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Top 50: Chemistry and Materials Science

We are pleased to share with you the 50 most read Nature Communications chemistry and materials science articles* published in 2018. Featuring authors from around the world, these papers highlight valuable research from an international community.

Browse all Top 50 subject area collections here.

*Based on data from altmetric.com, covering January-December 2018

1-25

Sugars are known to form from the UV photoprocessing of ices under astrophysical conditions. Here, the authors report the detection of deoxyribose, the sugar of DNA, and other deoxysugars from the UV photoprocessing of H2O:CH3OH ice mixtures, which are compared with materials from carbonaceous meteorites.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Current ultraviolet (UV) sensors cannot differentiate between UVA, B and C, each of which has a remarkably different impact on human health. Here the authors show spectrally-selective colorimetric monitoring of ultraviolet radiations by developing a photoelectrochromic ink that consists of a multiredox polyoxometalate and an e donor.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Polynuclear metal-organic coordination complexes are often inaccessible by traditional synthetic chemistry methods. Here, the authors use on-surface supramolecular chemistry to form a planar trinuclear Fe complex, in which an accumulation of electrons around the positive mixed-valence polynuclear centre suggests a catalytically active core.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

The citric acid cycle (TCA) is a fundamental metabolic pathway to release stored energy in living organisms. Here, the authors report two linked cycles of reactions that each oxidize glyoxylate into CO2 and generate intermediates shared with the modern TCA cycle, shedding light into a plausible TCA protometabolism.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Artificial enzymes can be used to elicit reactions in cells. Here, the authors developed such an artificial catalyst combined with a genetic switch, and showed that it was readily taken up by human cells and able to kick off a reaction cascade resulting in the biosynthesis of the desired product.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

While renewable energy production is a terrestrial concern, far less attention is devoted to solar-to-fuel conversion for long-term space missions. Here, the authors explore photoelectrochemical hydrogen generation in microgravity and overcome microgravity’s limitations by electrode nanostructuring.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Harvesting water from the atmosphere is an important solution to water scarcity, but doing so in arid climates is highly challenging. Here, the authors develop a metal-organic framework-based water harvesting device that can deliver over 0.25 L of water per kg of adsorbent over a single cycle at relative humidities of 10–40% and at subzero dew points.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Ambient environmental thermal fluctuations offer an abundant yet difficult to harvest renewable energy source, when compared to static thermal gradients. Here, by tuning the thermal effusivity of composite phase change materials, the authors are able to harvest energy from diurnal ambient temperature changes.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Auxeticity in synthetic materials is realised by geometrical design of porous structures rather than on a molecular level. Here the authors demonstrate auxeticity in a non-porous liquid crystal elastomer overcoming porosity related weakening of the material and opening a pathway to designed molecular auxetic materials.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Antimicrobial peptides are considered promising alternatives to antibiotics. Here the authors developed a computational algorithm that starts with peptides naturally occurring in plants and optimizes this starting material to yield new variants which are highly distinct from the parent peptide.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Nitrogen is a model system still presenting unknown behaviors at the pressures and temperatures typical of deep planets’ interiors. Here the authors explore, by pulsed laser heating in a diamond anvil cell and optical measurements, the metallization and non-molecular states of nitrogen in a previously unexplored domain above 1 Mbar and at 2000-7000K.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

The conjugation of nanoparticles and proteins can require complex optimization for the addition of different proteins. Here, the authors report on the development of a simple isopeptide bond forming method of conjoining gold nanoparticles and fusion proteins.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Removal of anthropogenic mercury from water streams is of great importance given its high toxicity and ability to spread rapidly. Here, the authors demonstrate the direct alloying of mercury with a fully recyclable platinum electrode, providing effective removal at different concentrations and pH, and in the presence of other contaminants.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Solar steam generation is limited by fouling of solar converters, and the steam temperature is usually pinned to 100 °C. Here, both limitations are overcome in a system utilizing a solar absorber and light down-converter to achieve radiative heating, which does not require physical contact between absorber and water.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Thioplatensimycin (thioPTM) and thioplatencin (thioPTN) are recently discovered thiocarboxylic acid congeners of the antibacterial compounds PTM and PTN. Here, the authors identify a thioacid cassette encoding PtmA3 and PtmU4 that are responsible for carboxylate activation and sulfur transfer, respectively.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Extraterrestrial sources may have provided prebiotic phosphorus to the early Earth. Here, the authors investigate the potential of phosphine-doped astrochemical analog ices to form phosphorus oxoacids as precursors to more complex prebiotic compounds.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Sodium ion batteries offer more cost-effective storage than lithium and could be used for grid-scale energy storage. Here, the authors demonstrate a full cell based on a MnHCMn anode and an organic-aqueous cosolvent electrolyte. X-ray spectroscopy evidence further suggests the presence of Mn(I).

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Amyloids may have played an important role in prebiotic molecular evolution but understanding replication of such information-coding molecules is still a problem. Here the authors design a model amyloid substrate and demonstrate sequence regio- and stereoselectivity during template-based replication.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

26-50

Intrinsic limitations of nanoporous graphene limit its applications in water treatment. Here the authors produce post-treatment-free, low-cost graphene-based membranes from renewable biomass and demonstrate their high water permeance and antifouling properties using real seawater.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Bacterial poly(3-hydroxybutyrate) possesses physical and mechanical properties suitable for substituting high-performance petroleum plastics but current production is costly and slow. Here the authors produce poly(3-hydroxybutyrate) with similar properties via ring-opening polymerization of bio-derived racemic cyclic diolide.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

A major challenge facing solar-to-fuel technologies is the integration of light-absorbing and catalytic components into efficient water-splitting devices. Here, the authors construct a photochemical diode array to harvest visible light and split pure water at high solar-to-hydrogen efficiencies.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Molecular details that underlie mechanical properties of spider silk are of great interest to material scientists. Here, the authors report a previously unknown three-state mechanism of folding and an expanded structure of a spider silk protein that may contribute to elasticity of spider silk.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Poor electrochemical reversibility of the conversion-type cathode materials remains an important challenge for their practical applications. Here, the authors report a highly reversible fluoride cathode material with low hysteresis through concerted doping of cobalt and oxygen into iron fluoride.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Selection and persistence of chemical non-equilibrium species is crucial for the emergence of life and the exact mechanisms remain elusive. Here the authors show that phase separation is an efficient way to control selection of chemical species when primitive carboxylic acids are brought out-of-equilibrium by high-energy condensing agents.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Splitting water into high-energy fuel represents a renewable way to generate energy, yet the sluggish oxidation kinetics drives up technological costs. Here, the authors prepare tri-metallic core-shell electrodes using nickel, iron, and copper metals to accelerate electricity-driven water splitting.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Stress-induced tribochemical reactions that reduce friction at sliding interfaces typically require liquid lubricants. Here, the authors discover the nanoscale tribocatalytic formation of onion-like carbon from 2D MoS2 and nanodiamond under dry and oil-free conditions, providing superlubricity at the macroscale.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Molecules exhibiting Möbius topology are fascinating but challenging synthetic targets. Here, the authors report the elegant synthesis and crystal structure of a catenane formed from two fully conjugated, interlocked Möbius nanohoops, and use theoretical calculations to understand its conformational stability and aromaticity.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

The performance of energy materials is affected by structural defects, as well as physicochemical heterogeneity over different length scales. Here the authors map nanoscale correlations between morphological and functional heterogeneity, quantifying the trap states limiting electronic transport in bismuth vanadate thin films.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Understanding bottom-up growth mechanisms of 2D transition metal carbides (MXenes) may enable new synthetic routes to tailor functional properties. Here, the authors use in situ electron microscopy, density functional theory and molecular dynamics simulations to reveal the homoepitaxial growth mechanisms of a single TiC adlayer from a Ti3C2 monolayer substrate.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

The development of noninvasive methodology plays an important role in advancing lithium ion battery technology. Here the authors utilize the measurement of tiny magnetic field changes within a cell to assess the lithiation state of the active material, and detect defects.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Most current methods for additive manufacturing of complex metallic 3D structures are limited to a resolution of 20–50 µm. Here, the authors developed a lithography-based process to produce 3D nanoporous nickel nanolattices with octet geometries and a resolution of 100 nm.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Attempts to bend and twist multiple bonds in order to alter their reactivities have thus far been met with only modest success. Here, Braunschweig and colleagues isolate double-bond-containing boron-based species and their 90°-twisted diradical analogs, thanks to their stabilization with Lewis basic units.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Biomarkers are natural indicators of some biological conditions, often used in diagnostics. Here, the authors developed a biosensor that continuously measures concentrations of DNA or protein biomarkers, and is based on particles that change mobility by directly interacting with individual molecules.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Molecular solar thermal systems are promising for storing solar energy but achieving high energy storage densities and absorption characteristics matching the solar spectrum is challenging. Here the authors present a design strategy for electronically coupled photoswitches which allow for high energy density storage for solar energy storage applications.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

The relationship between Li-ion concentration and Li deposition remains an issue to be addressed. Here the authors show that stimulated Raman scattering microscopy offers insight into the concentration evolution and its impact on the dendrite growth, which is not possible by existing techniques.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Spider aggregate glue avoids failure in humid environments but the fundamental mechanism behind it is still unknown. Here, the authors demonstrate that humidity-dependent structural changes of glycoproteins and sequestering of liquid water by low molecular mass compounds prevents adhesion failure of the glue in humid environments.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Reactions in aqueous microdroplets can significantly differ from those in bulk. Here, the authors report microdroplets that not only accelerate gold nanoparticle formation by several orders of magnitude but also promote spontaneous nanostructure formation with no reducing agents or template.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications