitting in which all functional components can be easily exchanged and tailored for optimisation. This allows us to test on a small scale strategies that can be applied to large scale systems,” said Joel Ager, a staff scientist with Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division.

For more than two billion years, nature has employed photosynthesis to oxidise water into molecular oxygen. An artificial version of photosynthesis is regarded as one of the most promising of solar technologies.

JCAP is a multi-institutional partnership led by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and Berkeley Lab with operations in Berkeley (JCAP-North) and Pasadena (JCAP-South).  The JCAP mission is to develop an artificial version of photosynthesis through specialised membranes made from nano-engineered materials that can do what nature does only much more efficiently and for the purpose of producing storable fuels such as hydrogen or hydrocarbons (gasoline, diesel, etc.).

Compulsive behaviour associated with obesity

A new research has found a surprising connection between brain circuits involved in compulsive behavior and obesity.

The University of Iowa-led researchers bred mice missing a gene known to cause obesity, and suspected to also be involved in compulsive behaviour, with a genetic mouse model of compulsive grooming.

The unexpected result was offspring that were neither compulsive groomers nor obese.
The study suggests that the brain circuits that control obsessive-compulsive behavior are intertwined with circuits that control food intake and body weight.  The findings have implications for treating compulsive behavior, which is associated with many forms of psychiatric disease, including obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), Tourette syndrome, and eating disorders.

African medicinal plants could help stop tumor growth

A new study has revealed that medicinal plants found in Africa contain chemicals that may be able to stop the spread of cancer cells.

This is the conclusion of researchers following laboratory experiments conducted at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU).

The plant materials will now undergo further analysis in order to evaluate their therapeutic potential. “The active substances present in African medicinal plants may be capable of killing off tumor cells that are resistant to more than one drug.

They thus represent an excellent starting point for the development of new therapeutic treatments for cancers that do not respond to conventional chemotherapy regimens,” Professor Thomas Efferth of the Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Biochemistry – Therapeutic Life Sciences at Mainz University, said.

Multi-drug resistance is one of the most feared problems in cancer therapy because in such cases most of the standard chemical cancer drugs used in therapy fail and the patient’s chance of survival is thus dramatically reduced.