News in Brief

Tumbling champagne loses its fizz 

Pouring chilled champagne down the side of an angled glass - in a similar manner to serving beer - is the best way to preserve its flavour and fizz, according to scientists based in France's Champagne region. 

The research published in Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry (DOI: 10.1021/jf101239w) used infrared spectroscopy to 'watch' the loss of carbon dioxide gas from champagne poured into upright glasses compared with angled ones, at three different temperatures: 4, 12 and 18°C.  

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Champagne tastes better if poured at an angle


The team, led by Gérard Liger-Belair at the University of Reims, found that the beer-like pouring method resulted in less foaming and turbulence, meaning twice as much CO2 was retained in the popular drink. 

It was also observed that cooler was better in terms of serving temperature, as at higher temperatures more CO2 was lost during the pouring process.  

The researchers found that CO bubbles in champagne are not only responsible for its a lively appearance; they also aid the release of aromas, produce the sensation of collapsing bubbles on the tongue and add a sharp taste with the conversion of CO2 to carbonic acid inside the mouth.  

ACS heads to court for third time

The American Chemical Society has returned to the courts for the third time concerning its attempt to sue the Ohio-based research software provider Leadscope for allegedly stealing intellectual property. 

Leadscope's three founders are ex-ACS employees, and the association initially sued the company in 2002 claiming that it was created with stolen trade secrets from the ACS. When the case was first tried in 2008, jurors found no evidence to support the ACS's claims, and Leadscope and its founders were awarded over $26 million (£16.6 million) damages on their counterclaims for defamation, unfair competition and intentionally damaging its business. An initial appeal attempt by the association failed on 15 June, when the court upheld the earlier decision (see Chemistry World, August 2010, p11). 

On 30 July, the ACS began the process of appealing again - this time not against the jury's decision, but instead the defamation and related counterclaims ruling. 

Nanosprings go for gold

Squeezing gold nanowires inside polymer cases causes them to coil up into tiny springs, researchers in Singapore have found.  

Most nanosprings made so far have been naturally coiled and require energy to be straightened out. But Hongyu Chen and his team at Nanyang Technological University, have made springs that instead store energy during the coiling process and release it again on straightening. 

To make the springs, gold nanowires were encapsulated in a polymer container called a micelle. The solvent around the micelle was then changed, causing it to shrink in size. Each shrunk micelle was found to contain a single coil of five to 10 loops. When the polymer is removed, the springs straighten back out releasing energy. This work was published in Journal of the American Chemical Society (DOI: 10.1021/ja105433d). 

EU tackles medical isotope shortage

The European Commission is taking steps to secure the availability of radioisotopes used for diagnostic imaging and medical treatments. Difficulties with key isotope manufacturing facilities began in May 2009, causing a global shortage and the US in particular to express concerns about lack of supplies (see Chemistry World, January 2010, p7).  

In Europe, medical isotopes are used to treat approximately 9 million patients every year. And it is the commission's responsibility to ensure ample availability. 'Today, the most widely used diagnostic radioisotope, technetium-99m, is in short supply because it relies on an unsustainable low number of production reactors,' the commission explained in a 6 August press release. To address this issue, different financing mechanisms to ensure investment into research reactors and/or production faculties in Europe are currently being assessed.

Nitrogenase is a two-trick pony

An enzyme that converts nitrogen gas to ammonia - a process known as nitrogen fixation - can also reduce carbon monoxide, US researchers have discovered. 

The team has isolated, for the first time, sufficient quantities of the purified enzyme - vanadium nitrogenase - to subject it to comprehensive tests. One test involved exposing the enzyme to CO, a potent inhibitor of nitrogen fixation in the molybdenum version of the enzyme. They unexpectedly discovered that in a total atmosphere of CO, with no N2 present, the enzyme produced the industrially-important molecules ethylene, ethane and propane. 

'The fact that this system can take CO and make new carbon-carbon bonds was very surprising and very interesting,' says Markus Ribbe, who led the research at the University of California. His team's findings were published in Science (DOI: 10.1126/science.1191455). 

Bromine under extreme scrutiny

Scientists can now see atoms reacting on the femtosecond timescale in unprecedented detail, thanks to a technique developed at the University of Ottawa in Canada. Using their method, the team could observe the photodissociation of bromine molecules. 

They used an intense femtosecond laser to rip electrons away from atoms, and then force them back in. As the electrons recombine with the bromine they emit extreme ultraviolet light. However, the laser is not selective and if only a few molecules in the sample being analysed are dissociating, the resulting emission signal can be very weak. The team worked out how to isolate this weak signal, allowing them to compare it to that of unreacted molecules - allowing the dissociation to be monitored. The research is reported in Nature (DOI: 10.1038/nature09185) 

New chlorophyll class sees red

A new type of chlorophyll, unveiled by scientists in Australia and Germany, may prove useful in bioenergy applications.

Chlorophylls - the pigments in plants needed for photosynthesis - harvest light and convert it into chemical energy. Until now, only four chemically distinct types of chlorophyll were known: chlorophylls a, b, c and d. 

A fifth type of chlorophyll, chlorophyll f, has now been extracted from bacteria living in Shark Bay in Australia. Reporting in Science (DOI: 10.1126/science.1191127), the team showed that chlorophyll f absorbs more of the infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum than other types of chlorophyll, making it the reddest one yet. 

The discovery suggests that a wider range of the electromagnetic spectrum could be used for photosynthesis, potentially leading to new bioenergy applications in artificial photosynthesis and solar fuels. 

Antibiotic snapshots aid drug design

Detailed molecular pictures show how a potential new type of antibiotic can kill bacteria that have built up resistance to known drugs. This work could aid future structure-based antibiotic design.

Using x-ray crystallography, a team at GlaxoSmithKline observed the antibacterial agent latching onto the enzyme topoisomerase - part of bacteria's internal machinery that aids protein production and replication - allowing them to learn more about the mechanism used to block its action. 

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The new antibiotic (yellow) can be seen blocking the enzyme's action

© Ben Bax

Quinolines - that target topoisomerase - have been used as antibiotics since the 1960s, but with the increase in drug resistant bacteria new types of antibiotics are needed (see Chemistry World, August 2010, p15). The x-ray images show that this potential antibiotic attaches to the enzyme in a different place to the quinolines ,enabling it to stop bacteria replicating through a different route.  

Reporting in Nature  (DOI: 10.1038/nature09197), the team say the findings could assist development of drugs to tackle tough infections such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). 

Static US chemical security

A US Senate has postponed plans to implement more stringent regulations on security at chemical manufacturing sites deemed vulnerable to terrorist attacks. This move follows opposition from the chemical companies, who claim they are best placed to assess chemical security at their own plants. 

Instead, the Senate's Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs adopted an amendment to extend the existing chemical facility anti-terrorism standards until 2013, giving companies and the Department of Homeland Security time to fully implement the current programme before making legislative changes.

The committee chair, Joe Liebermann, says that in the future changes should be made, such as using inherently safer technology - a view shared by activist groups. 

The new legislation had previously successfully passed through the US House of Representatives (see Chemistry World, December 2009, p4). 

Also of interest

Metal spring

Nanosprings go for gold

16 August 2010

Nanosprings have been made by encasing gold nanowires inside shrinking polymers

Multi-talented enzyme

Nitrogenase found to be a two-trick pony

05 August 2010

A nitrogen-fixing enzyme has shocked scientists by being able to use carbon monoxide as a substrate to make a range of carbon-based products


Molecular interference reveals reactions

28 July 2010

Scientists see atoms reacting on the femtosecond timescale in unprecedented detail using femtosecond laser spectroscopy