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Category: Science

A fun take on the latest science news with enough data to sink your teeth into. Lagrange Point goes beyond the glossy summary and gets in depth with the research from across the world.

October 28, 2019

Episode 350 - Developing, tracking, recycling new materials

Smart phones, computers, televisions and even children's toys are part of what makes our modern world so exciting. But these often rely on plastics and rare earth metals which are hard to recycle. Are there efficient ways to capture all those rare earth metals? How are rare earth metals in old phones recycled today, and can we make it better? Knowing which bin to put plastic in is difficult, so what if there was a more universal way to recycle plastics? How does turning plastic into a gas with the help of steam help create a circular plastic economy? How can some steam power help crack plastics back into their most basic forms? Is it possible to recycle plastics without to build whole new plastic refineries? Regulation is often playing catch up to making materials safe. Are the latest generation of 'safe' fire retardants any safer than those that came before? 



Robert F. Higgins, Thibault Cheisson, Bren E. Cole, Brian C. Manor, Patrick J. Carroll, Eric J Schelter. Magnetic Field Directed Rare-Earth Separations. Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 2019; DOI: 10.1002/anie.201911606

Arlene Blum, Mamta Behl, Linda S. Birnbaum, Miriam L. Diamond, Allison Phillips, Veena Singla, Nisha S. Sipes, Heather M. Stapleton, Marta Venier. Organophosphate Ester Flame Retardants: Are They a Regrettable Substitution for Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers? Environmental Science & Technology Letters, 2019; DOI: 10.1021/acs.estlett.9b00582

Henrik Thunman, Teresa Berdugo Vilches, Martin Seemann, Jelena Maric, Isabel Cañete Vela, Sébastien Pissot, Huong N.T. Nguyen. Circular use of plastics-transformation of existing petrochemical clusters into thermochemical recycling plants with 100% plastics recovery. Sustainable Materials and Technologies, 2019; 22: e00124 DOI: 10.1016/j.susmat.2019.e00124

October 21, 2019

Episode 349 - Domesticating fungus for our food

Humans have been using micro-organisms like fungus and bacteria to help improve our food for millennia. Can we tame new wild species of fungus to help create new types of our favourite foods like cheese? Penicillin is mostly known for antibiotics but it also helps give Camembert its particular taste. What causes cheese to rapidly tame wild strains of fungus? We are not the only ones who use microbes to help our food. Ants help stop disease from destroying plants by spreading their own antibiotics. Ant base antibiotics help stop plant pathogens. Sometimes bacteria don't fight against each other but rather team up and work together. Survival of kindest rules for bacteria, which helps different strains work together to survive.


  1. Bodinaku, I., Shaffer, J., Connors, A. B., Steenwyk, J. L., Biango-Daniels, M. N., Kastman, E. K., … Wolfe, B. E. (2019). Rapid Phenotypic and Metabolomic Domestication of Wild Penicillium Molds on Cheese. MBio, 10(5). doi: 10.1128/mbio.02445-19
  2. Joachim Offenberg, Christian Damgaard. Ants suppressing plant pathogens: a review. Oikos, 2019; DOI: 10.1111/oik.06744
  3. Wenzheng Liu, Samuel Jacquiod, Asker Brejnrod, Jakob Russel, Mette Burmølle, Søren J. Sørensen. Deciphering links between bacterial interactions and spatial organization in multispecies biofilms. The ISME Journal, 2019; DOI: 10.1038/s41396-019-0494-9
October 14, 2019

Episode 348 - More efficient Lithium-Ion batteries and Organic Batteries

We launch from the Nobel Prize for Chemistry 2019 into current battery research and development. Creating the ubiquitous Lithium Ion battery took decades of collaborative research across the globe. How are scientists working together today to make the new generation of batteries? Can we improve LI batteries with new electrolyte mixes? How can we use Silicon instead of graphite in our batteries to give them a boost? Is it possible to make an organic recyclable battery? How can we use proteins and peptides to make organic batteries? Can we make batteries without damaging the environment?


  1. Nobel Foundation. (2019, October 9). Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2019: Lithium-ion batteries. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 11, 2019 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/10/191009082508.htm
  2. Binghong Han, Chen Liao, Fulya Dogan, Stephen E. Trask, Saul H. Lapidus, John T. Vaughey, Baris Key. Using Mixed Salt Electrolytes to Stabilize Silicon Anodes for Lithium-Ion Batteries via in Situ Formation of Li–M–Si Ternaries (M = Mg, Zn, Al, Ca)ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, 2019; 11 (33): 29780 DOI: 10.1021/acsami.9b07270
  3. American Chemical Society. (2019, August 26). Producing protein batteries for safer, environmentally friendly power storage. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 12, 2019 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/08/190826092322.htm5
October 7, 2019

Episode 347 - Capturing carbon with better farms and forests

Capturing carbon is important for helping offset CO2 emissions and tackling climate changes. Farming has an important role to play in improving CO2 sequestration with the use of cover crops and compost. Forests are important carbon sinks too, but they are at risk releasing a lot of the trapped carbon if care is not taken to stop invasive species. Plus fertilisers have helped feed the planet but can leech out nitrogen into the environment, so how do we better manage and improve the nitrogen cycle.

  1. Nicole E. Tautges, Jessica L. Chiartas, Amélie C. M. Gaudin, Anthony T. O'Geen, Israel Herrera, Kate M. Scow. Deep soil inventories reveal that impacts of cover crops and compost on soil carbon sequestration differ in surface and subsurface soilsGlobal Change Biology, 2019; DOI: 10.1111/gcb.14762
  2. Songlin Fei, Randall S. Morin, Christopher M. Oswalt, Andrew M. Liebhold. Biomass losses resulting from insect and disease invasions in US forestsProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2019; 201820601 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1820601116
  3. Benjamin Z. Houlton, Maya Almaraz, Viney Aneja, Amy T. Austin, Edith Bai, Kenneth G. Cassman, Jana E. Compton, Eric A. Davidson, Jan Willem Erisman, James N. Galloway, Baojing Gu, Guolin Yao, Luiz A. Martinelli, Kate Scow, William H. Schlesinger, Thomas P. Tomich, Chao Wang, Xin Zhang. A World of Cobenefits: Solving the Global Nitrogen ChallengeEarth's Future, 2019; DOI: 10.1029/2019EF001222