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Tuesday, 31 January 2017

CB&I opens new additive manufacturing lab at Texas Tech University

THE WOODLANDS, US: Chicago Bridge & Iron Company (CB&I) has officially opened its new CB&I advanced prototyping and manufacturing laboratory at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas (US).
The state-of-the-art laboratory will focus on additive manufacturing, which is a form of industrial 3-D printing, and the equipment will include advanced 3-D printers that work with metals, plastics and other materials.
The laboratory is part of CB&I's commitment to establishing strategic partnerships that invest in innovation, technology and help CB&I meet its demand for exceptional engineers. Students will have the opportunity to use the latest industry technology and develop a better understanding of real-world and theoretical applications in mechanical engineering.
"CB&I applies innovative ideas and emerging technologies to solve some of our industry's most complex challenges. This partnership is another way we are strengthening this direction of the company. We are fostering innovation and investing in the future of our industry," said Philip Asherman, president and CEO, CB&I.
"Texas Tech is truly grateful for this partnership with CB&I that resulted in this world-class prototyping and advanced manufacturing facility. It gives our students both fundamental and real-world experience in technologies that will play a role in many of their careers in the years ahead," added Al Sacco Jr, the dean of Texas Tech's Whitacre College of Engineering.
Read More: CB&I opens new additive manufacturing lab at Texas Tech University

ADM to sell its crop risk services business for $127.5 million

CHICAGO, US: Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) has reached an agreement to sell its Crop Risk Services (CRS) business to Validus Holdings Ltd (VR) for $127.5 million.
The deal includes a marketing services agreement under which ADM and Validus will work together to continue to offer a full range of insurance and farmer marketing products and services to CRS customers.
Validus is a leading global provider of insurance, reinsurance and investment services, with over 800 employees and offices in all major regions worldwide has committed to keeping the CRS business intact, including maintaining its operations in Decatur.
The deal is expected to close in the first half of 2017. Nearly all ADM CRS employees will transfer with the CRS business at closing.
“We’re pleased to have reached an agreement that benefits ADM on two fronts: it includes a marketing services agreement that will allow ADM and Validus to work together to continue to offer customers a full array of crop insurance products as well as ADM’s grain marketing services, while the sale of the business gives us the opportunity to redeploy capital as part of our balanced capital allocation framework. We look forward to continuing to work with Validus and the CRS sales team and their customers across the country. This is a good solution for ADM, our shareholders, the CRS team, and the farmers who are the foundation of our business,” said Joe Taets, president of ADM’s agricultural services business unit.
“CRS is a high-quality crop insurance provider that has achieved excellent growth in recent years. Validus will benefit from CRS’s commitment to providing superior customer service to agents and farmers via their leading technology capabilities. The addition of CRS complements Validus’ existing agriculture book and participation in this market is a logical step as Validus continues to expand our presence in US primary speciality lines,” added Ed Noonan, chairman and CEO, Validus.
Read More: ADM to sell its crop risk services business for $127.5 million

Tessenderlo appoints new CEO for its American subsidiary TKI

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM: Tessenderlo Group (TESB) said that it has elected Steve Azzarello as the CEO of its subsidiary, Tessenderlo Kerley Inc (TKI).
With immediate effect, he takes over from Luc Tack, who will become executive president of TKI. He will be based at the TKI Phoenix Corporate Office.
Steve Azzarello brings more than 30 years of business expertise in general management, strategic planning, sales & marketing and operations. For the last three and a half years, Steve Azzarello was executive vice president (VP) at HJ Baker Inc, a global biotech company that serves the animal health and nutrition, crop performance and sulphur industries. Prior to this role, he was VP commercial development at Amcol International, a multinational company, with interests in the chemical and industrial minerals sectors.
“Steve’s experience and successful track record in the agriculture, chemical and industrial minerals industries is valuable for TKI. Together with myself and the TKI Executive team, we will be able to lead the company to further success,” said Luc Tack.
Read More: Tessenderlo appoints new CEO for its American subsidiary TKI

Enterprise to build isobutane dehydrogenation unit in US

HOUSTON, US: Enterprise Products Partners LP announced its plans to construct a new isobutane dehydrogenation (iBDH) unit in Mont Belvieu, Texas. This plant will have the capability to produce 425,000 tonnes per year of isobutylene.
The project, which is supported by long-term contracts with investment-grade customers, is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2019. The isobutylene produced by the plant will provide the necessary feedstock to fill underutilised capacity at Enterprise’s existing downstream octane enhancement and petrochemical facilities.
Factually, steam crackers and refineries have been the major source of propane and butane olefins for downstream use. But, with the increased use of light-end feedstocks, specifically ethane, the need for on-purpose olefins has increased. Much like Enterprise’s propane dehydrogenation unit, currently scheduled for start of operations in the second quarter of 2017, the iBDH unit will help meet market demand where supplies have been reduced.
The new iBDH plant will increase company’s production of both high purity and low purity isobutylene to be used primarily as feedstock to manufacture lubricants, rubber products and alkylate for gasoline blendstock, as well as MTBE for export.
“The building of this new iBDH plant will extend our butane value chain and allow full utilisation of our existing olefins assets. In developing this project, we are leveraging Enterprise’s extensive integrated midstream network to turn a plentiful, cost-advantaged natural gas liquid into a higher-valued product,” said AJ ‘Jim’ Teague, CEO of Enterprise’s general partner.
Read More: Enterprise to build isobutane dehydrogenation unit in US

Scientists develop new material to capture CO2

BERKELEY, US: Twelve billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emit into the air every year from power plants burning coal, oil and natural gas around the world. And energy demand only keeps growing.
The need to generate more electrical power can lead in two directions, and both exact huge costs. Power plants can continue to release high levels of the greenhouse gas, or they can adopt “carbon capture” technologies to trap and sequester some of the CO2 from emissions — but at great expense.
Hundreds or perhaps thousands of university and commercial research centres test new materials and novel engineering schemes to more efficiently trap CO2 before it goes up the power plant flue.
Last year, in the high-profile journal Nature, Jeffrey Long, professor of chemistry and of chemical and biomolecular engineering, University of California, Berkeley, reported devising a new material that can capture and release CO2 at a lower temperature and in a much greater volume than present-day technologies.
Built up to scale for use in a power plant, this would divert 95 percent of CO2 pollution from streaming out of power plant flues, and at the same time save as much as 50 percent on energy costs to do so.
As in the few power plants where carbon capture is currently being tested, carbon dioxide diverted from emissions would then be injected underground, sequestered or stored and sold for industrial uses.
This year, with support from the Bakar Fellows Program, Jeffrey’s lab has begun work to efficiently synthesise the new material at a large scale, to render it into a practical pellet form and confirm its greatly increased CO2 capture performance under realistic flue gas conditions.
“Unfortunately, we need to be doing CO2 capture now. It has become a really scary problem,” Long said.
Current technologies capture CO2 in a liquid containing amines or organic molecules made up of nitrogen atoms that strongly attract the CO2 molecules. Long’s team chose to mimic this basic structure, but in a solid powder form since it takes far less heat to release gases from a porous solid than a liquid. 
They tweaked the composition to create a new molecular configuration that prompts a burst of CO2 uptake and release, accounting for the much greater yield. At certain temperatures, CO2 molecules fly off, one after the other, each molecule’s departure triggering a chemical change in the structure that releases the next CO2 molecule in a chain reaction that Long calls cooperative adsorption.
The arrangement of the atoms in the material naturally forms a pore in the centre. Together CO2 molecules stick to the pore wall and link up to create a continuous chain running along the edges of the tunnel-like pores. This enables the CO2 to make a quick exit when it is released — potentially into storage instead of up the flue.
The two unique traits capture and then release CO2 with significantly less heat.
“It’s a long way from basic research to full commercial application. Full-blown power plants are almost incomprehensibly big. But I would say that our material is the first example of this cooperative adsorption. No one had seen this before,” Long said.
Long reported the preliminary results of the research in 2012, and two years later he launched a company, Mosaic Materials with two former graduate students to take the first steps along the long road to commercialising the technology, an effort now gaining momentum with support from the Bakar Fellows Program.
“Producing the remarkable properties of the new white powdered material was really serendipitous. We wanted to make a solid adsorbent instead of the conventional liquid since a solid can do the job with less heat input. We came up with the modifications of the typical composition, and it just happened that the spacing was right for this chain reaction effect,” he added.
Thomas McDonald, then a graduate student in Long’s lab and now Mosaic Material’s CEO, made the discovery and went on to figure out the chain reaction mechanism. Since developing the new material to full commercial scale is so demanding, the team is taking it one step at a time.
The Navy supports some of Mosaic’s current work. The military is looking for a better way to scrub out high levels of exhaled CO2 in submarines.
Read More: Scientists develop new material to capture CO2

BASF appoints new head of mining solutions unit

LUDWIGSHAFEN, GERMANY: BASF SE has elected Damien Caby, as its new head for the global business unit oilfield and mining solutions, effective 1 January 2017.
In his latest role, he was heading the filtration and performance additives North America Division.
Prior to BASF, he held several executive positions at Imerys in North America and Europe, in performance minerals, oil & gas and paper.
Read More: BASF appoints new head of mining solutions unit

Growth engine for the plastics industry

MUMBAI, INDIA: With over 1395+ exhibitors and 200,000+ business visitors, the 10th edition of Plastivision India, a premier plastics & polymer industry event was successfully concluded on a high note in Mumbai, India. Seeing over 400 exhibitors from 23 countries showcasing their offerings for Indian buyers, Plastivision India (PVI) is now said to be the country’s largest congregation of the plastics and polymer industry.
PVI 2017 had special pavilions offering products, technologies and solutions to businesses with diverse application areas ranging from construction, infrastructure, automotive, healthcare, packaging, agriculture, white goods, consumer electronics, defence applications, waste management, recycling, healthcare, green practices, electricals, telecom amongst the others.
Organised from 19 to 23 January, Plastivision took up the initiative to take forward the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It had a special showcase from the state of Uttar Pradesh attracting investors to set up plants on its soil.
The show had a host of special initiatives – job assistance, MSME clinic, solar solutions, technical seminars were a few highlights to mention. With companies from over 20+ countries under one roof offering their products and partnerships, Plastivision India 2017 gave impetus to the ‘Make in India’ programme.
Visitors to the trade fair were able to witness the confluence of various segments of this dynamic industry first hand. Some of the live demos of cutting-edge technologies, new product launches, free consulting sessions with industry experts, biodegradable materials, agriculture applications were all available at a single location.
“Plastivision India 2017 has set high benchmarks that are equal or more to most global shows. Our service quality was second to none. It is a delight to see satisfied exhibitors going back with a bag full of orders and business deals,” said Kailash Murarka, Chairman, Plastivision India 2017.
The show had lived up to its commitment to the industry and delivered the value it deserved. The organisers are further committed to elevating the standards in the forthcoming shows, added Rituraj Gupta, Co-Chairman, Plastivision India 2017.
Plastivision India is organised by All India Plastics Manufacturers’ Association (AIPMA), the apex body of plastic processors in India. AIPMA is actively pursuing its agenda to work closely with the industry, government, academia and the society at large to promote the usage of plastics and protect the environment.
Plastivision India received a special recognition during the Economic Times ET Polymers Awards. The association reiterated its commitment to the industry and pledged to work in tandem with the government’s agenda to create jobs, embracing digitization and forging growth through its vision… “Powering Growth Through Plastics.”
Read More: Growth engine for the plastics industry

Monday, 30 January 2017

Chevron names current VP as its news vice chairman

SAN RAMON, US: Chevron Corporation has named current executive vice president (VP) of midstream and development, Michael Wirth as its new vice chairman, effective 1 February 2017.
In assuming his new role, Wirth will join the company’s board of directors and add policy, government & public affairs to his existing portfolio of responsibilities. Currently, Wirth oversees midstream and development, accountable for supply and trading, gas commercialization and the company’s midstream operating units engaged in transportation and power as well as corporate strategy and business development.
Wirth (56) joined Chevron in 1982 as a design engineer. Since that time, he advanced through a number of engineering, construction and operations positions. Before assuming his current role, Wirth was executive VP of downstream & chemicals. Prior to that, he served as president of global supply and trading, where he led the company’s worldwide supply and trading operations as well as its aviation, marine and asphalt businesses. 
“As a senior officer of Chevron, Mike has made significant contributions to the company’s success. Mike’s experience, proven leadership and record of accomplishment will enable him to make a strong contribution to our Board,” said John Watson, Chevron’s chairman and CEO.
Read More: Chevron names current VP as its news vice chairman

Technip completes potential merger with FMC

LONDON, UK/PARIS, FRANCE/HOUSTON, US: TechnipFMC (FTI) is operating as a unified, combined company following completion of the merger of FMC Technologies and Technip. The merger creates a global leader in oil and gas projects, technologies, systems, and services that will enhance the performance of the world's energy industry.
Driving the change the oil and gas industry needs
Beyond the pressures on the oil and gas industry, hard-to-reach resources cannot be fully developed unless there is a significant and sustainable improvement in project economics. Change is needed, now more than ever.
TechnipFMC is well-placed to meet the challenge and lead this change. By bringing together complementary skills and innovative technologies, the company can boost efficiency, lower costs, and accelerate schedules. Its offerings encompass concept to project delivery and beyond. Whether clients need an individual operation or an end-to-end solution, TechnipFMC is positioned to transform project economics across subsea, onshore/offshore and surface, and lay the foundation for sustainable success.
"This is a transformational day for TechnipFMC and our employees. As one company, we can make oil and gas projects more viable, driving value for our clients and shareholders. With an unmatched commitment to innovation and efficiency, TechnipFMC will advance the creation of cost-efficient solutions for years to come," said Thierry Pilenko, executive chairman of TechnipFMC.
Combining capabilities and technologies to unlock potential
Formed through the combination of two market leaders with complementary capabilities and technologies, the company builds on early involvement and integrated solutions to simplify field architectures and decision-making. TechnipFMC believes in innovation, smarter design, and seamless ways of working.
"With our merger complete, TechnipFMC is uniquely positioned to unlock possibilities for our clients to transform their project economics. We will do this by inspiring a culture of challenging conventions and finding new and better ways of doing things. I am honoured to lead our combined team of talented employees and look forward to our future as TechnipFMC," said Doug Pferdehirt, CEO of TechnipFMC.
Stock exchange trading
TechnipFMC will begin trading today on the New York Stock Exchange and on the Euronext Paris Stock Exchange under the symbol FTI. Under the terms of the merger agreement, FMC Technologies shareholders received one share of the combined company for each existing share of FMC Technologies, and Technip shareholders received two shares of the combined company for each existing share of Technip.
Brand and purpose
TechnipFMC unveiled its new brand identity and logo, which represent the joining together and integration of two established entities to create one bold, forward-looking company. TechnipFMC is moving forward with a purpose to bring together the scope, know-how, and determination to transform its clients' project economics and a vision to enhance the performance of the world's energy industry.
Read More: Technip completes potential merger with FMC

Wacker to unveil 2 new silane-terminated polymer grades

MUNICH, GERMANY: Wacker Chemie AG said that it will be unveiling two new silane-terminated polymers: GENIOSIL XM 20 and GENIOSIL XM 25. They can be used as binders in adhesives and sealants, where they can modify the mechanical properties, in particular, impacting modulus. This allows adhesives and sealants manufacturers to compound without the need of conventional plasticisers.
In plasticizer-free adhesives, the new grades additionally enhance the bonding properties. In low-modulus sealants, they ensure high elastic recovery. As a result, GENIOSIL XM opens up applications in the adhesives and sealants sector that had previously been inaccessible to silane-crosslinking polymers.
The new grades complement the portfolio of silane-terminated polyethers that the company markets under its GENIOSIL brand. As all silane-terminated polymers, GENIOSIL XM cures at room temperature under the influence of atmospheric humidity via silane crosslinking. In contrast to the other polymers, GENIOSIL XM 20 and GENIOSIL XM 25 only have one silane group at one of their chain ends, meaning they are cross-linkable only at that end.
GENIOSIL XM can be blended with other silane-terminated polymers in the desired ratio. On curing, the new polymers are firmly integrated into the resulting three-dimensional polymer network, reducing the crosslink density. This leads to a relatively wide-meshed network.
GENIOSIL XM thereby modifies the elasticity of the cured material, resulting in a low modulus system with high elastic recovery. When stretched, or compressed, it behaves like a soft spring. In formulations of silane-terminated polymers, the two new grades thus act as reactive plasticisers. Since they do not alter the mechanical strength of the cured material, they can replace conventional plasticisers. This affords manufacturers of sealants and adhesives the freedom to formulate plasticizer-free products.
The two GENIOSIL XM grades not only adhere to concrete, wood, aluminium and glass, but also to low-energy surfaces such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polystyrene (PS) and cured ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM) rubber without prior pretreatment of these substrates.
Adhesive specialist: GENIOSIL XM 20
GENIOSIL XM 20 is an alpha-silane-terminated polyether. This grade opens the door to plasticizer-free adhesives with extremely high elasticity. At the same time, these possess high ultimate strength and also adhere well to difficult substrates. Furthermore, the product can extend skin over time. This provides the user with sufficient adhesive tooling time. Typical applications include wood flooring adhesives and all-around adhesive sealants.
Sealant specialist: GENIOSIL XM 25
GENIOSIL XM 25, a gamma-silane-terminated polyether, allows the formulation of low-modulus sealants with exceptionally high elastic recovery. Should sealant manufacturers use this grade as a co-binder, low-modulus construction sealants that exceed ISO 11600 specifications are possible. Potential applications include sealants for expansion joints in buildings made of industrially prefabricated concrete parts and for connection joints between window frames and walls.
Read More: Wacker to unveil 2 new silane-terminated polymer grades

TechnipFMC bags RLWI services contract from INPEX

LONDON, UK/ PARIS, FRANCE/ HOUSTON, US: A subsidiary of TechnipFMC (FTI) has entered into an agreement with INPEX Operations Australia for Riserless Light Well Intervention (RLWI) services in the Ichthys field, approximately 220-kilometers offshore of Western Australia, for the Ichthys LNG Project.
Under the agreement, TechnipFMC will deploy its deepwater RLWI stack and two Schilling Robotics ROVs, from the Island Performer vessel, to perform Riserless well access services on up to 20 subsea wells in the Ichthys field, beginning in 2017.
“This project represents the next step in TechnipFMC’s strategy for geographic expansion of RLWI services,” said Barry Glickman, president of subsea services for TechnipFMC.
“Our RLWI stacks have been used to complete more than 400 RLWI operations over the last 10 years. RLWI helps operators improve well productivity and equipment uptime, and reduce cost by shifting intervention work from rigs to lower-cost vessels. We are proud to be selected by the Ichthys LNG Project to support well access services work in the Ichthys field,” added Glickman.
Read More: TechnipFMC bags RLWI services contract from INPEX

AkzoNobel, Itaconix partner to produce biobased polymers

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS: AkzoNobel NV said it has agreed with specialty chemicals company Itaconix to produce bio-based polymers. AkzoNobel will develop and commercialize bio-based polymers, while Itaconix will contribute a proprietary polymerization technology to turn itaconic acid - obtained from sugars through fermentation - into polymers.
“This innovation enables the production of polymers from renewable ingredients, which fits closely with our Planet Possible sustainability agenda of doing more with less,” said Peter Nieuwenhuizen, RD&I director, specialty chemicals business, AkzoNobel. “These bio-based polymers offer unique properties in applications essential to our everyday lives, ranging from water quality to cleaning and hygiene.”
Itaconix is a US subsidiary of Revolymer, which is also working with AkzoNobel on a marine coatings project. “AkzoNobel has worldwide capabilities to utilize our itaconic acid polymers in many application areas. We believe this agreement is an important step for the further development of bio-based chemistry on a large scale,” said Kevin Matthews, CEO, Revolymer.
Read More: AkzoNobel, Itaconix partner to produce biobased polymers

Gevo regains compliance with Nasdaq’s minimum bid price listing requirement

ENGLEWOOD, US: Gevo Inc has received a letter from The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC notifying the company that it has regained compliance with the Nasdaq Capital Market's minimum bid price continued listing requirement. 
The letter noted that as of 20 January 2017, the company evidenced a closing bid price of its common stock in excess of the $1.00 minimum requirement for at least ten consecutive trading days. Accordingly, the company has regained compliance with Nasdaq Marketplace Rule 5550(a)(2) and Nasdaq considers the matter closed.
Read More: Gevo regains compliance with Nasdaq’s minimum bid price listing requirement

Designer recommends Archroma’s colour atlas system for new shades

REINACH, SWITZERLAND: Archroma has recently sponsored a seminar with the founder of Design Seeds, Jessica Colaluca, that focused on the use of “Color Anthropology”. And also, focusing how the recent global political events including the election of Donald Trump and the passing of Brexit may change the already established fashion industry colour palette for the upcoming season.

“Colour has long been a form of self-expression over the years. The US election of Donald Trump impacted the colours we are – and will be – wearing this upcoming season. While not in the literal sense of red, white and blue being patriotic, but the notion of Americana and how people want to relate to it was shaken,” said Colaluca.
To address the fast pace of these shifting colour trends, Colaluca highly recommends that fashion designers and brands leverage tools like Archroma’s Color Atlas system.
“The Color Atlas has beautiful modern colours that are constantly relevant. As a designer, this is critical due to a quickly shifting consumer. And, if it doesn’t have the exact colour I need, I can request a custom standard to achieve exactly the shade or hue I am looking for,” said Colaluca.
In many ways, the modern folk or hipster aesthetic was born in reaction to consumerism gone wild, which made natural colours make sense the past three years, but with the volatility of politics, nationally and globally, it makes sense the aesthetic will evolve dramatically once again. Allowing for a feeling of empowerment, optimism, and self-expression.
Colaluca points to strong fashion trends like flannel shirts and red dad caps that have dominated the market such as Modern Folk and Americana start blurring political lines of very different people with distinctly different ethos. As early as Q4 2016, colour anthropologists could see a fallout coming on this trend aesthetic in the hipster and early adopter segments because the aesthetics cross over with people of very different political and cultural beliefs, therefore separating themselves from a belief system they don’t share.
Read More: Designer recommends Archroma’s colour atlas system for new shades

Wacker to unveil new binder for high-end digital printing inks

MUNICH, GERMANY: Wacker Chemie AG said that it will unveil its new low-viscosity binder VINNOL E 18/38 for high-end digital printing applications. The vinyl chloride-vinylacetate-copolymer resin ensures excellent droplet formation in solvent-based inkjet inks. This increases the print quality of the end product and extends the longevity of the printhead. VINNOL E 18/38 adheres extremely well to flexible polyvinyl chloride (PVC) along with numerous other substrates and is therefore ideally suited for wide-format printing of advertising banners, but also for cables, screw caps and many other plastic items.
The new VINNOL E 18/38 is a vinyl chloride-vinyl acetate copolymer resin and was developed specifically as a binder for solvent-based digital printing. The copolymer displays excellent dispersion properties, which enable even distribution of pigment particles. In very low-viscosity inks, it counteracts the tendency of the pigment particles to agglomerate and sediment. VINNOL E18/38 thereby plays a crucial role in achieving trouble-free high-quality ink-jet printing and in extending the service life of modern ink-jet printheads. This results in an outstanding print image with brilliant colours and high resolution at increased print speeds.
Additionally, VINNOL E 18/38 adheres remarkably well to diverse substrates such as flexible PVC or other plastic materials. The binder is very resistant to a wide variety of liquids, from oils and greases, through dilute, aqueous acids and alkalis, of alcohol and aqueous salt solutions. It also displays excellent compatibility with co-binders and high solubility in ketones, esters and numerous low-odor glycol esters and glycol ethers.
The new VINNOL E 18/38 is therefore ideally suited for high-end printing, from digital processes such as drop-on-demand (DOD) or continuous inkjet (CIJ) printing through conventional solvent-based printing methods such as gravure printing for coating plastics. The applications range from large billboards or vehicle wrapping films to markings such as printed cables, barcodes or expiry dates.
The binder also complies with numerous provisions for food contact, for example regulations issued by the Food & Drug Administration in the US. Thus, VINNOL E 18/38 is also a suitable binder for food packaging inks.
Read More: Wacker to unveil new binder for high-end digital printing inks

NASA’s new chemistry method to discover life on other planets

LOS ANGELES, US: A simple chemistry method could vastly enhance how scientists search for signs of life on other planets.
The test uses a liquid-based technique known as capillary electrophoresis to separate a mixture of organic molecules into its components. It was designed specifically to analyse for amino acids, the structural building blocks of all life on Earth.
The method is 10,000 times more sensitive than current methods employed by spacecraft like NASA's Mars Curiosity rover, according to a new study.
The study is published in the journal Analytical Chemistry. The study was carried out by researchers from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, California.
One of the key advantages of the authors' new way of using capillary electrophoresis is that the process is relatively simple and easy to automate for liquid samples expected on ocean world missions: it involves combining a liquid sample with a liquid reagent, followed by chemical analysis under conditions determined by the team. By shining a laser across the mixture, a process is known as laser-induced fluorescence detection, specific molecules can be observed moving at different speeds. They get separated based on how quickly they respond to electric fields.
While capillary electrophoresis has been around since the early 1980s, this is the first time it has been tailored specifically to detect extraterrestrial life on an ocean world, said lead author Jessica Creamer, a postdoctoral scholar at JPL.
"Our method improves on previous attempts by increasing the number of amino acids that can be detected in a single run," Creamer said. "Additionally, it allows us to detect these amino acids at very low concentrations, even in highly salty samples, with a very simple 'mix and analyse' process."
The researchers used the technique to analyse amino acids present in the salt-rich waters of Mono Lake in California. The lake's exceptionally high alkaline content makes it a challenging habitat for life, and an excellent stand-in for salty waters believed to be on Mars, or the ocean worlds of Saturn's moon Enceladus and Jupiter's moon Europa.
The researchers were able to simultaneously analyse 17 different amino acids, which they are calling "the Signature 17 standard." These amino acids were chosen for study because they are the most commonly found on Earth or elsewhere.
"Using our method, we are able to tell the difference between amino acids that come from non-living sources like meteorites versus amino acids that come from living organisms," said the project's principal investigator, Peter Willis of JPL.
The key to detecting amino acids related to life is an aspect known as "chirality." Chiral molecules such as amino acids come in two forms that are mirror images of one another. Although amino acids from non-living sources contain approximately equal amounts of the "left" and "right"-handed forms, amino acids from living organisms on Earth are almost exclusively the "left-handed" form.
It is expected that amino acid life elsewhere would also need to "choose" one of the two forms in order to create the structures of life. For this reason, the chirality of amino acids is considered one of the most powerful signatures of life.
“One of NASA's highest-level objectives is the search for life in the universe. Our best chance of finding life is by using powerful liquid-based analyses like this one on ocean worlds,” Concluded Willis.
Read More: NASA’s new chemistry method to discover life on other planets

New method could lead to safer, efficient way to extract uranium

CORVALLIS, US: The separation of uranium, a key part of the nuclear fuel cycle, could potentially be done more safely and efficiently through a new technique developed by chemistry researchers at Oregon State University (OSU).
The technique uses soap-like chemicals known as surfactants to extract uranium from an aqueous solution into a kerosene solution in the form of hollow clusters. Aside from fuel preparation, it may also find value in the legacy waste treatment and for the cleanup of environmental contamination.
The research at OSU involves a unique form of uranium discovered in 2005, uranyl peroxide capsules, and how those negatively charged clusters form in alkaline conditions.
Results are published in the journal Inorganic Chemistry.
“This is a very different direction,” said study lead author Harrison Neal, a graduate student in Oregon State’s College of Science. “A lot of the work done now is in acid, and we’re at the other end of the pH scale in a base. It’s a very different approach, overall using less harmful, less toxic chemicals.”
Throughout the nuclear fuel cycle, many separations are required – in mining, enrichment and fuel fabrication, and then after fuel use, for the recovery of usable spent isotopes and the encapsulation and storage of unusable radioactive components.
“When you use nuclear fuel, the radioactive decay products poison the fuel and make it less effective,” said May Nyman, professor of chemistry at Oregon State and corresponding author on the research. “You have to take it, dissolve it, get the good stuff out and make new fuel.”
Nyman notes the work represents significant fundamental research in the field of cluster chemistry because it allows for the study of uranyl clusters in the organic phase and can pave the way to the improved understanding of ion association.
“With extracting these clusters into the organic phase, the clusters themselves are hollow, so when we get them into the organic solution, they’re still containing other atoms, molecules, other ions,” Neal added. “We can study how these ions interact with these cages that they’re in. The fundamental research is understanding how the ions get inside and what they do once they’re inside because they’re stuck there.”
When the clusters form, each contains 20 to 60 uranium atoms, “so we can extract them in whole bunches instead of one at a time. It’s an atom-efficient approach,” Nyman said.
Existing separation techniques require two extraction molecules for every uranium ion, whereas the OSU technique requires less than one extraction molecule per ion.
Scientists from the University of Notre Dame collaborated on the research, which was supported by the US Department of Energy.

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