The world of science, and chemistry in particular, can seem far removed from our everyday lives. Experiments performed by technicians wearing lab coats don’t always seem accessible to everyone. However, the raw science of molecules and compounds can and does be applied to solving real-world problems. Here’s a selection of recent breakthroughs in chemistry and all they bring to the world … importance of chemistry
Reversing the decline of the honey bee importance of chemistry
The decline of the honey bee has been a major global concern for the past decade. These tiny creatures are vital to our ecosystem and their loss could be catastrophic. One of the factors that may contribute to their continued disappearance is the use of insecticides used in agriculture, particularly neonicotinoids. Recent research has shown that normal breakdown of these chemicals cannot occur without sunlight, and even a quantity of water is sufficient to prevent the insecticide from breaking down. Understanding this chemical process could save the honey bee and other wildlife from premature demise.
Creating sustainable and safe battery power importance of chemistry
There is ongoing work to find ways to use sunlight to produce fuel and generate electricity for our energy-hungry society. Metal ion batteries are found in most of our devices, but they take a long time to charge, depend on sources of electricity, and can overheat or catch fire if damaged. A safer and more sustainable photone battery capable of recharging in just 30 seconds is being investigated , enough to power a light-emitting diode (LED) for 100 cycles. Although not yet strong enough to power our phones, this technology offers significant potential for the future.
Automatic needle-free treatment for diabetic patients
Living with type 1 diabetes means constant blood sugar control, in addition to the burden of insulin injections, which can be difficult for younger patients to cope with. Current treatments require patients to monitor their levels and calculate their insulin needs, but there can often be a delay between when a dose is needed and when it takes effect in the body. Published research has taken a step toward automatic drug delivery without needles with the development of an artificial pancreas, an implanted device for calculating and administering doses. Following the promising results of computer testing, the device will now be tested on animal models.
The rise of robots
It sounds like science fiction, but treating patients with nanorobots could soon be a real option. Tiny nanoparticles programmed to behave in certain ways could allow doctors to deliver drugs to specific targets within the body. The development of nano swimmers has been reported, robots that were able to swim through fluid thicker than blood at a speed of one body length per second, directed at their target by a magnetic field . Programmed nano-swimmers could have application in many medical fields, including killing specific types of cancer cells.
Simplifying the diagnosis of heart attacks
Diagnosing a heart attack requires a lot of expensive tests and equipment, luxuries that are not always available especially to people with less income. To help figure this out, scientists have looked for ways to measure the level of a protein called troponin, which rises when the heart is damaged or its blood supply is cut off, and thus offers a good indicator that a person has had or you could be at risk for a heart attack. Researchers have developed a simple device like a thermometer that can be read with the naked eye. This uses special nanoparticles, ink, and a vial attached to a thin tube. When the blood containing troponin mixes with the nanoparticles, the ink in the tube will rise, allowing a measurement to be taken.
Flexible electronics with green credentials
Despite the rapid evolution of technology and smart devices, the physical devices themselves remain housed in solid cases. Efforts to create flexible electronic components have relied on petroleum-based plastics and toxic chemicals, but now researchers have advanced a nanocellulose paper made from wood flour that contains tiny semiconductor crystals that allow it to glow . This technology could pave the way for flexible electronics made from sustainable and renewable sources, an important step forward for the industry.
Nanorobots and flexible glossy paper may seem even surreal ideas, but these scientific advances will shape the way our future society evolves and the use of technologies changes. In recent decades, we have already witnessed a sea change in the way we communicate, work and learn. And here too, chemistry has the last word.