Deadly Gases’ Worst Enemy Could Mitigate Climate Change

Carbon dioxide and methane are the largest gaseous hurdles the world needs to overcome to combat climate change—but they’re far from the worst gases that can be unleashed on our atmosphere. Take, for instance, Sulfur Hexafluoride (SF6). Although a little-known gas to most of us, it’s an extremely useful synthetic compound that has been used in electric utilities since the 1950s thanks to its insulating properties. However, SF6 has a dark side: it’s the most deadly greenhouse gas known to science.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPAreports that SF6 is a staggering 22,800 times more effective at trapping infrared radiation than carbon dioxide. It’s also extremely long-lasting and can remain in the atmosphere for centuries, so even a little bit of the gas can have a devastating impact. Because of its stable structure, it’s extremely hard to render inert, but scientists from Paderborn University in Germany have developed a “Lewis superacid” that’s potentially capable of breaking down Sulfur Hexafluoride and other non-biodegradable substances into more environmentally-friendly chemicals. The authors published their findings in the journal Angewandte Chemie (Applied Chemistry).

For strong bonds, you need highly reactive reagents,Paderborn chemistry professor Jan Paradies says in a university press release. “We managed to produce such molecules and use them in catalytic reactions. This makes it possible to, for example, activate and further convert … carbon-fluorine or sulfur-fluorine bonds.”

Lewis acids,” named after American chemist Gilbert Newton Lewis, add electron pairs, which makes them perfect for speeding up chemical reactions. However, superacids—as their name suggests—are even stronger than the strongest Lewis acid, which is antimony pentafluoride (SbF5). As a result, these Lewis superacids are more than capable of breaking down even the strongest chemical bonds.


A Super Protein Brings The Equivalence Of Meat For Vegeterian Diet

Protein is what’s for dinner, but only if the world’s biggest food companies can keep up. The rise in global appetites for everything from meat to beans and peas is creating what experts call a “perfect storm” for environmental concern, as farmers must increasingly crank out more food with less land and water.

A new startup has one possible solution. called Sustainable Bioproducts, the company sources protein from ingredients found deep inside an unlikely source: the searing volcanic hot springs in Yellowstone National Park. To make the product, the company brews it up using a process similar to that used to make beer.

What comes out, explained CEO Thomas Jonas , is a neutral-tasting, naturally high-protein substance that can either be mixed into yogurt for an alternative to the Greek variety or shaped into patties for the next plant-based burger. Plus, the startup’s product is naturally rich in some of the same key amino acids that the body needs to function. Often found in animal products like eggs, these protein building blocks are especially tough to procure from a vegan or vegetarian diet.

What we have here is a super protein,” Jonas said. “And it comes from one of the most pristine wild places on the planet.”

On Monday, the startup launched publicly with $33 million in funds from Silicon Valley-based venture firm 1955 Capital and the venture arms of two leading global food suppliersgrain company Archer Daniels Midland and multinational food producer Danone. Based in Chicago, the startup is using the funds to build a production plant and cook up several prototype products.

Key to the startup’s operation, Jonas said, is that it will require a fraction of the natural resources needed for making other proteins like meat and nuts. In place of wasteful factory farms or large parcels of land, all they need, according to Jonas, is essentially a series of brewer’s vats. The company’s core technology is the process it uses to ferment a set of unique microorganisms first discovered in Yellowstone by Montana State University scientist Mark Kozubal nearly a decade ago. Now serving as the startup’s chief science officer, Kozubal came across the organisms as part of a research project supported by grants from the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Science Foundation, and NASA. Sustainable Bioproducts also independently received grants from all three organizations.