Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions

Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions is a series of podcasts describing some of the 21st Century’s most daunting problems, and how cutting-edge research in chemistry matters in the quest for solutions.

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Taking inspiration from trees, scientists have developed a battery made from a sliver of wood coated with tin that shows promise for becoming a tiny, long-lasting, efficient and environmentally friendly energy source. Their report on the device — 1,000 times thinner than a sheet of paper — appears in the journal Nano Letters.
🇬🇧 English
last modified
2017-11-30 19:48
last episode published
2014-01-27 14:00
publication frequency
20.11 days
American Chemical Society author  
A_dylewski owner  
Number of Episodes
Detail page
Science & Medicine Natural Sciences



Date Thumb Title & Description Contributors

Combating Disease: Paper-based device could bring medical testing to remote locales

In remote regions of the world where electricity is hard to come by and scientific instruments are even scarcer, conducting medical tests at a doctor’s office or medical lab is rarely an option. Scientists are now reporting progress toward an inexpensi...

Confronting Climate Change: Stop-Gap Measures to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Sediment trapped behind dams makes them ‘hot spots’ for greenhouse gas emissions

With the “green” reputation of large hydroelectric dams already in question, scientists are reporting that millions of smaller dams on rivers around the world make an important contribution to the greenhouse gases linked to global climate change. Their...

Promoting Personal Safety and National Security: Improving detection of radioactive material in nuclear waste water

As the Fukushima crisis continues to remind the world of the potential dangers of nuclear disposal and unforeseen accidents, scientists are reporting progress toward a new way to detect the radioactive materials uranium and plutonium in waste water. Th...

Combating Disease: Improved smartphone microscope brings single-virus detection to remote locations

Scientists are reporting an advance in smartphone-based imaging that could help physicians in far-flung and resource-limited locations monitor how well treatments for infections are working by detecting, for the first time, individual viruses. Their st...

Our sustainable future: A greener, more sustainable source of ingredients for widely used plastics

A new process can convert a wide variety of vegetable and animal fats and oils — ranging from lard to waste cooking oil — into a key ingredient for making plastics that currently comes from petroleum, scientists say. Their report on the first-of-its-ki...

Confronting Climate Change - Stop-Gap Measures to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Big environmental footprints: 21 percent of homes account for 50 percent of greenhouse gas emissions

Energy conservation in a small number of households could go a long way to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, scientists are reporting. Their study, which measured differences in energy demands at the household level, appears in the ACS journal Environ...

Our Sustainable Future: An environmentally friendly battery made from wood

Scientists are reporting development and successful lab tests on the first potential drug to pack a lethal one-two punch against melanoma skin cancer cells. Hit number one destroys cells in the main tumor, and the second hit blocks the spread of the ca...

Combating Disease: First dual-action compound kills cancer cells, stops them from spreading

Scientists are reporting development and successful lab tests on the first potential drug to pack a lethal one-two punch against melanoma skin cancer cells. Hit number one destroys cells in the main tumor, and the second hit blocks the spread of the ca...

New Fuels – Biofuels: Duckweed as a cost-competitive raw material for biofuel production

The search for a less-expensive, sustainable source of biomass, or plant material, for producing gasoline, diesel and jet fuel has led scientists to duckweed, that fast-growing floating plant that turns ponds and lakes green. That’s the topic of a repo...

Our Sustainable Future: Cotton offers a new ecologically friendly way to clean up oil spills

With the Deepwater Horizon disaster emphasizing the need for better ways of cleaning up oil spills, scientists are reporting that unprocessed, raw cotton may be an ideal, ecologically friendly answer, with an amazing ability to sop up oil. Their report...

Supplying Safe Drinking Water: Solar-powered nanofilters pump in antibiotics to clean contaminated water

Using the same devious mechanism that enables some bacteria to shrug off powerful antibiotics, scientists have developed solar-powered nanofilters that remove antibiotics from the water in lakes and rivers twice as efficiently as the best existing tech...

Confronting Climate Change: The Quest for Permanent Solutions: A milestone for new carbon-dioxide capture/clean coal technology

An innovative new process that releases the energy in coal without burning — while capturing carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas — has passed a milestone on the route to possible commercial use, scientists are reporting. Their study in the ACS jou...

Supplying Safe Drinking Water: The first caffeine-‘addicted’ bacteria

Some people may joke about living on caffeine, but scientists now have genetically engineered E. coli bacteria to do that — literally. Their report in the journal ACS Synthetic Biology describes bacteria being “addicted” to caffeine in a way that promi...

Promoting Public Health: Six in 10 people worldwide lack access to flush toilets or other adequate sanitation

It may be the 21st century, with all its technological marvels, but 6 out of every 10 people on Earth still do not have access to flush toilets or other adequate sanitation that protects the user and the surrounding community from harmful health effect...

Our sustainable future: First mobile app green chemistry fosters sustainable manufacturing of medicines

Today’s episode describes the first mobile application to foster wider use of the environmentally friendly and sustainable principles of green chemistry. It is the topic of a report in ACS’ new journal, ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering. The re...

Promoting Personal Safety and National Security: Ancient “Egyptian blue” pigment points to new telecommunications, security ink technology

Today’s solution is an ancient Egyptian blue pigment used 5,000 years ago. The pigment is giving modern scientists clues toward the development of new nanomaterials that could have uses in medical imaging devices, remote controls, security ink and othe...

Promoting Personal Safety and National Security: Toward a better cyanide antidote for terrorist attacks and other mass casualty events

Today’s solution is a promising substance that could be the basis for the development of a better antidote for cyanide poisoning. This is an advance toward closing a major gap in defenses against terrorist attacks and other mass casualty events. The re...

Providing nutritious foods: A new, super-nutritious puffed rice for breakfast cereals and snacks

Today’s episode describes a new process for blowing up grains of rice to produce a super-nutritious form of puffed rice. The new rice has three times more protein and a rich endowment of other nutrients that make it ideal for breakfast cereals, snack f...

Our Sustainable Future: New twist on using biomass for cosmetic, personal care and antioxidant-containing products

Today’s solution is a new approach for tapping biomass as a sustainable raw material for ingredients in sunscreens, perfumes and other personal care products. The approach could open up new economic opportunities for tropical countries that grow such p...

Promoting Personal Safety and National Security: Boosting the sensitivity of airport security screening

Today’s solution is a simple way to improve the sensitivity of the test often used to detect traces of explosives on the hands, carry-ons and other possessions of passengers at airport security screening stations. A group of scientists reported their ...

Combating Disease: Leaves of carob tree, source of chocolate substitute, fight virulent food-poisoning bacteria

Today’s solution is an antibacterial extract from the leaves of the carob tree (the source of a popular chocolate substitute) that could fight the microbe responsible for the serious form of food poisoning called listeriosis. The research appears in AC...

Confronting Climate Change: Stop-Gap Measures to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Speed limits on cargo ships could reduce their pollutants by more than half

Today’s report concludes that putting a speed limit on cargo ships as they sail near ports and coastlines could cut their emission of air pollutants by up to 70 percent. That would reduce the impact of marine shipping on Earth’s climate and on human he...

Supplying Safe Drinking Water: New analysis of drinking water-related gastrointestinal illness

Today’s episode describes a study finding that the distribution system piping in U.S. public water systems that rely on non-disinfected well water or “ground water” may be a largely unrecognized cause of up to 1.1 million annual cases of acute gastroin...

Our Sustainable Future: White rot fungus boosts ethanol production from corn stalks, cobs and leaves

Today’s solution is a fungus that shows promise in the search for a way to use waste corn stalks, cobs and leaves – rather than corn itself – to produce ethanol to extend supplies of gasoline. The research appears in the ACS’ journal Industrial and Eng...

Supplying Safe Drinking Water: Leveraging bacteria in drinking water to benefit consumers

Today’s report concludes that contrary to popular belief, purified drinking water from home faucets still contains bacteria. And scientists are reporting discovery of a plausible way to manipulate those populations of mostly beneficial microbes to pote...

New fuels: The sun and more: Transparent solar cells for windows that generate electricity

Today’s episode describes development of a new transparent solar cell, an advance toward giving windows in homes and other buildings the ability to generate electricity while still allowing people to see outside.

New Fuels: The Sun and More: Toward super-size wind turbines: Bigger wind turbines do make greener electricity

Today’s study could solidify the trend toward construction of gigantic windmills. In a report in ACS’ journal Environmental Science and Technology, scientists have concluded that the larger the wind turbine, the greener the electricity it produces.

Promoting Public Health: Green plants reduce pollution on city streets up to eight times more than previously believed

Today’s report concludes that trees, bushes and other greenery growing in the concrete-and-glass canyons of cities can reduce levels of two of the most worrisome air pollutants by eight times more than previously believed. A report on the research appe...

Combating Disease: A non-antibiotic approach for treating urinary tract infections

Today’s episode describes a potential new approach for treating urinary tract infections (UTIs) without traditional antibiotics.

Our Sustainable Future: Rivers flowing into the sea offer vast potential as electricity source

Today’s solution is a new genre of electric power-generating stations that could supply electricity for more than a half billion people by tapping just one-tenth of the global potential of a little-known energy source that exists where rivers flow into...

Promoting Public Health: New, inexpensive paper-based diabetes test ideal for developing countries

Today’s development is an inexpensive and easy-to-use urine test for Type 2 diabetes ideally suited for rural India, China and other areas of the world where poverty limits the availability of health care. The report describing the paper-based device, ...

Our Sustainable Future: Ancient effect harnessed to produce electricity from waste heat

A phenomenon first observed by an ancient Greek philosopher 2,300 years ago has become the basis for a new device designed to harvest the enormous amounts of energy wasted as heat each year to produce electricity. The first-of-its-kind “pyroelectric na...

New Fuels - Biofuels: Real-life scientific tail of the first “electrified snail”

Today’s episode announces that the world’s first “electrified snail” implanted with biofuel cells that generate electricity from natural sugar in their bodies. Scientists are describing how these biofuel cells could someday serve as energy for many ele...

New Fuels - Biofuels: Meeting biofuel production targets could change agricultural landscape

Almost 80 percent of current farmland in the U.S. would have to be devoted to raising corn for ethanol production in order to meet current biofuel production targets with existing technology, a new study has found. An alternative, according to a study ...

Promoting Personal Safety and National Security: Killer silk - Making silk fibers that kill anthrax and other microbes in minutes

A simple, inexpensive dip-and-dry treatment can convert ordinary silk into a fabric that kills disease-causing bacteria — even the armor-coated spores of microbes like anthrax — in minutes, protect homes and other buildings in the event of a terrorist ...

Providing Nutritious Foods: Strong scientific evidence that eating berries benefits the brain

Today’s finding suggests that eating blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and other berry fruits has beneficial effects on the brain and may help prevent age-related memory loss and other changes.

Combating Disease: Adapting personal glucose monitors to detect DNA

Today’s solution addresses the development of an inexpensive device used by millions of people with diabetes that could be adapted into a home detector for many diseases.

Providing Safe Food: Children may have highest exposure to titanium dioxide nanoparticles

Today’s finding warns that children may be receiving the highest exposure to nanoparticles of titanium dioxide in candy, which they eat in amounts much larger than adults.

New Fuels: Biofuels - Biofuel cell generates electricity when implanted in False Death’s Head Cockroach

Scientists have developed and implanted into a living insect — the False Death's Head Cockroach — a miniature fuel cell that converts naturally occurring sugar in the insect and oxygen from the air into electricity. They term it an advance toward a sou...

Promoting Personal Safety and National Security: New test could help track down and prosecute terrorists who use nerve gas and other agents

Today’s solution addresses the development of a new test that could help track down and prosecute terrorists who use chemical agents.

Supplying Safe Drinking Water: “Miracle tree” substance produces clean drinking water inexpensively and sustainably

Today’s solution uses the seeds of the miracle tree to produce clean drinking water. The water-treatment process requiring only tree seeds and sand could purify and clarify water inexpensively and sustainably in the developing world, where more than 1 ...

Our Sustainable Future: Peatland carbon storage is stabilized against catastrophic release of carbon

Concerns that global warming may have a domino effect —unleashing 600 billion tons of carbon in vast expanses of peat in the Northern hemisphere and accelerating warming to disastrous proportions — may be less justified than previously thought. That’s ...

Combating Disease: Turning up the heat to kill cancer cells: “The Lance Armstrong effect”

The “Lance Armstrong effect” could become a powerful new weapon to fight cancer cells that develop resistance to chemotherapy, radiation and other treatments, scientists say in a report in the ACS journal Molecular Pharmaceutics.

Promoting Public Health: Household washing machines are a source of potentially harmful ocean “microplastic” pollution

Today’s solution warns that household washing machines seem to be a major source of so-called “microplastic” pollution — bits of polyester and acrylic smaller than the head of a pin — that scientists now have detected on shorelines worldwide.

Promoting Public Health: Recycling thermal cash register receipts contaminates paper products with BPA

Bisphenol A (BPA) — a substance that may have harmful health effects — occurs in 94 percent of thermal cash register receipts, scientists are reporting. The recycling of those receipts, they add, is a source of BPA contamination of paper napkins, toile...

Developing New Sources of Energy: New type of solar cell retains high efficiency for long periods

In this episode, we will addresses the development of a new type of solar cell retains high efficiency for long periods.

Combating Disease: Genetically-engineered spider silk for gene therapy

Genetically engineered spider silk could help overcome a major barrier to the use of gene therapy in everyday medicine, according to a new study that reported development and successful initial laboratory tests of such a material. It appears in ACS’ jo...

New Fuels Biofuels: Alligator fat as a new source of biodiesel fuel

Today’s solution addresses the development of a unique form of biodiesel fuel using alligator fat.

Providing Safe Foods: Flooding of farmland does not increase levels of potentially harmful flame retardants in milk

Today’s solution provides a reassuring message—although potentially harmful flame retardants build up in flooded rivers, that doesn’t translate to harmful levels in milk from cows that consume the grass in these flood-prone areas.

Confronting Climate Change: Using the energy in oil shale without releasing carbon dioxide in a greenhouse world

New technology that combines production of electricity with capture of carbon dioxide could make billions of barrels of oil shale — now regarded as off-limits because of the huge amounts of carbon dioxide released in its production — available as an en...