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Concept: Metal


Mercury is a toxic and non-essential metal in the human body. Mercury is ubiquitously distributed in the environment, present in natural products, and exists extensively in items encountered in daily life. There are three forms of mercury, i.e., elemental (or metallic) mercury, inorganic mercury compounds, and organic mercury compounds. This review examines the toxicity of elemental mercury and inorganic mercury compounds. Inorganic mercury compounds are water soluble with a bioavailability of 7% to 15% after ingestion; they are also irritants and cause gastrointestinal symptoms. Upon entering the body, inorganic mercury compounds are accumulated mainly in the kidneys and produce kidney damage. In contrast, human exposure to elemental mercury is mainly by inhalation, followed by rapid absorption and distribution in all major organs. Elemental mercury from ingestion is poorly absorbed with a bioavailability of less than 0.01%. The primary target organs of elemental mercury are the brain and kidney. Elemental mercury is lipid soluble and can cross the blood-brain barrier, while inorganic mercury compounds are not lipid soluble, rendering them unable to cross the blood-brain barrier. Elemental mercury may also enter the brain from the nasal cavity through the olfactory pathway. The blood mercury is a useful biomarker after short-term and high-level exposure, whereas the urine mercury is the ideal biomarker for long-term exposure to both elemental and inorganic mercury, and also as a good indicator of body burden. This review discusses the common sources of mercury exposure, skin lightening products containing mercury and mercury release from dental amalgam filling, two issues that happen in daily life, bear significant public health importance, and yet undergo extensive debate on their safety.

Concepts: Brain, Chemical element, Metal, Mercury, Human anatomy, Mercury poisoning, Amalgam


The alternate sigma factor sigH of Mycobacterium tuberculosis is expressed under stress and acts as a major regulator of several genes, including some other sigma factors and redox systems. While it is auto-regulated by its own promoter at the transcriptional level, its regulation at the post-translational level is through its cognate protein, an anti-sigma factor, RshA. Hither before RshA was believed to be a zinc-associated anti-sigma factor (ZAS) and the binding of RshA to SigH is redox dependent. Here, we show that RshA coordinates a [2Fe-2S] cluster using cysteines as ligands and native RshA has more affinity to [2Fe-2S] cluster than to zinc. Furthermore, we used amide hydrogen deuterium exchange mass spectrometry (HDX-MS), followed by site-directed mutagenesis in SigH and RshA, to elucidate the interaction mechanism of RshA and SigH and the potential role of metal ion clustering in SigH regulation. Three regions in SigH, comprising of residues 1-25, 58-69, 90-111, 115-132 and 157-196 and residues 35-57 of RshA show decreased deuterium exchange and reflect decreased solvent accessibility upon complexation with SigH. Of the three RshA mutants, created based on the HDX results, the RsHA E37A mutant shows stronger interaction with SigH, relative to WT RshA, while the H49A mutant abolishes interactions and the C(53)XXC(56)AXXA mutant has no effect on complexation with SigH. The D22A, D160A and E162 SigH mutants show significantly decreased binding to RshA and the E168A mutant completely abolished interactions with RshA, indicating that the SigH-RshA interaction is mediated by salt bridges. In addition, SigH-RshA interaction does not require clustering of metal ions. Based on our results, we propose a molecular model of the SigH-RshA interaction.

Concepts: Gene, Gene expression, Mass spectrometry, Hydrogen, Atom, Metal, Zinc, Sigma factor


The requirements of micronutrients for biomass and hydrocarbon production in Botryococcus braunii UTEX 572 were studied using response surface methodology. The concentrations of four micronutrients (iron, manganese, molybdenum, and nickel) were manipulated to achieve the best performance of B. braunii in laboratory conditions. The responses of algal biomass and hydrocarbon to the concentration variations of the four micronutrients were estimated by a second order quadratic regression model. Genetic algorithm calculations showed that the optimal level of micronutrients for algal biomass were 0.266 µM iron, 0.707 µM manganese, 0.624 µM molybdenum and 3.38 µM nickel. The maximum hydrocarbon content could be achieved when the culture media contained 10.43 µM iron, 6.53 µM manganese, 0.012 µM molybdenum and 1.73 µM nickel. The validation through an independent test in a photobioreactor suggests that the modified media with optimised concentrations of trace elements can increase algal biomass by 34.5% and hydrocarbon by 27.4%. This study indicates that micronutrients play significant roles in regulating algal growth and hydrocarbon production, and the response surface methodology can be used to optimise the composition of culture medium in algal culture.

Concepts: Algae, Photosynthesis, Metal, Agar, Mathematical optimization, Algae fuel, Algaculture, Botryococcus braunii


BACKGROUND: Nanotechnology is receiving enormous funding. Very little however is known about the health dangers of this technology so far. Chronic tonsillitis is one of a number of diseases called idiopathic. Among other factors, the tonsils are exposed to suspended particles in inhaled air including nano particles. The objective of this study was to detect and evaluate metallic particles in human tonsil tissue diagnosed with chronic tonsillitis and in amniotic fluid as a comparison. METHODS: Scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDX) was used for identification of solid particles in a total of 64 samples of routinely analyzed biopsy and cytologic material. RESULTS: Almost all samples were found to contain solid particles of various metals. The most frequent, regardless of diagnosis, were iron, chromium, nickel and aluminium. The size, determined using SEM, varied from around 500 nm to 25 µm. The majority formed aggregates of several micrometers in size but there were a significant number of smaller (sub-micrometer or nano-sized) particles present. The incidence of metallic particles was similar in child and adult tissues. The difference was in composition: the presence of several metals in adults was due to occupational exposure. CONCLUSIONS: The presence of metallic particles in pathologically altered tissues may signal an alternative causation of some diseases. The ethiopathogenic explanation of these diseases associated with the presence of nano-sized particles in the organism has emerged into a new field of pathology, nanopathology.

Concepts: Iron, Metal, Scanning electron microscope, Energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, Tonsil, Tonsillectomy, Tonsillitis, Tonsillolith


Strain hardening capability is critical for metallic materials to achieve high ductility during plastic deformation. A majority of nanocrystalline metals, however, have inherently low work hardening capability with few exceptions. Interpretations on work hardening mechanisms in nanocrystalline metals are still controversial due to the lack of in situ experimental evidence. Here we report, by using an in situ transmission electron microscope nanoindentation tool, the direct observation of dynamic work hardening event in nanocrystalline nickel. During strain hardening stage, abundant Lomer-Cottrell (L-C) locks formed both within nanograins and against twin boundaries. Two major mechanisms were identified during interactions between L-C locks and twin boundaries. Quantitative nanoindentation experiments recorded show an increase of yield strength from 1.64 to 2.29 GPa during multiple loading-unloading cycles. This study provides both the evidence to explain the roots of work hardening at small length scales and the insight for future design of ductile nanocrystalline metals.

Concepts: Metal, Solid mechanics, Nickel, Metalworking, Work hardening, Deformation, Dislocation, Ductility


Metals deposited into ecosystems are non-degradable and become one of the major toxic agents which accumulate in habitats. Thus, their concentration requires precise monitoring. To evaluate pollution around a chlor-alkali plant, a glass smelter, two power plants and a ceramic and porcelain factory, we selected terrestrial mosses with different life forms: the orthotropic and endohydric Polytrichum commune and plagiotropic and ectohydric Pleurozium schreberi. Metal concentrations were determined in both species growing together at sites situated at various distances approximately 0.75, 1.5, 3 and 6 km from polluters. MARS analysis evaluated different tendencies of both species for Cd, Co and Pb accumulation depending on the distance from the emitter. In P. schreberi, the concentration of these metals diminished relatively rapidly with an increasing distance from the emitter up to 3000 m and then stabilised. For P. commune, a steady decrease could be observed with increasing the distance up to 6000 m. PCCA ordination explained that both species from the vicinity of the chlor-alkali plant were correlated with the highest Co, Cr, Cu, Fe and Pb as well as Mn and Ni concentrations in their tissues. The mosses from sites closest to both power plants were correlated with the highest Cd and Zn concentrations. P. commune contained significantly higher Cd, Cr, Ni, Pb and Zn concentrations compared to P. schreberi. This may be caused by the lamellae found in the leaves of P. commune which increase the surface area of the possible aerial absorption of contaminants. Soil may also be an additional source of metals, and it affects the uptake in endohydric P. commune more than in ectohydric P. schreberi. However, the precise explanation of these relations needs further investigation.

Concepts: Iron, Plant, Metal, Copper, Pollution, Moss, Mosses, Polytrichum commune


The ability to pattern planar and freestanding 3D metallic architectures at the microscale would enable myriad applications, including flexible electronics, displays, sensors, and electrically small antennas. A 3D printing method is introduced that combines direct ink writing with a focused laser that locally anneals printed metallic features “on-the-fly.” To optimize the nozzle-to-laser separation distance, the heat transfer along the printed silver wire is modeled as a function of printing speed, laser intensity, and pulse duration. Laser-assisted direct ink writing is used to pattern highly conductive, ductile metallic interconnects, springs, and freestanding spiral architectures on flexible and rigid substrates.

Concepts: Electricity, Heat, Aluminium, Metal, Copper, Silver, Printing, Inkjet printer


The response of amorphous steels to shock wave compression has been explored for the first time. Further, the effect of partial devitrification on the shock response of bulk metallic glasses is examined by conducting experiments on two iron-based in situ metallic glass matrix composites, containing varying amounts of crystalline precipitates, both with initial composition Fe49.7Cr17.7Mn1.9Mo7.4W1.6B15.2C3.8Si2.4. The samples, designated SAM2X5-600 and SAM2X5-630, are X-ray amorphous and partially crystalline, respectively, due to differences in sintering parameters during sample preparation. Shock response is determined by making velocity measurements using interferometry techniques at the rear free surface of the samples, which have been subjected to impact from a high-velocity projectile launched from a powder gun. Experiments have yielded results indicating a Hugoniot Elastic Limit (HEL) to be 8.58 ± 0.53 GPa for SAM2X5-600 and 11.76 ± 1.26 GPa for SAM2X5-630. The latter HEL result is higher than elastic limits for any BMG reported in the literature thus far. SAM2X5-600 catastrophically loses post-yield strength whereas SAM2X5-630, while showing some strain-softening, retains strength beyond the HEL. The presence of crystallinity within the amorphous matrix is thus seen to significantly aid in strengthening the material as well as preserving material strength beyond yielding.

Concepts: Metal, Solid, Materials science, Tensile strength, Glass, Shock wave, Amorphous solids, Amorphous metal


Phase-change materials, such as meta-stable undercooled (supercooled) liquids, have been widely recognized as a suitable route for complex fabrication and engineering. Despite comprehensive studies on the undercooling phenomenon, little progress has been made in the use of undercooled metals, primarily due to low yields and poor stability. This paper reports the use of an extension of droplet emulsion technique (SLICE) to produce undercooled core-shell particles of structure; metal/oxide shell-acetate (‘/' = physisorbed, ’-‘ = chemisorbed), from molten Field’s metal (Bi-In-Sn) and Bi-Sn alloys. These particles exhibit stability against solidification at ambient conditions. Besides synthesis, we report the use of these undercooled metal, liquid core-shell, particles for heat free joining and manufacturing at ambient conditions. Our approach incorporates gentle etching and/or fracturing of outer oxide-acetate layers through mechanical stressing or shearing, thus initiating a cascade entailing fluid flow with concomitant deformation, combination/alloying, shaping, and solidification. This simple and low cost technique for soldering and fabrication enables formation of complex shapes and joining at the meso- and micro-scale at ambient conditions without heat or electricity.

Concepts: Fluid dynamics, Metal, Solid, Viscosity, Liquid, Fluid, Supercooling, Melting point


Conductive metal films are patterned into transparent metal nanowire networks by using electrospun fibers as a mask. Both the transmittance and sheet resistance (6 Ω/□ at 83% transmittance and 24 Ω/□ at 92% transmittance) of the metal nanowires based electrode out-perform commercial indium doped tin oxide (ITO) electrodes. The metal nanowire based transparent electrodes were fabricated on both rigid glass and flexible polyethylene terephthalate (PET) substrates. In addition to state of art performance, the transparent electrodes also exhibit outstanding toughness. They can withstand repeated scotch tape peeling and various bending tests. The method for making the metal nanowire is scalable and a touch screen on flexible substrate is demonstrated.

Concepts: Aluminium, Metal, Copper, Solar cell, Indium tin oxide, Electrolyte, Electrolysis, Polyethylene terephthalate