Making alcohol the nano way!

. Sunday, July 29, 2007

Ethanol (the alcohol) is one of the most talked about alternative for the fossil fuels. For thousands of years, alcohol has been produced from yeast. This way of using biological cells to make alcohol is not generally considered non-viable. Thats because we spend more energy than what we get.

Carbon Nano Tubes (CNTs) are tiny tubes made only of carbon atoms. These are too tiny that the properties of chemicals are often altered when they are in these tubes.
CNTs were found to catalyze the production of ethanol from carbon monoxide and hydrogen. CNTs act either as catalysts or catalyst additives.

In China, its been proven that CNTs loaded with Rhodium nanoparticles as reactors to convert the gas mixture of CO and Hydrogen into ethanol. Dr. Xinhe Bao and his team of researchers in Nano and Interfacial Catalysis Group in Chinese Academy of Sciences observed that the redox properties of metal nanoparticles are modified when they are inside CNTs.

Syngas (a mixture of CO and H2 in the ratio of 1:2) when introduced into the CNT loaded with Rhodium- Manganese catalyst, gets converted to acetaldehyde, acetic acid and ethanol very quickly. The Chinese scientists suggest that this is due to
1) a host guest interaction between CNT and Rhodium - Manganese nano particles.
2) stringent size restriction of metal particles inside CNT.
3) high affinity of H2 to the inner surfaces of CNT.

The DNA message

. Monday, July 2, 2007

You probably know that DNA carries the most invaluable information, without which the mere existence of life is impossible. Have you ever wondered whether DNA can be used to store more than just the genetic information? If you had thought of it before, you are not alone(!!!!!!).

A group of Japanese Molecular Biologists in Institute for Advanced Biosciences at Keio University decided to (nearly) immortalize Albert Einstein's magical formula E=mc^2 in the DNA of a bacterium.

DNA is a thread like molecule made of 4 different compounds (represented as A, G, C and T) as building blocks. The sequence of these 4 compounds in the DNA holds the genetic information. The Japanese scientists attempted to translate the formula (along with the year of its discovery, "1905") into binary code. This code was then translated into a language that has A, G, C and T as its 4 alphabets. For example, the binary code '0000' was translated into 'AA' and '0001' was indicated as 'CA'. Once the formula was translated into DNA's language (A,G, C and T), the new sequence obtained was inserted into a bacterial DNA and stored for eternity.

The objective here, was probably to preserve 'the most important formula of 21st century'. Since the genetic information had survived for over 3.5 billion years, DNA was the obvious choice. With the ability to survive in extremely hostile environmental conditions, the harmless soil bacterium Bacillus subtilis was a suitable candidate as the carrier of the "DNA-time capsule".

I hope that these efforts prove successful and Einstein's legacy (E=mc^2) lives on long after the demise of human kind on this planet.

Hmmmm....... I wonder what role the seemingly harmless equation E=mc^2 will play in the extinction of human population!