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January 28, 2019

Good Morning,

NEW BestSellersThis is a discovery that is both amazing and scary, all at the same time. According to the article below, "Scientists have detected the prebiotic molecule glycolonitrile inside a distant star for the first time." They believe this may very well be the molecule that brought life about on our planet. Think about what that means? Amazing and scary, right?

Learn about this and more interesting stories from the scientific community in today's issue.

Until Next Time,
Erin


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*-- Possible building block of life detected inside distant star --*

 
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Scientists have detected the prebiotic molecule glycolonitrile inside a distant star for the first time. Researchers think the molecule may have played a role in the emergence of life on Earth.

Glycolonitrile is considered an important precursor to adenine, one of the nucleobases that forms both DNA and RNA. Astronomers detected the organic chemical's signature inside a solar-type protostar named IRAS16293-2422 B.

By studying the chemical makeup of infant stars, still enveloped by a thick blanket of gas and dust, scientists can gain a better understanding of how the chemical ingredients necessary for life come to exist inside a young stellar system.

Researchers in Europe and the United States were able to locate glycolonitrile among the spectral signature recorded by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array in Chile.

"We have shown that this important pre-biotic molecule can be formed in the material from which stars and planets emerge, taking us a step closer to identifying the processes that may have led to the origin of life on Earth," Shaoshan Zeng, astronomer at Queen Mary University of London, said in a news release.

Using ALMA's observations, scientists were able to model how chemical reactions inside the protostar produced glycolonitrile.

Scientists described their efforts this week in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The researchers responsible for the latest discovery previously discovered a related chemical, methyl isocyanate, in the same star. Methyl isocyanate and glycolonitrile feature different arrangements of the same combination of atoms.

*-- Rocks beneath North Sea could be used to store renewable energy --*

To store energy generated by renewable sources in Europe, scientists want to fill giant rocks beneath the North Sea with compressed air.

The North Sea is home to large porous rock formations. According to a new study published in the journal Nature Energy, underwater sandstone could store enough energy to meet Europe's electricity needs in the winter, when demand is highest.

One of the problems with renewable energy sources is their variability. Solar and wind power are weather dependent. Efficient energy storage can solve the problem of variability, but current technologies for the large-scale storage of renewable energy suffer from a variety of deficiencies.

"Meeting inter-seasonal fluctuations in electricity production or demand in a system dominated by renewable energy requires the cheap, reliable and accessible storage of energy on a scale that is currently challenging to achieve," the study authors write.

In the newly published paper, researchers at the universities of Edinburgh and Strathclyde detailed a novel approach to energy storage -- the use of large underwater rocks.

The concept works as follows: energy produced by renewable sources is used to power an engine that pumps compressed air into a well drilled into sandstone deposits. To use the stored energy, the compressed air is released, powering an electricity-producing turbine. The electricity can be fed into the mainland power grid.

Similar energy storage systems are currently used in Germany. Compressed air is stored in deep caves instead of underwater sandstone.

Researchers used mathematical models and surveys of North Sea geologic formations to estimate the region's energy storage potential. The analysis suggests the region's sandstones could store one-and-a-half times the United Kingdom's average electricity demand for January and February.

"This method could make it possible to store renewable energy produced in the summer for those chilly winter nights," Edinburgh geoscientist Julien Mouli-Castillo said in a news release. "It can provide a viable, though expensive, option to ensure the U.K.'s renewable electricity supply is resilient between seasons. More research could help to refine the process and bring costs down."

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