Tag Archives: chemistry

Unboiling an egg

Scientists in Australia and California have worked out how to unboil an egg. It may sound like an odd discovery, but it’s changed the way scientists think about manipulating proteins, an industry worth AU$160 billion per year.

Flinders University Professor Colin Raston and his team have developed Vortex Fluid Technology – using mechanical energy, or spinning, to reverse the effects of thermal energy, or boiling.

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Australian Academy of Science Early-career Awards

Julie Arblaster’s climate research is helping to explain the climate of the Australian region, particularly the ozone hole, El Niño, the monsoon, and Australian rainfall variability.

David Warton is driving data analysis in ecology, making it a more predictive science. His tools are influencing statistics across science and industry.

Christian Turney has pioneered new ways of combining climate models with records of past climate change spanning from hundreds to thousands of years.

Maria Seton has redefined the way we reconstruct the movement of continental plates and contributed to studies on the effect ocean basin changes have had on global long-term sea level and ocean chemistry. Continue reading Australian Academy of Science Early-career Awards

Australian Academy of Science medals

Harry Messel has been a powerful force in science education—from the Physics Foundation to textbooks and his establishment of International Science Schools. He was awarded the Academy Medal.

Simon McKeon is a prominent business leader and philanthropist who has made extensive contributions to Australian science and innovation including chairing the CSIRO Board and the agenda-setting McKeon report into medical research in Australia. He was awarded the Academy Medal.

The life and death of cells: Jerry Adams has advanced understanding of cancer development, particularly of genes activated by chromosome translocation in lymphomas. By clarifying how the Bcl-2 protein family controls the life and death of cells, he and his colleagues at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research have galvanised the development of a promising new class of anti-cancer drugs. Jerry was awarded the 2014 Macfarlane Burnet Medal. Continue reading Australian Academy of Science medals

Granular plant protection

A farmer whose onion paddock is hit by the fungal disease “white rot” faces the loss not only of that crop but of productive use of the field for several years. Relief could be at hand, however, thanks to a novel granulated fungicide now being tested in the field in Victoria.

A new granulated fungicide will help onion farmers treat white rot. Credit: iStockphoto

“In the case of white rot, there is no existing commercially acceptable treatment and if a farmer has an infestation in their field they can’t use it for onions or similar crops for up to 15 years,” says Anthony Flynn, managing director of the agricultural chemical research company Eureka! AgResearch. “They’ve just had to move the crop on to the next paddock.”

The new granulated fungicide targets the soil-borne fungus Sclerotium cepivorum.
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Changing the world one molecule at a time

Many plastics and polymers—including paints, glues and lubricants—will be transformed in the coming years by the work of Australian chemists, Professors David Solomon and Ezio Rizzardo.

David Solomon (left) and Ezio Rizzardo (right) with Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Credit: Prime Minister’s Science Prizes/Irene Dowdy

Their work is integral to more than 500 patents and their techniques are used in the labs and factories of DuPont, L’Oréal, IBM, 3M, Dulux and more than 60 other companies.

Eventually, the pair’s chemical theories and processes will influence hundreds of products.

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Intelligent drugs

Dr Georgina Such imagines a miniscule capsule designed like a set of Russian babushka dolls.

Georgina Such is working on smart capsules could change the way we deliver drugs. Credit: L’Oréal Australia/sdpmedia.com.au
Georgina Such is working on smart capsules could change the way we deliver drugs. Credit: L’Oréal Australia/sdpmedia.com.au

The capsule is designed to sneak through the blood stream untouched.

When it finds its target—a cancer cell—it passes into the cell, sheds a layer, finds the part of the cellular machinery it needs to attack, sheds another layer; and then releases its cargo of drugs, destroying the cancer cell and only the cancer cell.

Creating such a capsule may take decades, but Georgina and her colleagues at the University of Melbourne have already developed several materials which have the potential to do the job.

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Tracking lithium for better batteries

Imagine a mobile phone, gaming gadget or laptop with a battery that never needs replacing, or electric cars powered by batteries that are as fast to recharge as it is to refill your car with petrol.

Neeraj Sharma prepares a sample battery in the glove box. Credit: ANSTO
Neeraj Sharma prepares a sample battery in the glove box. Credit: ANSTO

Researchers at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) are unlocking the secret inner workings of lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries to develop better, safer portable power.
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Star-shaped polymers boost engine performance

New lubricants containing star-shaped polymers have hit the market, thanks to Australian polymer technology. Lubrizol Corporation has launched the first commercial products developed using CSIRO’s Reversible Addition Fragmentation chain Transfer (RAFT) polymer synthesis process.

Asteric ™ Viscosity Modifiers are tailor-made star-shaped polymers made possible by RAFT Credit: Lubrizol
Asteric ™ Viscosity Modifiers are tailor-made star-shaped polymers made possible by RAFT Credit: Lubrizol

CSIRO chemist Dr Ezio Rizzardo says the RAFT process allows much greater flexibility and potential for polymer synthesis, compared with conventional methods. “Conventional polymerisation is a relatively simple process with two ingredients: large amounts of monomer and a small amount of an initiating agent. You apply heat; a chain reaction starts and runs to completion, making polymer chains that can have widely varying lengths.”
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Is the Red Rectangle a cosmic Rosetta Stone?

THE RED RECTANGLE IS A PECULIAR NEBULA WITH SOME STRANGE CHEMICAL PROPERTIES. CREDIT: NASA/ESA/ HANS VAN WINCKEL (CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY OF LEUVEN) /MARTIN COHEN (UCB).
THE RED RECTANGLE IS A PECULIAR NEBULA WITH SOME STRANGE CHEMICAL PROPERTIES. CREDIT: NASA/ESA/ HANS VAN WINCKEL (CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY OF LEUVEN) /MARTIN COHEN (UCB).

Cracking the puzzle of unusual molecules in deep space that absorb some wavelengths of starlight is like unlocking the secrets of the Rosetta Stone, according to Rob Sharp of the Australian National University’s Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics. “It’s the longest-standing problem in astronomical spectroscopy,” he says.

The identity of the molecules has been a mystery for 80 years, but Rob has now joined forces with chemists at the University of Sydney to try to crack the molecular code. Continue reading Is the Red Rectangle a cosmic Rosetta Stone?