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Top 50 Chemistry and Materials Sciences Articles

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.

Browse all Top 50 subject area collections here.

*Based on data from Google Analytics, covering January-December 2019 (data has been normalised to account for articles published later in the year)

1-25

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Perspective | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Review Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

26-50

Design of materials which allow for simultaneous detection and removal of water pollutants is challenging. Here the authors develop a guanidinocalix[5]arene that selectively binds perfluorinated alkyl substances and allows for fluorescence detection as well as removal of the pollutants in contaminated water.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

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.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications