I’ve got some wide-ranging research to report in this week’s SpectroscopyNOW, including mineral tests, colour MRI, the Agent Smith of prions, and a new approach to spotting doped athletes.
New insights offered by near infrared spectroscopy into the mineralogy of carbonate rocks could help improve the outlook for carbon capture and storage in efforts to reduce the effect of carbon dioxide emissions on the global climate. Although, personally I think the real relevance of this work will be in understanding the mineral found on Mars or other planets rather than some spurious and potentially misguided efforts to control the atmosphere.
Not everything is black and white, perhaps with the exception of MRI. Aside from the artificial colours that can be added by computer, MRI is a technique of contrasts and greyscales. However, that could all change soon thanks to the ongoing development of microscopic magnetic particles by researchers in the US who hope to bring a little colour to MRI.
Meanwhile, NMR spectroscopy (the original molecular MRI) has revealed significant difference between the infectious and non-infectious form of prions, errant proteins that replicate by converting other proteins into copies of themselves. The finding could lead to new insights into how prions cause brain diseases, such as CJD and may one day lead to a way to stop their spread.
Faster and more accurate testing of complex systems such as skin and other turbid media could soon be possible thanks to a laser boost for Raman spectroscopy. The technique has potential applications in pharmaceutical research, forensic science and security screening.
Another analytical boost comes with work being done at Argonne National Laboratory to develop a new super bright source of X-rays that are one hundred million times brighter than any currently operating laboratory source. The sources will open up new avenues in materials science such as the faster and more detailed analysis of high-temperature superconductors.
Finally, in the current specNOW issue, a new analytical approach to testing for testosterone and related steroids in body fluids could spot illicit doping of athletes at coming sports events.