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17th September 2015
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Biofuels in brief


In the US, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has received an additional $1m in funding from the US Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy for the development of ‘probiotic’ bacteria to overcome infestation in algal ponds used to grow biomass for conversion into biofuels and other bioproducts.

Butterfly boost for PV

Anthony King, 17/09/2015

The wings of the Cabbage White butterfly have provided the inspiration for a lightweight reflective material that could raise solar panel efficiency, researchers have reported.

Chestnut disarms superbug

Kathryn Roberts , 17/09/2015

US researchers have shown that an extract from the leaves of the European chestnut tree can disarm the superbug MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), without generating further bacterial resistance (PLOS one, doi: 10.1371/journal. pone.0136486).

Cool glass paint

Cath O’Driscoll, 17/09/2015

A novel type of paint based on glass that bounces sunlight off metal surfaces could also help to slow down corrosion on ships and roofs, researchers reported at the ACS meeting in Boston in August 2015.

‘Drinkable’ book

Cath O’Driscoll, 17/09/2015

The answer to cleaning up bacterially contaminated water can be found in a book, according to researchers presenting their work at the ACS meeting in Boston in August.

Innovation pays

Nicola Davies, 17/09/2015

In recent years, the global chemical industry has seen a major power shift. Europe now faces rising competition from the US, Middle East and Asia - particularly China.

Invasive millipede enzyme

Ian Randall, 17/09/2015

A new, more potent form of hydroxynitrile lyase – an enzyme used in a wide variety of industrial processes – has been identified in an invasive millipede species, report researchers from Japan.

Low-cost LEDs

Cath O’Driscoll, 17/09/2015

A new technology for making energy efficient light-emitting diodes (LEDs) could slash costs by up to 90%, which should make them more competitively priced for uptake by homes and businesses, according to researchers speaking at the ACS meeting in Boston in August 2015.

Medical grade nanotubes

Cath O’Driscoll, 17/09/2015

After years of searching, researchers say they have come up with a scalable process to make ‘the world’s first medical grade carbon nanotube’.

Nanofibres from thin air

Cath O’Driscoll, 17/09/2015

Researchers say they have hit on a way to make ‘“diamonds” from the sky’ – by taking carbon dioxide from the air and using it to make valuable carbon nanofibres, they reported at the ACS meeting in Boston in August 2015

New beginnings

Jasmin Fox-Skelly, 17/09/2015

Evolutionary biologists have long had to grapple with a thorny problem. For life to have got started on Earth, there must have been a genetic molecule—something like DNA or RNA—capable of passing along instructions for making proteins.

Oxitec buy-out

Anthony King, 17/09/2015

UK biotechnology company Oxitec is being acquired for £160m by Intrexon Corporation in the US.  Oxitec spun out from Oxford University in 2002.

Recycling rare earths

Anthony King, 17/09/2015

A new technology to recycle rare earth elements has been developed by US Department of Energy scientists and licensed to Texas, US-based mineral exploration and mining group, US Rare Earths.

Shedding light on catalysis

Anthony King, 17/09/2015

For the first time ever, researchers have imaged a catalyst at work in the liquid phase. They revealed the catalyst’s molecular structure and location using the brilliant beams of light generated at the UK’s Diamond Light Source synchrotron in Harwell, Oxfordshire.

Solar in brief


The UK is on track to deliver solar power without subsidies by 2020, but clearer and more stable governmental support will be needed to avoid the same kind of ‘cliff edge’ situations that have occurred in Spain and Greece

Solar shifting hydrogel

Michael Allen, 17/09/2015

A novel dye-loaded hydrogel could double the efficiency of dye-sensitised solar cells, making them more affordable, researchers claim.

Super-hot water

Anthony King, 17/09/2015

Geoscientists have sketched out guidelines for locating super-hot water that could greatly boost geothermal electricity output in Iceland and other countries.

Tianjin explosions aftermath

XiaoZhi Lim, 17/09/2015

Investigations into the cause of two explosions at a chemical warehouse in Tianjin Port in Binhai New Area in China on 12 August 2015, which claimed 121 lives, are ongoing.

Tracing stolen stones

Anthony King, 17/09/2015

A UK heritage crime survey by Loughborough University’s social sciences department indicates that stone is now the third most popular target for thieves at heritage sites, behind copper and lead.

World water week

Maria Burke, 17/09/2015

World Water Week ended on 28 August 2015 with an entreaty that water is part of the global 2015 climate agreement discussed at the UN conference on climate change in Paris in December 2015.