Why Fire Is Hot

A recent paper by K. Schmidt-Rohr (Chemistry) answered the question why combustion reactions are always exothermic.  Every scientist should be able to explain what makes fire hot, but neither chemistry nor combustion textbooks have provided a valid answer. Schmidt-Rohr’s analysis shows that the reason lies in the double bond in O2, which is much weaker than other double bonds or pairs of single bonds in the biosphere, so that the formation of the stronger bonds in CO2 and H2O results in the release of heat. The bond energies in the fuel play only a minor role; e.g., the total bond energy of CH4 is nearly the same as that of CO2. A systematic analysis of bond energies gives the heat of combustion close to –418 kJ (i.e., –100 kcal) per mol O2, in good agreement (±3%) with data for >500 organic compounds; the heat of condensation of H2O (–44 kJ per mol H2O(l)) is also included in the analysis. For 268 molecules with ≥8 carbon atoms, the standard deviation is even smaller, 2.1%. For a fuel of composition CcHhOoNn, this gives DcH ≈ -418 kJ (c + 0.3 h – 0.5 o), which enables instant estimates of heats of combustion simply from the elemental composition, even for complex mixtures of unknown molecular composition, and explains principles of biofuels production. The analysis indicates that O2, rather than fuels like octane, H2, ethanol, or glucose, is the crucial “energy-rich” molecule. It also challenges common notions about a relation between the oxidation state and the energy content of biomolecules.

BlogCombustExotherm.0116

One then needs to explain why O2 is abundant in air despite its high enthalpy: All the O2 in the earth’s atmosphere has been produced by photosynthesis in cyanobacteria, algae, and higher plants, as a by-product of photosynthetic proton and electron production from H2O. The “price” of the production of O2, which is energetically so unfavorable, is paid by plants and algae (with “cheap” energy from the sun) in order to be able to live wherever H2O is present. So one can conclude that atmospheric O2 stores solar energy that sustains us with every breath we take.

Schmidt-Rohr K. Why Combustions Are Always Exothermic, Yielding About 418 kJ per Mole of O-2. J Chem Educ. 2015;92(12):2094-9.

2016 Summer MRSEC Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SMURF)

The Division of Science wishes to announce that, in 2016, we will offer five Summer MRSEC Undergraduate Research Fellowships for Brandeis students doing undergraduate research, sponsored by the Brandeis Materials Research Science and Engineering Center.

The due date for applications is February 24, 2016, at 6:00 PM EST.

SMURF Fellowships will provide $5000 in stipend support to allow students to do summer research in MRSEC labs (housing support is not included). Students are eligible if they will be rising Brandeis sophomores, juniors, or seniors in Summer 2016 (classes of ’17, ’18, and ’19). No prior lab experience is required. A commitment from a Brandeis MRSEC member to serve as your mentor in Summer 2016 is required.

mrsec-studentThe Division of Science Summer Program will run from May 31 – August 5, 2016. Recipients are expected to be available to do full time laboratory research during that period, and must commit to presenting a poster at the final poster session (SciFest VI) on Aug 4, 2016. Five positions are available.

To apply, the application form is online: http://goo.gl/forms/ksygMGGu3p (Brandeis login required).

Questions that are not answered in the online FAQ may be addressed to Steven Karel <divsci at brandeis.edu>. Additionally, there will be a question-and-answer session about summer research funding applications on Thursday, Jan 14 at 5 pm in Gerstenzang 123.

Research Funding For Undergrads: Div Sci SURF

The Division of Science announces the opening of the Division of Science Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship competition for Brandeis students doing undergraduate research in Summer 2016.  These fellowships are funded by generous alumni donations.

The due date for applications  is February 24, 2016,  at 6:00 PM EST.

Division of Science Summer Undergraduate Research Fellows will receive $5000 in stipend support to do summer research (housing support is not included). Students who will be rising Brandeis sophomores, juniors, or seniors in Summer 2016 (classes of ’17, ’18, and ’19), who in addition are working in a lab in the Division of Science at the time of application, are eligible to apply. A commitment from a Brandeis faculty member to serve as your mentor in Summer 2016 is required.

The Division of Science Summer Program will run from May 31 – Aug 5, 2016. Recipients are expected to be available to do full time laboratory research during that period, and must commit to presenting a poster at the final poster session (SciFest VI) on Aug 4, 2016.

The application form is online (Brandeis login required). Questions that are not answered in the online FAQ may be addressed to Steven Karel <divsci at brandeis.edu>.

There will be a question-and-answer session about summer research funding applications on Thursday, Jan 14 at 5 pm in Gerstenzang 123

Research Funding for Undergrads: M. R. Bauer Fellows

The Division of Science is pleased to announce that a generous gift from the M. R. Bauer Foundation will fund ten M. R. Bauer Foundation Summer Undergraduate Research Fellows (“M. R. Bauer Fellows”) in Summer 2016. The due date for applications  is February 24, 2016 at 6:00 PM EST. 

M. R. Bauer Fellows will receive $5000 as a stipend in support of their summer research (housing support is not included). Students who will be rising Brandeis sophomores, juniors, or seniors in Summer 2016 (classes of ’17, ’18, and ’19), are eligible to apply. A commitment from a Brandeis Division of Science faculty member to serve as mentor in Summer 2016 on a project leading to a senior thesis is required.

The Division of Science Summer Program will run from May 31 to Aug 5, 2016. M. R. Bauer Fellows are expected to be available to do full time laboratory research during that period, and must commit to presenting a poster at the final poster session (SciFest VI) on August 4, 2016. M.R. Bauer Fellows are also expected to give back to the University in ways that promote science and research.

The application form is online (Brandeis login required). Questions that are not answered in the online FAQ may be addressed to Steven Karel <divsci at brandeis.edu>.

IMG_1293The M.R. Bauer Foundation has been a generous and steadfast friend of the Volen National Center for Complex Systems for over 20 years. Established at Brandeis University in 1994, the Volen Center brings together faculty, students and postdocs from across the sciences with a common goal of understanding the brain, from the level of molecules to cognition.

The foundation recognizes that the advancement of science takes place not only in the lab, but in the seminar room and lecture hall, and in the countless conversations that help to spread ideas and spark new research. The size and intimate setting of the Volen Center has made it an ideal environment for forging connections among investigators from diverse fields.  A central part of these connections is the M.R. Bauer Foundation Colloquium Series, Distinguished Lecturer Series, and Annual Scientific Retreat program. This support has now been substantially widened through this new program of supporting undergraduates in summer research, which will enable greater participation by the youngest group of Brandeis researchers.

There will be a question-and-answer session about summer research funding applications on Thursday, Jan 14 at 5 pm in Gerstenzang 123

 

Research Funding for Undergrads: Computational Neuroscience Traineeships for 2016-17

The Division of Science is pleased to announce the availability of Traineeships for Undergraduates in Computational Neuroscience through a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Traineeships will commence in summer 2016 and run through the academic year 2016-17.

Please apply to the program by February 24, 2016 at 6 pm to be considered.

Traineeships in Computational Neuroscience are intended to provide intensive undergraduate training in computational neuroscience for students interested in eventually pursuing graduate research. The traineeships will provide a $5000 stipend to support research in the summer, and $3000 each for fall and spring semesters during the academic year. Current Brandeis sophomores and juniors are eligible to apply. In addition, to be eligible to compete for this program, you must

  • have a GPA > 3.0 in Div. of Science courses
  • have a commitment from a professor to advise you on a research project related to computational neuroscience
  • have a course work plan to complete requirements for a major in the Division of Science
  • intend to apply to grad school in a related field.compneuroimage

The curricular requirements are listed on the program website.  The application form is online (Brandeis login required). Also, see Frequently Asked Questions.

There will be a question-and-answer session about summer research funding applications on Thursday, Jan 14 at 5 pm in Gerstenzang 123

Autoclave safety training

[we] will be holding autoclave training sessions the week of January 18. These trainings are for students and staff who use the autoclave machines in Bassine, Volen, Rosenstiel and Shapiro.  Each session will be 15-20 minutes, and will be held in each of the autoclave areas. Users should attend the session held in the location where you use the equipment.
We encourage new users and those that need a refresher! [Contact us to participate]
If you are at all skeptical, peek at the quiz I found on Cal State Long Beach’s website (thanks!) Do you know all the answers? No, you don’t need to answer question 16…

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