The first CIDETEC award for scientific research has been presented to Professor Antonio Aldaz Riera for his work, “In situ Surface-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy on Electrodes with Platinum and Palladium Nanoparticle Ensembles”. The award was preented during the XXVII Meeting of the Electrochemical Specialisation Group of the Royal Spanish Chemical Society. www.cidetec.es
The Mary Rose was Henry VIII’s principal warship for 35 years until she sank outside Portsmouth, UK, in 1545. In 1982 substantial remains of the hull were raised and are currently undergoing conservation whilst open to the public in Portsmouth dockyard. An international team has been analysing the sulphur and iron composition in the timbers of the Mary Rose to determine the potential threat from these. They used synchrotron X-rays from the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory (USA) and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (France); results have been published in PNAS. They found that there are about two tons of sulphur in different compounds rather uniformly distributed within the 280ton hull. The sulphur species present in the wood were determined at SSRL and their precise location at the micrometre level at ESRF. By studying thin wood slices cut perpendicularly to the cell walls at X-ray microscopy beamline ID21, they found high concentrations of organo-sulphur compounds in the lignin-rich areas between the cells, which may have helped preserve the ship while it was submerged. This helped to understand how accessible and reactive the different sulphur compounds found are to acid-producing oxidation.
Plenty of iron and pyrite is also present in the Mary Rose, which is a concern, since in the moist wood iron ions can catalyse the conversion of sulphur to sulphuric acid in the presence of oxygen. The investigators suggest that chemical treatments to remove or stabilise the remaining iron and sulphur compounds and reducing humidity and oxygen access are requirements for long-term preservation. www.maryrose.org, dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0504490102
The prestigious Gordon F. Kirkbright Bursary enables a promising non-tenured young scientist of any nation to attend a recognised scientific meeting or visit a place of learning. The fund for the bursary was established in 1985 as a memorial to Professor Gordon Kirkbright in recognition of his contributions to analytical spectroscopy and to science in general. The fund is administered by the Association of British Spectroscopists (ABS) Trust.
The European Bioinformatics Institute and Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology (VIB) of Ghent University have launched the Proteomics IDEntifications database (PRIDE). This enables proteomics researchers to share information more readily. According to Henning Hermjakob, leader of the EBI’s Proteomics Services Team, “Proteomics labs were publishing their own identifications, but they had no guidelines as what information should be captured or how the information should be formatted. The proteomics community rapidly realised that researchers would only be able to exploit the results of their endeavours if they had a central repository that would allow them to make their results publicly available using agreed data standards.”
Large sets of data already available in PRIDE include the results of the Human Proteome Organisation’s Plasma Proteome Project and a human platelet proteome set published by Ghent University. PRIDE is completely open source: the database, source code, data and support tools are freely available for web access or download and local installation. www.ebi.ac.uk/pride
Researchers at the Research Centre Jülich and the RWTH Aachen University of Technology in Germany have shown that it is possible to use the Earth’s magnetic field to perform magnetic resonance measurements. They have demonstrated that high-resolution Xe NMR can be carried out using just the Earth’s magnetic field.
A wide and diverse range of applications may be possible. As well as chemical analyses outdoors and in areas where it would be impossible to utilise conventional magnets, a number of geophysical analyses are possible. Dr Stephan Appelt from the Research Centre Jülich suggests that the Earth’s magnetic field could be surveyed with great precision and that it may be possible to gain a better understanding of earthquake risks along local fault lines, or of volcanism. Another application, in astrophysics, could be the measurement of the solar wind, which is deviated by the Earth’s magnetic field.
Finally, xenon-containing contrast media, inhaled or injected, could be used to obtain MRI scans on patients without the need for large and expensive magnets. dx.doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevLett.94.197602
A new national initiative in ion mobility spectrometry (IMS) which aims to explore the use of IMS measurement within the pharmaceutical and biomedical fields has been launched in the UK. Professor Colin Creaser from Nottingham Trent University and Dr Paul Thomas from the University of Manchester are leading a consortium of experts and industrial partners, who will evaluate the potential of IMS in areas such as high-speed separations of complex mixtures and structural characterisation of pharmaceuticals and biomolecules.
This initiative will create a platform for a programme of internationally competitive research. As well as the two lead universities, GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca and Waters have pledged their support. So far £530,000 has been committed to the initiative.
Colin Creaser commented that “We are at an important crossroad in the development of IMS from applications principally in the security field to a technique used widely in pharmaceutical discovery and biomedical diagnostics”.
The European Journal of Mass Spectrometry is organising a “Symposium in Print” (SiP) on MALDI Fundamentals and Related Phenomena, which is being edited by Richard Knochenmuss of Novartis. Papers submitted to this special issue of the journal will be made available to all those who register for the SiP; registration is free. Discussion of the papers will take place online and the edited discussion along with the papers will be published in print and online.
All those with an interest in this area are invited to register for the Symposium in Print at www.impub.co.uk/sip/ and participate in the discussion.
Scientists and engineers at the University of South Florida’s Center for Ocean Technology are developing equipment to allow mass spectrometers to be used under the ocean to analyse dissolved gases and volatile organic compounds in the deep marine environment. They have already developed protective housings that allow the mass spectrometer to be deployed at more than 1100ft and are now working on going to depths of up to three miles.
Underwater MS provides valuable information on significant gases such as methane, oxygen and carbon dioxide, as well as harmful compounds such as benzene, chloroform and toluene.
The D-CIXS X-ray spectrometer on board the European Space Agency’s (ESA) SMART-1 spacecraft has made the first unambiguous remote-sensing detection of calcium on the Moon. SMART-1 is currently performing the verification and calibration of its instruments, while flying in orbit 450km above the Moon at its closest distance.
Although it is still preparing for full lunar operations, D-CIXS has already started sending back high-quality data. D-CIXS is designed to measure the global composition of the Moon by measuring its X-ray fluorescence. Under normal solar illumination, it can detect elemental Mg, Al and Si and several other elements during solar flares.
On 15 January 2005, between 07:00 and about 09:00 Central European Time, a solar flare occurred. “The Sun was kind to us”, said Professor Manuel Grande of the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, UK, leader of the D-CIXS instrument team. “It set off a large X-ray flare just as we took our first look downwards at the lunar surface.”
At the time of the solar flare, D-CIXS was observing Mare Crisium, and detected the presence of calcium there in other neighbouring areas (see Figure).
D-CIXS is an ultra-compact X-ray camera and forms one of the most innovative elements of the SMART-1 scientific instrumentation. It is a cube just 15cm wide, weighing less than 5kg. D-CIXS is the first instrument of its kind to be tested in space. It is also the first X-ray spectrometer ever flown around the moon with sufficient spectral resolution to separate signals coming from different chemical elements. www.esa.int/SPECIALS/SMART-1/
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