Latest spectroscopy and crystallography

Electric microbes – X-ray diffraction has been used to reveal the structure of proteins attached to the surface of the microbe Shewanella oneidensis, a species found in deep-sea anaerobic habitats. These proteins can transfer electrons making this micro-organism potentially rather interesting as an electricity-generating system. The research could allow researchers to tether bacteria directly to electrodes creating efficient microbial fuel cells or bio-batteries powered by human or animal waste. Such an advance could also hasten the development of system based on microbial agents that can clean up oil spills or provide a new approach to remediating radioactive waste.

Uranium and Raman – Scientists at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research in Tamil Nadu have carried out the first study of "pure" uranium using Raman spectroscopy. The fundamental research offers new insights into this radioactive metal and may even have implication for developments in nuclear energy.

Magnetic resonance without magnets – US researchers have demonstrated magnet-free nuclear magnetic resonance, opening up the possibility of low-cost, portable chemical analysis. Writing in the journal Nature Physics, the team says that it is just the beginning for the development of zero-field NMR although the team has already demonstrated that it is possible to get, clear, highly specific spectra.

Aerobics and the elderly – Increased physical activity involving aerobic exercise might slow age-related decline according to a new functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) study funded by the US Department of Veteran's Affairs. The study shows how the brain's motor cortex changes as we get older particularly in those people who become more sedentary as they do so. However, maintaining a physically active lifestyle can preclude the changes that lead to unnecessary decline.

Slipped disc gel – Viable nucleus pulposus (NP) implant materials for repairing damaged intervertebral discs, comprising novel hydrogels, have been developed and studied using the techniques of Fourier-transform infrared and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Anyone who has suffered damage to an intervertebral disc in their spine or has a degenerative of the discs will know only too well how debilitating can be the attendant inflammation and pain caused by such damage and pressure on the sciatic, and other, nerves. Alleviating the pain to an extent is sometimes possible through spinal manipulation, physiotherapy, anti-inflammatory agents or surgery. However, there is a pressing need to develop artificial implants that can remedy the loss of the gelatinous filling to intervertebral discs as an alternative to simply removing damaged or diseased discs and fusing the vertebrae.

Maya blue – UV-Vis spectroscopy and various other techniques have been used to analyse the yellow pigments found in Mayan wall paintings. The compounds present are the indigoids, including isatin and dehydroindigo. The spectra together with SEM/EDX, TEM and voltammetry of microparticles show that this ancient people had the recipe for making indigo itself and converting it to Maya Blue and Maya Yellow in a stepwise reaction sequence.