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Molecules/Matter & Energy

Clear batteries, mucus busters, a 3-D invisibility cloak and more in this week's news

10:59am, July 31, 2011

Breaking up is hard for goo
Scientists have hit upon a couple of compounds that weaken the stiff mucus that afflicts the lungs of many cystic fibrosis patients. Mucus usually forms a sticky blanket that traps and helps clear inhaled particles, but in people with cystic fibrosis, fibrous bundles of DNA make mucus stiff, thick and tough to clear. Two extracts from alginate, a primary ingredient in algae cell walls, disrupt mucous interactions, Catherine Nordgård and Kurt Draget of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology report in an upcoming Biomacromolecules. The compounds may be useful for modifying mucus in the respiratory tract and beyond —Rachel Ehrenberg

Bats filter out clutter
Like college students, echolocating bats can tolerate clutter. The big brown bat has evolved an acoustic trick to ignore potentially confusing leaves and trees when pursuing its prey through dense foliage

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