Eric Drexler may get the credit for popularising the idea of nanotechnology in his books of the 1980s, but chemists have been dreaming of manipulating molecules to do their bidding ever since they found out that all matter is made of atoms. While Drexler’s self-assembling molecular machines may remain a dream, in the last decade chemists have already achieved a more practical version of that dream. Nanoparticles have found use in manufacturing, materials, energy, electronics and medicine. Now, a newly emerging field is using them to do two things at once diagnose and treat diseases.
Seek and destory. Chemistry World, 1 October 2013.
Microbes are principally used by industry to turn larger organic compounds into smaller, more useful ones – fermenting corn sugars to produce ethanol, for instance. More desirable, though, is direct conversion of carbon dioxide into organic compounds. But current methods that use blue-green algae are not attractive.
Now US researchers have engineered a heat-loving microbe to produce a bulk chemical from carbon dioxide and hydrogen. Their results may provide a viable industrial alternative to blue-green algae, which have a much lower efficiency for such chemical transformations.
Engineered extremophile brews bulk chemical, Chemistry World, 10 April 2013.
Image credit: Chemistry World
X-ray crystallography has shaped modern chemistry. It is arguably the most powerful tool for molecular structural analysis. But it suffers from one big drawback: it can only analyse materials that form well-defined crystals. This may now be about to change. Researchers in Japan have used ‘crystal sponges’ to hold molecules that can’t be crystallised, allowing them to be analysed using x-ray crystallography.
Molecular cages to end crystallisation nightmare, Chemistry World, 27 March 2013.
Image credit: Yasuhide Inokuma