Science Podcasts

Naked Scientists episode

Sat, 13th Aug 2011

Chemistry By Design

Structure of the homodimeric restriction enzyme EcoRI (cyan and green cartoon diagram) bound to double stranded DNA (brown tubes) (c) Boghog2 at wikipedia

Are designer molecules poised to take us into a new chemical dimension?  This week, we explore how, long before the bunsen burner gets lit, computer aided chemistry can enable us to create in silico imaginary new molecules, reactions and designer catalysts.  We also delve into how chemicals are manufactured on a massive scale with a visit to a plant making zeolites.  And in the news, how hydrogen-metabolising bugs can supercharge deep-sea mussels, how reprogrammed immune system cells can hunt-down cancer, and nature's stock exchange - how plants and fungi develop a subsoil free-market economy to trade resources.

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In this edition of Naked Scientists

Full Transcript

  • 09:24 - Nature Inspires High Speed Hydrogen Production

    How can we generate hydrogen quickly and efficiently? Nature has its own way to do this using enzymes called hydrogenases – but now, by taking a leaf out of Nature’s book and then improving upon it, researchers have developed a catalyst that works ten times faster than the biol...

  • 15:34 - Plants and fungi pioneers of free market economy

    It's not just humans that create market economies, exchanging one set of goods for another, plants and fungi also barter nutrients with deals kept in check by market forces, new research has revealed.

  • 19:33 - The Earth Microbiome Project

    A new global initiative called the Earth Microbiome Project plans to build up a genetic picture of the billions of bacteria that inhabit every corner of the Earth and to find out how they fit into Earth’s ecosystems. Planet Earth Podcast reporter Tim Hirsch has been talking to ...

  • 25:42 - Designer Enzymes - Beyond Biology

    One of the most important chemical players in nature is the protein. The structure of a protein gives it specific chemical and mechanical properties. Predicting the structures of proteins could allow us to design brand new proteins and enzyems, to help catalyse a range of reac...

  • 33:57 - Computing Chemicals and Crystals

    In order to design useful new compounds, we need to know exactly what structure any new chemical will take. Computer models, combined with more traditional crystallography, are leading the way in predicting how any given molecule will arrange itself...

  • 39:58 - Naked Engineering - Mass Chemical Manufacture

    How do manufacturers make chemicals on seriously large industrial scales? We sent Meera Senthilingam and Dave Ansell to find out…



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