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Posted: November 16, 2009
Ten technologies that made news in 2009 and warrant watching in 2010
(Nanowerk News) A first-of-its kind inhalable measles vaccine for developing countries, where the disease remains a scourge. A "nanogenerator" that could recharge iPods and other electronic devices with a shake. And for Fido and Fluffy, a long-awaited once-a-month pill for both ticks and fleas.
It's list season, the time to prepare inventories of what stood out in 2009 and holds promise for the year ahead. Those three advances are among more than 250 research advances publicized in 2009 by the American Chemical Society (ACS) Office of Public Affairs. With 154,000 members, ACS is the world's largest scientific society. The advances were selected from among 34,000 scientific reports published during 2009 in ACS's 34 peer-reviewed journals, and 18,000 technical papers presented at ACS's two National Meetings. Here is a sampler:
1. Needle-free, inhalant powder measles vaccine could save thousands of lives
Scientists are reporting development of the first dry powder inhalable vaccine for measles. The vaccine is moving toward clinical trials next year in India, where the disease still sickens millions of infants and children and kills almost 200,000 annually, according to a report presented at the 238th ACS National Meeting. Robert Sievers, Ph.D., who leads the team that developed the dry-powder vaccine, said it's a perfect fit for use in back-roads areas of developing countries. Those areas often lack the electricity for refrigeration, clean water and sterile needles needed to administer traditional liquid vaccines.
2. Toward home-brewed electricity with "personalized solar energy"
New scientific discoveries are moving society toward the era of "personalized solar energy," in which the focus of electricity production shifts from huge central generating stations to individuals in their own homes and communities. That's the topic of a report by an international expert on solar energy published in ACS' Inorganic Chemistry, a bi-weekly journal. It describes a long-awaited, inexpensive method for solar energy storage that could help power homes and plug-in cars in the future while helping keep the environment clean.
3. "Frozen smoke:" The ultimate sponge for cleaning up oil spills
Scientists in Arizona and New Jersey are reporting that aerogels, a super-lightweight solid sometimes
called "frozen smoke," may serve as the ultimate sponge for capturing oil from wastewater and effectively soaking up environmental oil spills. The scientists, lead by Robert Pfeffer, packed a batch of tiny aerogel beads into a vertical column and exposed them to flowing water containing soybean oil to simulate the filtration process at a wastewater treatment plant. They showed that the aerogel beads absorbed up to seven times their weight and removed oil from the wastewater at high efficiency, better than many conventional sorbent materials. Their study appeared in ACS' Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, a bi-weekly journal.
4. New nanogenerator may charge iPods and cell phones with a wave of the hand
Imagine if all you had to do to charge your iPod or your BlackBerry was to wave your hand, or stretch your arm, or take a walk? You could say goodbye to batteries and never have to plug those devices into a power source again. In research presented at the ACS's 237th National Meeting, scientists from Georgia described technology that converts mechanical energy from body movements or even the flow of blood in the body into electric energy that can be used to power a broad range of electronic devices without using batteries.
5. First broad spectrum anti-microbial paint to kill "superbugs"
Scientists in South Dakota are reporting development of the first broad-spectrum antimicrobial paint, a material that can simultaneously kill not just disease-causing bacteria but mold, fungi, and viruses. Designed to both decorate and disinfect homes, businesses, and health-care settings, the paint is the most powerful to date, according to the new study. It appeared in the monthly ACS' Applied Materials & Interfaces. The paint shows special promise for fighting so-called "superbugs," antibiotic-resistant microbes that infect hospital surfaces and cause an estimated 88,000 deaths annually in the United States, the researchers say.
6. Tobacco plants yield the first vaccine for the dreaded "cruise ship virus"
Taking that "cruise of a lifetime" could soon be friendlier to your health. Scientists have used a new vaccine production technology to develop a vaccine for norovirus, a dreaded cause of diarrhea and vomiting that may be the second most common viral infection in the United States after the flu. Sometimes called the "cruise ship virus," this microbe can spread like wildfire through passenger liners, schools, offices and military bases. The new vaccine is unique in its origin — it was "manufactured" in a tobacco plant using an engineered plant virus. The research was presented at the 238th ACS National Meeting.
7. Once-a-month pill for both fleas and ticks in Fido and Fluffy
Scientists in New Jersey are describing discovery and successful tests of the first once-a-month pill for controlling both fleas and ticks in domestic dogs and cats. Their study appears in the ACS' Journal of the Medicinal Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication. Peter Meinke and colleagues at Merck Research Laboratories note the need for better ways of controlling fleas and ticks, driven in part by increases in pet ownership. In tests on fleas and ticks in dogs and cats, a single dose of the new pill was 100 percent effective in protecting against both fleas and ticks for a month. There were no signs of toxic effects on the animals.
8. Toward the design of greener, more eco-friendly consumer products
So you're a manufacturer about to introduce a new consumer product to the marketplace. Will that product or the manufacture of the product contribute to global warming through the greenhouse effect? Until now, there was no clear way to answer that question. Scientists are reporting development of a new method for screening molecules and predicting how certain materials, ranging from chemicals used in carpeting to electronics, will contribute to global warming. Their study was published in the ACS' Journal of Physical Chemistry A, a weekly publication.
9. A "shrimp cocktail" to fuel cars and trucks
Call it a "shrimp cocktail" for your fuel tank. Scientists in China are reporting development of a catalyst made from shrimp shells that could transform production of biodiesel fuel into a faster, less expensive, and more environmentally friendly process. Their study appeared in ACS' Energy & Fuels, a bi-monthly journal. In laboratory tests, the shrimp shell catalysts converted canola oil to biodiesel (89 percent conversion in three hours) faster and more efficiently than some conventional catalysts.
10. Toward an "electronic nose" to sniff out kidney disease in exhaled breath
Scientists in Israel have identified the key substances in exhaled breath associated with healthy and diseased kidneys — raising expectations, they say, for development of long-sought diagnostic and screening tests that literally sniff out chronic renal failure (CRF) in its earliest and most treatable stages. Their report appeared in ACS Nano, a monthly journal. The scientists describe tests of an experimental "electronic nose" on exhaled breath of laboratory rats with no kidney function and normal kidney function. The device identified 27 so-called volatile organic compounds that appear only in the breath of rats with CRF.