The Struggle For the “Last Drop” Over Thanks to OSU Researchers

It’s one of life’s little annoyances: that last bit of shampoo that won’t quite pour out of the bottle. Or the last bit of hand soap, or dish soap, or laundry detergent.

Now researchers at The Ohio State University have found a way to create the perfect texture inside plastic bottles to let soap products flow freely. They describe the patent-pending technology in a paper to appear in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society on June 27.

The technique involves lining a plastic bottle with microscopic y-shaped structures that cradle the droplets of soap aloft above tiny air pockets, so that the soap never actually touches the inside of the bottle. The “y” structures are built up using much smaller nanoparticles made of silica, or quartz – an ingredient in glass—which, when treated further, won’t stick to soap.

The key is surface tension—the tendency of the molecules of a substance to stick to each other. Ketchup and other sauces are made mostly of water, and water molecules tend to stick to each other more than they stick to plastic. But surfactants – the organic molecules that make soap “soapy” – are just the opposite: They have a very low surface tension and stick to plastic easily.

With further development, the university hopes to license the coating technique to manufacturers—not just for shampoo bottles, but for other plastic products that have to stay clean, such as biomedical devices or catheters. They have already applied the same technique to polycarbonate, a plastic used in car headlights and smartphone cases, among other applications.

Why Water is Essential to Life as We Know It

Scientists are getting closer to directly observing how and why water is essential to life as we know it.

A study in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences provides the strongest evidence yet that proteins – the large and complex molecules that fold into particular shapes to enable biological reactions – can’t fold themselves.

Rather, the work of folding is done by much smaller water molecules, which surround proteins and push and pull at them to make them fold a certain way in fractions of a second, like scores of tiny origami artists folding a giant sheet of paper at blazingly fast speeds.

Dongping Zhong, leader of the research group at The Ohio State University that made the discovery. It is a major step forward in the understanding of water-protein interactions and it answers a question that’s been dogging research into protein dynamics for decades.

The key to getting a good view of the interaction was to precisely locate optical probes on the protein surface, he said. The researchers inserted molecules of the amino acid tryptophan into the protein as a probe, and measured how water moved around it.

Co-authors on the study were Yangzhong Qin, a postdoctoral researcher, and Lijuan Wang, lab manager. The work was funded by the National Institutes of Health, and computing time was provided by OSC.

New Research Reveals Moral Stances Make For Better Arguments

Simply telling people that their opinions are based on morality will make them stronger and more resistant to counterarguments, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that people were more likely to act on an opinion – what psychologists call an attitude – if it was labeled as moral and were more resistant to attempts to change their mind on that subject.

The results show why appeals to morality by politicians and advocacy groups can be so effective. Andrew Luttrell is the lead author of the study and a doctoral student in psychology at The Ohio State University.

In one experiment, 183 college students read an essay favoring the adoption of a senior comprehensive exam policy at their university. They were asked to provide their thoughts in response to the essay.

The students were then told by the researchers that the views they expressed seemed to be based on morality, tradition or equality.

Participants were then asked to rate how willing they would be to sign a petition in favor of the exam policy and to put their names on a list of students who favor the exam policy, and which way they would vote on the issue.

The results showed that the attitudes of students who were told that their views on the exam policy were based on morality were more likely to predict their behavior than the attitudes of students who were told their views were based on equality or tradition.

OSU Researcher Answers Why Some Moms Post More on Facebook

A study shows which psychological characteristics of some new mothers may affect how they use Facebook to show off their baby.

The study looked at a specific group of moms – highly educated, mostly married Midwestern women who had full-time jobs – and found that those who felt societal pressure to be perfect moms and who identified most strongly with their motherhood role posted more frequently than others to Facebook.

These same mothers who posted most frequently also reported stronger emotional reactions to comments on the photos they posted of their new baby – such as feeling bad if they didn’t get enough positive comments.

While many new mothers are active on Facebook, these results suggest some seem to be more drawn to the site than others and may use it in less-than-healthy ways. The message of the study isn’t that Facebook is necessarily harmful – but that using Facebook may not be an effective platform for women to seek and gain external validation that they’re good moms.