Table of contents



Bringing science to the party p425


Although politics has been defined as the 'science of government', there is little science in government. Recent events in UK politics have highlighted the lack of scientifically literate elected representatives — a situation that must change for the good of society.

Subject Category: General chemistry


Research Highlights

Our choice from the recent literature pp426 - 427


Blogroll: Smart cookies p427



News and Views

Molecular machines: Springing into action pp429 - 430

Ben L. Feringa


Controlling the movements of molecular systems through external stimuli is crucial for the construction of nanoscale mechanical machines. A spring-like compound has now been prepared — a double helicate that retains its handedness under ion-triggered extension and contraction.

Subject Category: Supramolecular chemistry

See also: Article by Miwa et al.

Reaction kinetics: Catalysis without a catalyst pp430 - 431

Raoul Kopelman


Can two identical reactors with the same concentrations, under identical physical conditions, have reaction rates that differ by a factor of a thousand? A study now shows that, although not true in uncrowded environments, a reactant's starting point makes a large difference to reaction kinetics in identically crowded systems, such as cellular nuclei.

Subject Categories: Theoretical chemistry | Physical chemistry

See also: Article by Bénichou et al.

Crystal engineering: Towards artificial enzymes pp432 - 433

Joseph T. Hupp


Despite knowing that the active centres of many metalloprotein enzymes are iron porphyrin 'haem' complexes, chemists find them difficult to imitate. Now, the assembly of haem-like centres into a crystalline, stable, nanoporous array shows promise for biomimetic catalysis.

Subject Categories: Inorganic chemistry | Materials chemistry

Dynamic covalent chemistry: Catalysing dynamic libraries pp433 - 434

Benjamin L. Miller


The composition of dynamic small-molecule libraries can be biased by the addition of a target compound — such as a protein — that binds selectively to one of the components in the mixture. The chemistry of the library must, however, be compatible with the target and it has now been shown that aniline-catalysed exchange of acylhydrazones fits the bill.

Subject Categories: Chemical biology | Organic chemistry

See also: Article by Bhat et al.

Topological crystal chemistry: Polycatenation weaves a 3D web pp435 - 436

Davide M. Proserpio


Mechanical linking of small cage structures leads to a type of metal–organic framework with an architecture topologically distinct from those constructed so far.

Subject Categories: Inorganic chemistry | Materials chemistry

See also: Article by Kuang et al.

Mechanochemistry: Forcing a molecule's hand pp436 - 437

S. Karthikeyan & Rint P. Sijbesma


Ultrasound can be used to control molecular processes as delicate as rotation around a single carbon–carbon bond.

Subject Categories: Organic chemistry | Polymer chemistry

Preservation processes: Protein under glass p438

Anne Pichon


Subject Categories: Materials chemistry | Chemical biology



Robust dynamics pp439 - 443

Hexiang Deng, Mark A. Olson, J. Fraser Stoddart & Omar M. Yaghi


no alt info

A new concept termed 'robust dynamics' is presented as the intellectual centerpiece to the union between metal–organic frameworks (MOFs) and mechanically interlocking molecules. Robust dynamics allows highly flexible entities, which are bound covalently to MOF backbones, to carry out repeated movements without affecting the integrity of the overall structure.

Subject Categories: Inorganic chemistry | Materials chemistry | Supramolecular chemistry



Ion-triggered spring-like motion of a double helicate accompanied by anisotropic twisting pp444 - 449

Kazuhiro Miwa, Yoshio Furusho & Eiji Yashima


no alt info

Helical molecules in biological systems commonly undergo extension, contraction and unidirectional twisting motions, but such twisting — promising for the construction of molecular machines — has rarely been achieved in synthetic systems. Now, a chiral double helix has been prepared whose spring-like motion is accompanied by an anisotropic twist under the control of sodium ions.

Subject Category: Supramolecular chemistry

See also: News and Views by Feringa

Direct transformation of graphene to fullerene pp450 - 453

Andrey Chuvilin, Ute Kaiser, Elena Bichoutskaia, Nicholas A. Besley & Andrei N. Khlobystov


no alt info

Although fullerenes have been synthesized from graphite for a long time, the exact mechanism is relatively unknown. Now, in situ microscopy and quantum chemical modelling have directly followed the formation of fullerenes from a single graphitic sheet — graphene.

Subject Categories: Nanotechnology | Physical chemistry | Theoretical chemistry

Lattice-strain control of the activity in dealloyed core–shell fuel cell catalysts pp454 - 460

Peter Strasser, Shirlaine Koh, Toyli Anniyev, Jeff Greeley, Karren More, Chengfei Yu, Zengcai Liu, Sarp Kaya, Dennis Nordlund, Hirohito Ogasawara, Michael F. Toney & Anders Nilsson


no alt info

The rational design of catalytic materials requires synthetic control over their reactive properties. Now, the activity of dealloyed Pt–Cu bimetallic nanoparticles, which catalyse the oxygen reduction reaction, can be tuned through control of the geometric strain at their surface.

Subject Categories: Catalysis | Surface chemistry | Nanotechnology

Assembly of a metal–organic framework by sextuple intercatenation of discrete adamantane-like cages pp461 - 465

Xiaofei Kuang, Xiaoyuan Wu, Rongmin Yu, James P. Donahue, Jinshun Huang & Can-Zhong Lu


no alt info

There has been much interest in the assembly and properties of metal–organic frameworks. Here, a new type is described in which an infinite three-dimensional polycatenane is assembled from a discrete octahedral nanocage through the interlocking of all its six vertices.

Subject Categories: Materials chemistry | Supramolecular chemistry

See also: News and Views by Proserpio

Direct detection of CH/π interactions in proteins pp466 - 471

Michael J. Plevin, David L. Bryce & Jérôme Boisbouvier


no alt info

Weakly polar XH/π interactions are thought to be capable of influencing both the structure and function of proteins, but such interactions are usually identified from three-dimensional structural models. Now, using NMR spectroscopy and isotopic labelling, it has been shown that individual methyl/π interactions can be detected directly in proteins by measuring weak scalar couplings between the nuclei involved.

Subject Categories: Analytical chemistry | Biochemistry | Theoretical chemistry

Geometry-controlled kinetics pp472 - 477

O. Bénichou, C. Chevalier, J. Klafter, B. Meyer & R. Voituriez


no alt info

The time taken for a reactant to reach a target is best represented theoretically by a distribution of times. This distribution has now been calculated analytically and shows quantitatively that in the case of uncrowded environments, a reactant's starting point — in relation to the target — does not influence the search time. It does, however, have an effect in the case of crowded systems — leading to ‘geometry-controlled kinetics’.

Subject Categories: Physical chemistry | Theoretical chemistry

See also: News and Views by Kopelman

Efficient stereo- and regioselective hydroxylation of alkanes catalysed by a bulky polyoxometalate pp478 - 483

Keigo Kamata, Kazuhiro Yonehara, Yoshinao Nakagawa, Kazuhiro Uehara & Noritaka Mizuno


no alt info

The ability to selectively transform the C–H bonds of simple alkanes to useful functional groups such as alcohols is a key step in the move away from petrochemical feedstocks. Now, it has been shown that the oxidation of alkanes can be catalysed by a bulky polyoxometalate species using hydrogen peroxide as a stoichiometric oxidant.

Subject Categories: Catalysis | Synthesis

Using first principles to predict bimetallic catalysts for the ammonia decomposition reaction pp484 - 489

Danielle A. Hansgen, Dionisios G. Vlachos & Jingguang G. Chen


no alt info

The decomposition of ammonia is an important process if ammonia is to be used as a hydrogen storage medium. The most active catalyst for this is ruthenium, but its expense has provoked the search for alternatives. Now, using theory to guide the investigation, researchers have identified a bimetallic nickel–platinum surface as an active catalyst for this process.

Subject Categories: Catalysis | Surface chemistry | Physical chemistry

Nucleophilic catalysis of acylhydrazone equilibration for protein-directed dynamic covalent chemistry pp490 - 497

Venugopal T. Bhat, Anne M. Caniard, Torsten Luksch, Ruth Brenk, Dominic J. Campopiano & Michael F. Greaney


no alt info

The composition of a dynamic combinatorial library can be altered by adding a target molecule that either stabilizes (or destabilizes) one or more of its members. The range of reversible chemical reactions compatible with biological targets such as proteins is somewhat limited, but now it has been shown that aniline-catalysed acylhydrazone formation is effective in this context.

Subject Categories: Chemical biology | Organic chemistry | Supramolecular chemistry

See also: News and Views by Miller

Electrochemistry through glass pp498 - 502

Jeyavel Velmurugan, Dongping Zhan & Michael V. Mirkin


no alt info

Glass is widely used as an electrical insulator in electrodes, but in spite of its high resistance, 100-nm-thick layers of glass have now been shown to be sufficiently conductive for electrochemical measurements. Obtaining redox couples through glass-covered nanoelectrodes suggests that the pH response of the glass is due to the formation of a hydrogel layer in acidic solution.

Subject Categories: Electrochemistry | Nanotechnology

Enhancement of anhydrous proton transport by supramolecular nanochannels in comb polymers pp503 - 508

Yangbin Chen, Michael Thorn, Scott Christensen, Craig Versek, Ambata Poe, Ryan C. Hayward, Mark T. Tuominen & S. Thayumanavan


no alt info

Efficient conduction of protons on a micrometre scale is critical for the development of fuel cell membranes — a key component of clean energy sources. Now, self-assembling amphiphilic polymers have been shown to provide a nanoscale organization of proton-conducting functionalities that dramatically increases anhydrous proton conductivity.

Subject Categories: Materials chemistry | Supramolecular chemistry


In Your Element

Is lithium the new gold? p510

Jean-Marie Tarascon


Jean-Marie Tarascon ponders on the value of lithium, an element known for about 200 years, whose importance is now fast increasing in view of the promises it holds for energy storage and electric cars.