The David Miller Travel Bursary Award aims to give early career plant scientists or horticulturists the opportunity of overseas travel in connection with their horticultural careers.
Juan Carlos De la Concepcion was awarded one of the 2018 David Miller Travel Bursaries to attend the International Congress of Plant Pathology (ICPP) 2018: Plant Health in A Global Economy, which was held in Boston, US. Here, he details his experience attending the international conference and the opportunities it provided.
I’m currently completing the third-year of my rotation PhD in Plant and Microbial Science at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, UK. My work addresses how plant pathogens cause devastating diseases that affect food security worldwide, and how plants can recognise them and organise an immune response to keep themselves healthy.
Because of the tremendous damage that plant diseases cause in agricultural and horticulturally relevant species, this topic has become central to achieving the UN Zero Hunger challenge.
Thanks to the David Miller Award, I was able to participate in the International Congress of Plant Pathology (ICPP) 2018: Plant Health in A Global Economy held in Boston, US. This event is the major international conference in the plant pathology field and only occurs once every five years.
This year, the conference gathered together over 2,700 attendees, representing the broad international community of plant pathologist across the globe. In this conference, the leading experts in the different aspects of the field presented the latest advances and innovations.
Juan’s current research looks at the rice plant’s immune response to pathogens.
These experts are setting a vision and future directions for tackling some of the most damaging plant diseases in the agriculture and horticulture industries, ensuring enough food productivity in a global economy.
Clean and fresh water is essential for human life, and water is a necessity to agricultural and other industries. However, global population growth and pollution from industrial waste has put a strain in local fresh water resources.
A hydrogel is made up of polymer chains that are hydrophilic (attracted to water) and are known for being highly absorbent.
Current clean-up costs can be extremely expensive, leaving poorer and more remote populations at risk to exposure of metal pollutants such as lead, mercury, cadmium and copper, which can lead to severe effects on the neurological, reproductive and immune systems.
Now, a group of scientists at the University of Texas at Dallas, US, have developed a 3D printable hydrogel that is capable of 95% metal removal within 30 minutes.
Clean water is also needed for one’s hygiene, including brushing your teeth and bathing.
The hydrogel is made from a cheap, abundant biopolymer chitosan and diacrylated pluronic, which forms cDAP. The cDAP mixture is then loaded into the printer as a liquid and allowed to cool to <4⁰C, before rising again to room temperature to form a gel that can be used to produce various 3D printed shapes.
The Dallas team also tested the reusability of their hydrogel and found that it had a recovery rate of 98% after five cycles of use, proving it to be a potentially reliable resource to communities with limited fresh water supply.
Life without clean water. Video: charitywater
‘This novel and cost-effective approach to remove health and environmental hazards could be useful for fabricating cheap and safe water filtration devices on site in polluted areas without the need for industrial scale manufacturing tools,’ the paper reads.
2019 has been declared by UNESCO as the Year of the Periodic Table. To celebrate, we are releasing a series of blogs about our favourite elements and their importance to the chemical industry. Today, on International Women’s Day, we look at the two elements radium and polonium and the part Marie Curie that played in their discovery.
Who is Marie Curie?
Marie Sklodowska and her future husband Pierre Curie.
Marie Sklodowska-Curie was born in 1867 in Poland. As a young woman she had a strong preference for science and mathematics, so in 1891 she moved to Paris, France, and began her studies in physics, chemistry and mathematics at the University of Paris.
After gaining a degree in physics, Curie began working on her second degree whilst working in an industrial laboratory. As her scientific career progressed, she met her future husband, Pierre Curie, whilst looking for larger laboratory space. The two bonded over their love of science, and went on to marry, have two children and discover two elements together.
After finishing her thesis on ‘Studies in radioactivity’, Curie became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first and only woman to win twice, and the only person to win in two different sciences.
Curie, along with husband Pierre and collaborator Henri Becquerel, won the 1903 Nobel prize in Physics for their radioactivity studies, and the 1911 Nobel prize in Chemistry for the isolation and study of elements radium and polonium.
Curie won the Nobel prize twice in two different subjects. Image: Pixabay
As of 2018, Curie is one of only three women to have won the Nobel Prize in Physics and one of the five women to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Polonium, like radium, is a rare and highly reactive metal with 33 isotopes, all of which are unstable. Polonium was named after Marie Curie’s home country of Poland and was discovered by Marie and Pierre Curie from uranium ore in 1898.
Polonium is not only radioactive but is highly toxic. It was the first element discovered by the Curies when they were investigating radioactivity. There are very few applications of polonium due to its toxicity, other than for educational or experimental purposes.
Radium is an alkaline earth metal which was discovered in the form of radium chloride by Marie and her husband Pierre in December 1898. They also extracted it from uranite (uranium ore), as they did with polonium. Later, in 1911, Marie Curie and André-Louis Debierne isolated the metal radium by electrolysing radium chloride.
The discovery of radium led to the development of modern cancer treatments, like radiotherapy.
Pure radium is a silvery-white metal, which has 33 known isotopes. All isotopes of radium are radioactive – some more than others. The common historical unit for radioactivity, the curie, is based on the radioactivity of Radium-226.
Famously, radium was historically used as self-luminescent paint on clock hands. Unfortunately, many of the workers that were responsible for handling the radium became ill – radium is treated by the body as calcium, where it is deposited in bones and causes damage because of its radioactivity. Safety laws were later introduced, followed by discontinuation of the use of radium paint in the 1960s.
Marie Curie: A life of sacrifice and achievement. Source: Biographics
Curie’s work was exceptional not only in its contributions to science, but in how women in science were perceived. She was an incredibly intelligent and hard-working woman who should be celebrated to this day.
Our SCI journal, Polymer International is celebrating it’s 50th publication year in 2019. Volume 1, Issue 1 of Polymer International was first published in January 1969 under the original name British Polymer Journal. The journal, published by Wiley, continues to publish high quality peer reviewed demonstrating innovation in the polymer field.
Today, we look at the five highest-cited Polymer International papers and their significance.
Article: A review of biodegradable polymers: uses, current developments in the synthesis and characterization of biodegradable polyesters, blends of biodegradable polymers and recent advances in biodegradation studies – Wendy Amass, Allan Amass and Brian Tighe. 47:2 (1998)
In the last few years, much of environmentalists’ focus has been on our plastic waste issue, particularly the issue of plastic build up in the oceans, and searching for alternatives. This review, published in 1998, was ahead of its time, describing biodegradable polymers and how they could help to solve our growing plastics problem. Research in this area continues to this day.
Here’s how much plastic trash Is littering the Earth. Video: National Geographic
The life of RAFT
Article: Living free radical polymerization with reversible addition – fragmentation chain transfer (the life of RAFT) – Graeme Moad, John Chiefari, (Bill) Y K Chong, Julia Krstina, Roshan T A Mayadunne, Almar Postma, Ezio Rizzardo and San H Thang. 49:9 (2000)
This research article by Moad et al., published in 2000, looks to answer questions about free radical polymerization with reversible addition-fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT polymerization). RAFT polymerization is a type of polymerization that can be used to design polymers with complex architectures including comb-like, star, brush polymers and cross-linked networks. These complex polymers have application in smart materials and biological applications.
Article: Main properties and current applications of some polysaccharides as biomaterials – Marguerite Rinaudo. 57:3 (2008)
Biomaterials made from sugar polymers have huge potential in the field of regenerative medicine
The review by Marguerite Rinaudo looks at polysaccharides – polymers made from sugars – and evaluates their potential in biomedical and pharmaceutical applications. They concluded that alginates, along with a few other named examples, were promising. Alginate-based biomaterials have since been used in the field of regenerative medicine, including would healing, bone regeneration and drug delivery, and have a potential application in tissue regeneration.
Article: Supramolecular polymer chemistry—scope and perspectives – Jean-Marie Lehn. 51:10 (2002)
This 2002 paper reviews advances in supramolecular polymers – uniquely complex structured polymers. They have a wide range of complex applications. Molecular self-assembly – the ability of these polymers to assemble into the correct structure without input – can be used to develop new materials. Supramolecular chemistry has also been applied in the fields of catalysis, drug delivery and data storage. Jean-Marie Lehn won the 1987 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work in supramolecular chemistry.
Article: Organic light‐emitting diode (OLED) technology: materials, devices and display technologies – Bernard Geffroy, Philippe le Roy and Christophe Prat. 55:6 (2006)
Organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology could be used to make flexible screens and displays
This review looks at organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology, which can be made from a variety of materials. When structured in a specific way, these materials can result in a device that combined in a specific red, green, blue colour combination, like standard LED builds, can form screens or displays. Because of the different structure of the material, these displays may have different properties to a standard LED display including flexibility.