15 September 2017

Research Picks Extra – September 2017

The DNA decision maker
Scientists have long-recognised the information carrying and processing potential of the biological molecule we know as DNA, deoxyribonucleic acid. DNA is the molecule of life and encoded within its sequence is the information necessary to build the proteins from which all life is built. The way in which biology transcribes and duplicates this information and the way in which proteins are assembled using the sequence of bases in DNA is at the heart of a possible future molecular computer built with DNA rather than the silicon chip. Researchers in Singapore have now demonstrated that DNA can be used to encode an algorithm that can make rational decisions when given a choice between various options themselves encoded in molecules to which the system is exposed.
Shu, J-J., Wang, Q-W. and Yong, K-Y. (2017) ‘Programmable DNA-mediated decision maker’, Int. J. Bio-Inspired Computation, Vol. 10, No. 1, pp.51–55.

Better bottles
Antimony trioxide is a well-known substance commonly used to make PET for soft drinks bottles and other packaging. It is deemed safe by the World Health Organization. One of its uses is as a flame retardant for plastics, paints, adhesives, rubber, and textile coatings. The manufacture of nanostructures commonly uses organic compounds, however, which themselves may not have the safety specification of the antimony oxide particles. As such, researchers have now developed a simple, room temperature method for manufacturing antimony oxide nanostructures for use in plastic bottle production that avoids the use of potentially toxic additives. As well as safety improvements, the process is inexpensive.
Shah, M.A. (2017) ‘Antimony oxide nanostructures synthesised in water and their possible use in packaging of mineral water’, Int. J. Biomedical Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, Vol. 3, No. 4, pp.343–349.

Bioremediation with blackberry leaves
The bioremediation of contaminated industrial sites and waste water is high on the environmental agenda and scientists are always looking for novel biological materials that might be used to sequester a particular contaminant. One rather troublesome chemical is the chromium(VI) ion. Researchers in India have now demonstrated that leaves from the blackberry (Rubus species) can absorb Cr(VI) ions from aqueous solution. Given the environmental health concerns with toxic and carcinogenic chromium(VI), also known as hexavalent chromium, the finding could represent and important biosorbent for remediation of water and soil contaminated with this chemical.
Mitra, T. and Das, S.K. (2016) ‘Adsorptive removal of Cr(VI) from aqueous solution using blackberry leaves – column study’, Int. J. Environmental Engineering, Vol. 8, No. 4, pp.225–244.

Accommodating advertising
It is more than two decades since the world wide web was opened up to the world of commerce and the diversity of advertising formats that users face each time they visit a website has grown considerably. From the user point of view, the advertisements are often an annoyance unless and so add-ons for web browsers that block those advertisements are widespread. From the advertisers’ point of view, however, it is the ad blockers that are the annoyance and they are forever looking for ways to work around such add-ons and to get their advertisements seen by users. Online advertising is growing in developing economies and now researchers from Vietnam and Australia have investigated consumer attitudes to the various formats of online advertisements in one such an economy to help advertisers offer consumers a more acceptable and effective form of advertising that keeps both seller and consumer/user happy. Fundamentally, the team found that the “conventional” banner advertisement, which is akin to the old-fashioned printed advertisement, has a much more positive response among users than so-called “pop-up” ads which users find irritating. This is especially true of the banner ad is very informative.
Le, T.D. and Vo, H. (2017) ‘Consumer attitude towards website advertising formats: a comparative study of banner, pop-up and in-line display advertisements’, Int. J. Internet Marketing and Advertising, Vol. 11, No. 3, pp.202–217.

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