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UChicago scientists discover easy way to make atomically-thin metal layers for new technology

A scanning electron microscopy image reveals the beautiful shapes of tiny structures known as MXenes, which are of interest to scientists for new devices and electronics but were previously hard to create. These were grown with a new easier and less toxic method invented by chemists with the University of Chicago. For reference, the diameter of a human hair is about 50 µm. Image courtesy: Di Wang.

CHICAGO, IL.- The secret to a perfect croissant is the layers—as many as possible, each one interspersed with butter. Similarly, a new material with promise for new applications is made of many extremely thin layers of metal, between which scientists can slip different ions for various purposes. This makes them potentially very useful for future high-tech electronics or energy storage. Until recently, these materials—known as MXenes, pronounced “max-eens”—were as labor-intensive as good croissants made in a French bakery. But a new breakthrough by scientists with the University of Chicago shows how to make these MXenes far more quickly and easily, with fewer toxic byproducts. Researchers hope the discovery, published March 24 in Science, will spur new innovation and pave the way towards using MXenes in everyday electronics and devices. When they were discovered in 2011, MXenes made a lot of scientists very excited. Usua ... More

'Smart' bandages monitor wounds and provide targeted treatment   Astronomers discover helium-burning white dwarf   Researchers detail groundbreaking Angelman syndrome development

A smart bandage rests on a gloved finger. Image courtesy: Caltech.

PASADENA, CA.- Most of the time, when someone gets a cut, scrape, burn or other wound, the body takes care of itself and heals on its own. But this is not always the case. Diabetes can interfere with the healing process and create wounds that will not go away and that could become infected and fester. These kinds of chronic wounds are not just debilitating for the people suffering from them. They are also a drain on health care systems, representing a $25 billion financial burden in the United States alone each year. A new kind of smart bandage developed at Caltech may make treatment of these wounds easier, more effective and less expensive. These smart bandages were developed in the lab of Wei Gao, assistant professor of medical engineering, Heritage Medical Research Institute Investigator, and Ronald and JoAnne Willens Scholar. The paper describing the research, "A stretchable wireless wearable bioelectronic system for multiplexed monitoring an ... More

Artist's impression of a supersoft X-ray source: the accretion disk around a white dwarf star is made mainly of helium. Image courtesy: F. Bodensteiner/background image ESO.

BONN.- A white dwarf star can explode as a supernova when its mass exceeds the limit of about 1.4 solar masses. A team led by the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) in Garching and involving the University of Bonn has now found a binary star system in which matter flows onto the white dwarf from its companion. The system was found due to bright, so-called super-soft X-rays, which originate in the nuclear fusion of the overflowed gas near the surface of the white dwarf. The unusual thing about this source is that it is helium and not hydrogen that overflows and burns. The measured luminosity suggests that the mass of the white dwarf is growing more slowly than previously thought possible, which may help to understand the number of supernovae caused by exploding white dwarfs. The results have been published in the journal Nature. Exploding white dwarfs are not only considered the main source of iron in the universe, t ... More

The Dindot Lab team. Image courtesy: Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.

COLLEGE STATION, TX.- Researchers at Texas A&M University have developed the first molecular therapeutic for Angelman syndrome to advance into clinical development. In a new article, published in Science Translational Medicine, Dr. Scott Dindot, an associate professor and EDGES Fellow in the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences' (VMBS) Department of Veterinary Pathobiology, and his team share the process through which they developed this novel therapeutic candidate, also known as 4.4.PS.L, or GTX-102. Dindot is also the executive director of molecular genetics at Ultragenyx, which is leading the development of GTX-102. Angelman syndrome (AS) is a devastating, rare neurogenetic disorder that affects approximately 1 in 15,000 live births per year; the disorder is triggered by a loss of function of the maternal UBE3A gene in the brain, causing developmental delay, absent speech, movement or balance disorder, and seizures. There are ... More

New experiment translates quantum information between technologies in an important step for the quantum internet   Important step towards accurate use of stem cell-based disease models   Global natural history initiative builds database to address 21st century challenges

A niobium superconducting cavity. The holes lead to tunnels which intersect to trap light and atoms. Image courtesy: Aishwarya Kumar.

CHICAGO, IL.- Researchers have discovered a way to "translate" quantum information between different kinds of quantum technologies, with significant implications for quantum computing, communication, and networking. The research was published in the journal Nature on Wednesday. It represents a new way to convert quantum information from the format used by quantum computers to the format needed for quantum communication. Photons—particles of light—are essential for quantum information technologies, but different technologies use them at different frequencies. For example, some of the most common quantum computing technology is based on superconducting qubits, such as those used by tech giants Google and IBM; these qubits store quantum information in photons that move at microwave frequencies. But if you want to build a quantum network, or connect quantum computers, you can't send around microwave photons because their grip on their quantum information is too weak to survive the trip. "A lot ... More

Fluorescent microscopy image of cultured neurons derived from iPSC lines. Image courtesy: Group Kilpinen.

HELSINKI.- Induced pluripotent stem cells offer great therapeutic potential and are a valuable tool for understanding how different diseases develop. New research shows that such stem cell lines should be regularly screened for genetic mutations to ensure the accuracy of the disease models. In the past 10 years, scientists have learned to create induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) from ordinary cells by genetic reprogramming. These cells are widely used to study diseases, as they can be differentiated to almost any cell type of the body, and they can be generated from any individual. However, a key remaining methodological challenge is that the differentiation process is subject to major technical variation for mostly unknown reasons. HiLIFE Tenure Track Professor Helena Kilpinen and her group at the University of Helsinki use stem cells for studying the biological mechanisms of neurodevelopmental and other brain-related diseases. Their n ... More

A lab worker scans the 2D barcode on a specimen's label that links to a digital representation of the same specimen. Image courtesy: Nico Garstman, Naturalis Biodiversity Center.

NEW YORK, NY.- A group of natural history museums, organized by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C., the American Museum of Natural History Museum in New York City, and the Natural History Museum in London, has mapped the total collections from 73 of the world's largest natural history museums in 28 countries. This is the first step of an ambitious effort to inventory global holdings that can help scientists and decisionmakers find solutions to urgent, wide-ranging issues such as climate change, food insecurity, human health, pandemic preparedness, and wildlife conservation. Beyond the walls of their public galleries, the world's natural history museums serve as the guardians of an unprecedented archive of the history of our planet and solar system. These natural history collections provide a unique window into the planet's past, and they are increasingly being used to make actionable forecasts to chart our future. ... More

"Bizarre" Yoda acorn worm makes Top 10 Marine Species List   An experimental method for examining ultra-light dark matter using millimeter-wave sensing   'Deep proteome' project provides atlas for human complexity

Yoda demiankoopi, a newly described species of deep-sea acorn worm. Image courtesy: ROV SuBastian/Schmidt Ocean Institute.

SAN DIEGO, CA.- Named after two other entities a new species is—and one of them is Yoda! An unusual deep-sea acorn worm within the genus Yoda—named so after that iconic Jedi Master—has made the “Top 10 New Marine Species” list by the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS). The list acknowledges incredible new species discovered or described in 2022, with an announcement on March 19, 2023, to coincide with Taxonomist Appreciation Day—a day that shines a light on the important work done by taxonomists in charge of classifying, naming, and describing existing biological organisms. A team of marine scientists and taxonomists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego officially described the new acorn worm species, Yoda demiankoopi, in a paper published July 5, 2022, in the journal Invertebrate Biology. The creature also made the cover of the journal’s September 2022 issue. The deep-sea dweller was named in ho ... More

Searching for Dark Photon Dark Matter with a Cryogenic Millimeter-Wave Receiver. Image courtesy: KyotoU Global Comms/Shunsuke Adachi.

KYOTO.- There may have been more than one way to bring the biblical Goliath down, but David chose to attack using a small stone with a slingshot. In the same spirit, scientists have approached the mystery of dark matter—which constitutes roughly one fourth of the universe—not by direct observation but rather by recording its gravitational effects on visible matter. A team of researchers at Kyoto University have now established an experimental method for examining ultra-light dark matter around 0.1 milli-electron volts, applying a technology for millimeter-wave sensing in cryogenic conditions, characterized by low thermal noise. The paper is published in the journal Physical Review Letters. "We achieved experimental parameters for unexplored mass range of dark photon dark matter—or DPDM—by using new techniques previously untested in this field," says lead author Shunsuke Adachi. The elusive mass of a single dark matt ... More

Joshua Coon, professor of biomolecular chemistry, UW-Madison and investigator, Morgridge Institute for Research. Image courtesy: Morgridge Institute for Research.

MADISON, WI.- A major puzzle of biology is that while the human genome contains roughly 20,000 genes, many comparatively primitive organisms—including the universally-studied worm C. elegans—have almost the same number of genes. If not genes alone, what accounts for that quantum leap in complexity between the two species? One answer may lie in the field of proteomics, which focuses on identifying and defining the protein building blocks that make up an individual cell. Rather than one gene coding for one protein with one purpose, human genes act like powerful compressed files, where a single gene can code for hundreds of distinct proteins that each perform precise functions in the body. As many as 95% of human genes have this capability, known as alternative splicing. A new study published in the journal Nature Biotechnology outlines a meta-scale approach to quantifying the human proteome and the massive number of protein variants produced by the human body. Proteomics is a cornerstone of ... More

Scientists and maple syrup producers develop a rapid test that analyzes the quality of maple sap   Graphene grows-physicists find a way to visualize it   Finding new ways to diagnose childhood brain tumours

Image courtesy: Amélie Philibert | Université de Montréal.

MONTREAL.- Quebec is a leader in maple syrup production and its "liquid gold" is world-renowned for its quality. To maintain this high standard, the Quebec Maple Syrup Producers association has partnered with scientists at Université de Montréal to develop a portable test to predict the quality of the syrup based on the harvested sap. Dubbed the "COLORI test," the method developed by UdeM's chemists and mathematicians has been scientifically validated. The results were published Tuesday, March 21, in the journal ACS Food Science & Technology. "Thanks to the support of the Consortium for Research and Innovation in Industrial Bioprocesses in Quebec, we were able to develop the COLORI test, patent it and produce the first 250 units," said Jean-François Masson, an UdeM chemistry professor and lead co-author of the scientific paper. "All the tests have already been used by the maple syrup producers who participated in our project." The new COL ... More

Pieces of a graphene lattice made from patchy particles. Because the particles can be followed one-by-one, defects can be studied at the particle scale. Image courtesy: University of Amsterdam.

AMSTERDAM.- Graphene is one of the strongest materials. On top of that, it is exceptionally good at conducting heat and electrical currents, making it one of the most special and versatile materials we know. For all these reasons, the discovery of graphene was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010. Yet, many properties of the material and its cousins are still poorly understood—for the simple reason that the atoms they are made up of are very difficult to observe. A team of researchers from the University of Amsterdam and New York University have now found a surprising way to solve this issue. Two-dimensional materials, consisting of a hyper-thin single layer of atomic crystal, have attracted a lot of attention recently. This well-deserved attention is mainly due to their unusual properties, very different from their three-dimensional 'bulk' counterparts. Graphene, the most famous representative, and many other two-dimensional materials ... More

Dr Jessica Taylor. Image courtesy: CRUK Cambridge Institute.

CAMBRIDGE.- Cambridge researchers are using new techniques to distinguish different types of medulloblastoma, a type of brain tumour in children. Funded by The Brain Tumour Charity, this research aims to develop new ways to diagnose medulloblastoma using minimally invasive methods, protecting the quality of life of children with this diagnosis. Medulloblastoma is the most common cancerous childhood brain tumours, accounting for 15-20% of all childhood brain tumour diagnoses. Around 52 children are diagnosed with a medulloblastoma each year in the UK. These tumours are fast growing and develop at the back of the brain in the cerebellum. Dr Jessica Taylor, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Cambridge working in Professor Richard Gilbertson’s lab at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, will focus on one of the four subtypes of medulloblastoma - wingless (WNT) medulloblastoma. WNT-medulloblastoma is typically difficult to ope ... More

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Giant volcanic 'chain' spills secrets on inner workings of volcanoes
BRISBANE.- Volcanic relics scattered throughout the Australian landscape are a map of the northward movement of the continent over a "hotspot" inside the Earth, during the last 35 million years. University of Queensland researchers Dr. Tamini Tapu, Associate Professor Teresa Ubide and Professor Paulo Vasconcelos discovered how these relics reveal the inner structure of the Australian volcanoes became increasingly complex as the hotspot's magma output decreased. The work is published in the journal Nature Geoscience. Dr. Al-Tamini Tapu, whose Ph.D. project at UQ's School of Earth and Environmental Sciences formed the basis of this study, said the hotspot was incredibly strong in its early stages, generating some of eastern Australia's most beloved natural attractions. "These large ... More

Visualizing spatial distribution of electric properties at microscales with liquid crystal droplets
KYOTO.- Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) involve the use and development of micron-sized electrical devices such as microelectrodes, sensors, and actuators that are integrated into computer and smartphone chips. Fabricating such integrated MEMS devices is usually a challenging task as these devices often deviate from their original design owing to the defects introduced during their fabrication and operation. This, in turn, limits their performance. Therefore, it is crucial to identify and rectify these defects. One way to identify and rectify these defects is by measuring the spatial distribution of electric properties of these devices. However, standard sensor probes do not offer the required spatial resolution, and can only determine the spatially averaged-out electric properties. Due to this, it i ... More

A novel combination therapy for treating vancomycin-resistant bacterial infections
CAMBRIDGE, MASS.- Researchers have developed a novel combination therapy using the anticancer agent mitoxantrone (MTX), together with an antibiotic, vancomycin, for treating bacteria that are resistant to the vancomycin, which are also known as vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecalis or VRE. The therapy uniquely targets both VRE and the host, stimulating the host immune system to more effectively clear bacterial infections and accelerate infected wound healing. The work was led by scientists at the Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) interdisciplinary research group at Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART), MIT’s research enterprise in Singapore, in collaboration with Singapore Centre for Environmental Life Sciences Engineering, Nanyang Tec ... More

New study explores the 'tsunami' in Venus's clouds
SEVILLE.- A group of scientists from the University of Seville, in collaboration with experts from the University of the Basque Country, has led the first detailed study of the evolution of the discontinuity of Venus's clouds, a gigantic atmosphere wave with the appearance of a "tsunami" that is propagated in the planet's deepest clouds and which, it is believed, may be playing a very significant role in the acceleration of Venus's fast-moving atmosphere. The observations were carried out non-stop for more than 100 days. "This observational feat was possible thanks to the collaboration of amateur astronomers from various countries, who have been the leading lights in the worldwide campaign of observations coordinated with the Japanese mission Akatsuki in 2022," explains the University of Seville researc ... More

Using high-precision quantum chemistry to study super-efficient energy transfer in photosynthesis
MUNICH.- Photosynthesis drives all life on Earth. Complex processes are required for the sunlight-powered conversion of carbon dioxide and water to energy-rich sugar and oxygen. These processes are driven by two protein complexes, photosystems I and II. In photosystem I, sunlight is used with an efficiency of almost 100%. Here a complex network of 288 chlorophylls plays the decisive role. A team led by LMU chemist Regina de Vivie-Riedle has now characterized these chlorophylls with the help of high-precision quantum chemical calculations—an important milestone toward a comprehensive understanding of energy transfer in this system. This discovery may help exploit its efficiency in artificial systems in the future. The chlorophylls in photosystem I capture sunlight in an antenna complex and transf ... More

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Control of Dynamic sp3-C Stereochemistry

On a day like today, Nobel Prize laureate Otto Wallach was born
April 27, 1847. Otto Wallach (27 March 1847 - 26 February 1931) was a German chemist and recipient of the 1910 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on alicyclic compounds. During his work with Friedrich Kekulé in Bonn he started a systematic analysis of the terpenes present in essential oils. Up to this time only a few had been isolated in pure form, and structural information was sparse. Melting point comparison and the measurement of mixtures was one of the methods to confirm identical substances. For this method the mostly liquid terpenes had to be transformed into crystalline compounds. With stepwise derivatisation, especially additions to the double bond present in some of the terpenes, he achieved the goal of obtaining crystalline compounds. The investigation of the rearrangement reactions of cyclic unsaturated terpenes made it possible to obtain the structure of an unknown terpene by following the rearrangement to a known structure of a terpene. With these principal methods he opened the path to systematic research on terpenes.


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