Have you ever opened a jar of olives and noticed the shimmering liquid floating on the surface? Believe it or not, that liquid is actually residual oil that is given off by the olives themselves. Since the oil is less dense than the aqueous solution that the olives are stored in (olive brine), it floats to the top of the jar. This may not seem like a big concern to the typical olive consumer, however, olive manufacturers believe that too much oil in a jar is something that negatively affects the final product. For this reason, olive companies are putting effort and resource into finding a way to quantify the amount of oil in their final product.
“I’m usually ACS, although sometimes I’m Reagent.”
If you’re reading this and raising your eyebrows, you’ve never had, what I like to call, the “grade discussion.” I don’t mean the discussion between high school or college students who are comparing grades after a big mid-term or final exam (although I used to do that too). I mean the discussion over the solvent grade you use in your laboratory.
Bisphenol A (BPA) is one of the most widely produced chemicals in the world – approximately 4 million metric tons annually. In recent years, BPA has received a lot of negative attention. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I saw a plastic item in the store that didn’t have a “BPA free” marking on it. These labels are for good reason, though, as BPA has been found to produce negative hormonal effects within the body. BPA is a chemical that mimics estrogen and disrupts the endocrine system, which can lead to developmental disorders, thyroid issues, diabetes and even reproductive organ cancers. BPA is so prevalent because it has many uses in polymer chemistry. First and foremost, BPA is used as a monomer in the production of polycarbonate, a very hard thermoplastic which has countless applications, including: water bottles, baby bottles, CDs, DVDs, eyeglass lenses and many more.
As a chemist, I’ve constantly stressed the importance of proper sample preparation. Whether I’m diluting, digesting, preconcentrating, extracting, or performing a combination of these, sample preparation is the key to making my analysis a success, yet it’s often the most challenging part of my workflow. Some of my preparation procedures are simply daunting – a series of challenging, time-consuming steps with multiple opportunities for error or cross-contamination. On top of that is the multitude of parameters that must be selected. Questions such as “what should the pH be?”, “which solvents should I use?” and “what should my sample volume be?” are a few of the many, many parameters that must be optimized. When you look at all the opportunities for something to go wrong, sample preparation can seem very overwhelming. While powerful, sample preparation becomes a lot less complicated when you understand the science behind what you’re trying to accomplish with this step.
For thousands of years, tea has been one of the most popular drinks around the world. Not only is tea delicious, it is also full of health benefits. Tea is an abundant source of antioxidants called polyphenols. One of these polyphenolic compounds, catechins, are found mostly in green tea. Catechins have been studied thoroughly and have been found to reduce free radical stress, they have also been found to be anti-inflammatory as well as potentially therapeutic for cancer cells.
New year – fresh start
If you’re like me, you start the new year off with a list of resolutions for the coming months – resolutions to be more fit or to secure a promotion at work or to reduce your carbon footprint. Whether you’re trying to improve your health or further your career, these are the types of goals that I like to refer to as getting “back to basics” because they require you to start with a solid foundation which you can build on to achieve success.
How familiar are you with naphthalene?
If you have ever used mothballs for storing clothing, you are pretty familiar with a compound known as naphthalene. If you are asking questions like “how would I know if I’ve used mothballs?” or “remind me, what do mothballs look like?” then you’ve never spent any significant time around them. If you had, you would vividly remember the smell that hits you like a brick and brings you to your knees.
“The Earth is what we all have in common.”
If you are like me, you spent yesterday honoring World Soil Day with a variety of research and community activities to acknowledge the importance of this valuable resource. If you live in a colder climate area and the ground is starting to freeze, perhaps your activities were more indoor-focused. That’s OK too.
When you give it some thought, soil is quite an impressive material. In its most simplistic definition, soil is just the Earth’s outer most layer. However, if you dig a little deeper (no pun intended!), soil is the layer of Earth that we depend on in every aspect of our lives.
Soil is what we use to grow our trees and plants which provide us with food to eat and clean air to breathe. It provides us with a stable surface to build our homes and roads. It also stores water and nutrients, provides a nutritious and sustainable environment for billions of organisms, and has the ability to filter toxic contaminants from our surrounding environment. In other words, soil is one of our most precious resources.
“The biggest threat to soil is ignorance and indifference.”
Unfortunately, soil has a finite capacity for retaining contaminants, and decades of industrial pollution, farming activities and improper urban waste disposal have saturated and exceeded the filtering ability of this resource in many parts of the world. Compounding this issue is the fact that soil pollution is a hidden danger. People cannot see the direct impact of their contributions, causing many of them to become oblivious to the magnitude and prevalence of this problem.
As the Earth’s population continues to grow – projections indicate our population numbers will reach almost 10 billion by 2050 – people need to be more diligent than ever in protecting our life-sustaining resources. We keep this thought at the forefront of the solutions we provide, so World Soil Day is a great reminder and opportunity for us to continue developing solutions to monitor and protect our soil for generations to come. After all, healthy (contaminant-free) soil could make the difference between a healthy, thriving ecosystem and a starving, barren wasteland.
Let us know how you celebrated World Soil Day in the comments below!
For the past few years, news reporters have used words like “developing” and “emerging” and “crisis” to describe perfluorinated compounds. When you see adjectives like this, you can’t help but think “how did we not know about these PFC things before now?”
The truth is, these compounds have been produced for decades – some, for over half a century – and their chemical and physical properties are well-known. The strength of the carbon-fluorine bond in these compounds makes them heat-, water- and stain-resistant. Continue reading Extracting Perfluorinated Compounds from Drinking Water – Why is it so Challenging?