Snippets - Science

Snippets - Science

Of Fuels and Chemicals

Making carbon emissions useful

Researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA have developed a new system that could potentially be used for converting power plant emissions of carbon dioxide into useful fuels for cars, trucks and planes, as well as into chemical feedstocks for a wide variety of products. The new membrane-based system is described in a paper in the journal ChemSusChem. The membrane — made of a compound of lanthanum, calcium, and iron oxide — allows oxygen from a stream of carbon dioxide to migrate through to the other side, leaving carbon monoxide behind.

Carbon monoxide produced during this process can be used as a fuel by itself or combined with hydrogen and/or water to make many other liquid hydrocarbon fuels and chemicals including methanol. This process could become part of the suite of technologies known as carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS), which if applied to electricity production could reduce the impact of fossil fuel use on global warming.

Monitoring Cancer

Molecular smoke alert

If it burns in a house smoke detectors alert us, thus protecting life. A molecular smoke alert has now been developed by Dresden researchers for the TP53 gene, the most important human cancer gene. The alert goes on if the TP53 gene is mutated in cells. The molecular smoke detector works like a TP53 sensor, which monitors the correct function of the gene. A non-functional TP53 gene is going to activate the sensor, which initiates cell death. Results from this study from the research team of Professor Frank Buchholz are now published in the journal Nature Communications. They concluded that the formation of a TP53 sensor could suppress tumour formation at a very early stage.


Strange Matters

Strange Matters shows how some discoveries made by scientists may destroy us all. One such discovery was made in August 2014, when researchers at Brookhaven National Laboratory, USA uncovered the means to manufacture strange matter, a quark liquid which existed billions of years ago and is thought to have played a key role in the Big Bang. When properly manipulated, this liquid quark serves as the most explosive element in the known universe, and can consume and destroy all planetary mass.

The documentary argues that current research involving particle manipulation and man-made black holes carry the threat of even greater devastation.  To watch the documentary, visit

Global Problem

Fighting antibiotic resistance

Antibiotics are commonly used around the world to cure diseases caused by bacteria. But as the World Health Organisation and other international bodies have pointed out, the global increase of antibiotic resistance is a rapidly worsening problem. And since antibiotics are also an essential part of modern medicine, like prophylactic treatment during surgeries and cancer therapy, rising resistance of bacteria presents even more of a danger. That’s why researchers are busy devising strategies to address this threat to human health and Université de Montréal (UdeM) is at the forefront of the fight.

One of the ways antibiotic resistance genes are spread in hospitals and in the environment is that the genes are coded on plasmids that transfer between bacteria. A plasmid is a DNA fragment found in bacteria or yeasts. It carries genes useful for bacteria, especially when these genes encode proteins that can make bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Now a team of scientists at UdeM has come up with a novel approach to block the transfer of resistance genes. The study was published in Scientific Reports.

Molecular Activities

Herbicide protection

A research team led by Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, USA has harnessed metabolomics technologies to unravel the molecular activities of a key protein that can enable plants to withstand a common herbicide. Their findings reveal how the protein can sometimes act imprecisely, and how it can be re-engineered to be more precise. The new study appears online in the journal Nature Plants.

Plants provide an extraordinary model for scientists to study how metabolism changes over time. Because they cannot escape from predators or search for new food sources, plants must often grapple with an array of environmental insults using what is readily available — their own internal biochemistry.

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