Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

CV Check in Nürnberg

August 18, 2010

When travelling to Nürnberg, you shouldn’t forget to bring along your CV (of course in English!) as there will a professional CV check at the CareerDays on Tuesday, 31 August and there are still some slots available.
You can choose either to be checked by a native speaker (Careers Adviser of the Royal Society of Chemistry) or by German recruiting experts from Sanofi-Aventis, Boehringer-Ingelheim, Bayer Healthcare, Merck or Evonik.
Combined with the opportunities given by the JobFair and the partnering platform you have the best chance to start your career in Nürnberg!

See you at the 3rd EuCheMS Chemistry Congress,


Determining the structure by looking at the molecule

August 4, 2010

ResearchBlogging.orgIn many cases it is notoriously difficult to determine the exact structure of a molecule, especially with larger ones. Stereocenters tend to make things worse, and interesting molecules tend to have several of them. Have you ever sat up to the neck in a pile of inconclusive spectra and wished you could just hold it and see the molecule just like in those colored balls-and-sticks-models everyone likes to draw in their papers?


Norman Borlaug: “Do the best possible job you can do”

July 23, 2010

Norman Borlaug is considered to be one of the greatest scientists who ever lived. He was the father of the Green Revolution that multiplied agricultural yields all over the planet, saving millions from famine and starvation.

Here’s his advice for young scientists who want to follow in his footsteps:

Self-healing superhydrophobic surfaces

July 20, 2010

ResearchBlogging.orgI have been on to self-healing materials for some time, usually writing about them in my german blog or for newspapers and magazines. Self-healing is what makes biology superior to technology. Organisms don’t just have astonishing properties – materials have, too – but they retain them by constant regeneration and while doing so even adapt to changing conditions. We want, we need our advanced materials to do the same.

This is especially true for superhydrophobic coatings, which cause the Lotus Effect and hence are very promising not only for self-cleaning items, but also for anti-corrosion or anti-adhesive coatings. Everyone who ever scratched barnacles from the bottom of a ship knows how useful this could be. Since a superhydrophobic coating also reduces drag on surfaces, painting commercial ships with such a formulation would be a billion-dollar business.

Put down that Helium! An Interview with Nobel Laureate Robert Richardson

July 9, 2010

The coming scarcity of the noble gas Helium has been the topic of a few media articles recently, for example the one by John Timmer from Ars Technica (who also was of great help during my preparation of the interview below). The basic idea comes from Robert Richardson who got the 1996 Physics Nobel for discovering suprafluidity in, yes, Helium. His lecture at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting attracted a great deal of attention, precisely because no one really had ever heard of that problem.

Helium is, essentially a non-renewable resource that is, while being the second-most abundant element in the universe, comparatively scarce on earth. The main source is alpha decay of certain unstable isotopes in minerals, and as you might imagine, that’s a rather slow process. There are several cryogenic applications like high-end NMR spectrometers that won’t run without Helium, so there is no easy replacement. On the other hand, there are huge amounts of helium wasted every day because the gas is kept artificially cheap.

I met Professor Richardson at the Lindau conference and he was kind enough to answer a few questions about the looming resource crisis, it’s causes and possible solutions.


Azobenzene photoswitching in vesicles

June 28, 2010

ResearchBlogging.orgThe photoswitching capability of azobenzenes has recently been used extensively in photoreactive supramolecular materials. One of the most astonishing uses of azonenzene photoswitching is the reversible association of these molecules with certain cyclodextrines. Azobenzenes change their structure reversibly under irradiation. There’s a cis-form and a trans-form, and photoisomerisation happens reliably wavelengths of 350 (trans –> cis) and 455 (cis –> trans) nanometer.

As it happens the trans-azobenzene fits snugly in the cyclodextrine cavity, while the bent cis-form doesn’t. This offers a number of interesting possibilities, ranging from the inevitable switchable hydrogels to rather more amazing structures, such as switchable ion channels and functionalized surfaces. (more…)

A catalyst for axial chirality

June 18, 2010

ResearchBlogging.orgAxial-chirality or atropisomerism is a very useful property as demonstrated by various chiral catalysts containing BINOL, BINAP and similar groups, but not only there. Many important natural products like e.g. the antibiotic Vancomycin are also atropisomers, which makes this property a very important aspect of stereoselective chemical synthesis. Which is extremely difficult to achieve synthetically with sufficient enantiomeric excesses. I personally always considered it next to impossible, except in special cases, when, for example, one configuration is enforced over the other by the shape of the rest of the molecule.

However, it seems that I’m wrong and that there is a way. Recently a group around Jeffrey L. Gustafson from Yale made some interesting progress in that direction. They report a tripeptide catalyst that mediates highly enantioselective electrophilic bromination of aromatic rings. The significance for atropisomerism stems from the fact that bromine atoms next to a biaryl single bond effectively prevent rotation around this bond if another functional group is present at the other ring.

Gas separation with nanoporous materials

June 9, 2010

ResearchBlogging.orgWith increasing demand for effective separation of small-molecule gases – think of carbon caption and storage – there has been a lot of research recently into strategies and materials suitable for those applications. The traditional way to separate gases like nitrogen, oxygen or carbon dioxide is to freeze them out one by one, which is a very energy-consuming and in the case of oxygen occasionally even dangerous thing to do (famous last words: “Should my solvent turn blue in the cryo trap?”). Also, you can’t realistically sequester carbon dioxide from power plants this way.

Amino acid crystallisation and the origin of life

May 31, 2010

ResearchBlogging.orgRecently I came across a number of attempts to explain the “handedness” of life – the fact that proteins consist only of L-amino acids – by the crystallization behavior of amino acids. The general idea is that something that happens at the transition between solution and crystal that favors one of the enantiomers over the other. I have to admit that it sounds a lot less esoteric than the idea that polarized starlight somehow influenced the formation of interstellar amino acids sufficiently to create such an effect, but frankly, I don’t buy it.

Quality of Living Ranking 2010 – Nürnberg gets Top Ranking

May 27, 2010

Just stumbeld over this year’s “Quality of Living Ranking” by Mercer Consulting. In this study that ranks cities worthwhile to live in, our congress venue is no. 24 topping such lovely places like Dublin, San Francisco, Helsinki, Paris, London, Tokyo, Barcelona, Madrid or NewYork! In the Eco-city Ranking, the position is even better: Nürnberg is no. 13 worldwide!

So you see, just as Dr. Richard Pike, Executive Director of RSC, said in our ‘Invitation to Nuremberg’-movie:
“Germany is a great place to be!”
and with the Eco-city ranking you almost have to join the symposium “Ressources and Environment” – where else could this congress be spotted better this year?

See you in Nürnberg!

The amazing spider silk

May 25, 2010

ResearchBlogging.orgEven if you don’t follow materials research closely you may have come across the amazing properties of spider silk. The stuff is stronger than steel, yet more elastic than most artificial fibres, despite being made of proteins only. It owes its remarkable strength to hydrogen bonds and its microstructure of amorphous and crystalline domains.

But the really amazing thing about spider silk is its assembly. The precursor protein solution is stored as a stable liquid within the spider’s body, but when it exits through the spinning gland it immediately precipitates into a solid protein thread. This shows not only what amazing tricks are possible with those versatile biomolecules, but also that we have only just begun to unravel their secrets. There have been, however, two recent publications in Nature going a long way to explaining the controlled transition from solution to silk. The one I found most inspiring deals with the molecular details of a pH switch at the N-terminus of silk proteins.

How toxic are the dispersants used to fight the oil?

May 14, 2010

Now that we know that the hole drilled by the Deepwater Horizon will, for the foreseeable time, keep on gushing, we better take a look at the chemicals used to keep the oil from forming a film at the surface. Unsurprisingly, those chemicals are rather toxic by themselves, although they are far less persistent in the environment than crude oil. As far as I know, about 500,000 gallons of dispersants have already been deployed in the Deepwater Horizon disaster, either by ship or by plane.

Biodegradable organic nanoparticles

May 5, 2010

ResearchBlogging.orgSomehow this never occurred to me before, but nanoparticles don’t have to be made from metals or other inorganics. They can even be biodegradable. It’s something you tend to forget when you keep reading papers about how metal oxide nanoparticles penetrate cells and catalyze the formation of free radicals or whatever.

But of course there is always the option of creating nano-sized chunks of common polymers. The major drawback is that they don’t have as interesting physical properties of inorganic particles, with all those size-depending effects and abundant catalytically active sites. They are, in short, a lot less interesting than their inorganic counterparts and that’s why you rarely hear about them.

Mapping the wetting

April 28, 2010

When it comes to chemistry, surfaces are the places to be. Where two phases meet, interesting stuff is bound to happen. One of the phase interactions that received increased attention during the last few years is the peculiar meeting of a liquid and a solid. One rather interesting phenomenon encountered here is the lotus effect, where water drops roll off a surface because it is not only hydrophobic, but also nanostructured to reduce affinity further. We call this, for obvious reasons, superhydrophobic. Afterwards, surfaces were constructed that are superoleophobic, and amazingly one that is both at the same time. This tunable property of a liquid-solid interface is called wettability, and it is probably the prototypal liquid-solid interaction.

ResearchBlogging.orgFrom a chemists point of view, however, the concept of wettability has a major flaw: It is entirely macroscopic. You define superhydrophobicity by measuring the contact angle between a drop of water and the surface. On the molecular level the concept of wettability is poorly defined. And that’s not the only example for this problem. There is a general lack of information about molecular and atomic details of liquid-solid interactions, especially when compared to the knowledge to be gained. Just recently a paper about supercooled liquid gold, for example, revealed astonishing details about the way the surface influences the freezing point of a liquid.

Supercooled liquid gold alloy

April 22, 2010

ResearchBlogging.orgIt’s well-known that many liquid metals can be cooled below their freezing point. This is, scientists assume, due to dense and symmetric, but non-periodic ordering within the liquid. This theory implies that the freezing point of supercooled metal liquids can be controlled, just like crystallization can be induced by a template – all it takes is something that stabilizes the short-range order of the liquid. In the latest issue of Nature researchers from Grenoble published an impressive proof of this concept, not only showing that phase transistion temperatures depend on several variables, but also revealing the structure forced on the liquid.

Even greener ionic liquids

April 14, 2010

Ionic liquids are already known as „green“ solvents since they don’t evaporate and neither burn nor explode, which is what every chemist really is looking for in a solvent. Additionally, they are powerful solvents with easily tunable properties and of course electrically conducting. Very useful stuff, ionic liquids. Unfortunately they are generally at least as toxic as normal solvents, and since they look rather promising for everyday applications like batteries and even cosmetics, that is a serious drawback.

There is, however, one huge advantage to ionic liquids: Since they all consist of cations and anions which can be combined at will, every new compound really means that there are dozens of new, unique solvents available. Although many current compounds are based on quaternary ammonium salts, some of which are potent biocides, the structural diversity of known compounds suggest that truly green ionic liquids are well within reach.

Cold fusion at the ACS Meeting

March 26, 2010

Even from Germany it was near impossible not to catch some of the buzz around this year’s ACS Meeting in San Francisco, especially because there wasn’t just the usual stuff going on. Announcing in advance that “Cold fusion moves closer to the mainstream” was bound to get some extra attention, since most people still consider researchers in this field as being of the underwear-as-headgear variety. Even its supporters tend to agree that this line of research attracts a number of such types.

On the other hand the field has been successfully rebranded as LENR – low energy nuclear reactions – and there is a whole bunch of topics investigated now aside from what Pons and Fleischman originally claimed, so it certainly looks a lot less crackpotty than it did in the early years. The current ringing endorsement by ACS helps, of course.

Birth of a journal

March 19, 2010

Chemical Science is – or rather is going to be – a new chemistry journal published by the Royal Society. I’m not entirely sure why we need another general chemistry journal that no one can really read thoroughly anyway, but anyway, I registered for the newsletter and just got the news that the very first paper of the new journal just went online.

The reason why I mention this is that the author of this is well-known to readers of this blog: It’s Bert Meijer from the Eindhoven University of Technology, who will be in Nürnberg at EuCheMS 2010. He is this year’s plenary speaker at the supramolecular systems session and we already introduced him to you here.

About Liquid Crystals, Helmut Ringsdorf and the Way of Thinking

March 15, 2010

My PhD-thesis is already a couple of years ago. However, last Wednesday, I was relegated to those days in the early nineties when I synthesized and characterized discotic liquid crystals in Mainz. Last Wednesday, my doctor father, Helmut Ringsdorf, got for the first time the newly designed Alfred-Saupe-Medal for his lifework about liquid crystals and self-organizing systems (by the way: you cannot get any information about this, even on the webpage of the German Liquid Crystal Society (DFKG), which created this award. So it is good to have this blog).
But this is not the point I would like to make. In his acceptance speech Helmut Ringsdorf mentioned again how important it is for scientists – yes to learn – but for the very young people not just to learn, to follow and to step into foot prints of the professors and teachers, but to find an own way of thinking and acting.
So, everybody, but especially the young ones: Let it flow, give space to your own creativity, create new ideas, go new ways – leave the stamped out scientific tracks.
The 3rd EuCheMS Chemistry Congress 2010 in Nürnberg is an excellent signal in this context.
Final advise for today: Do not forget to apply for a stipend for young scientist. GDCh will support young people in a – believe me – phantastic way. Guys from other countries. Ask your national societies. If you do not have contacts: do not hesitate to contact us.

New Journal will be introduced in Nürnberg

February 22, 2010

Just a short note: Please cross your fingers, but the publishing house De Gruyter is planning to invite the participants for a special event to introduce the new journal BioMolecular Concepts.

This is strong support for multidisciplinarity, as you can read here by De Gruyter: “BioMolecular Concepts is a peer-reviewed, rapid-publishing journal fostering the integration of different fields of biology, including cellular and molecular biology, biochemistry, genetics, epigenetics, neurosciences, and developmental biology. The journal publishes reviews, conceptual overviews and research papers on a wide range of topics. The reviews should cover the latest results in the corresponding research areas. The research articles should report novel results of broad significance, ranging from the role of single molecules to the organization of cellular networks and entire organisms.” More Information

Interview with Prof. Hirsch at CHEManager

February 19, 2010

Surfing around, I found this interview with Prof. Francois Diederich, chaiman of the 3rd EuCheMS Chemistry Congress and his co-chairman Prof. Andreas Hirsch at the CHEManager homepage.

Unfortunately, it’s only in German, but I hope they’ll provide an English version as well (I will let you know…). Anyway, it’s interesting to read. The two chairmen again underline the importance of a single European voice for chemistry and EuCheMS as well as the biennial congresses are the best way to build up and strengthen a Pan-European Chemistry Network. And networks are very powerful, which can be seen best in situations like today, when all wolrd only sees the financial crisis. Who should be interested in supporting your actions if not your network. So if you haven’t the congress on your personal agenda already – get your big marker and schedule your participation! And by the way, Prof. Hirsch even mentioned the 10 travel grants of the JCF Frankfurt – though he just speaks of “jungchemikerforum” in general. I think I have to submit a comment at CHEManager…

See you in Nürnberg!

We selected the right location

February 4, 2010

YES! The Metropolregion Nürnberg was selected as one of the top five most innovative clusters in Germany, in the sector of Medical Technology. Of course that is not chemistry. But you know: Nothing without innovative chemistry, success is always a question of multidisciplinarity.  More details? Please read the announcement of the German Goverment: “The excellence cluster competition is intended to take Germany to the top of the league of technologically advanced nations. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research launched the competition in the summer of 2007 under the slogan “Germany’s excellence clusters – more innovation, more growth, more employment”. The high-performance clusters formed by business and science that enter into strategic partnerships are set to boost Germany’s innovative strengths and economic success.” More information

Blog from the AAAS Annual Meeting and win $250

January 26, 2010

There is a rather interesting offer out for scientists interested in reaching out towards the general public. Science Magazine is opening its online coverage of the AAAS Annual Meeting 2010 for guest bloggers. So if you go to San Diego next month consider posting your impressions from the conference on the official blog. That is, if you have something substantial to say. Knowing the internet, Science makes it entirely clear what they don’t want:

Rants, cut-and-paste jobs from presentations you’re giving, or stenography. We don’t want a synopsis of the session you just attended or delivered, but rather its surprising, salient points spelled out for a lay audience.

This sounds like they really aren’t sure if they should do this. However, there will be a prize for the best blog entry, so it may be worth it.

Prizes will consist of: 1st place: The 1st Place Winner will receive $250; 2nd place: the Second Place Winner will receive a fully paid one-year subscription to Science Magazine; 3rd place: the Third Place Winner will receive a AAAS t-shirt in the style and color selected by Sponsor.

If I win, I want a black one. Of course I won’t win, because first, I’m not going and second, I’m not american. I find the second requirement somewhat puzzling, but on the whole the idea is a good one. I hope other journals and organisations follow this example.

2010 – The year of Chemistry

January 4, 2010

Since the year 2000 the German ministry for research and education (BMBF) organizes the science years, with every year dedicated to another subject area. There was already a year of chemistry, in 2003, but 2010 promises to be at least in part about molecular sciences, since the topic this year is the future of energy. And there is a lot of chemistry in energy.

Seasons Greetings!

December 23, 2009

Just as the title says:

The planning team of 3rd EuCheMS Chemistry Congress at the German Chemical Society wishes you

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!

Read you all again in 2010 and see you in Nürnberg!