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Submission + - How Lead Ended Up In Flint's Tap Water (acs.org)

MTorrice writes: Lead contamination is the most troubling in a series of water problems that have plagued Flint, Michigan since the summer of 2014. All of them were caused by corrosion in the lead and iron pipes that distribute water to city residents. When the city began using the Flint River as its water source in April 2014, it didn’t adequately control the water’s ability to corrode those pipes. This led to high lead levels, rust-colored tap water, and possibly the growth of pathogenic microbes.

Environmental engineers talk about the chemistry behind the Flint water crisis and explain the one thing the city could have done to prevent the whole catastrophe.

Submission + - How Platelet Disguises Could Aid Drug Delivery

MTorrice writes: The usual job of the blood cells known as platelets is stopping bleeding. They rush to sites of vascular injury and signal other platelets to join them in forming blood clots.

But circulating tumor cells and bacterial invaders can hijack platelets to help them evade the body’s immune system. These other cells bind to proteins on the surfaces of the blood cells. Once the cells hitch a ride with the platelets, they attract less attention from the immune system. This may speed the spread of cancer.

Platelets’ abilities to bind cells related to disease and evade immune responses have encouraged researchers to put platelets to work for a different use—drug delivery. Multiple research teams have recently shown that they can use membranes from platelets isolated from whole blood of humans and other species to disguise and target drug-containing silica or polymer particles. These platelet-mimicking particles could become a new type of nanomedicine.

Submission + - This Heat-Responsive Coating Could Keep Lithium-Ion Batteries From Catching Fire (acs.org)

MTorrice writes: Lithium-ion batteries, which power devices including smartphones, electric cars, and hoverboards, rarely catch fire. Industry experts put the figure at less than 1 fire per 10 million battery cells, not counting battery abuse tests. Yet the batteries are used so widely and pack so much energy that researchers still strive to prevent these unlikely failures by coming up with ever more reliable safety features.

When coated onto a lithium-ion battery electrode, a new composite material protects the battery from bursting into flames if it is overcharged or develops an electrical short. The material could lead to safer designs of Li-ion and other types of batteries.

Submission + - Sketchable, stretchable circuits

JMarshall writes: A new, elastic silver ink allows stretchy circuits to be drawn using a regular pen. Unlike previous inks, which have been made with silver nanoparticles and are prone to clog pens over time, this ink begins as a silver salt mixed with adhesive rubber. After writing, the ink is brushed with a formaldehyde and sodium hydroxide solution that reduces the silver ions to conductive silver nanoparticles. Researchers strung 14 LED lights together using the ink. The lights stayed lit even through stretching and bending the rubber sheet the circuit was drawn on.

Submission + - Small Molecule Improves Learning In People (acs.org)

MTorrice writes: We learn from experience: It sounds like a trite sentiment posted by a friend on Facebook, but neuroscientists would agree. Our interactions with the world around us strengthen and weaken the connections between our neurons, a process that neuroscientists consider to be the cellular mechanism of learning.

Now researchers report that boosting signaling of a certain receptor in the brain with a drug can enhance these cellular changes and improve learning in people. The findings could lead to new treatments for patients with disorders associated with deficits in learning, such as Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia.

The molecule is D-cycloserine, a drug that has been used for decades to treat tuberculosis.

Submission + - New Desalination Method Shocks The Salts Out Of Water (acs.org)

MTorrice writes: As more and more people live in areas affected by drought or contaminated water, desalination is becoming an important way to meet global drinking water needs. So scientists continue to develop ever simpler and less expensive desalination methods.

Current technologies, for example, frequently rely on membranes to filter out ions. These membranes eventually get clogged and must be replaced, increasing costs.

A new method for water desalination separates salt water into briny and fresh streams with the help of an electric shock wave.

Submission + - Pesticides Turn Bumblebees Into Poor Pollinators (acs.org)

MTorrice writes: Neonicotinoid pesticides have been blamed for declines in bee populations worldwide. The chemicals don’t kill bees, instead neonicotinoids impair the insects’ abilities to learn, navigate, forage for nectar, and reproduce, according to studies published over the past several years.

Now, researchers report that bees exposed to the pesticides also become less effective pollinators for crops.

The study is the first to demonstrate that neonicotinoids can decrease the quality of a food crop by affecting bee pollination. About 30% of our food comes from crops, including fruits, nuts, seeds, and oils, that depend on insect pollinators, according to Dara A. Stanley of Royal Holloway, University of London, who led the new study. “Basically,” she says, “you can’t have a balanced diet without insect pollination.”

Submission + - Tiny Bits Of Plastic Found In Table Salt In China (acs.org)

MTorrice writes: Diners in China who season their meals with sea salt may be unwittingly consuming microscopic pieces of plastic pollution.

When researchers analyzed fifteen brands of common table salt bought at supermarkets across China, they found among the grains of seasoning micro-sized particles of the common water bottle plastic polyethylene terephthalate, as well as polyethylene, cellophane, and a wide variety of other plastics.

The highest level of plastic contamination was found in salt sourced from the ocean: The researchers measured more than 1,200 particles of plastic per lb of sea salt. The team also found tiny particles of plastic in salt sourced from briny lakes, briny wells, and salt mines, although at lower levels—between 15 and 800 particles per lb.

Submission + - FDA-Approved Drugs Boost Hair Regrowth In Mice (acs.org)

MTorrice writes: Although the idea of going bald typically conjures images of aging men, hair loss affects people of all genders and ages: Hair can fall out prematurely because of genetic predisposition, stress, drug side effects, or autoimmune disorders. A recent test of two FDA-approved drugs—ruxolitinib and tofacitinib—now suggests that a general treatment for all these hair loss conditions might be on the way.

A team of researchers at Columbia University had observed that these drugs—approved for the treatment of myelofibrosis and rheumatoid arthritis, respectively—promoted hair growth when fed to mice but also impaired the animals’ immune systems. The scientists found that the compounds worked better when rubbed onto the rodents’ skin rather than when administered orally.

Submission + - A Fresh Take on Fake Meat

JMarshall writes: Impossible Foods, a Silicon Valley food start-up started by a Stanford professor who quit his job, just raised $108 million to pursue a plant-based burger that truly tastes like meat. This article explains how Impossible Foods and other startups and researchers are tackling the tricky chemical and engineering challenge of making fake meat that tastes real.

Submission + - Cellulose Nanofibers Improve Paper Recyclability

JMarshall writes: Adding cellulose nanofibers to paper pulp creates paper that can be recycled more than twice as many times as regular paper. In the past few years, researchers have been interested in making paper with nanometers-wide cellulose fibers in addition to regular fibers. The high surface area of such nanofibers lets them form more bonds with adjacent fibers, resulting in tougher paper.

In a new study, researchers recycled standard paper several times by using either conventional mechanical recycling techniques or by adding 3% by weight of cellulose nanofibers to the paper pulp at each cycle. Conventional recycling made the sheets unusable for writing after three cycles, whereas the nanofiber-treated paper could be recycled seven times.

The researchers also conducted a preliminary life-cycle assessment of the environmental impact of the two techniques. The two recycling techniques had a similar environmental impact, but the researchers expect that future efficiency gains in the nanofiber production process could give nanofiber paper an environmental edge.

Submission + - Cyanobacteria May Feed Populations Of Oil-Degrading Microbes In The Ocean (acs.org)

MTorrice writes: After the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, microbes living in the Gulf of Mexico devoured a significant amount of the hydrocarbons released by the gushing deep-sea well. A new study offers an explanation for what bacteria like these might live off of in the absence of a massive oil spill: hydrocarbons produced by photosynthetic cyanobacteria.

Researchers estimate that cyanobacteria produce up to 800 million tons of hydrocarbons every year. In comparison, the U.S. produced about 700 million tons of petroleum and other hydrocarbons in 2014, the most of any nation that year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

“People have known for a while that bacteria play a large role in breaking down oil spills,” says David Lea-Smith of the University of Cambridge, who led the research. “This study gives a hypothesis for why those bacteria are there in the first place.”

Submission + - Endocannabinoids Contribute to Runner's High (acs.org)

MTorrice writes: After a nice long bout of aerobic exercise, some people experience what’s known as a “runner’s high”: a feeling of euphoria coupled with reduced anxiety and a lessened ability to feel pain. For decades, scientists have associated this phenomenon with an increased level in the blood of -endorphins, opioid peptides thought to elevate mood.

Now, German researchers have shown the brain’s endocannabinoid system—the same one affected by marijuana’s 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—may also play a role in producing runner’s high, at least in mice.

Submission + - Googling Air Pollution (acs.org)

MTorrice writes: Aclima, a start-up company that develops sensor networks, has partnered with Google and EPA to roll out an unprecedented fleet of mobile air quality monitors in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and California’s Central Valley.

Although these monitors boast some of the latest sensor technology, they’ll still be familiar to many: They’re the same vehicles Google uses to capture photos for its popular Street View feature in Google Maps.

“Our goal is to create a new class of data that will be made available to communities, scientists, and air quality experts—as well as on Google Earth and Google Maps,” says Aclima CEO and cofounder Davida Herzl.

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