Scientific News (March 2017)

Recognition of Female Scientists

February 11th saw the Institute of Physics (IOP) celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. This was done by posting profiles of 20 female physicists who are currently working in STEM subjects on social media. The aim of this was to highlight the diverse roles occupied by women in science.

Heather Williams, a senior medical physicist and chair of the IOP’s Women in Physics Group, Ceri Brenner, a senior scientist at the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Wendy Sadler, director of Science Made Simple and Jessamyn Fairfield, a lecturer at NUI Galway who gave one of the IOP’s Summer Sessions lectures last year, were just some of the inspirational ladies who were honoured by the IOP through social media. Last year’s IOP Early career communicator award winner Jess Wade was also recognised along with Tara Shears, who gave the IOP’s first open air public lecture.

The women were undergraduates, PHD students, postdoctoral graduates as well as readers from the field of physics research. Some of those nominated were women who have moved towards engineering but have a background in physics.

The IOP’s media officer, Philippa Skett, said: “Showcasing women working in physics is part of our ongoing commitment to challenge stereotypes people may hold about the subject, and also to provide inspiration to others thinking about pursuing a career or studying physics further.  It was encouraging to see so many more people online celebrating the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, but it is important that the conversation about addressing the gender inequality in STEM is not confined to one day. Hopefully the activity online during our campaign will provide a catalyst or inspiration for others to think about how they can help increase the inclusivity and accessibility of STEM for women and other minorities.”

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Speedier production of Graphene

Graphene has been made more commercially viable by of all things, the soybean. Graphene is used in miniature electronics and biomedical devices. This is due to the fact that it can form structures only one atom thick, which gives it properties of a thin composite with high conductivity. The material is useful for a vast range of manufacturing processes as it allows for thinner connections.

Graphene had previously been produced in a highly controlled environment and required the use of explosive compressed gas. It took many hours, high temperatures and large amounts of vacuum processing to produce. This was a major problem in the commercialisation of the product. Scientists from the company CSIRO have been working on the development of ‘GraphAir’. This development has reduced the need for graphene to be produce in such a controlled environment.

The production of Graphene has been sped up thanks to the developments in technology. “This ambient-air process for graphene fabrication is fast, simple, safe, potentially scalable, and integration-friendly,” CSIRO scientist Dr Zhao Jun Han said.

The soybean produces oil.  The GraphAir process then transforms that oil and produces graphene films in one step. “Our GraphAir technology results in good and transformable graphene properties, comparable to graphene made by conventional methods,” CSIRO scientist and co-author of the study Dong Han Seo said.

When heat is used with soybeans the oil breaks down into carbon units. These units are then used for the synthesis of graphene. This process has also been used to transform other types of oils into graphene films, such as ones that are left over from cooking. “We can now recycle waste oils that would have otherwise been discarded and transform them into something useful,” Dr Seo said.

As objects propel themselves around a surface they are captured by micromotors. These micromotors come from soft platinum proteins. Japanese chemists have developed what they call macaroni. Macaroni are microtubes that are self propelling. They are powered by hydrogen peroxide. The microtubes collect dyes and bacteria, as they are wandering around the surface.

Previously structures that have a similar make up and that operate in a similar way have been developed in Japan. The difference is that these structures use platinum to split the hydrogen peroxide atoms. This produces bubbles of oxygen in order to move.

“Teruyuki Komatsu and colleagues at Chuo University in Tokyo developed a novel method called ‘wet templating’ that allows them to tailor the tubes with layers of different materials using only solutions and syringes.”

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Triangulene Production

Researchers have finally achieved success in the production of Triangulene. Triangulene is a peculiar biradical aromatic. It has taken sixty four years to make this breakthrough, and the main reason for this is the extreme reactivity of the substance. Now that the breakthrough has been made it has opened up the opportunity for quantum computing devices.

Triangulene is made up of 22 TT electrons, Having 22 TT Electrons make Triangulene an aromatic molecule, according to Huckel’s rule. Triangulene is classed as a non-kekule aromatic, but is a permenant biradical.

A number of chemists have regularly tried to create Triangulene through traditional methods. The have never succeeded to make Triangulene with any substitute chemicals due to the high in stability of the substance. When chemists have tried to substitute Triangulene previously, those substitutes have always polymerised.

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Physical Activity – positive or negative?

It has been suggested by scientists that physical activity is good and positive; however the human immune system is being challenged by physical activity. Prolonged periods of intense sport and physical activity can leave the body susceptible to disease and infection. This is only for a short period of time immediately after the completion of the physical activity.

Diet and nutrition is vitally important to the body, more so when human bodies recovery after high impact physical activity. It is suggested from research that foods  high in carbohydrates help the body to recover quicker from strenuous activity, therefore reducing the risk of illness. Moderate to intense physical activity over a period of time has massive positive health benefits, such as the reduction in the risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes.

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Heavily strenuous activity especially aerobic endurance based activity such as long distance running, cycling or swimming however can leave the body’s immune system strained. The type of exercise puts extreme stress on the body – it is this stress that is being linked to the increased risk of infection and illness.

“People often have fewer natural killer white blood cells after a workout, but we now believe they move to other parts of the body, rather than being destroyed,” explains Dr. Peake. “Exercise is a form of stress, and more vigorous exercise creates more physiological stress which causes physiological and biochemical changes in the body,” he adds. “To tackle the potential threats these changes highlight, the immune cells may simply move out of the bloodstream to the lungs [or the gut], for example.”

At the moment the current evidence has suggested to support this theory, however there is still more investigation into this in order to truly examine the effects of physical activity on the body’s immune system and cells.

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Business News (February 2017)

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