05-09-2012   -   Agriculture

Sun 26 Aug 2012 Biorefinery makes use of every bit of a soybean. The corn industry produces almost 4,000 products from every bushel. Oil refineries produce fuels and ingredients for an estimated 6,000 products with a thoroughness that actually squeezes 44 gallons of products from every 42-gallon barrel of crude. Scientists today unveiled new technology intended to move soybeans, second only to corn as the top food crop in the U.S., along that same use-to-all path as a raw material for a wider portfolio of products. They described it ― a new integrated soybean biorefinery ― at the 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society. "Mention soybeans to most people, and they immediately think of the oil," said Ramani Narayan, MSU University Distinguished Professor, who reported on the new biorefinery technology. "Soybean oil is the world's most widely used edible oil. It's in some margarines, shortenings, mayonnaise, salad dressings, frozen foods, baked goods and many other items. But soybeans are about more than oil. Soybeans are nuggets of green gold that can be a treasure trove of ingredients for other products, and our new biorefinery provides a glimpse of that potential." The biorefinery is a relatively new concept, based on the approach used at oil refineries, which produce not just fuels from crude oil, but chemicals that become ingredients for thousands of other everyday products. Biorefineries use not oil as their raw material, but biomass ― plant material ― like corn and convert it into ethanol fuel, for instance, and a range of other products. more

  05-09-2012   -   Energy

Mon 20 Aug 2012 Fueling the future with renewable gasoline and diesel (IH2). A new process for converting municipal waste, algae, corn stalks and similar material to gasoline, diesel and jet fuel is showing the same promise in larger plants as it did in laboratory-scale devices. Research is moving steadily toward having multiple demonstration-scale facilities in operation by 2014, with each facility producing a range of 3,500-17,500 gallons of fuel a day from non-food plant material. We will be designing commercial-scale facilities that could produce as much as 300,000 gallons per day from the same kinds of feedstocks. The technology, termed Integrated Hydropyrolysis and Hydroconversion (IH2), already has the credibility of its developer, the Gas Technology Institute (GTI), where Linck is a scientist. Located in Des Plaines, Ill, GTI is a nonprofit energy technology research organization whose accomplishments during the last 70 years include nearly 500 products, 750 licenses and more than 1,200 associated patents. IH2 technology involves use of internally generated hydrogen and a series of proprietary catalysts, which jump-start chemical reactions that otherwise would happen slowly or not at all. The process uses as its raw material, or "feedstock," virtually any kind of nonfood biomass material — including wood, cornstalks and cobs, algae, aquatic plants and municipal solid waste ― and produces gasoline, jet fuel or diesel fuel. more

  05-07-2012   -   Physics

Thu 5 July 2012 CERN's new particle find hints at exotic physics. In a two-hour presentation, the spokespeople from two CERN experiments - the ATLAS detector and the CMS detector – presented their results to a packed auditorium at CERN, in Geneva, Switzerland, that was linked live with the 36th International Conference on High Energy Physics. Both experiments announced an observation of a new particle, in the mass range of 125-126 GeV. This is indeed a new particle and it must be a boson and it’s the heaviest ever found. The Higgs boson is the final piece of the Standard Model, the answer to the question of why particles have different masses. If it is more exotic than the Standard Model predicts, then new evidence will come from how the particle decays. more

  05-07-2012   -   Biology

Wed 4 July 2012 Genetic 911: Cells’ emergency systems revealed. New study examines how cells exploit gene sequences to cope with toxic stress. Toxic chemicals wreak havoc on cells, damaging DNA and other critical molecules. A new study from researchers at MIT and the University at Albany reveals how a molecular emergency-response system shifts the cell into damage-control mode and helps it survive such attacks by rapidly producing proteins that counteract the harm. more

  14-06-2012   -   Physics

Thu 14 Jun 2012 Nonlinear optics: Now in the terahertz range. Researchers have recently reported on the direct observation of a nonlinear-optical effect, occurring in the regime of single-cycle pulse of light at terahertz (THz) frequencies. They used a doped semiconductor as an efficient nonlinear medium, where the THz-range optical nonlinearity arises from the response of free-electron plasma to THz electric fields. This is quite a unique observation for nonlinear optics in general, which demonstrates a great potential of using THz pulses as accessible model tools for study of single-cycle nonlinear optical effects. more

  13-06-2012   -   Biology

Wed 13 Jun 2012 Voicemail discovered in nature. Insects can use plants as ‘green phones’ for communication with other bugs. A new study shows that through those same plants insects are also able to leave ‘voicemail’ messages in the soil. Herbivorous insects store their voicemails via their effects on soil fungi. The new research shows that insects leave a specific legacy that remains in the soil after they have fed on a plant. Future plants growing on that same spot can pick up these signals from the soil and pass them on to other insects. Those messages are really specific: the new plant can tell whether the former one was suffering from leaf-eating caterpillars or from root-eating insects.more

  10-06-2012   -   Medicine

Mon 11 Jun 2012 A groundbreaking new graphene-based MRI contrast agent. The MRI is one of the most powerful and central techniques in diagnostic medicine and biomedical research used primarily to render anatomical details for improved diagnosis of many pathologies and diseases. Currently, most MRI procedures use gadolinium-based contrast agents to improve the visibility and definition of disease detection. However, recent studies have shown harmful side effects, such as nephrogenic systemic fibrosis. Further, most MRI contrast agents are not suitable for extended-residence-intravascular (blood pool), or tissue (organ)-specific imaging, and do not allow molecular imaging. The new graphene-based imaging contrast agent demonstrates greater effectiveness and lower toxicity. more

  10-06-2012   -   Physics

Sun 10 Jun 2012 All the colors of a high-energy rainbow, in a tightly focused beam. For the first time, researchers have produced a coherent, laser-like, directed beam of light that simultaneously streams ultraviolet light, X-rays, and all wavelengths in between. The new technology is the first to produce a coherent beam that includes X-rays using a setup that fits on a laboratory table. The X-ray burst that emerges has much shorter wavelengths than the original laser pulse, which will make it possible to follow the tiniest, fastest physical processes in nature, including the coupled dance of electrons and ions in molecules as they undergo chemical reactions, or the flow of charges and spins in materials.more

  25-04-2012   -   Chemistry

Wed 25 Apr 2012 Chemists explain the molecular workings of promising fuel cell electrolyte. Researchers reveal how protons move in phosphoric acid sheds new light on the workings of a promising fuel cell electrolyte. Phosphoric acid fuel cells were the first modern fuel cell types to be used commercially and have found application as both stationary and automotive power sources. Their high efficiency as combined power and heat generators make them attractive targets for further development. In the cell, phosphoric acid functions as the medium (or "electrolyte") that transports protons produced in the reaction that decomposes the fuel across the cell. Indeed, phosphoric acid has the highest proton conductivity of any known substance, but what makes it work so well as a proton conductor has remained a mystery. Efficient proton transport across a fuel cell is just one of several technical challenges that must be tackled before this technology can be applied on a massive scale. The key to this problem is the identification of a suitable electrolyte material. Hydrated polymers are often employed, but these must operate at temperatures below the boiling point of water, which limits their utility. Phosphoric acid fuel cells and other phosphate-based cells, by contrast, can be operated at substantially higher temperatures. Chemists have sought a molecular level understanding of proton conduction phenomena for more than 200 years. The earliest studies concerned water and can be traced back to a landmark paper in 1806 by the German chemist Theodor von Grotthuss. more

  05-04-2012   -   Geology

Thu 5 Apr 2012 For the first time, instrumentation aboard two NASA missions operating from complementary vantage points watched as a powerful solar storm spewed a two million-mile-per-hour stream of charged particles and interacted with the invisible magnetic field surrounding Earth. The storm, observed two years ago on April 5, 2010, also is thought to have caused an important communications satellite, Galaxy-15, to founder and drift, taking almost a year to return to its station. Understanding how solar events develop and impact satellites is like understanding the processes that cause extreme weather events on Earth to develop and destroy homes and businesses. more

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