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Concept: Cerium


In order to confirm the possibility that recycled fractions from the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) stream were illegally entering the European market in black polymeric food-contact articles (FCAs), bromine quantification, brominated flame retardant (BFR) identification combined with WEEE relevant elemental analysis and polymer impurity analysis were performed. From the 10 selected FCAs, seven samples contained a bromine level ranging from 57 till 5975 mg kg(-1) which is lower than expected to achieve flame retardancy. The BFRs which were present were tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA), decabromodiphenylether (decaBDE), decabromodiphenylethane (DBDPE) and 1,2-bis(2,4,6-tribromophenoxy)ethane (BTBPE). Typical elements used in electronic equipment and present in WEEE were detected either at trace level or at elevated concentrations. In all cases when bromine was detected at higher concentrations, concurrently antimony was also detected which confirms the synergetic use of antimony in combination with BFRs. This study describes also the measurement of rare earth elements (REEs) where combinations of cerium, dysprosium, lanthanum, neodymium, praseodymium and yttrium which were detected in four of the seven BFR positive samples. Additionally, the polymer purity was investigated where in all cases foreign polymer fractions were detected. Despite the fact that this study was carried-out on a very small amount of samples there is a significant likelihood that WEEE has been used for the production of FCAs.

Concepts: Flame retardant, Rare earth element, Chemical elements, Yttrium, Brominated flame retardant, Cerium, Lanthanide, Monazite


Growth of Methylacidiphilum fumariolicum SolV, an extremely acidophilic methanotrophic microbe isolated from an Italian volcanic mudpot, is shown to be strictly dependent on the presence of lanthanides, a group of rare earth elements (REEs) such as lanthanum (Ln), cerium (Ce), praseodymium (Pr) and neodymium (Nd). After fractionation of the bacterial cells and crystallization of the methanol dehydrogenase (MDH), it was shown that lanthanides were essential as cofactor in a homodimeric MDH comparable with one of the MDHs of Methylobacterium extorquens AM1. We hypothesize that the lanthanides provide superior catalytic properties to pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ)-dependent MDH, which is a key enzyme for both methanotrophs and methylotrophs. Thus far, all isolated MxaF-type MDHs contain calcium as a catalytic cofactor. The gene encoding the MDH of strain SolV was identified to be a xoxF-ortholog, phylogenetically closely related to mxaF. Analysis of the protein structure and alignment of amino acids showed potential REE-binding motifs in XoxF enzymes of many methylotrophs, suggesting that these may also be lanthanide-dependent MDHs. Our findings will have major environmental implications as metagenome studies showed (lanthanide-containing) XoxF-type MDH is much more prominent in nature than MxaF-type enzymes.

Concepts: Protein, Bacteria, Metabolism, Rare earth element, Cerium, Lanthanide, Monazite, Neodymium


Non-invasive remote control technologies designed to manipulate neural functions have been long-awaited for the comprehensive and quantitative understanding of neuronal network in the brain as well as for the therapy of neurological disorders. Recently, it has become possible for the neuronal activity to be optically manipulated using biological photo-reactive molecules such as channelrhodopsin (ChR)-2. However, ChR2 and its relatives are mostly reactive to visible light, which does not effectively penetrate through biological tissues. In contrast, near-infrared (NIR) light (650-1450 nm) penetrates deep into the tissues because biological systems are almost transparent to light within this so-called ‘imaging window’. Here we used lanthanide nanoparticles (LNPs), composed of rare-earth elements, as luminous bodies to activate ChRs since they absorb low-energy NIR light to emit high-energy visible light (up-conversion). Here, we created a new type of optogenetic system which consists of the donor LNPs and the acceptor ChRs. The NIR laser irradiation emitted visible light from LNPs, then induced the photo-reactive responses in the near-by cells that expressed ChRs. However, there remains room for large improvements in the energy efficiency of the LNP-ChR system.

Concepts: Nervous system, Brain, Electromagnetic radiation, Human brain, Infrared, Visible spectrum, Channelrhodopsin, Cerium


The results of this study allow the reassessment of the rare earth elements (REE) external cycle. Indeed, the river input to the oceans has relatively flat REE patterns without cerium (Ce) anomalies, whereas oceanic REE patterns exhibit strong negative Ce anomalies and heavy REE enrichment. Indeed, the processes at the origin of seawater REE patterns are commonly thought to occur within the ocean masses themselves. However, the results from the present study illustrate that seawater-like REE patterns already occur in the truly dissolved pool of river input. This leads us to favor a partial or complete removal of the colloidal REE pool during estuarine mixing by coagulation, as previously shown for dissolved humic acids and iron. In this latter case, REE fractionation occurs because colloidal and truly dissolved pools have different REE patterns. Thus, the REE patterns of seawater could be the combination of both intra-oceanic and riverine processes. In this study, we show that the Atlantic continental shelves could be considered potential REE traps, suggesting further that shelf sediments could potentially become a resource for REE, similar to metalliferous deep sea sediments.

Concepts: Water, Atlantic Ocean, River, Ocean, Rare earth element, River Thames, Cerium, Monazite


Rare earth elements have generally not been thought to have a biological role. However, recent work has demonstrated that the light REEs (LREEs: La, Ce, Pr, and Nd) are essential for at least some methanotrophs, being co-factors in the XoxF type of methanol dehydrogenase (MDH). We show here that dissolved LREEs were significantly removed in a submerged plume of methane-rich water during the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) well blowout. Furthermore, incubation experiments conducted with naturally methane-enriched waters from hydrocarbon seeps in the vicinity of the DWH wellhead also showed LREE removal concurrent with methane consumption. Metagenomic sequencing of incubation samples revealed that LREE-containing MDHs were present. Our field and laboratory observations provide further insight into the biochemical pathways of methanotrophy during the DWH blowout. Additionally, our results are the first observations of direct biological alteration of REE distributions in oceanic systems. In view of the ubiquity of LREE-containing MDHs in oceanic systems, our results suggest that biological uptake of LREEs is an overlooked aspect of the oceanic geochemistry of this group of elements previously thought to be biologically inactive and an unresolved factor in the flux of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from the ocean.

Concepts: Hydrogen, Chemical element, Methane, Rare earth element, Yttrium, Lanthanum, Cerium, Rare-earth magnet


Synthesis of truly monodisperse nanoparticles and their structural characterization to atomic precision are important challenges in nanoscience. Success has recently been achieved for metal nanoparticles, particularly Au, with diameters up to 3 nm, the size regime referred to as nanoclusters. In contrast, families of atomically precise metal oxide nanoparticles are currently lacking, but would have a major impact since metal oxides are of widespread importance for their magnetic, catalytic and other properties. One such material is colloidal CeO2 (ceria), whose applications include catalysis, new energy technologies, photochemistry, and medicine, among others. Here we report a family of atomically precise ceria nanoclusters with ultra-small dimensions up to ~1.6 nm (~100 core atoms). X-ray crystallography confirms they have the fluorite structure of bulk CeO2, and identifies surface features, H(+) binding sites, Ce(3+) locations, and O vacancies on (100) facets. Monodisperse ceria nanoclusters now permit investigation of their properties as a function of exact size, surface morphology, and Ce(3+):Ce(4+) composition.

Concepts: Oxygen, Nanoparticle, Nitrogen, Uranium, Oxide, Oxides, Cerium, Cerium(IV) oxide


Cerium oxide nanoparticles (CeO2 NPs) were fabricated and grown on graphene sheets using a facile, low cost hydrothermal approach and subsequently characterized using different standard characterization techniques. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and electron paramagnetic resonance revealed the changes in surface states, composition, changes in Ce(4+) to Ce(3+) ratio, and other defects. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and high resolution TEM revealed that the fabricated CeO2 NPs to be spherical with particle size of ~10-12 nm. Combination of defects in CeO2 NPs with optimal amount of two-dimensional graphene sheets had a significant effect on the properties of the resulting hybrid CeO2-Graphene nanostructures, such as improved optical, photocatalytic, and photocapacitive performance. The excellent photocatalytic degradation performances were examined by monitoring their ability to degrade Congo red ~94.5% and methylene blue dye ~98% under visible light irradiation. The photoelectrode performance had a maximum photocapacitance of 177.54 Fg(-1) and exhibited regular capacitive behavior. Therefore, the Ce(3+)-ion, surface-oxygen-vacancies, and defects-induced behavior can be attributed to the suppression of the recombination of photo-generated electron-hole pairs due to the rapid charge transfer between the CeO2 NPs and graphene sheets. These findings will have a profound effect on the use of CeO2-Graphene nanostructures for future energy and environment-related applications.

Concepts: Electron, Spectroscopy, X-ray, Light, Transmission electron microscopy, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, Methylene blue, Cerium


Cerium oxide (CeO2) nanoparticles used as a diesel fuel additive can be emitted into the ambient air leading to human inhalation. Although biological studies have shown CeO2 nanoparticles can cause adverse health effects, the extent of the biodistribution of CeO2 nanoparticles through inhalation has not been well characterized. Furthermore, freshly emitted CeO2 nanoparticles can undergo an aging process by interaction with other ambient airborne pollutants that may influence the biodistribution after inhalation. Therefore, understanding the pharmacokinetic of newly-generated and atmospherically-aged CeO2 nanoparticles is needed to assess the risks to human health.

Concepts: Ageing, Aging, Cerium, Cerium(IV) oxide


Cigarette smoke is the main source of indoor chemical and toxic elements. Cadmium (Cd), Thallium (Tl), Lead (Pb) and Antimony (Sb) are important contributors to smoke-related health risks. Data on the association between Rare Earth Elements (REE) Cerium (Ce) and Lanthanum (La) and domestic smoking are scanty. To evaluate the relationship between cigarette smoke, indoor levels of PM2.5 and heavy metals, 73 children were investigated by parental questionnaire and skin prick tests. The houses of residence of 41 “cases” and 32 “controls” (children with and without respiratory symptoms, respectively) were evaluated by 48-h PM2.5 indoor/outdoor monitoring. PM2.5 mass concentration was determined by gravimetry; the extracted and mineralized fractions of elements (As, Cd, Ce, La, Mn, Pb, Sb, Sr, Tl) were evaluated by ICP-MS. PM2.5 and Ce, La, Cd, and Tl indoor concentrations were higher in smoker dwellings. When corrected for confounding factors, PM2.5, Ce, La, Cd, and Tl were associated with more likely presence of respiratory symptoms in adolescents. We found that: i) indoor smoking is associated with increased levels of PM2.5, Ce, La, Cd, and Tl and ii) the latter with increased presence of respiratory symptoms in children.

Concepts: Chemical element, Lead, Rare earth element, Heavy metal music, Chemical elements, Lanthanum, Cerium, Monazite


Hyperspectral imaging (HSI) and classification are established methods that are being applied in new ways to the analysis of nanoscale materials in a variety of matrices. Typically, enhanced darkfield microscopy (EDFM)-based HSI data (also known as image datacubes) are collected in the wavelength range of 400-1000 nm for each pixel in a datacube. Utilising different spectral library (SL) creation methods, spectra from pixels in the datacube corresponding to known materials can be collected into reference spectral libraries (RSLs), which can be used to classify materials in datacubes of experimental samples using existing classification algorithms. In this study, EDFM-HSI was used to visualise and analyse industrial cerium oxide (CeO2; ceria) nanoparticles (NPs) in rat lung tissues and in aqueous suspension. Rats were exposed to ceria NPs via inhalation, mimicking potential real-world occupational exposures. The lung tissues were histologically prepared: some tissues were stained with hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) and some were left unstained. The goal of this study was to determine how HSI and classification results for ceria NPs were influenced by (1) the use of different RSL creation and classification methods and (2) the application of those methods to samples in different matrices (stained tissue, unstained tissue, or aqueous solution). Three different RSL creation methods - particle filtering (PF), manual selection, and spectral hourglass wizard (SHW) - were utilised to create the RSLs of known materials in unstained and stained tissue, and aqueous suspensions, which were then used to classify the NPs in the different matrices. Two classification algorithms - spectral angle mapper (SAM) and spectral feature fitting (SFF) - were utilised to determine the presence or absence of ceria NPs in each sample. The results from the classification algorithms were compared to determine how each influenced the classification results for samples in different matrices. The results showed that sample matrix and sample preparation significantly influenced the NP classification thresholds in the complex matrices. Moreover, considerable differences were observed in the classification results when utilising each RSL creation and classification method for each type of sample. Results from this study illustrate the importance of appropriately selecting HSI algorithms based on specific material and matrix characteristics in order to obtain optimal classification results. As HSI is increasingly utilised for NP characterisation for clinical, environmental and health and safety applications, this investigation is important for further refining HSI protocols while ensuring appropriate data collection and analysis.

Concepts: Histology, Materials science, Tissue, Cerium, Cerium(IV) oxide, Cerium(III) oxide, Cerium(IV) oxide-cerium(III) oxide cycle