SciTech

Science Briefs: Microbes used for producing beer and bread work fine for chocolate

How sweet! The same species of yeast used in production of beer, bread, and wine works particularly well in chocolate fermentation.
How sweet! The same species of yeast used in production of beer, bread, and wine works particularly well in chocolate fermentation. TMS

Better chocolate from brewers’, bakers’ microbes

For decades, researchers have worked to improve cacao fermentation by controlling the microbes involved. Now, to their surprise, a team of Belgian researchers has discovered that the same species of yeast used in production of beer, bread and wine works particularly well in chocolate fermentation. The research was published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, a publication of the American Society for Microbiology.

“Chemical analyses as well as tasting the chocolate showed that the chocolate produced with our best yeasts is much better and more consistent than the chocolate produced through natural fermentation,” said Kevin Verstrepen, professor of genetics and genomics at the University of Leuven and the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology. “Moreover, different yeasts yielded different chocolate flavors, indicating that it would be possible to create a whole range of specialty chocolates to match everyone’s favorite flavor.” amusa.org

Nanoscale wires not as resilient as was thought

Researchers from N.C. State University and Brown University in Rhode Island have found that nanoscale wires made of common semiconductor materials have a stubborn characteristic: When bent, they return to their original shape slowly, rather than snapping back quickly.

The researchers worked with both zinc oxide and silicon nanowires and found that – when bent – the nanowires would return more than 80 percent of the way to their original shape instantaneously, but return the rest of the way (up to 20 percent) slowly.

“In nanowires that are approximately 50 nanometers in diameter, it can take 20 or 30 minutes for them to recover that last 20 percent of their original shape,” said Guangming Cheng, a Ph.D. student at N.C. State and the first author for the paper, published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology. ncsu.edu

Discovered: Why seahorses have square tails

Living things are often roundish, or sometimes sharp and pointy – rarely square. But the seahorse, in its geometry and other traits, is an exception.

They are fish, but they do not look like fish. They have a hard, bony external skeleton – and their prehensile tails, which they use to hang on to things, are square.

Michael Porter, a mechanical engineer at Clemson University, began to wonder about the tail: Why square?

He and some other scientists made 3-D printed models of the tail and found, as he reports this month in Science, that the square tail grips better, is more sturdy and bounces back into shape more quickly than round tails do from torsion, meaning being twisted around and generally messed with. New York Times

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