Monday, September 30, 2013

Acetal Used in Biodiesal

Acetal have been found to improve biodiesal performance. Acetal is a functional group with the
formula R2C(OR')2 and can be found in wines. By adding acetal to biodiesal it allows for better biodegration and helps account for the oily texture. Researchers are working on industrializing the production of acetal for biodiesal. Researchers are searching for methods to produce acetal in a cost effective manner, so far glycerol and butyraldehyde or acetaldehyde have produced 100% outputs of acetal. If the productuion of acetyl for biodiesal does become industrialized it will be a step in the right direction for cleaner energy. 

Bath Salt Related ED Visits On the Rise...

Bath salts are becoming ever popular.  You may not have even heard of the bath salt high until the now famous Miami face eating attack.  The attack happened on May 26, 2012 (my birthday oddly enough).  Unknown to the general public data was being compiled just the year before focusing on the break down of emergency department visits relating to the new synthetic bath salts.  In 2011 alone, 23,000 of the 2.5 million drug related emergency department visits were due to these new synthetic concoctions.  These drugs have been "legally" marketed as being true bath salts or even jewelry cleaner.  They can be ingested, inhaled or injected.  The real culprit in the dangerous high that results from these drugs is a chemical called "3, 4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone or MDPV for short.  This chemical has now been deemed under the schedule 1 category by the DEA.  This means that the substance is highly addictive and has no accepted medical use.  The numbers continue to show an increase in ER visits due to the substance.  Even the poison control has reported increases in bath salt related exposures.  The numbers show an increase from 300 cases in 2010 to over 6,000 cases in 2011.  Doctors have not found a specific way to act against the drug and control all of its effects, which can include: heart and blood vessel problems, depression, suicidal thoughts, psychosis, and death.  Right now the best thing to focus on is prevention, and public awareness. 

For more information on the physiological effects, I found this detailed list:

  • rapid heartbeat
  • elevated blood pressure
  • vasoconstriction (narrowing blood vessels)
  • insomnia
  • nausea
  • stomach cramping
  • grinding teeth
  • elevated body temperature (up to 107°F - 108°F, which may be life-threatening)
  • dilated pupils
  • headache
  • kidney pain
  • tinnitus
  • dizziness
  • overstimulation
  • hyperactivity
  • difficulty breathing
  • agitation
  • paranoia
  • confusion
  • psychotic delusions
  • extreme anxiety
  • suicidal thoughts/actions

  • Chemical involved:

        3, 4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV)



    Hey Good-Looking, Whatcha Got Cooking?

    Whether you are a 4-star Michelin chef or an avid TV-dinner microwaver, you are a real-life chemist! Just like great strides are being made in the chemistry world as evidenced by the number of different posts this month, the science of cooking is also constantly evolving and progressing. Avant-garde chefs are now stocking their kitchens with beakers, MSDSs, and liquid nitrogen, but most notably, they have recently started to use hydrocolloids to manipulate substances that we are familiar with like mayonnaise, butter, and more!

    If you are anything like the common consumer, you have probably already had your fair share of hydrocolloid gums as they are often found in low-end products like Twinkies to improve texture and shelf life. If one were to look at the list of ingredients on a frozen dinner box, you would see the culmination of the work of food chemists and their journey to ensuring extended shelf lives by using hydrocolloids as industrial stabilizers.

    The science behind hydrocolloids is fairly basic. To break it down, a colloid is a suspension of particles within a, a hydrocolloid is simply a suspension of particles in water where the particles are hydrophillic molecules that bind to water and to one another. These particles slow the flow of liquid or can solidify it into a gel. Common familiar hydrocolloids are cornstarch, agar-agar, and flour. However, just like any of the various compounds we have learned about in class, hydrocolloids can vary in properties depending on their molecular structure and affinity for water which we have seen when exploring polar molecules.

    A recent application of this substance includes the work of Chef Grant Achatz using the same substance that is commonly found in a petri dish - agar-agar - in combination with gelatin. Using the versatile hydrocolloid, he created transparent sheets infused with Guinness draped over a hot bed of beef short ribs. Normally, a sheet of solely gelatin would melt from the heat, but with the help of a hydrocolloid, he is able to create a sophisticated eating aesthetic. In addition to such a use, hydrocolloids have made it possible to fry mayonnaise, produce non-water leaking purees, to knot flexible foie gras, create non-melting butter in the oven, and more. 

    The work of these chefs is only possible with the work ethic and precision of chemists. These scientists can be found observing their multiple trials and recording the outcomes  in notebooks while in the kitchen just like one would do in the lab. As hydrocolloids start to become a staple in everyday chefs' tool kits, we, the people, can start to look forward to such innovations reaching our plates!


    Incense Can Pollute Your Lungs

    Everyone knows that cigarette smoke is bad for your lungs but now an article is saying that burning incense may also be harmful.

    Researchers at UNC-CH studied the harmful effects that incense burning has in the United Arab Emirates. These effects included ones involving the eye irritation, nose irritation, throat irritation, skin irritation, asthma, headaches, exacerbation of heart disease, and change in the structure of lung cells.

    The article also says that indoor pollution is a world-wide concern. Over 1 million people a year die from COPD that is the result of exposure to pollution from indoor cooking stoves and open hearths. Incense also produces these similar pollutants along with carbon dioxide.

    The researchers burned two different types of incense for three hours in a chamber that would be like a typical living room in the UAE.

    The researchers then analyzed the levels and concentrations of nitrogen, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and sulfur dioxide.

    Human lung cells were then placed in the chamber for 24 hours. When they were studied they showed signs of inflammation that are associated with asthma and other lung issues.

    Another concern is that charcoal is usually used to burn the incense. This adds another level of pollutants.

    The wood that is used in both types of the studied incense gain their aromatic capabilities from a fungal infection. One type of the incense included many other additives. Both of these forms created very similar forms of pollutants.

    As of now, the best suggestions to eliminate the extra pollutants would be better ventilation and using other methods to burn the incense.


    Works Cited:
    "Chemistry 2011." Chemistry 2011.0rg. N.p., 2 08 2013. Web. 30 Sep 2013. <>.

    Chemistry in the News: "Breaking Bad."

    Probably the biggest thing to hit TV ended last night and many are still trying to face that reality. "Breaking Bad" has become a very popular TV show centered on organic chemistry, some other illegal activities. The article I chose talks about the scientific accuracy that comes from the show. Dr. Donna Nelson, a professor at Oklahoma University, is the organic consultant for the TV show and was tasked with keeping it as accurate as possible.

    I had never seen any of the episodes, before about a week ago and decided to watch a few. So I jumped onto Netflix and jumped right in. Within the first episode what little bit I had learned in class was already being recognized on the screen; diagrams of Alkenes on the chalkboard, a discussion on chirality, the acidity of fluoric acid. In the article Dr. Nelson mentioned that scientific inaccuracies, even small ones, affect the believability and stops someone with any chemistry background to really believe and stick with the show.

    Now, some may say it's just a TV show. Who cares? There is always the topic of a decline in children being interested in sciences, and something like this might be the spark out generation needs. I found myself getting more involved and paying more attention when something I learned in class was mentioned on the show, or vice versa.



    Imaging of Superoxide Generation in the Dopaminergic Area of the Brain in Parkinson’s Disease

    The new methodology for direct visualization of superoxide production in the dopaminergic are of the brain Parkinson's disease were founded by Molecular imaging center (National institute of Radiological sciences) in Japan and Medical faculties from Trakia University and Sofia University in Bulgaria. I'm personally interested in any topic relates to Parkinson's disease, because one of my best friend's dad diagnosed with Parkinson's disease last year. Parkinson's disease is a common neurodegenerative disorder of unknown cause. Nowadays, L-DOPA and Deprenyl are used as treatments, however, these only work for temporary because no one knows about the cause of it. This experiment was designed with one normal healthy mice and a mice treated with MPTP (1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine). In healthy mice, the nitroxide-enhanced MRI signal was weak and short-lived. The profile of the histograms indicated a high reducing activity of normal brain tissues against mito-TEMPO. In MPTP-treated mice, the nitroxide-enhanced MRI signal was strong and long-lived, especially in the dopaminergic area of the brain. The histograms indicated a high oxidative activity in dopaminergic tissues of MPTP-treated mice. The results show directly, on intact mammals, that superoxide is a major inducer and/or mediator of neurodegenerative damage in Parkinson’s disease. The high oxidative status of brain tissue in Parkinson’s disease was also confirmed on isolated tissue specimens, using total reducing capacity assay and ROS/RNS assay. There isn't a known cause or complete treatment of Parkinson's disease, yet this experiment is one way to find the way of its causes and treatments.



    Naturally Derived Pesticide May Replace More Harmful Chemicals

          The humble grapefruit may soon prove to be the inspiration for a new pesticide.  The substance known as nootkatone, which gives the citrus fruit its characteristic taste and smell, has already been proven as useful for repelling deer ticks, mosquitoes, head lice, and bedbugs.  Considered safe by the USDA, nootkatone is also used in perfumes and for flavoring foods.  Richard Burlingame, Ph.D, who presented the report, postulated that nootkatone, or some substance similar to it may be a sfer alternative to preexisting substances like deet.  There’s only one problem: nootkatone extracted from grapefruits costs about $25 per oz.  However,  Allylix, Inc., a “renewable chemical firm” in Kentucky, in conjunction with the CDC, is on the job.  They utilized yeast to produce valencene (previously extracted from oranges), which can then be converted into nootkatone.  Now the only thing pending is approval from the EPA to sell nootkatone for insect control, not just as a fragrance or flavoring.

    American Chemical Society (ACS). "Substance that gives grapefruit its flavor and aroma could give insect pests the boot." ScienceDaily, 11 Sep. 2013. Web. 30 Sep. 2013.


    CHEMISTRY IN THE NEWS-Common Cosmetic and Sunblock Ingredient, Titanium Dioxide, May Have Potential Health Risks

    Sep. 25, 2013 — Using a particular type of titanium dioxide -- a common ingredient in cosmetics, food products, toothpaste and sunscreen -- could reduce the potential health risks associated with the widely used compound. The report on the substance, produced by the millions of tons every year for the global market, appears in the ACS journal Chemical Research in Toxicology.

    Francesco Turci and colleagues explain that titanium dioxide (TiO2) is generally considered a safe ingredient in commercially available skin products because it doesn't penetrate healthy skin. But there's a catch. Research has shown that TiO2 can cause potentially toxic effects when exposed to ultraviolet light, which is in the sun's rays and is the same kind of light that the compound is supposed to offer protection against. To design a safer TiO2 for human use, the researchers set out to test different forms of the compound, each with its own architecture.
    They tested titanium dioxide powders on pig skin (which often substitutes for human skin in these kinds of tests) with indoor lighting, which has very little ultraviolet light in it. They discovered that one of the two most commonly used crystalline forms of TiO2, called rutile, easily washes off and has little effect on skin. Anatase, the other commonly used form, however, was difficult to wash off and damaged the outermost layer of skin -- even in low ultraviolet light. It appears to do so via "free radicals," which are associated with skin aging. "The present findings strongly encourage the use of the less reactive, negatively charged rutile to produce safer TiO2-based cosmetic and pharmaceutical products," the researchers conclude.

    American Chemical Society (2013, September 25). Common cosmetic and sunblock ingredient, titanium dioxide, may have potential health risks.ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 20
    13, from­/releases/2013/09/130925130656.htm

    Uterine Fibroids have become uncontrollable in women of color. Fibroids have always been found in women older than 40, but as of lately they can be found in girls going through puberty. An article I found on, links these fibroids to hair relaxers. Hair relaxers are used by most women of color to strengthen hair, sometimes known as a perm. The chemicals in perm have are being studied as the key root of these abnormal fibroids. "Going natural" has become a new trend, it is more apparent that the side effects of using hair relaxers are too big, for example uterine fibroids, hair loss and these relaxers also burn the skin, if left too long, they can severely burn the scalp . There has been experiments that show the chemicals in relaxers can dissolve a soda can, if it is left in there for a couple of hours.

    OPCW to Destroy Chemical Weapons in Syria

    Chemical weapons in Syria and the reciprocal actions of the the UN and United States have been relevant topics in the news lately. Last month, the area around Damascus, Syria was under a chemical attack, which was confirmed as the largest usage of chemical warfare since Saddam Hussein used them against civilians in 1988 (BBC News).

    According to BBC News, the death toll has been estimated of more than 1,300 people in the August 21st attacks, and people displaying"neurotoxic symptoms" being up towards the number of 3,600.

    The chemical agents believed to be used in this attack were burning agents like mustard gas and compounds that affect the nerves such as sarin (CBS: Initial Declaration). These chemical agents were believe to be transported via rockets, shown below.

    Now, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has confirmed that they are going to enter Syria as early as November to begin disbanding the equipment used to create chemical warfare. This action was unanimously supported by the 15 members of the United Nations Security Council this past Friday. They predict that the completion of this mission will take until the  middle of 2014 (CBS: OPCW).

    Sarin Structure.

    Mustard Gas Skeletal Structure.

    Rocket Used in Syria.

    BBC News.
    CBS: Inital Declaration.
    CBS: OPCW.
    Mustard Gas.

    Toxic in Sunscreen Found - Chemistry in the News

    When the summer season settled in, everyone loves to stay outside for outdoor activities such as the beach, barbeque, sports etc. However, this could also mean that the risks of having skin cancer increases during the summer months due to high exposure to UV rays. Sunscreen or sunblock is the best method to prevent any potential skin damages to occur; therefore during the season, many sunscreen industries such as Banana Boat and Hawaiian Tropics received high benefits in their marketing unit.

    SPF (Sun Protection Factors) is a factor that many consumers look at when they purchase sunscreens. The higher the number, the better; however, most of them overlooked one key ingredient, titanium dioxide. It is an inorganic compound that is approved by FDA to be at a safe level for consumer use. Titanium dioxide is labeled in the back of most sunscreens as a UV protection agent and absorbent against the harmful spectrum of UVA and UVB rays.

    Recently, some chemists who conducted some experiments found more potential hazards that titanium dioxide may affect on consumer’s epidermis layer of the skin. Pro-longed use of titanium dioxide has been found to create toxic on the skin. The toxic appears on the skin as titanium dioxide absorbs UV rays. The toxic compounds that they found were crystalline solids, rutile and anatase. Both are one of the forms of TiO2 found in nature. However, anatase is the compound that concerned most chemists because it is difficult to wash off from the skin. As it lingers on the skin’s surface, it creates a damaging effect on the skin and increases the skin’s aging by free radicals even in low UV environment. Chemists emphasized and favored that pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries should minimize the output of anatase crystalline and lean on products with rutile crystalline form of titanium dioxide.





    Left and middle pictures are taken for educational purposes only. They are in the references. The far right picture is a picture created by me.

    Chemistry in the News: New Atom in Periodic Table

    Scientists have recently created a new element that may be added to the periodic table in the near future. The reason that I say "may" is because the element only exists for a fraction of a second after it is created and more evidence is needed. This new element is made up of 115 protons and was discovered about 10 years ago by both Russian and American scientists. The element, which is currently (but temoporarily) called ununpentium, was required to be reproduced in other labs before it would be added to the periodic table. Recently, a group of physicists from Lund University in Sweden were able to reproduce the same results producing ununpentium. The experiments that were done to confirm the 115 proton containing element also confirmed the existence of a new 113 proton element that is also not listed on the periodic table. This 113 proton element was noticed after the 115 proton element underwent alpha decay. By undergoing alpha decay, the 115 proton element emitted a particle consisting of 2 protons and 2 neutrons, leaving the 113 proton element.

    In order to create the 115 proton element, calcium nuclei (20 protons) were shot into americium atoms (95 protons), essentially smashing them together. This resulted in some of the calcium and americium coming together and forming the 115 proton element, albeit very briefly. The pieces of debris from the experiment allowed researchers to deduce the existence of the new heavy element. Researchers also detected an X-ray signal during the decay that supported the existence of a 115 proton element. If the studies continue to be supported by evidence, the Russian and American scientists who first discovered the element will be given the chance to name it something other than ununpentium. Elements 117 and 118 are also in the process of being confirmed.

    Image shows a model of the massive Ununpentium atom with nucleus surrounded by electrons.


    Nanodrapes….??? Thinnest material provides water- resistant properties

    A new material developed by Rensselaer Polytenic Institute researchers called “nanodrapes” is the thinnest material known to science.  At less than a nanometer thick this material is said to improve and enhance water-resistant properties of materials without changing the physical appearance of the materials beneath it. Developed from graphene, researchers believe this breakthrough could provide beneficial properties and lead to the enhancement of self-cleaning surfaces,high-throughput assays and other applications requiring the motion of liquid droplets on solid surfaces. A Professor of Engineering at Rensselaer provided important insight that this graphene nanodrape material not only prevents the absorption of water into surfaces but it is unseen to the natural eye and causes very little change to the texture of a material beneath.

    This graphene nanodrape material works by causing water droplets to bead up similar to the affects of awater repellant. This is done by preventing the water droplets from becoming pinned to the surface of a material. A huge reduction in surface friction allows this to happen. The graphene used in this new material is developed by placing single layers of carbon atoms in a nanoscale “chicken wire fence” arrangement and then  laying this on the top of a copper substrate. After covered in a polymer film researchers then utilize weak acids to remove the copper producing a polymer layered graphene film. The polymer layer is then removed using acetone and leaving behind the impermeable graphene drape.

    Skin Damage - Is Your Sunscreen Really Preventing It?

            Okay, so if you have ever been burned to the point of looking like a lobsters cousin, you probably wear sunscreen now (because you never want to go through that again). However, you've also probably heard at some point that sunscreen can potentially harm you as well. Titanium Dioxide (TiO2) is an chemical commonly found in sunscreen, but also in food ingredients, cosmetics, and toothpaste. It is thought safe to use in products like sunscreen since the compound does not seep into healthy skin. Unfortunately, Francesco Turci explains that the compound can cause potential skin damage if exposed to ultraviolet light (oh the irony). So there's definitely a reason for those rumors you've heard about sunscreen being a double-edged sword.
            After knowing that Titanium Dioxide could both harm and help its user, researchers decided to test different forms, or isomers, of TiO2 on pig skin to see which of the compound's structures was safe for use. Personally, I didn't know that pig skin is what is used to test human skin care products most of the time (I'd rather not equate my skin to that of a pig's, but I mean okay). At any rate, the skin was tested under indoor UV rays. There are two widely used crystalline forms of TiO2 used in sunscreen; Anatase and Rutile. On the pig skin, Rutile was found to wash off easily and had little to no effect. This was not the case with Anatase which did not wash off easily and caused significant damage to the top layer of skin, even though the UV rays were weak and indoors.

            The picture above shows that the Nano-TiO2, or Rutile, does not penetrate the skin, but only stays on the surface to shield from harmful UV rays; whereas the Anatase and Rutile together as well as the Anatase alone sinks below the surface of the skin. The Anatase and Rutile combined still goes slightly below the surface, so it was concluded by the researchers that Rutile alone is the safest for human use.

            So if you are looking for sunscreen (for next year of course since fall is now upon us), be sure to look for Rutile so you end up unscathed by both sun and sunscreen.

    1. American Chemical Society (2013, September 25). Common cosmetic and sunblock ingredient, titanium dioxide, may have potential health risks
    2. Francesco Turci, Elena Peira, Ingrid Corazzari, Ivana Fenoglio, M. Trotta, Bice Fubini. Crystalline phase modulates the potency of nanometric TiO2to adhere and perturb the stratum corneum of porcine skin under indoor light.. Chemical Research in Toxicology, 2013; : 130912183629009 DOI: 10.1021/tx400285j