Stories of Modern Science ... from UPI

By MICHAEL HOFFMAN, UPI Science News  |  May 30, 2003 at 7:45 AM
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For the first time, Ohio University engineers are investigating how fuel cell technology could lead to cleaner coal fired power plants. One of the most harmful fossil fuels to the environment, coal also is one of the most abundant. The U.S. Department of Energy passed a $4 million grant, approved by the Ohio congressional delegation, to explore the possibility of developing high-efficiency fuel cells powered by the burning of coal. The government has focused much of its fuel cell research on natural gas, but the nation's natural gas reserves will run out in 30 years, compared with 250 years for coal. Fuel cells are attractive alternative power sources because they generate electricity with little pollution and are highly efficient, using 80 percent to 90 percent of their energy compared to 40 percent to 50 percent in traditional combustion.


Chemists have developed a new way to detect collections of micrometer-sized particles of explosive materials as part an effort to beef up airport security. The method will confirm whether equipment used to screen airport passengers, cargo and baggage is operating correctly. National Institute of Standards and Technology officials hope to use this research to create revolutionary detection systems by optimizing particle collection and heating processes. They are working to study new systems that will use "air showers" to blow particles off people while they walk through portals. Enhanced trace explosive detection systems already are deployed in airports throughout the nation to collect particles from luggage and other surfaces. The scientists have developed a way to isolate a few individual explosive particles, even if they are surrounded by millions of background particles collected on filters.


Drinking fermented milk instead of the conventional brand either eliminates or drastically reduces symptoms in lactose-intolerant adults. Researchers have found the microbes found in fermented milk called kefir possess the enzyme necessary to digest lactose. Many lactose-intolerant people eat yogurt to get their calcium because yogurt contains the bacteria necessary to break down lactose, but the researchers said kefir is an even healthier supplement. Kefir tastes slightly on the tart side and has the consistency of liquid yogurt, but it is a good source of calcium, potassium, and protein. The research, published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, sheds light on benefits of the fermented milk to lactose-intolerant people.


A sharp increase in antibiotic resistance by gonorrhea bacteria in the United Kingdom could cause an increase in infections. Research published in the journal The Lancet called for a revision of gonorrhea treatment guidelines to stem a spread of the disease. Gonorrhea is the second most common sexually transmitted disease, behind chlamydia. The first-line treatment for gonorrhea is the antibiotic ciprofloxacin. Resistance to this antibiotic increased significantly from 3 percent to 10 percent between 2001 and 2001 moving it out of the national criteria for first-line treatments to clear up 5 percent of the infections.

(Editors: For more information on COAL, contact Andrea Gibson at 740-597-2166 or For AIRPORT SECURITY, Laura Ost at 301-975-4034 or For KEFIR, Steven Hertzler at 614-292-8141 or For ANTIBIOTIC, Joe Santangelo at 212-633-3810 or

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