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Open Questions in Chemistry

In spite of decades of research and the enormous progress made, chemists continue to grapple with poorly understood aspects of the world around us. Indeed, many fundamental questions remain— will we ever get to the bottom of the different structures of ice, or pinpoint the origins of life on Earth, or obtain a full picture of the complexity of carbon-based molecules in space?

This collection aims to uncover open questions across the breadth of the chemical sciences. Each Comment provides an overview of a focused field of research, identifies key open questions, and gives expert opinion on how challenges in answering these questions might be overcome. Our hope is that this series will be of interest to the chemistry community as a whole, and that it will stimulate those working in or adjacent to the research fields that are covered to think about some of the open questions that invite further study.

Editorial

Today, Communications Chemistry launches a series of Comment articles discussing key open questions in specific fields of fundamental chemical research. Here we outline the aims of this series and highlight each contribution within.

Editorial | Open Access | | Communications Chemistry

Comment articles

Polymorphs, crystals with different structure and properties but the same molecular composition, arise from the subtle interplay between thermodynamics and kinetics during crystallisation. In this opinion piece, the authors review the latest developments in the field of polymorphism and discuss standing open questions.

Comment | Open Access | | Communications Chemistry

Glycans are ubiquitous in biology, but their complex structure and biosynthesis have challenged research of their wide-ranging roles. Here, the authors comment on current trends on the role of chemical methodologies in the field of glycobiology.

Comment | Open Access | | Communications Chemistry

First-row transition metals play several roles in biological processes and in medicine, but can be toxic in high concentrations. Here the authors comment on the sensitive biochemistry and speciation chemistry of the first-row transition metals, and outline some of the remaining questions that have yet to be answered.

Comment | Open Access | | Communications Chemistry

Over the past decade, momentous progress has been made in the characterization of late actinide compounds. Here the authors highlight how advances in spectroscopic and computational tools have developed our understanding of fundamental transplutonium bonding interactions, and discuss whether covalency and heterogeneity changes in 5f-orbital bonding could be harnessed in environmentally and industrially relevant systems.

Comment | Open Access | | Communications Chemistry

Cloud droplets form in the atmosphere on aerosol particles, many of which result from nucleation of vapors. Here the authors comment on current knowledge and open questions regarding the condensational growth of nucleated particles to sizes where they influence cloud formation.

Comment | Open Access | | Communications Chemistry

Airborne particles have significant impacts on health, visibility, and climate. Here, an overview of what is known about particle chemical composition is presented, along with open questions and challenges that are central to relating composition to life cycles and impacts.

Comment | Open Access | | Communications Chemistry

Aerosols are highly dynamic, non-equilibrium systems exhibiting unique microphysical properties relative to bulk systems. Here the authors discuss the roles aerosols play in (bio)chemical transformations and identify open questions in aerosol-mediated reaction rate accelerations, aerosol optical properties, and microorganism survival.

Comment | Open Access | | Communications Chemistry

Water can form a vast number of topological frameworks owing to its hydrogen-bonding ability, with 19 different forms of ice experimentally confirmed at present. Here, the authors comment on open questions and possible future discoveries, covering negative to ultrahigh pressures.

Comment | Open Access | | Communications Chemistry

Chemical reaction networks (CRNs) are prototypical complex systems because reactions are nonlinear and connected in intricate ways, and they are also essential to understand living systems. Here, the author discusses how recent developments in nonequilibrium thermodynamics provide new insight on how CRNs process energy and perform sophisticated tasks, and describes open challenges in the field.

Comment | Open Access | | Communications Chemistry