Biology, Chemistry, News

Scientists use yeast to create Morphine

Yeast could reduce the need to grow poppy fields for opiates. Image via

Yeast is already used to create two substances widely used to kill pain – beer and wine. Jokes aside, researchers have shown that genetically modified yeast can create morphine, which would remove the need for poppy crops – something which is currently causing widespread issues (including war) in some areas. “Opiates and related molecules are medically essential, but their production…

Chemistry, News

Ultrathin diamond-like thread could help build elevator to space

Artist impression of a possible space elevator - the image in question show the new diamond-like nanomaterial in action, though.

For the first time, scientists at Penn State University have coaxed carbon-containing molecules to form a  strong tetrahedron shape, then linked each tetrahedron end to end to form a long, thin nanothread. The resulting materials is stronger than carbon nanotubes, while the thread is only a few atoms across thick, hundreds of thousands of times smaller than an optical fiber. This sort…

Chemistry, News

Nuclear battery that uses water-based solution lasts longer and is more efficient

Nuclear batteries might soon prove to be important in generating energy for isolated systems where longevity is a key factor. Note: image is not an actual representation of the system outlined in this articles. Image credit: Dreamstime

Though betavoltaics – battery technology that employs radiation as a means of power generation – has been around since the 1950s, developments thus far haven’t been the most promising. This may set to change after researchers at University of Missouri reported they’ve devised a nuclear-assisted battery, which works in a watery environment, that both lasts longer and is more efficient. The…

Chemistry, Tech, Videos

What chemical elements are inside your new iPhone


It’s only been recently that Apple released its new iPhone 6, and like every year zealots are lining up in front of Apple stores. In fact, the company reports that some 4 million iPhone 6 preorders were placed within the first 24 hours, yet again showing how powerful a cult brand can be. Aside from being a nifty gadget, the iPhone, and…

Chemistry, News, Pollution

US drinking water contaminated with gas because of faulty wells, but not fracking

Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images

Stanford researchers traced back methane leaks from contaminated drinking water in Pennsylvania and Texas to shale gas wells. However, they note that they did not find a link between the contamination and the technique used to drill for shale gas itself, called hydraulic fracturing or more commonly known as fracking. Instead, the researchers concluded that well integrity is the main…

Biology, Chemistry, Diseases, News

Skin-penetrating ionic liquids mixed with antibiotics provide better way of killing microbes


As microbes become more and more resistant to antibiotics and cleaning products, it’s crucial that we find better, more efficient way of fending them off. Dr. Samir Mitragotri from the University of California at Santa Barbara has led a team which showed that ionic liquids (ILs), also known as liquid salts, dramatically improve the treatment of microbial biofilm skin infections, while also…

Chemistry, News, Technology

MIT develops handheld mass spectrometer

This is actually considered a small-scaled mass spectrometer. MIT researchers hope they make mass spectrometers that are small enough to hold in your hand. Making these sort of devices portable could have important consequences for field work.

Since it was first introduced decades ago, mass spectrometry has proved to be an invaluable tool for analyzing the chemical makeup of foods, pharmaceuticals, forensic remains and so on. The equipment, however, is extremely bulky, expensive (in the hundreds of thousands range) and a sample might take days of back and forth analysis before results can be returned. MIT researchers…

Chemistry, News

Tracking the origin of life: computer simulation delves inside ‘primordial soup’

Early Earth wasn't the most hospitable place in the Universe, but some in all this chaos life emerged. Image credit: Peter Sawyer / Smithsonian Institution.

One of the most famous chemistry experiments of the last century was the ‘primordial soup’ project initiated by Stanley Miller. The chemist wanted to see what would happen if you mixed methane, ammonia and hydrogen – all substances readily available on Earth before life began – and zapped them with electricity, to create a phenomenon analogous to lightning which would have been…

Chemistry, Green Living, News, Renewable Energy

New insights on photosynthesis bring us one step closer to solar fuels

Scientists have determined the exact structure of an important photosynthesis complex at a crucial stage. Photo: Shutterstock

For billions of years, nature has been harnessing the energy from the sun through photosynthesis. This way, plants, algae and cyanobacteria use sunlight to split water and produce energy-rich chemical compounds from carbon dioxide (CO2). This energy is then transferred to animal that eat these plants, and animals that eat plant-eating animals, including us humans. It’s clear that without photosynthesis, there…

Chemistry, Geology, News

One third of fracking chemicals are of unknown toxicity

Basic fracking life cycle scheme. Image: Wikipedia Commons

A while ago I wrote about the disheartening status quo of energy today: frack now, ask questions later. In the article, I argue that there’s a disproportion between the amount of hydraulic fracturing (9 out of 10 wells in the US are fracking wells) and the number of research articles that discuss the bio impact of the practice in the…