PHOTO OF PATCH: WANG LAB
Dandelions could be a
sustainable source of rubber
While most farmers are actively trying to kill weeds,
a team of researchers, led by Katrina Cornish at Ohio
State University, are trying to grow them — fast.
Taraxacum kok-saghyz, a special variety of dandelion
from Kazakhstan — nicknamed “Buckeye Gold” —
may be the answer to sustainable, U.S.-based
rubber-making. An article in ACS’s weekly newsmagazine, Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN),
examines the plant’s potential for revolutionizing
the rubber industry.
While it might look like a regular dandelion, this variety’s roots contain 10-15% natural rubber. The goal is to cultivate these dandelions
to the point where they can become an industrial rubber crop.
Currently, rubber trees that grow on plantations in
Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia take years to
grow, making it hard for producers to adapt
to changes in the market. Also, transporting
the material is costly to both the industry
and the environment. With Buckeye Gold,
crops can be grown locally, and they
mature much faster than rubber trees.
Current methods make it difficult
to scale up dandelion cultivation to be
competitive with the well-established
rubber industry. Researchers are looking to modify these dandelions using
CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing so they can
withstand disease and pest-control measures, which would otherwise kill them.
Also, because the plant’s root has only
small amounts of rubber in it, researchers
will have to find ways to use the rest of the
crop in order for it to be truly sustainable.
Read more about the research: “Dandelions, the Scourge of
Lawns, May Be a Fount of Rubber,” Chemical & Engineering
News, 2016, 94(30), pp 28–29.
http://cen .acs .org/articles/94/i30/Dandelions-
Electronic skin patch detects
alcohol level in sweat
Drinking too much alcohol can lead to errors in
judgment, like driving while intoxicated. To help
imbibers easily and quickly know when they’ve
had enough, researchers have developed a flex-
ible, wearable patch that can detect a person’s
blood alcohol level from their sweat. The monitor,
reported in the journal ACS Sensors, works quickly
and can send results wirelessly to a smartphone
or other device.
Every 53 minutes someone dies in an alcohol-related car accident
in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention. Currently, ignition interlock devices are being marketed as
a way to prevent drunk drivers from starting a car engine; however,
they are based on breath analysis, which can be affected by a number of factors, including humidity, temperature, and even whether
someone has used mouthwash. Recent research has demonstrated
that sweat can be a more reliable, real-time indicator of blood alcohol
content. While transdermal sensors have been developed to measure
alcohol levels in sweat, they can take up to 2 hours to produce results.
Joseph Wang, Patrick Mercier, and their colleagues at the University
of California, San Diego, set out to make a more practical version.
With temporary-tattoo paper, the researchers developed a patch
that tests blood alcohol content in three rapid steps. The patch
induces sweat by delivering a small amount of the drug pilocarpine across the skin. The ethanol in the generated sweat is then
measured by amperometric detection using the alcohol oxidase
enzyme and the Prussian Blue electrode transducer. A flexible electronic circuit board transmits the data via a Bluetooth connection
to a mobile device or laptop. The test takes less than 8 minutes
from start to finish. In addition to connecting to vehicles’ ignition
interlock systems, the sensor could be a simple tool for bartenders,
friends, or law enforcement to use.
The authors acknowledge funding from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and
Bioengineering, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, and the University of California, San
Diego, Center for Wearable Sensors.
Read more about the research: “Noninvasive Alcohol Monitoring Using a Wearable
Tattoo-Based Iontophoretic-Biosensing System,” ACS Sensors, 2016, Article ASAP.
http://pubs .acs .org/doi/abs/10 .1021/acssensors .6b00356 (Accessed
August 25, 2016)