Tag Archives: ACS

Chemists wish us all a Happy April Fool’s Day with puns!

The American Chemical Society (ACS) has produced a video of chemistry jokes/puns,

From the March 31, 2014 ACS news release on EurekAlert,

… the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) Reactions video series is celebrating with an episode featuring our favorite chemistry jokes. Which two elements look cute together? Why is father water concerned about his “iced out” son? What do you get when you combine sulfur, tungsten and silver? Get all the punchlines in the latest Reactions episode, available at: http://youtu.be/C5RZRkhk0OM.

Subscribe to the series at Reactions YouTube, and follow us on Twitter @ACSreactions.

Happy April Fool’s Day1

 

GUMBOS, the nanoparticle kind

The American Chemical Society (ACS) has posted its latest episode (GUMBOS; an interview with Isiah Warner) of the Prized Science podcast series according to a Nov. 19, 2013 news release on EurekAltert,

A group of nanoparticles called “GUMBOS” is as varied as their culinary namesake implies, with a wide range of potential applications from cancer therapy to sensors. GUMBOS are the focus of a new video from the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) Prized Science series. The videos are available at http://www.acs.org/PrizedScience.

The latest episode of Prized Science features Isiah Warner, Ph.D., this year’s winner of the ACS Award in Analytical Chemistry, sponsored by the Battelle Memorial Institute. He is a Boyd Professor of Chemistry at Louisiana State University. Among other research, the award recognizes Warner’s work developing GUMBOS, which is an acronym for “Group of Uniform Materials Based on Organic Salts.” In the video, Warner explains that the versatility of these nanoparticles, which are about 1/100,000th of the width of a human hair, comes from the ability to mix, match and tailor them to specific features for which a researcher is looking.

The next and final episode in the 2013 series of Prized Science features Esther Takeuchi, Ph.D., winner of the E. V. Murphee Award in Industrial and Engineering Chemistry.

Other episodes feature Tim Swager, Ph.D., winner of the 2013 ACS Award for Creative Invention; Peter J. Stang, Ph.D., winner of the 2013 ACS Priestley Medal; Greg Robinson, Ph.D., winner of the 2013 F. Albert Cotton Award; and Shirley Corriher, winner of the 2013 James T. Grady-James H. Stack Award for Interpreting Chemistry for the Public.

ACS encourages educators, schools, museums, science centers, news organizations and others to embed Prized Science on their websites. The videos discuss scientific research in non-technical language for general audiences. New episodes in the series, which focuses on ACS’ 2013 national award recipients, will be issued periodically.

The 2013 edition of Prized Science features renowned scientists telling the story of their own research and its impact and potential impact on everyday life. Colorful graphics and images visually explain the award recipient’s research.

The ACS administers more than 60 national awards to honor accomplishments in chemistry and service to chemistry. The nomination process involves submission of forms, with winners selected by a committee consisting of ACS members who typically are technical experts in the nominee’s specific field of research.

Here is the GUMBOS podcast,


Here is the video description and full credit list provided by the ACS (from the YouTube page hosting the video).

Uploaded on Nov 18, 2013

A group of nanoparticles called “GUMBOS” is as varied as their culinary namesake implies, with a wide range of potential applications from cancer therapy to sensors. The latest episode of Prized Science features Isiah Warner, Ph.D., this year’s winner of the ACS Award in Analytical Chemistry. Among other research, the award recognizes Warner’s work developing GUMBOS, which is an acronym for “Group of Uniform Materials Based on Organic Salts.” In the video, Warner explains that the versatility of these nanoparticles, which are about 1/100,000th of the width of a human hair, comes from the ability to mix, match and tailor them to have the specific features that scientists might need for different applications.

Produced by the American Chemical Society
Video by XiaoZhi Lim
Animation by Sean Parsons

As far as I know, there’s only one song that features gumbo in its lyrics, Jambalaya by Hank Williams. Here’s a somewhat bouncy version by John Fogerty,

Enjoy!

Fear of chemistry or chemistry of fear?

While there are some who quake at the thought of chemistry classes, there are those who use chemistry as a springboard for studying fear. To celebrate Hallowe’en and all things frightful, the American Chemical Society has produced a 4 min. 29 sec. video titled the Chemistry of Fear as part of its Bytesize Science podcast series,

If you go to the American Chemical Society webpage hosting Bytesize Science podcasts, you’ll find a video which features a videoabout a woman who has no fear.

‘Nano fest’ at the 245th meeting of the American Chemical Society

The American Chemical Society’s (ACS) 245th meeting (April 7 – 11, 2013) features a few items about nanotechnology: the funding of it and the toxicological testing of it, in two separate news items which bear a ‘political’ link.

An April 9, 2013 news item on Azonano tells of concerns regarding recent funding cuts resulting from the US budget sequestration,

Speaking at the 245th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society, A. Paul Alivisatos, Ph.D., expressed concern that the cuts come when nanotechnology is poised to deliver on those promises. He told the meeting, which continues through Thursday, that ill-conceived cuts could set back America’s progress in nanotechnology by decades.

“The National Science Foundation announced that they will issue a thousand fewer new grants this year because of sequestration,” said Alivisatos, referring to the across-the-board mandatory federal budget cuts that took effect on March 1. “What it means in practice is that an entire generation of early career scientists, some of our brightest and most promising scientists, will not have the funding to launch their careers and begin research properly, in the pathway that has established the United States as leader in nanotechnology research. It will be a setback, perhaps quite serious, for our international competitiveness in this key field.”

Alivisatos described applications of nanotechnology that can help reduce fossil fuel consumption and the accompanying emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas. He is professor of chemistry and materials science and the Larry and Diane Bock Professor of Nanotechnology at the University of California at Berkeley, director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and co-editor of the ACS journal Nano Letters. …

Alivisatos expressed concern, however, that cuts in federal funding will take a heavy toll on the still-emerging field. He explained that the reductions stand to affect scientists at almost every stage of making contributions to society. Young scientists, for instance, will find it more difficult to launch research programs in new and promising fields.[emphases mine]  Established scientists will have to trim research programs, and may not have the money to explore promising new leads.

“We haven’t been able to communicate adequately with the public and policymakers, and explain the impact of what may sound like small and unimportant cuts in funding.” Alivisatos said. “A 5 percent reduction in funding — well, to the public, it seems like nothing. In reality, these cuts will be applied in ways that do maximal damage to our ability to be globally competitive in the future.”

Coincidentally or not,  the ACS had placed an Apr. 8, 2013 news release on EurekAlert highlighting some work in the field of nanotoxicology led by a ‘young’ scientist (I imagine she received her funding prior to sequestration) doing some exciting work,

Earlier efforts to determine the health and environmental effects of the nanoparticles that are finding use in hundreds of consumer products may have produced misleading results by embracing traditional toxicology tests that do not take into account the unique properties of bits of material so small that 100,000 could fit in the period at the end of this sentence.

That was among the observations presented here today at the 245th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society, by one of the emerging leaders in nanoscience research. The talk by Christy Haynes, Ph.D., was among almost 12,000 presentations at the gathering, which organizers expect to attract more than 14,000 scientists and others.

Haynes delivered the inaugural Kavli Foundation Emerging Leader in Chemistry Lecture at the meeting, … Sponsored by the Kavli Foundation, the Emerging Leaders Lectures recognize the work of outstanding young chemical scientists. [emphasis mine] …

“Christy Haynes is the perfect scientist to launch this prestigious lecture series,” said Marinda Li Wu, Ph.D., president of the ACS. “Haynes’ research is making an impact in the scientific community in efforts to use nanoparticles and nanotechnology in medicine and other fields. And that research has sparked the popular imagination, as well. Haynes was included in Popular Science‘s ‘Brilliant 10′ list, a group of ‘geniuses shaking up science today.’ [emphasis mine] We are delighted to collaborate with the Kavli Foundation in highlighting the contributions of such individuals.”

Moving on from politics to science, the EurekAlert Apr. 8, 2013 news release offers a standard discussion regarding gold and nanoparticle gold before highlighting the aspect that marks Haynes’ fresh approach to toxicity at the nanoscale,

A 1-ounce nugget of pure gold, for instance, has the same chemical and physical properties as a 2-ounce nugget or a 27-pound gold bar. For nanoparticles, however, size often dictates the physical and chemical properties, and those properties change as the size decreases.

Haynes said that some of the earlier nanotoxicology tests did not fully take those and other factors into account when evaluating the effects of nanoparticles. In some cases, for instance, the bottom line in those tests was whether cells growing in laboratory cultures lived or died after exposure to a nanoparticle.

“While these results can be useful, there are two important limitations,” Haynes explained. “A cell can be alive but unable to function properly, and it would not be apparent in those tests. In addition, the nature of nanoparticles — they’re more highly reactive — can cause ‘false positives’ in these assays.”

Haynes described a new approach used in her team’s work in evaluating the toxicity of nanoparticles. It focuses on monitoring how exposure to nanoparticles affects a cell’s ability to function normally, rather than just its ability to survive the exposure. In addition, they have implemented measures to reduce “false-positive” test results, which overestimate nanoparticle toxicity. One of the team’s safety tests, for instance, determines whether key cells in the immune system can still work normally after exposure to nanoparticles. In another, the scientists determine whether bacteria exposed to nanoparticles can still communicate with each other, engaging in the critical biochemical chatter that enables bacteria to form biofilms, communities essential for them to multiply in ways that lead to infections.

“So far, we have found that nanoparticles made of silver or titanium may be the most problematic, though I would say that neither is as bad as some of the alarmist media speculations, especially when they are stabilized appropriately,” said Haynes. “I think that it will be possible to create safe, stable coatings on nanoparticles that will make them stable and allow them to leave the body appropriately. We need more research, of course, in order to make informed decisions.”

Hopefully, you find this mixture of science and politics as interesting as I do.

ETA Apr. 10, 2013: Dexter Johnson has commented on and provided some contextual information about nanotechnology research funding in the US in response to the Alivisatos talk about sequestration and its possible impact on nanotechnology research in Apr. 9, 2013 posting (Note: A link has been removed),

There is always room for the argument that reassessing and reallocating resources can help make nanotechnology more efficient and productive, something observers have pointed out in NASA taking on less of its own nanotechnology research and outsourcing it to other government organizations. But it’s not always easy to tell which fundamental research projects will turn out to have been the most productive, and worse, the timing of these cuts could be extremely painful as they occur at a critical moment for U.S. nanotechnology.

Dexter’s piece is well worth reading.

Algae factories could produce nanocellulose for biofuels and more

The American Chemical Society (ACS) is holding its 245th meeting April 7 – 11, 2013 and its first International Symposium on Bacterial Nanocellulose simultaneously. I have written about nanocellulose previously but it’s always been concerned with the type derived from plant matter; bacterial nanocellulose is new to me but not the scientific community as the Apr. 8, 2013 news item on Azonano notes,

In the 1800s, French scientist Louis Pasteur first discovered that vinegar-making [and Kombucha tea and nata de coco] bacteria make “a sort of moist skin, swollen, gelatinous and slippery” — a “skin” now known as bacterial nanocellulose. Nanocellulose made by bacteria has advantages, including ease of production and high purity that fostered the kind of scientific excitement reflected in the first international symposium on the topic, Brown [R. Malcolm Brown, Jr., Ph.D.] pointed out.

Before going on to this latest research, here’s a description of cellulose and nanocellulose as per its presence in plant material (from the news item),

Cellulose is the most abundant organic polymer on Earth, a material, like plastics, consisting of molecules linked together into long chains. Cellulose makes up tree trunks and branches, corn stalks and cotton fibers, and it is the main component of paper and cardboard. People eat cellulose in “dietary fiber,” the indigestible material in fruits and vegetables. Cows, horses and termites can digest the cellulose in grass, hay and wood.

Most cellulose consists of wood fibers and cell wall remains. Very few living organisms can actually synthesize and secrete cellulose in its native nanostructure form of microfibrils. At this level, nanometer-scale fibrils are very hydrophilic and look like jelly. A nanometer is one-millionth the thickness of a U.S. dime. Nevertheless, cellulose shares the unique properties of other nanometer-sized materials — properties much different from large quantities of the same material. Nanocellulose-based materials can be stronger than steel and stiffer than Kevlar. Great strength, light weight and other advantages has fostered interest in using it in everything from lightweight armor and ballistic glass to wound dressings and scaffolds for growing replacement organs for transplantation.

A new kind of bacteria actively entered the nanocellulose picture in 2001 (from the news item) allowing Brown to exploit research he had been pursuing since the 1970s (from the news item),

Brown recalled that in 2001, a discovery by David Nobles, Ph.D., a member of the research team at the University of Texas at Austin, refocused their research on nanocellulose, but with a different microbe. Nobles established that several kinds of blue-green algae, which are mainly photosynthetic bacteria much like the vinegar-making bacteria in basic structure; however, these blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, as they are called, can produce nanocellulose. One of the largest problems with cyanobacterial nanocellulose is that it is not made in abundant amounts in nature. If it could be scaled up, Brown describes this as “one of the most important discoveries in plant biology.”

While I find the science interesting, it’s Brown’s comments about the policy and politics of commercializing nanocellulose-based fuels that intrigue me (from the news item),

In his report at the ACS meeting, Brown described how his team already has genetically engineered the cyanobacteria to produce one form of nanocellulose, the long-chain, or polymer, form of the material. And they are moving ahead with the next step, engineering the cyanobacteria to synthesize a more complete form of nanocellulose, one that is a polymer with a crystalline architecture. He also said that operations are being scaled up, with research moving from laboratory-sized tests to larger outdoor facilities.

Brown expressly pointed out that one of the major barriers to commercializing nanocellulose fuels involves national policy and politics, rather than science. Biofuels, he said, will face a difficult time for decades into the future in competing with the less-expensive natural gas now available with hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”  [emphasis mine] In the long run, the United States will need sustainable biofuels, he said, citing the importance of national energy policies that foster parallel development and commercialization of biofuels.

Gold nanoparticles can make your hair brown

The Jan. 2, 2013 news item on Nanowerk notes that scientists have been able to synthesize gold nanoparticles inside human hair (Note: A link has been removed),

In a discovery with applications ranging from hair dyeing to electronic sensors to development of materials with improved properties, scientists are reporting the first synthesis of gold nanoparticles inside human hairs. Their study appears in ACS’ journal Nano Letters (“Hair Fiber as a Nanoreactor in Controlled Synthesis of Fluorescent Gold Nanoparticles”).

The Jan. 2, 2012 press release from the American Chemical Society (ACS), which originated the news item, provides a few more details,

Philippe Walter and colleagues explain that gold nanoparticles — 40,000-60,000 of which could fit across the width of a human hair — are a hot topic. Scientists are exploring uses, ranging from electronics and sensors to medical diagnostic tests and cancer treatments. Gold nanoparticles have been deposited on hair for use as electrodes, and gold nanoparticles had been used to dye wool. Walter’s team looked at a new use — dyeing hair, inspired by the ancient Greeks’ and Romans’ use of another metal, lead, to color their hair.

They describe the first synthesis of fluorescent gold nanoparticles inside human hair. It involved soaking white hairs in a solution of a gold compound. The hairs turned pale yellow and then darkened to a deep brown. Using an electron microscope, the scientists confirmed that the particles were forming inside the hairs’ central core cortex. The color remained even after repeated washings.

The authors acknowledge funding from the Agence Nationale de la Recherche.

Here’s what the hair looks like,

Gold nanoparticles darken hair after treatment for one day, center, and 16 days, right (untreated hairs, left). Credit: American Chemical Society

Gold nanoparticles darken hair after treatment
for one day, center, and 16 days, right
(untreated hairs, left).
Credit: American Chemical Society

For anyone who wants to follow up further, there’s a citation for and link to the research paper,

Hair Fiber as a Nanoreactor in Controlled Synthesis of Fluorescent Gold Nanoparticles by Shrutisagar D. Haveli, Philippe Walter, Gilles Patriarche, Jeanne Ayache, Jacques Castaing, Elsa Van Elslande, Georges Tsoucaris, Ping-An Wang, and Henri B. Kagan in Nano Lett., 2012, 12 (12), pp. 6212-5217 DOI: 10.1021/nl303107w Publication Date (Web): Nov. 2, 2012 © 2012 American Chemical Society

This is paper is behind a paywall.

Ask and ye shall receive: a ‘communicating controversial science’ symposium

Yesterday (Aug. 21, 2012), I expressed the hope (in my Repairing your vocal cords posting) that the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) 244th meeting would provide a session or two to counterbalance the relentless science enthusiasm (it’s like cooking where you need to add  a little salt to balance the sugar in your cake).

Providentially, the Aug. 21, 2012 (I often get the notices a day later) news release on EurekAlert announced a special symposium on controversial science being held at the Fall 2012 meeting,

The American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society, is holding a special symposium today honoring Rudy M. Baum, editor-in-chief of its weekly newsmagazine, whose thought-provoking editorials and editorial leadership made Baum an icon among ACS’ more than 164,000 members.

“Rudy Baum’s editorials focused on some of the greatest challenges facing humanity,” said ACS President Bassam Z. Shakhashiri, Ph.D., who organized the symposium. It is part of the 244th ACS National Meeting & Exposition, a scientific extravaganza being held here through Thursday. The meeting features 8,600 reports on new discoveries in science and other topics, a major scientific exposition and an anticipated attendance of more than 14,000 scientists and others.

“Baum tackled inherently controversial topics ― global climate change, for instance, surging population growth, disease, violence and war and the denial of basic human rights,” added Shakhashiri, who is the William T. Evjue Distinguished Chair for the Wisconsin Idea at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Rudy had the courage to express his opinions forthrightly and honestly. He has challenged us all to be scientist-citizens for the benefit of Earth and its people.”

The news releases lists a number of presentations included as part of the symposium,

Abstracts

Every Day in Every Way, Chemistry Makes the World Ever Better
Richard N. Zare
, Marguerite Blake Wilbur Professor in Natural Science, Stanford University

Such were not the titles or contents of Rudy Baum’s editorials in Chemical & Engineering News, although many of my friends had wished otherwise. Instead, Rudy followed a far riskier path of provoking thought and broaching controversial topics. Whether you agreed or disagreed with his points of view, they raised the level of discourse about the role of chemistry in society. Let me congratulate Rudy Baum on his many years of editorship of the flagship weekly of the American Chemical Society. He always made it clear to his readers that he was speaking for himself, not the Society, and I applaud his boldness and daring. The turtle only advances by sticking its neck out.

It’s Not Just About the Science
Eugenie Scott
, Executive Director, The National Center for Science Education (NCSE)

The National Center for Science Education defends the teaching of evolution and climate change, two topics on which there is considerable scientific consensus but strong ideological pushback from the general public. How does one change the perception of the public to more closely parallel that of scientists? The normal reaction of scientists is to bemoan the quality of science education, and propose that more and better science instruction will solve the problem. However, multifactorial problems require multifactorial solutions, and the rejection by substantial proportion of the public of well-established science is certainly multifactorial. We need to go beyond science (and science education) to consider the underlying ideological sources of the rejection and how best to deal with them.

Where in the World Will Our Energy Come From?
Nate Lewis
, George L. Argyros Professor of Chemistry, California Institute of Technology

Where in the world will our energy come from? What would it take for the world to get away from fossil fuels and switch over to renewable energy? It takes more than willingness to buy a Prius or to have solar panels installed on your roof. If we want to use wind, solar thermal, solar electric, biomass, hydroelectric and geothermal energy it will take a lot of planning, and willingness on the part of governments and industry. It takes R&D investment, a favorable price per unit of energy to get anyone to produce alternative energy, and plenty of resources to create those energy sources.

Lewis will discuss these and other hurdles – technical, political, and economic – that must be overcome before the widespread adoption of renewable energy technologies.

Odds Are It’s Wrong: How Misuse of Statistics Fuels Scientific Controversy
Tom Siegfried
, Editor-in-Chief, Science News

Standard tests of statistical significance are widely recognized to be deeply flawed, but are nevertheless widely used in scientific studies. Far from merely a technical concern, this issue is literally a matter of life and death. Misuse of statistics generates controversies about the safety of medicines such as antidepressants that end up depriving some people of life-saving treatments. Media coverage of such issues — and scientific results in general — is confounded by the diabolical coincidence that the qualities of a scientific finding that make it newsworthy are also the qualities that render it most susceptible to being a statistical illusion.

Beware! Breaking a Paradigm can Result in Pain and Suffering
Chris Enke
, Professor of Chemistry (Retired), University of New Mexico

Innovators who overturn established paradigms frequently encounter antipathy (or worse) from their scientific communities. I believe a principal cause of this reaction is confusion over which parts of scientific knowledge are facts and which are theories subject to change. We rely on verified observations and established relationships to be true and repeatable within given boundaries. However, the explanations we conceive for these relationships, even though experimentally and theoretically supported to various degrees, are neither proven nor unique. Strong attachments to widely accepted explanations influence our responses to messengers bringing news of their demise.

Toxics, Carcinogens & Mutagens …..Oh My!
Glenn Ruskin
, Director, Office of Public Affairs, American Chemical Society

Generally, people fear the unknown. The general public and media often struggle with highly complex scientific issues and topics, especially those with strange names, scary properties and controversy attached to them. When confronted with the unknown, most people will “take flight” – preferring to avoid the topic or issue. In many cases, people will look to experts or organizations they think they “trust” to help explain the issue to them. People want complex and controversial topics broken down into the simplest of terms so they can make informed decisions. Unless scientists or the presenters of complex and controversial science can effectively communicate with the media and general public – disastrous outcomes can result. This presentation will look at how scientific topics can effectively be presented to foster public understanding.

Why I Love A Good Poison
Deborah Blum, Helen Firstbrook Franklin Professor of Journalism, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Journalists, they say, are drawn to controversy. Or in my case, controversial – and often hazardous – chemical compounds. Some of this has to do with the way story-telling works – a writer needs theatre to make a story compelling. But in the case of science writers, like myself, we are usually looking for the “teachable moment” that goes with that controversy, that hazard, that highly readable tale. We can use such cases to delve into everything from peer review to the realities of observational studies. And a chemistry blogger like myself can use a good poison to illustrate much about how the science works – and whether it works well.

Reporting Ethical Violations In Research
William G. Schulz
, News Editor, Chemical & Engineering News

A reporter’s notebook of stories that have covered a wide range of ethical violations, including one of the worst cases of scientific fraud ever. Research ethics stories often challenge journalists to hew to their own code of ethics and avoid the pitfalls that might threaten their own journalistic reputations.

The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches From The Front Lines
Michael E. Mann
, Director, Earth System Science Center, The Pennsylvania State University

A central figure in the controversy over human-caused climate change has been “The Hockey Stick,” a simple, easy-to-understand graph my colleagues and I constructed to depict changes in Earth’s temperature back to 1000 AD. The graph was featured in the high-profile “Summary for Policy Makers” of the 2001 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and it quickly became an icon in the debate over human-caused (“anthropogenic”) climate change. I will tell the story behind the Hockey Stick, using it as a vehicle for exploring broader issues regarding the role of skepticism in science, the uneasy relationship between science and politics, and the dangers that arise when special economic interests and those who do their bidding attempt to skew the discourse over policy-relevant areas of science. In short, I attempt to use the Hockey Stick to cut through the fog of disinformation that has been generated by the campaign to deny the reality of climate change. It is my intent, in so doing, to reveal the very real threat to our future that lies behind it.

Covering Controversial Science for C&EN
Rudy Baum
, Editor-in-Chief, Chemical & Engineering News

Science is a system for understanding nature, the only system that yields testable knowledge. Since its inception, some of the knowledge uncovered by science has been controversial because it clashed with the revealed “truth” of religious beliefs. The most prominent such clash has been the controversy over Darwinian evolution that continues today. More recently, science has been controversial when it threatened economic interests as was the case with research that established a link between smoking and cancer, CFCs and stratospheric ozone depletion, and human activities and climate disruption. I have been reporting and commenting on controversial science throughout my 32-year career at C&EN and will draw from those experiences in my talk.

Other Talks in the Symposium

Is it ‘News’ if It Happens Slowly?
George M. Whitesides
, Woodford L. and Ann A. Flowers University Professor, Harvard University

Communicating Science that People May Not Be Ready to Hear
Paul T. Anastas
, Director, Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering, Teresa and H. John Heinz III Professor in the Practice of Chemistry for the Environment, School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Yale University

Thanks for Writing
Bassam Z. Shakhashiri, President, American Chemical Society, Professor of Chemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison

I wish I could have been there, this looks like a very interesting lineup. Perhaps some of our Canadian science conference organizers can take some inspiration from this symposium for future meetings here in Canada.

By the way, I notice that George Whitesides is listed (third from the bottom)  as one of the symposium presenters. Whitesides was last featured here in a posting titled, Watch out Roomba! Camouflaging soft robots are on the move (Aug. 17, 2012).

US chemists talk nano in a June 27, 2012 Washington, DC briefing

The American Chemical Society (ACS) has a Science & the Congress Project where they provide information about various science and technology issues to policymakers. Their latest briefing will be on nanomaterials and the Toxic Substances Control Act.  From the June 21, 2012 news release on EurekAlert,

The American Chemical Society (ACS) Science & the Congress Project invites news media to attend a luncheon briefing on “Nanomaterial Safety: Do We Have the Right Tools?” It will be held Wednesday, June 27, 12-1:30 p.m., in the Russell Senate Office Building Room 325. To attend, register at http://tinyurl.com/ACSSciCongr-nanoEHS.

This briefing is hosted by the ACS Science & the Congress Project with honorary co-host the Congressional Nanotechnology Caucus.

With nanotechnology, scientists engineer materials on a molecular level; that is, they work with such basic factors as the size, shape and surface properties of substances, in addition to altering the chemical composition, to create materials that exhibit novel properties. While the science to engineer nanomaterials has been developed largely since the 1980s, public laws to regulate the safety of materials and chemicals, such as the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), were crafted in the 1970s. Important questions for our times: Does our understanding of and information about nanotechnology adequately inform the policies designed to ensure safe product development? Likewise, do the current policies address both the possible problems and benefits associated with nanotechnology? This panel will discuss whether policymakers currently have the necessary tools, both scientific and policy mechanisms, to reap the potentials of nanotechnology.

The briefing will feature the following panelists and an open discussion:

Moderator: Kristen Kulinowski, Ph.D., Science and Technology Policy Institute, Institute for Defense Analyses

Panelists:

  • Lynn Bergeson, Bergeson & Campbell P.C.
  • Richard Denison, Ph.D., Environmental Defense Fund
  • Arturo Keller, Ph.D., University of California, Santa Barbara

For those of us who can’t attend, it is possible to find more information the Science &the Congress Project, from the About page (and if you keep reading you’ll find that you may still be able to access the briefing even if you can’t attend the real-time event),

Since 1995, the American Chemical Society (ACS) has operated the Science & the Congress Project to educate and inform Members of Congress and their staffs on the importance of science and technology to solving national challenges. The Science & the Congress Project has conducted well over 100 congressional briefings on important and timely policy topics, relying on panels of knowledgeable and diverse experts to provide comprehensive, balanced presentations about chosen topics, and to increase the level of scientific and technological literacy on Capitol Hill. The goals of the project include:

  • Highlighting the role of S&T in public policy.
  • Helping Members of Congress and their staffs gain a deeper knowledge of the science involved in policy issues.
  • Serving as a neutral and credible source of scientific information.
  • Promoting the responsible use of science in national policymaking.

Serving ACS and Its Members

The ACS Science & the Congress Project provides significant benefits for ACS and its members:

  • Balanced, nonpartisan briefings lend credibility to ACS policy efforts.
  • Initiation of briefings enhances ACS’s leadership role among peer organizations.
  • Collaborations with cosponsors enhance ACS’s ties and foster cooperation within the scientific community.
  • Online availability of briefing materials increases ACS members’ exposure to science policy topics.

Enhancing Relationships

During more than a decade of existence, the ACS Science & the Congress Project has conducted well over 100 briefings and built relationships with:

  • Congressional offices, committees, caucuses and staffers.
  • Experts in academia, non-governmental organizations and all levels of government.
  • Professional organizations with overlapping interests.

They also make their materials available after the briefing,

Serving as an Ongoing Source of Science Policy Information

Individual web pages for each Science & the Congress Project briefing provide a breadth of resources on the briefing’s topic, including:

  • The speakers’ presentations.
  • Speaker biographical and contact information.
  • Supplemental links, documents, and articles.

I checked and it is possible to access the briefings and other information without a subscription. I hope the nanomaterials briefing will be available soon on the website soon. Here’s the page you should check.

Cotton and nanotechnology at the US Dept. of Agriculture

The April 2012 item by Jan Suszkiw of the US Dept. of Agriculture (on the Western Farm Press website) seemed strangely familiar as it focused on research into flame-retardant cotton. From the Suszkiw article,

In one ongoing project, the researchers have teamed with Texas A&M University scientists to evaluate a first-of-its-kind, environmentally friendly flame-retardant for cotton apparel and durable goods. Halogenated flame retardants have been among the most widely used chemical treatments, but there’s been a push to find alternatives that are more benign and that won’t cause treated fabric to stiffen, according to Condon [Brian Condon, Agricultural Research Service [ARS]).

I mentioned the research work in the context of a 2011 meeting of the American Chemical Society in my Sept. 6, 2011 posting (scroll down about 3/4 of the way) except the focus was on the Texas A&M University in College Station research team who had yet to collaborate with Condon’s team at the ARS,

In responding to the need for more environmentally friendly flame retardants, Grunlan’s [Jaime C. Grunlan] team turned to a technology termed “intumescence,” long used to fireproof exposed interior steel beams in buildings. At the first lick of a flame, an intumescent coating swells up and expands like beer foam, forming tiny bubbles in a protective barrier that insulates and shields the material below. The researchers are at Texas A&M University in College Station. …

Since the meeting last fall, the two teams (US ARS [Condon] and Texas A&M [Grunlan]) have collaborated to make cotton more flame retardant according to the April 2012 news article (Cotton Gets Nanotech and Biotech Treatment in New Orleans) on the US Dept. of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service website (Note: I have removed a link),

Condon and CCUR (Cotton Chemistry and Utilization Research Unit) chemist SeChin Chang are collaborating with Texas A&M University (TAMU) scientists to evaluate a first-of-its-kind, environmentally friendly flame retardant for cotton apparel and durable goods.

Halogenated flame retardants have been among the most widely used chemical treatments for cotton. But there’s been a push to find alternatives that are not only more benign, but that also avoid imparting the same stiffness to fabric characteristic of some chemical treatments. For these and other reasons, “the textiles industry would like to move away from using halogenated flame retardants,” says Condon.

Made of water-soluble polymers, nanoscale clay particles, and other “green” ingredients, the ARS-TAMU flame retardant is applied as a nanocoating that reacts to open flame by rapidly forming a swollen, charred surface layer. This process, known as “intumescence,” stops the flame from reaching underlying or adjacent fibers.

A team led by Jaime Grunlan at TAMU’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, in College Station, Texas, originally developed the intumescent nanocoating using a layer-by-layer assembly. In this procedure, alternating layers of positively and negatively charged ingredients, including clay particles 50-100 nanometers wide, are deposited onto the surface of a desired material. The result is a striated nanocoating that, when viewed under a scanning electron or other high-powered microscope, resembles the stacked layers of a brick wall.

Condon’s interest was piqued after listening to Grunlan discuss his team’s research at a recent American Chemical Society meeting, and he approached the TAMU professor about potential benefits to cotton. That conversation, in turn, led to a cooperative research project enabling Condon and Chang to evaluate the nanocoating at CCUR.

Treating cotton for flame resistance isn’t a recent concept, adds Condon, whose lab is part of the ARS Southern Regional Research Center in New Orleans. In fact, some of the most successful early treatments were born of research conducted by Benerito [Ruth Benerito] and colleagues there several decades ago. (See “Cross-Linking Cotton,” Agricultural Research, February 2009, pp. 10-11.) Condon coauthored a 2011 ACS Nano paper on the potential of intumescent coatings together with Chang, Grunlan and his TAMU team, and Alexander Morgan of the University of Dayton Research Institute in Ohio.

Early trials of the nanocoating using standard flame-resistance tests are promising. In one case, 95 percent of treated cotton fabric remained intact after exposure to flame, whereas the untreated fabric used for comparison was completely destroyed

“What we’re investigating now is how well it will perform after repeated launderings of treated fabric,” says Condon. “After all, the coating contains clay, and that’s something detergents are made to remove.”

Even if the coating does eventually wash out and the treated fabric loses its flame resistance, the nanotech approach could still be used to protect textiles and durable goods that aren’t frequently washed, such as upholstery, mattress pads, box spring covers, automotive interiors, and firefighter coats.

This is one of the images that accompany the article,

Cross-section of a cotton fiber with clay nanoparticles attached. (from: http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/apr12/cotton0412.htm)

If you are interested in the work being done by the US Dept. of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service on cotton, there’s a lot more than I managed to excerpt.