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We are pleased to share with you the 50 most read Nature Communications articles* in chemistry and materials sciences published in 2019. Featuring authors from around the world, these papers highlight valuable research from an international community.
Ni–Fe based compound are known as active electrocatalysts for oxygen evolution reaction, but not a good choice for the other half-reaction of water-splitting. Here the authors report a unique interface between Ni and γ-Fe2O3 that efficiently catalyzes the cathodic hydrogen evolution reaction.
Selective hydrogenolysis of biomass glycerol to propanediol is a promising route for the production of high-value chemicals but remains a challenge. Here, the authors find a PtCu single atom alloy catalyst exhibits remarkably boosted performance with a turnover frequency value of 2.6 × 103 molglycerol·molPtCu–SAA−1·h−1.
While CO2 reduction proves an appealing means to convert greenhouse emissions to high-value products, there are few materials capable of such a conversion. Here, the authors demonstrate a liquid-metal electrocatalyst to convert CO2 directly into solid carbon that can be used as capacitor electrodes.
Producing ethanol from carbon dioxide, water, and renewable electricity offers a route to sustainable energy. Here, the authors enhance electrocatalytic activity for carbon dioxide reduction by tuning adsorbed hydrogen in a class of copper catalysts with oxide- and hydroxide-modified surfaces.
Machine learning models can accurately predict atomistic chemical properties but do not provide access to the molecular electronic structure. Here the authors use a deep learning approach to predict the quantum mechanical wavefunction at high efficiency from which other ground-state properties can be derived.
Constructing molecular cages from entangled molecules is a complex task requiring precise topological control. Here, the authors thread together six metal-peptide rings into a giant cubic molecular capsule with a defined cavity and 24 crossover points.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) capture and conversion provide an alternative approach to synthesis of useful fuels and chemicals. Here, Ye et al. give a comprehensive perspective on the current state of the art and outlook of CO2 catalytic hydrogenation to the synthesis of light olefins, dimethyl ether, liquid fuels, and alcohols.
Alternative carbene precursors for metal-catalyzed cross coupling may expand the portfolio of methods for C-C bond construction. Here, the authors report a Suzuki−Miyaura coupling of Pd−carbene complexes formed by desulfurization of thioureas or thioamides and affording a broad array of amidinium salts and diaryl ketones.
The increasing demand for energy and clean water has become a grand global challenge. Here the authors develop a membrane-distillation device that exploits sunlight and the heat dissipated by an integrated solar cell unit, enabling simultaneous efficient production of electricity and drinkable water.
Conversion of CO2 into value-added chemicals by use of renewable energy is promising to achieve a carbon-neutral energy cycle. Here, the authors show that AgP2 is a stable, selective and efficient syngas catalyst for solar-to-fuel conversion with a 3-fold lower overpotential compared to the benchmark Ag catalyst.
In analogy to the coupling of atoms into molecules, the authors fuse colloidal semiconductor nanocrystals into quantum dot dimers. These nanocrystal ‘molecules’ exhibit significant quantum coupling effects, making them promising for applications in devices and potential quantum technologies.
While water electrolysis affords hydrogen as a carbon-neutral fuel, the oxygen evolution half-reaction limits overall performances. Here, authors examine molecular catalysts and their water oxidation mechanisms via computational methods.
While light-driven conversion of CO2 and H2O directly into fuels affords an attractive means to store sunlight in chemical bonds, few systems produce high-value hydrocarbons. Here, authors show gold nanoparticles to reduce CO2 to multi-carbon products using visible light, ionic liquids, and H2O.
Seawater electrolysis is a promising approach to produce hydrogen fuel and is also of great significance to seawater desalination. Here, the authors prepare 3D core-shell metal-nitride catalysts from earth-abundant elements for high-performance alkaline seawater electrolysis.
The performance of electrocatalysts for the renewable production of hydrogen is currently limited due to the difficulty of materials design. We show that tailoring the electronic structure under applied reductive bias is key to optimal electrocatalytic performance of a 2D chalcogenide material.
The authors here report an ultrathin ionomer membrane as an artificial solid-electrolyte interphase filter that minimizes parasitic reactions and enables stable dendrite-free lithium plating-stripping cycles in a carbonate-based electrolyte. The protected anodes exhibit outstanding coulombic efficiencies at room and elevated (50 °C) temperatures.
Photoresponsive polymers are receiving great attention due to the increasing demands on smart optical and biological materials. Here, the authors report a C–H-activated polyspiroannulation route to in situ generate photoresponsive spiro-polymers with potential applications in photopatterning and silicon photonics techniques.
Porous coordination polymers that possess structural flexibility show great promise for gas adsorption and catalysis. Here the authors synthesize a dynamic porous coordination polymer with rotating ligands that permit effective CO2 trapping, and demonstrate subsequent CO2 cycloaddition to epoxides.
Adhesives are ubiquitous in commodity products, however it it essential that their synthesis and degradation be sustainable without compromising their performance. Here, the authors report a library of adhesives based on environmentally benign building blocks that perform in both dry and wet environments.
Typically, ion conducting polymers exhibit a trade-off between mechanical robustness and ionic conducting performance. Here, the authors utilize supramolecular chemistry obtaining extremely tough electrolytes with high ionic conductivity and enabling stretchable lithium-ion batteries.
Sintering-resistant Au nanoparticles are highly desirable due to their low Tammann temperature. Here, the authors report an ultrastable titania-supported Au nanocatalyst through an encapsulation strategy under oxidative atmosphere.
Predictions of new solid-state Li-ion conductors are challenging due to the diverse chemistries and compositions involved. Here the authors combine unsupervised learning techniques and molecular dynamics simulations to discover new compounds with high Li-ion conductivity.
Identifying reacting species locally with nanometer precision is a major challenge in electrochemical surface science. Using operando Raman nanoscopy, authors image the reversible, concurrent formation of nanometer-spatially separated Au2O3 and Au2O species during Au nanodefect oxidation.
While single-atom catalysis offers an efficient materials usage, the ambiguous interactions with supports poses a difficulty in understanding catalytic performances. Here, authors show an ensemble effect via synergy of Co adatoms and the S of MoS2 supports to boost hydrogen evolution activities.
Lithium is in increasing demand for energy storage and is abundant in seawater, but its extraction is challenging due to coexistence with similar ions. Here the authors review recent advances in lithium separation strategies, focusing on the development of nanochannel and nanopore based membranes.
Elctrochemical water splitting is of vital significance for energy conversion and storage. Here the authors show an electrocatalyst based on amorphous ruthenium-tellurium porous nanorods which exhibit significantly improved OER performance than its crystalline counterparts
Conductive porous carbons are promising for a variety of applications, but simultaneously tuning porosity and conductivity is challenging. Here, the authors develop a green method to fabricate flexible boron-nitrogen-fluorine triply doped carbon nanofibers with high porosity and conductivity.
Design of materials which allow for simultaneous detection and removal of water pollutants is challenging. Here the authors develop a guanidinocalixarene that selectively binds perfluorinated alkyl substances and allows for fluorescence detection as well as removal of the pollutants in contaminated water.
Different models are believed to be the reason for the superior mechanical properties of spider silk. Here, the authors prepare artificial spider silk by water-evaporation-induced self-assembly of a hydrogel fibre made from polyacrylic acid and silica nanoparticles.
Here the authors show that illumination of a lithium manganese oxide cathode can induce efficient charge-separation and electron transfer processes, thus giving rise to a new type of fast lithium-ion battery charging.
Catalysts for CO electroreduction have focused on Cu, and their main products have been C2 chemicals. Here authors use the concept of asymmetric active sites to develop a class of doped Cu catalysts for C-C coupling, delivering record selectivity to n-propanol.
Enantioselective oxidative cross-coupling of unactivated C(sp3)−H bonds and terminal alkynes is challenging. Here, the authors developed a copper/cinchona alkaloid catalyst for the asymmetric Sonogashira-type alkynylation of C(sp3)-H bonds via radical intermediates.
The Aza Paternò-Büchi reaction is arguably among the most direct approaches to functionalized azetidines, which are common medicinal scaffolds. Here, the authors report a mild and selective visible light-enabled intramolecular aza Paternò-Büchi reaction yielding bicyclic azetidines in high yields and diastereoselectivity.
Li–O2 batteries suffer from poor charge transport in the insulating discharge products. Here the authors tackle the issue by pre-depositing a K2CO3 layer and then using this to grow Li2O2 film on top, enabling enhanced electronic conduction properties and improved overall performance.
Synthetic labs rely on a vast number of chemicals, which are often unstable with time and affected by price fluctuations. Here, the authors report ad hoc developed cartridge reactionware for the synthesis of four different targets in a time- and cost-saving manner.
Nucleophiles cannot be directly reacted with enolates due to polarity mismatching. Here, the authors developed an umpolung strategy for the selective synthesis of α-alkoxy carbonyl compounds by reaction of iridium enolates with nucleophilic alcohols promoted by an iodine(III) reagent.
Despite their higher abundance, 3d metal-based catalysts are less investigated than their precious metal counterparts. Here, the authors report a cobalt-triphos complex as molecularly-defined non-noble metal catalyst for the reductive amination of carbonyl compounds with gaseous ammonia and hydrogen.
While water splitting electrocatalysis provides a means to store electrical energy as fuel, the water oxidation catalysts typically show low performances. Here, authors employ metal-organic frameworks with missing-linkers as highly active oxygen evolution electrocatalysts.
Carbon dioxide is a desired feedstock for platform molecules, such as carbon monoxide and higher hydrocarbons, but needs improved catalysts. Here, the authors use a combined theoretical and experimental approach to tune the activity and selectivity of CO2 conversion over nickel towards desired products.
While dry reforming of methane, the reaction of CH4 and CO2 to create CO and H2, is a promising reaction for industry, coke buildup often deactivates catalysts and limits commercialization. Here, authors report single-atom nickel on Ce-doped hydroxyapatite as a coke-resistant catalyst.
The authors here look into the phase transitions in Li-/Mn-rich layered cathode materials during synthesis and cycling. It is revealed that the Li-rich layered structure tends to transform to a Li-poor spinel phase via an intermediate Li-containing rock salt phase, with release of lithium/oxygen.
Aqueous zinc batteries are promising candidates for large scale energy storage systems but development of the cathode material remains a challenge. Here, the authors show a conductive 2D metal-organic framework involving intercalation pseudocapacitance mechanism for enhanced rate capability.
Proton-coupled electron transfer (PCET) process is very important for water oxidation catalysis. Here, the authors introduced uncoordinated carboxylate in the second-coordination-sphere of Ni-Fe coordination polymer catalyst as an internal base to promote the water oxidation kinetics by such PCET process.
Specific sequences are essential for the development of cationic polymers that can adhere to negatively charged surfaces in saline environments. Here, the authors show that copolymers with adjacent cation–aromatic sequences can be synthesized through cation–π complex-aided free-radical polymerization, which exhibit fast, strong, but reversible adhesion.
Understanding and controlling self-assembly processes at multiple length scales is essential to design and create advanced materials. Here the authors report a method for the production of highly anisotropic nanoparticles with controlled dimensions based on the morphological transformation of initially isotropic seeds, driven by supramolecular bonding.
Metal–organic frameworks (MOFs) are attractive for encapsulating enzymes for industrial purposes because they can increase selectivity, stability, and/or activity of the enzymes. Here, the authors developed an economical solid-state mechanochemical method to encapsulate enzymes during MOF synthesis.
Hydrogen production by electrocatalytic water splitting is limited by the sluggish evolution kinetics of low value-oxygen. Here, authors show concurrent electrolytic productions of H2 and glycerol oxidation to formate by utilizing Ni-Mo-N/CFC electro-catalyst as both anodic and cathodic catalysts.
Photoelectrochemical water-splitting devices with III-V semiconductors are efficient for solar-to-hydrogen conversion, but high costs and poor stability limit applications. Here, authors decouple light harvesting from electrolysis to enhance stability without compromising the efficiency.
Single-atom catalysts are a promising class of catalytic materials, but general synthetic methods are limited. Here, the authors develop a ligand-mediated strategy that allows the large-scale synthesis of diverse transition metal single atom catalysts supported on carbon.
Hyperconjugative aromaticity combines the concepts of hyperconjugation and aromaticity and explains cyclopentadiene stability. Here, the authors demonstrate extended hyperconjugative aromaticity in a metallated indole ring, which shows extended electron conjugation due to the dual hyperconjugation.