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Iceberg breaks off in Antarctic from unexpected location

Iceberg breaks off in the Antarctic from an unexpected location

Researchers observed a “loose tooth” of ice dangle from the edge of the Antarctic ice sheet for 20 years, waiting to be detached. However, the wrong portion was observed as a nearby sheet of ice along with the same rift system, larger than its wobbling neighbor has broken off the Amery ice board according to the Australian Antarctic Division.

The massive iceberg known as D28 covering 1,636 square kilometers (632 square miles) with a depth of nearly 210 meters deep (689 feet) is approximately the size of urban Sydney. It is the largest iceberg weighing about 315 billion tonnes formed by the Amery ice shelf in more than fifty years.

Helen Fricker, a researcher from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography said that it is the molar compared to a baby tooth. Fricker says that the disintegration of the ice shelf from its edges is a natural phenomenon known as calving. It is to make space for new streams of ice and snow. Each individual ice sheet undergoes a different rate of calving which varies across seasons and takes more than decades to complete since it is an important way to balance masses of ice sheets around the world.

Researchers were unable to predict the location and timeline of calving in this case as all these parameters make it difficult to anticipate from beforehand. Fricker said that they anticipated a huge iceberg would break off between 2010 and 2015 when they first observed a split at the front of the ice board in the early 2000s. The event ultimately occurred after all these years however not at the location predicted by the researchers.

Amery ice shelf produced an iceberg like this covering an area of 9000 square kilometers in 1963. This ice shelf is normally expected to undergo one major calving event every six or seven decades, and so far two have been observed in the cycle. Hence this is not related to the global change of climate, although this is not the situation always.

For example, instead of every six years, the calving rate of Pine Glacier situated in Western Antarctica has accelerated, spreading deeper and shedding huge icebergs in 2013, 2015, 2017, and 2018 which is clearly not as per its normal timeline.

Sue Cook from the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) said that she expects the calving rate to increase because of climate change. She explained that icebergs will start becoming thinner as waters around Antarctica warm-up making them more vulnerable to breaking up.

Engineered viruses could fight drug resistance

Engineered viruses could fight drug resistance

In the battle against antibiotic resistance, many scientists have been trying to deploy naturally occurring viruses called bacteriophages that can infect and kill bacteria.

Bacteriophages kill bacteria through different mechanisms than antibiotics, and they can target specific strains, making them an appealing option for potentially overcoming multidrug resistance. However, quickly finding and optimizing well-defined bacteriophages to use against a bacterial target is challenging.

In a new study, MIT biological engineers showed that they could rapidly program bacteriophages to kill different strains of E. coli by making mutations in a viral protein that binds to host cells. These engineered bacteriophages are also less likely to provoke resistance in bacteria, the researchers found.

“As we’re seeing in the news more and more now, bacterial resistance is continuing to evolve and is increasingly problematic for public health,” says Timothy Lu, an MIT associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science and of biological engineering. “Phages represent a very different way of killing bacteria than antibiotics, which is complementary to antibiotics, rather than trying to replace them.”

The researchers created several engineered phages that could kill E. coli grown in the lab. One of the newly created phages was also able to eliminate two E. coli strains that are resistant to naturally occurring phages from a skin infection in mice.

Lu is the senior author of the study, which appears in the Oct. 3 issue of Cell. MIT postdoc Kevin Yehl and former postdoc Sebastien Lemire are the lead authors of the paper.

Engineered viruses

The Food and Drug Administration has approved a handful of bacteriophages for killing harmful bacteria in food, but they have not been widely used to treat infections because finding naturally occurring phages that target the right kind of bacteria can be a difficult and time-consuming process.

To make such treatments easier to develop, Lu’s lab has been working on engineered viral “scaffolds” that can be easily repurposed to target different bacterial strains or different resistance mechanisms.

“We think phages are a good toolkit for killing and knocking down bacteria levels inside a complex ecosystem, but in a targeted way,” Lu says.

In 2015, the researchers used a phage from the T7 family, which naturally kills E.coli, and showed that they could program it to target other bacteria by swapping in different genes that code for tail fibers, the protein that bacteriophages use to latch onto receptors on the surfaces of host cells.

While that approach did work, the researchers wanted to find a way to speed up the process of tailoring phages to a particular type of bacteria. In their new study, they came up with a strategy that allows them to rapidly create and test a much greater number of tail fiber variants.

From previous studies of tail fiber structure, the researchers knew that the protein consists of segments called beta sheets that are connected by loops. They decided to try systematically mutating only the amino acids that form the loops, while preserving the beta sheet structure.

“We identified regions that we thought would have minimal effect on the protein structure, but would be able to change its binding interaction with the bacteria,” Yehl says.

They created phages with about 10,000,000 different tail fibers and tested them against several strains of E. coli that had evolved to be resistant to the nonengineered bacteriophage. One way that E. coli can become resistant to bacteriophages is by mutating “LPS” receptors so that they are shortened or missing, but the MIT team found that some of their engineered phages could kill even strains of E. coli with mutated or missing LPS receptors.

This helps to overcome one of the limiting factors in using phages as antimicrobials, which is that bacteria can generate resistance by mutating receptors that the phages use to enter bacteria, says Rotem Sorek, a professor of molecular genetics at the Weizmann Institute of Science.

“Through deep understanding of the biology entailing the phage-bacteria recognition, together with smart bioengineering approaches, Lu and his team managed to design a large library of phage variants, each of which has the potential to recognize a slightly different receptor. They show that treating bacteria with this library rather than with a single phage limits the emergence of resistance,” says Sorek, who was not involved in the study.

Other targets

Lu and Yehl now plan to apply this approach to targeting other resistance mechanisms used by E. coli, and they also hope to develop phages that can kill other types of harmful bacteria. “This is just the beginning, as there are many other viral scaffolds and bacteria to target,” Yehl says. The researchers are also interested in using bacteriophages as a tool to target specific strains of bacteria that live in the human gut and cause health problems.

“Being able to selectively hit those nonbeneficial strains could give us a lot of benefits in terms of human clinical outcomes,” Lu says.

The research was funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Army Research Laboratory/Army Research Office through the MIT Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, and the Koch Institute Support (core) Grant from the National Cancer Institute.

Materials provided by Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Scientists study how wasps learn for better trap

Scientists study how wasps learn for better trap

On lingering warm fall days, hungry wasps are often unwelcome guests at picnics and tailgates, homing in on hamburgers and buzzing bottles.

It’s worse in parts of the southern United States, where paper wasp species swarm air traffic control towers and other tall, solitary buildings during fall mating season.

Scientists at Washington State University aim to take the sting out of these encounters. Partnering with the U.S. Department of Defense, WSU entomologists are studying wasps’ ability to learn and respond to chemical signals, with the goal of building a better paper wasp trap.

Hungry, unwanted visitors

The European paper wasp, Polistes dominula, gains its name from the paper it makes to build its umbrella-shaped nests, often found under eaves across North America.

While less aggressive than their yellowjacket cousins, from whom they subtly differ in appearance, paper wasps will deliver a painful sting if their nests are threatened.

Paper wasps will occasionally feed on nectar and fermenting substances, but also prey on insects as a protein source for their young. That makes human food especially attractive as summer ends and insect prey, such as aphids and caterpillars, become rare.

Megan Asche holds a vial containing a paper wasp.

Doctoral student Megan Asche views captive wasps in a vial at her WSU lab.

“They’re looking for protein and sugar,” said Megan Asche, a WSU Department of Entomology doctoral student. “That’s why they show up at your house, zoom around your garbage can, and take a bite out of your sandwich.”

Paper wasps can be hard to eliminate from homes and yards, because they’re different from other wasp species.

“They’re not attracted to the same things that yellowjackets and hornets are,” Asche said. “We’re trying to find something that works better for these animals—a better wasp trap.”

Buzzing the control tower

Funded by a five-year, $366,000 Department of Defense grant, Asche’s research is spurred by an annual wasp invasion of military airstrips in the southern U.S.

Like many flying insects, paper wasps seek a preferred place to mate. Drones look for queens at places called hill-topping sites: “Basically a really tall thing surrounded by flat, open space,” Asche said. “An air control tower is exactly what wasps are looking for.”

The presence of thousands of wasps in and around the tower, crawling on radar screens and personnel, makes the job of air traffic controllers much harder.

“We need to figure out what we can use to attract wasps away from the towers,” Asche said.

Can wasps learn?

Paper wasps tending a growing nest.

Paper wasps tending a growing nest. Swarming during fall mating season, wasps can pose a challenge at air traffic control towers (Photo by Megan Asche).

To do that, she is studying wasps’ ability to learn and react to chemical signals.

“Wasps are a lot more flexible in their behavior than most insects,” Asche said. “They eat a lot of different foods, plants, and animals, so they’re capable of adjusting to their environment and changing their routine.”

In Asche’s lab, wasps are put into a flight tunnel—a large see-through plastic box with electric fans on both ends. Near one end is a nozzle emitting scent, either extracted from flowers or isolated from the wasps themselves.

Wasps are released one at a time into the tunnel, and Asche carefully notes how they react to the scent.

“That’s a perfect flight!” Asche remarked as one male wasp was put through the paces. He soon reacted to the odor, questing and landing near the nozzle’s tip.

“I’m trying to see how quickly they can learn,” she explained. “If we understand how they learn, we can teach them to associate an odor with food, and replace it with a working trap.”

Deciphering wasps’ chemical signals

Asche and other WSU entomologists are also exploring the chemistry behind wasp reactions. They are isolating and identifying the compounds they use to communicate and congregate.

The team has had surprising success using synthetic lures to successfully trap and remove wasps, both in Washington state and the southern U.S.

“Paper wasps are a beneficial part of our ecology, but they don’t belong in our buildings,” Asche said. “For people who don’t want to interact with wasps, our research could really bring peace of mind.”

Materials provided by Washington State University

A new quantum measurement protocol

Researchers develop new measurement protocol for quantum particles

A new protocol for measurement developed at TU Wien will help in the measurement of the quantum phase of electrons. This is a significant step in attosecond physics. The work appears in the Physical Review Letters.

The current methods in attosecond physics help to measure very short intervals of time. We can track physical processes with very high precision, attoseconds to be precise which is equal to billionths of a billionth of a second.

This can be done using short laser pulses. The ionisation of one atom can be studied along with the process in which an electron exits the atom. Electrons do not always display the particle properties since the quantum-physical wave behaviour plays a major role. It is a wave oscillating in a very short time scale. The task to measure the cycle duration of such oscillations is challenging, however, it is even more difficult to measure the phase. Questions such as how would the electron waves oscillate if an electron can be ionized in two ways get quite tricky. 

A group of researchers from TU Wien and CREOL College, University of Central Florida has developed a protocol for measuring the phase of the electron waves. This can help in understanding photovoltaics in a better manner. 

Stefan Donsa, a team member working under Prof. Joachim Burgdörfer, Institute for Theoretical Physics, TU Wien mentioned that a wave consists of crests and troughs. Its phase tells the location of these points in space and time. Perfect overlapping of quantum waves, such that every wave peak meets a wave peek of other one adds up the waves, on the other hand, if the crest superimposes with the trough then they get cancelled. Hence phase shifts are very important in quantum physics. For this, a reference clock is needed that can make sure the overlap occurs at the exact time without any shift. The latest measurement protocol uses an atomic process as a reference for the other one. 

Helium atoms have been studied in computer simulations where a photon absorption results in emission of an electron. This ejected electron has a certain phase that is difficult to measure. The trick of the new method is to add a second quantum effect serving as a clock, i.e. a quantum metronome. The atom can absorb two photons instead of one under specific conditions. It leads to the same event, an electron emitted with particular energy but this can be measured as it has a different phase. Complicated protocols are needed in attosecond physics. Although there are many such protocols, none allows for the direct measurement of the phase of electron. 

Stefan Donsa said that this measurement protocol allows for the translation of information about an electron phase to its spatial distribution by a combination of special laser pulses. The right laser pulses can help in getting the phase information from the electron’s angular distribution. 

The protocols have to be experimented now to identify which quantum mechanical information can actually be obtained. 

Journal Reference: Physical Review Letters.

Scientists detect new structures in tooth enamel to explain its incredible strength

Scientists detect new structures in tooth enamel to explain its incredible strength

A recent glance at the nanostructure of tooth enamel helps to explain the unbelievable resilience of the hardest substance in the human body.

The outer layer of the tooth enamel which surrounds and shields other tissue inside the tooth appears like bone but is actually living tissue. The teeth once developed has no natural capability to self-regrow or repair. Tooth enamel, a very hard substance, harder than steel is produced during the mineralization process and new investigation helps to answer the reason behind its exceptional resilience.

Pupa Gilbert, a biophysicist from the University of Wisconsin-Madison said that every time while chewing, enormous pressure is applied on tooth enamel several hundred times per day. Our enamel being unique manages to do it the whole lifetime, so the question arises how does it prevent any failure?

The answer is the “hidden structure” of tooth enamel which is a microscopic structural arrangement of the nanocrystals forming the outer layer of the teeth. These very minute crystals measuring less than one-thousandth the thickness of a human hair which is also found in the teeth of other animals are made of a kind of calcium apatite known as hydroxyapatite. The work appears in Nature Communications. 

Gilbert said that they didn’t have the methods to look at the structure of enamel before this study but they can determine and visualize the color orientation of individual nanocrystals and observe several of them at once with a method called polarisation-dependent imaging contrast (PIC) mapping.

He added that this electron microscopy method reveals the architecture of complex biominerals to the human eye. The scientists found that the hydroxyapatite nanocrystals were not oriented in the way that they had earlier assumed while using the PIC mapping technique. The crystals in enamel are grouped into structures called rods and inter-rods but the team identified misorientations of the crystal between adjacent nanocrystals ranging between 1 and 30 degrees.

The authors wrote in the paper that they have suggested that the misorientation of adjacent enamel nanocrystals provides a toughening mechanism i.e., a transverse crack can propagate across crystal interfaces if all crystals are eco-oriented whereas a crack primarily propagates along with the crystal interfaces if the crystals are misoriented.

The molecular dynamics simulations carried out by the team support the concept as testing this hypothesis in human teeth in real life is not feasible. The cracking is circulated more rapidly through crystal networks that didn’t look like human teeth misorientations (of 1 to 30 degrees) in a computer model configured to simulate the spreading of cracking through the enamel.

The team said that this range of nanocrystal misorientation may portray a sweet spot in crack deflection, selected by the long evolutionary history of the enamel. This sweet spot, crystals that are 1–30° apart may maximize the release of energy along with strengthening. The observed misorientations in enamel play a major mechanical role as crack deflection is an important toughening mechanism. They increase the toughness of enamel at the nanoscale, which is essential to withstand the powerful masticatory forces, nearing 1,000 newtons, repeated several thousand times per day.

Journal Reference: Nature Communications. 

Delivery system can make RNA vaccines more powerful

Delivery system can make RNA vaccines more powerful

Vaccines made from RNA hold great potential as a way to treat cancer or prevent a variety of infectious diseases. Many biotech companies are now working on such vaccines, and a few have gone into clinical trials.

One of the challenges to creating RNA vaccines is making sure that the RNA gets into the right immune cells and produces enough of the encoded protein. Additionally, the vaccine must stimulate a strong enough response that the immune system can wipe out the relevant bacteria, viruses, or cancer cells when they are subsequently encountered.

MIT chemical engineers have now developed a new series of lipid nanoparticles to deliver such vaccines. They showed that the particles trigger efficient production of the protein encoded by the RNA, and they also behave like an “adjuvant,” further boosting the vaccine effectiveness. In a study of mice, they used this RNA vaccine to successfully inhibit the growth of melanoma tumors.

“One of the key discoveries of this paper is that you can build RNA delivery lipids that can also activate the immune system in important ways,” says Daniel Anderson, an associate professor in MIT’s Department of Chemical Engineering and a member of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and Institute for Medical Engineering and Science.

Anderson is the senior author of the study, which appears in the Sept. 30 issue of Nature Biotechnology. The lead authors of the study are former postdocs Lei Miao and Linxian Li and former research associate Yuxuan Huang. Other MIT authors include Derfogail Delcassian, Jasdave Chahal, Jinsong Han, Yunhua Shi, Kaitlyn Sadtler, Wenting Gao, Jiaqi Lin, Joshua C. Doloff, and Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT and a member of the Koch Institute.

Vaccine boost

Most traditional vaccines are made from proteins produced by infectious microbes, or from weakened forms of the microbes themselves. In recent years, scientists have explored the idea of making vaccines using DNA that encodes microbial proteins. However, these vaccines, which have not been approved for use in humans, have so far failed to produce strong enough immune responses.

RNA is an attractive alternative to DNA in vaccines because unlike DNA, which has to reach the cell nucleus to become functional, RNA can be translated into protein as soon as it gets into the cell cytoplasm. It can also be adapted to target many different diseases.

“Another advantage of these vaccines is that we can quickly change the target disease,” he says. “We can make vaccines to different diseases very quickly just by tinkering with the RNA sequence.”

For an RNA vaccine to be effective, it needs to enter a type of immune cell called an antigen-presenting cell. These cells then produce the protein encoded by the vaccine and display it on their surfaces, attracting and activating T cells and other immune cells.

Anderson’s lab has previously developed lipid nanoparticles for delivering RNA and DNA for a variety of applications. These lipid particles form tiny droplets that protect RNA molecules and carry them to their destinations. The researchers’ usual approach is to generate libraries of hundreds or thousands of candidate particles with varying chemical features, then screen them for the ones that work the best.

“In one day, we can synthesize over 1,000 lipid materials with multiple different structures,” Miao says. “Once we had that very large library, we could screen the molecules and see which type of structures help RNA get delivered to the antigen-presenting cells.”

They discovered that nanoparticles with a certain chemical feature — a cyclic structure at one end of the particle — are able to turn on an immune signaling pathway called stimulator of interferon genes (STING). Once this pathway is activated, the cells produce interferon and other cytokines that provoke T cells to leap into action.

“Broad applications”

The researchers tested the particles in two different mouse models of melanoma. First, they used mice with tumors engineered to produce ovalbumin, a protein found in egg whites. The researchers designed an RNA vaccine to target ovalbumin, which is not normally found in tumors, and showed that the vaccine stopped tumor growth and significantly prolonged survival.

Then, the researchers created a vaccine that targets a protein naturally produced by melanoma tumors, known as Trp2. This vaccine also stimulated a strong immune response that slowed tumor growth and improved survival rates in the mice.

Anderson says he plans to pursue further development of RNA cancer vaccines as well as vaccines that target infectious diseases such as HIV, malaria, or Ebola.

“We think there could be broad applications for this,” he says. “A particularly exciting area to think about is diseases where there are currently no vaccines.”

Materials provided by Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Time reversibility might be the reason why gamma rays seem to travel backwards

Time reversibility might be the reason why gamma-rays seem to travel backward

It is known that time can move in only one direction. However, last year scientists detected some events in which the gamma-ray bursts seemed to repeat as if they were moving backward in time. 

New research suggests the potential answer to the cause of this time reversibility effect. If the waves in the relativistic jets producing gamma-ray bursts propagate faster than light at what is known as “superluminal speeds”, then one of its possible effects could be time reversibility. The work appears in The Astrophysical Journal. 

When light travels through a medium, the phase velocity is lesser than the light’s speed in a vacuum, which is the ultimate speed barrier in the Universe. Hence a wave could move through gamma-ray burst jet at superluminal speeds without violating relativity. The most energetic explosions in the Universe are gamma-ray bursts. While they can last a time span ranging milliseconds to hours, they are very bright and till now no concrete reason for their cause is found.

From 2017 observations of colliding neutron stars, it is known that gamma-ray bursts can be created from these collisions. When a huge, violently spinning star collapses to black hole resulting in the ejection of material in a colossal hypernova then these bursts can be produced. Then the black hole is surrounded by the accretion material around the equator. With quick rotation, the exploded material falls back resulting in relativistic jets from the polar regions. It blasts through the outer envelope of the star resulting in gamma-ray bursts. 

Particles can move faster than light when traveling through a medium. This causes Cherenkov radiation which is viewed as a blue glow, also known as a luminal boom. When particles such as electrons travel faster than the phase velocity of light in the medium then the glow is produced. 

Scientists Jon Hakkila, College of Charleston and Robert Nemiroff, Michigan Technological University think that the same effect is responsible for gamma-ray burst jets. They have created mathematical modeling to demonstrate it. They mention in their model that an impactor wave in a gamma-ray burst either propagates from subluminal to superluminal velocities or decelerates vice-versa. This impactor wave interacts with the medium resulting in Cherenkov radiation when moving faster than light’s speed in the medium or creates a synchrotron shock radiation when moving slower than the light’s speed. 

A time-forward and time-reversed set of light curve features are created by the transitions by relativistic image doubling. When a charged particle enters the water near to light’s speed, it moves faster than Cherenkov radiation resulting in the illusion of appearing at two places simultaneously, one seems to travel ahead in time and one backward. 

This has not yet been observed experimentally. If verified it might be responsible for the time-reversibility in gamma-ray burst light curves. 

Researchers made an assumption that impactor creating gamma-ray burst would be a wave of a large scale produced by changes of the magnetic field. More analysis is needed in this direction. Since the model includes time-reversibility it explains gamma-ray bursts much better than those which don’t. 

Reference: The Astrophysical Journal.

Researchers come up with battery models powering more than a million miles

Researchers come up with battery models powering more than a million miles

Jeffrey Dahn and his research group from Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia has filed for a new patent on lithium battery technology which can power more than a million miles. Dahn holds an exclusive agreement with Tesla and his team has published the testing results on new batteries which according to them can be used as benchmarks for other scientists dealing with similar technologies. The report can be found in the Journal of the Electrochemical Society.

The most innovative section of the battery used by Dahn’s team is the cathode. Different batteries use different types of lithium compounds for achieving good characteristics. Dahn’s team has been investigating on NMC –  lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide. This material has been used by several other electric vehicle makers in the past such as Nissan and Chevrolet but not Tesla. Dahn uses synthetic graphite for anode with the electrode being a blend of lithium salts and several other ionic compounds. These components do not differ much in compositions used by other makers however Dahn’s team used a different technique for the NMC cathode’s structure. The team used large single crystals replacing smaller ones which would develop lesser cracks as the battery goes through charged and discharged states. 

Battery research has been mostly focused on increasing the range that can be powered in a single charge. Dahn, on the other hand, has focused on improving the battery’s overall lifetime making it suitable for self-driving taxis and electric trucks that are expected to go through several charges and discharge cycles. The current Tesla battery pack lasts for 300,000 to 500,000 miles which is not enough. On the other hand, batteries in this paper are expected to last 4000 charges – four times more than the present commercial batteries. 

Since the paper has been categorized for “benchmarking”, it implies that the batteries mentioned in the paper would not be used by Tesla in its vehicles. Dahn mentioned that these batteries are capable of powering an electric vehicle for more than a million miles while lasting two decades in grid energy storage. 

Tesla and Dahn were awarded the patent for a single crystal NMC battery with an additive named ODTO, similar to the description in the paper, which has been described by Dahn’s team in another paper last year. There is still room for improvement in the batteries described in the current paper as the specific energy density of mentioned batteries is lesser than the maximum ability of advanced Li-ion batteries. There is a possibility of Li-ion batteries powering more than 500kms in a single charge.

Reference: Journal of the Electrochemical Society.

Astronomers detect three supermassive black holes at the center of three colliding galaxies

Astronomers detect three supermassive black holes at the center of three colliding galaxies

Three supermassive black holes (SMBHs) glowing in x-ray emissions have been identified by astronomers at the center of three colliding galaxies a billion light-years away from Earth. All three black holes are active galactic nuclei(AGN), consuming material. This finding may clarify a long-standing issue in astrophysics and black hole mergers known as “final parsec problem”. The study appears in The Astrophysical Journal.

Researchers detected the three SMBHs with the data from several telescopes, Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS,) the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE)A nearly unbelievably astronomical event, the fusion of three galaxies may play a crucial role in how the most massive black holes expand over time.

Ryan Pfeifle from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, the paper’s first author said that they found this incredible system through their selection technique while they were only looking for black hole pairs. He also added that this is the most powerful evidence found for such a triple system of active supermassive black holes. It is very challenging to locate triple black hole systems since they are wrapped in gas and dust. It took several telescopes functioning in different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum and also the work with researchers to detect these black holes.

Co-author Shobita Satyapal, also belonging to George Mason said that dual and triple black holes are extremely rare but such systems are actually a natural outcome of galaxy mergers, through which galaxies grow. This triple-merger was first spotted in visible light by the SDSS and only through a citizen science project named Galaxy Zoo the system of colliding galaxies was detected. The system was in a state of galaxy merger glowing in the infrared as seen by the WISE when more than one black holes were expected to be feeding.

Researchers shifted to the Chandra Observatory and the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) for confirmation as Sloan and WISE data were fascinating clues. Chandra observations revealed bright x-ray sources in the galactic centers where SMBHs are expected to detect. Chandra and Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) satellite of NASA discovered more shreds of evidence showing the presence of SMBHs and the existence of large amounts of gas and dust near one of them. It was expected in merging of black holes. Spectral evidence received by optical light data from SDSS and  LBT shows that these are characteristics of the feeding SMBHs.

Christina Manzano-King, co-author from the University of California, Riverside said that optical spectra include plenty of information about a galaxy which is frequently used to detect active accreting supermassive black holes and can tell about their influence on the inhabitant galaxies. Pfeifle said that they have found a new method of identifying triple supermassive black holes using these major observatories as each telescope gives them a distinct idea about these systems. They expect to extend their work to find more triples using the same method.

The final parsec problem is a theoretical problem that is fundamental to our understanding of binary black hole mergers that states that the enormous orbital energy of two approaching black holes stops them from merging. They can get separated by a few light-years, then the merging process stables.

The hyperbolic trajectories of two initially approaching black hole carry them right past each other. The two holes catapult the stars as they interact with them in their proximity transferring a fraction of their orbital energy to a star every time. The energy of the black holes gets reduced by the emission of gravitational waves. The two black holes finally slow down and approach each other more closely shedding enough orbital energy finally getting within just a few parsecs of each other. More matter is discharged via sling-shotting as they come closer. As a result, for the black holes, no more matter is left to interact with and shed more orbital energy. The merging process halts.

Astronomers know that strong gravitational waves are responsible for black hole mergers.LIGO (Laser Interferometry Gravitational-Wave Observatory) discovers a black hole merger almost every week. The final parsec problem is about how they merge with each other finally. Researchers think that a third black hole like seen in this system could give the push needed for the black holes to get merged. Nearly 16% of supermassive black hole pairs in colliding galaxies are expected to interact with a third supermassive black hole before they merge.

The challenge is that gravitational waves produced during merging would be too low-frequency for LIGO or the VIRGO observatory to detect. Researchers may have to depend on future observatories like LISA, ESA/NASA’s Laser Interferometer Space Antenna to detect those waves. LISA is better-equipped than LIGO or VIRGO to detect merging of giant and massive black holes as it can detect lower frequency gravitational waves.

Reference: The Astrophysical Journal.

High value chemicals for pharmaceuticals could be made cheaper and greener by new catalysts

High value chemicals for pharmaceuticals could be made cheaper and greener by new catalysts

Chemicals used to make pharmaceuticals could be made more sustainably by a new series of catalysts

– The catalysts made by researchers at the University of Warwick and GoldenKeys High-Tech Materials Co., Ltd. in China can tailor make chemicals

– The ability to selectively make the chemicals means they can potentially be made quicker, cheaper and higher purity

High value chemicals used to make pharmaceuticals could be made much cheaper and quicker thanks to a series of new catalysts made by scientists at the University of Warwick in collaboration with GoldenKeys High-Tech Co., Ltd. in China.

The process of making high-value chemicals for uses such as the pharmaceutical or electronics chemical industry requires many years of work and a very high financial investment, with a large amount of side products going to waste.

However, in research published in August in the ACS journal Organic Letters, the paper: Probing the Effects of Heterocyclic Functionality in [(Benzene) Ru (TsDPENR)CI] Catalysts for Asymmetric Transfer Hydrogenation’, shows how scientists are able to tailor conditions in the catalyst to make the molecule required.

The research project between the University of Warwick and the GoldenKeys High-Tech Materials Co., Ltd., a Speciality Material Company led by Dr. Yingjian Xu FRSC in China, has resulted in the development of a series of new catalysts for the asymmetric synthesis of alcohols which could be used for high value chemicals such as pharmaceuticals and electronics chemicals, potentially making it faster, cheaper and more environmentally sustainable as less chemicals are required under the catalytic conditions.

Researchers were able to make the catalyst by making the molecules’ ligands – which act as building blocks, bind to the metal ruthenium.

This means that scientists can pick and choose which molecules to bind together to make a catalyst and in turn make the chemical required in a much faster and more sustainable way.

In some cases the ligands are ‘bidentate’ – meaning they form two bonds to the metal, and in other cases they are ‘tridentate’ – forming three bonds to the metal. Knowing how each ligand will bind also helps the identification of the optimal active form and the conditions required for the target application.

Professor Martin Wills from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Warwick comments:

“The ability to make high-value chemicals through our new series of catalysts using ruthenium metal means that they can be made much more sustainably.From left to right Jonathan Barrios-Rivera, Martin Wills, Yingjian Xu (Andy)

Dr. Yingjian Xu of GoldenKeys High-Tech Materials Co., Ltd. adds:

“If this method is used in the pharmaceutical and electronics chemical industries for example then products and intermediates can potentially be made more cheaply and quickly with higher purity for consumers and reduce waste as less material is needed to make the catalyst, unlike traditional stoichiometric methods.”

Materials provided by University of Warwick