If Mohini Sain has his way, cars of the future may be fitted with tough, durable and completely biodegradable bumpers made of hemp.
Sain, a professor in the University of Torontos Faculty of Forestry and Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry, creates biocomposites from processed plant fibres. His latest research, published in the August issue of Materials Research Innovations and the July issue of Macromolecular Materials and Engineering, describes a way to create a material from hemp (a member of the cannabis family) that is both strong and lightweight. "We hope to develop this technology for automotive interior parts like instrument panels, structural applications for buildings and sports equipment and, ultimately, for medical devices such as cardiac devices and blood bags," says Sain.
In the studies, Sain treated stalks of hemp with chemicals to break down the "glue" that holds clumps of fibres together. The plant material was then combined with synthetic plastics. However, if it is mixed with plastics made from soy beans or pulp and paper sludge, researchers can create tough biocomposites that are completely biodegradable. Finally, using a combination of heat and pressure, they compressed the material into a variety of shapes. While these studies used hemp, the process also works with flax, wheat and corn.
Janet Wong | U of T
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Researchers from the Department of Atomically Resolved Dynamics of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg, the University of Hamburg and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) outstation in the city have developed a new method to watch biomolecules at work. This method dramatically simplifies starting enzymatic reactions by mixing a cocktail of small amounts of liquids with protein crystals. Determination of the protein structures at different times after mixing can be assembled into a time-lapse sequence that shows the molecular foundations of biology.
The functions of biomolecules are determined by their motions and structural changes. Yet it is a formidable challenge to understand these dynamic motions.
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Researchers from the Department of Atomically Resolved Dynamics of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg, the University of Potsdam (both in Germany) and the University of Toronto (Canada) have pieced together a detailed time-lapse movie revealing all the major steps during the catalytic cycle of an enzyme. Surprisingly, the communication between the protein units is accomplished via a water-network akin to a string telephone. This communication is aligned with a ‘breathing’ motion, that is the expansion and contraction of the protein.
This time-lapse sequence of structures reveals dynamic motions as a fundamental element in the molecular foundations of biology.
Two research teams have succeeded simultaneously in measuring the long-sought Thorium nuclear transition, which enables extremely precise nuclear clocks. TU Wien (Vienna) is part of both teams.
If you want to build the most accurate clock in the world, you need something that "ticks" very fast and extremely precise. In an atomic clock, electrons are...
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