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Inorganic and Physical Chemistry

Welcome to the Nature Communications Editors’ Highlights webpage on inorganic and physical chemistry. Each month our editors select a small number of Articles recently published in Nature Communications that they believe are particularly interesting or important.

The aim is to provide a snapshot of some of the most exciting work published in the area of inorganic and physical chemistry at Nature Communications. Each editor handles a different area of this research, as described below:

Long Chen handles manuscripts in the areas of heterogeneous catalysis and analytical chemistry.

Victoria Richards handles manuscripts covering metal-organic frameworks and molecular inorganic chemistry.

Ariane Vartanian handles topics in nanoscale and supramolecular chemistry.

Adam West handles topics in physical and theoretical chemistry, with a particular focus on molecular spectroscopy and the chemistry of surfaces and interfaces.

Long Chen

  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Hydrogen spillover is well-documented in hydrogenation catalysis, but its existence through metalorganic frameworks (MOFs) remains controversial. Here, the authors provide evidence of the occurrence of hydrogen spillover in microporous MOFs at elevated temperatures, and measure quantitatively the penetration depths of atomic hydrogen.

    • Guowu Zhan
    •  &  Hua Chun Zeng
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Identifying active sites and designing rationally heterogeneous catalysts are not inherently straightforward due to their complexity. Here, the authors reveal the nature of active sites for efficient C–H bond activation in C1-C4 alkanes over bare ZrO2 and provide fundamentals for controlling their concentration.

    • Yaoyuan Zhang
    • , Yun Zhao
    • , Tatiana Otroshchenko
    • , Henrik Lund
    • , Marga-Martina Pohl
    • , Uwe Rodemerck
    • , David Linke
    • , Haijun Jiao
    • , Guiyuan Jiang
    •  &  Evgenii V. Kondratenko
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Fischer–Tropsch synthesis (FTS) is theoretically limited by Anderson–Schulz–Flory (ASF) law. Here, the authors successfully tune the selectivity of products from diesel-range hydrocarbons to gasoline-range hydrocarbons in FTS by controlling the crystallite sizes of confined cobalt, and modify the ASF law.

    • Qingpeng Cheng
    • , Ye Tian
    • , Shuaishuai Lyu
    • , Na Zhao
    • , Kui Ma
    • , Tong Ding
    • , Zheng Jiang
    • , Lihua Wang
    • , Jing Zhang
    • , Lirong Zheng
    • , Fei Gao
    • , Lin Dong
    • , Noritatsu Tsubaki
    •  &  Xingang Li
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Metal-support interaction plays an important role in heterogeneous catalysis, but silica has been rarely reported as an effective support to create active metal-support interfaces for promoting catalytic reactions. Here, the authors discover that Cu/SiO2 interface creates an exceptional effect to promote catalytic hydrogenation of esters.

    • Chaofa Xu
    • , Guangxu Chen
    • , Yun Zhao
    • , Pengxin Liu
    • , Xinping Duan
    • , Lin Gu
    • , Gang Fu
    • , Youzhu Yuan
    •  &  Nanfeng Zheng
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Selective conversion of CO2 and H2 into aromatics remains challenging due to the high unsaturation degree and complex structure of aromatics. Here the authors report a composite catalyst of ZnAlOx and H-ZSM-5 which promotes the formation of aromatics with high selectivity while inhibiting CO and CH4 formation in CO2 hydrogenation reactions.

    • Youming Ni
    • , Zhiyang Chen
    • , Yi Fu
    • , Yong Liu
    • , Wenliang Zhu
    •  &  Zhongmin Liu
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Direct visualization and characterization of the influence of nanoscale organization on the reactivity of organic functional groups in solution remain a challenge. Here, the authors report the real-time observation of the involvement of a nanostructured reagent in a cross-coupling reaction using advanced liquid-phase electron microscopy.

    • Alexey S. Kashin
    • , Evgeniya S. Degtyareva
    • , Dmitry B. Eremin
    •  &  Valentine P. Ananikov

Victoria Richards

  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Molecules can change their electronic properties when they are adsorbed on substrates, which can be useful for sensing and catalysis. Here, the authors use atomic force microscopy to show that the spin state of an iron complex can be changed upon displacing the molecule to different sites of a nitrogen-doped graphene

    • Bruno de la Torre
    • , Martin Švec
    • , Prokop Hapala
    • , Jesus Redondo
    • , Ondřej Krejčí
    • , Rabindranath Lo
    • , Debashree Manna
    • , Amrit Sarmah
    • , Dana Nachtigallová
    • , Jiří Tuček
    • , Piotr Błoński
    • , Michal Otyepka
    • , Radek Zbořil
    • , Pavel Hobza
    •  &  Pavel Jelínek
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Nitrogenase—whose cofactor consists of a metal–sulfur cluster—catalyzes the production of NH3 from N2, but designing metal–sulfur complexes capable of promoting this conversion remains challenging. Here, the authors report on the activation of N2 by a metal–sulfur cluster containing [Mo3S4Ti] cubes, demonstrating NH3 and N2H4 production.

    • Yasuhiro Ohki
    • , Keisuke Uchida
    • , Mizuki Tada
    • , Roger E. Cramer
    • , Takashi Ogura
    •  &  Takehiro Ohta
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    The separation of high molecular weight polymers composed of the same number of monomeric units remains highly challenging. Here, the authors show that efficient separation and purification of mixtures of polymers that differ only by their terminal groups can be achieved through polymer threading in metal-organic framework channels.

    • Benjamin Le Ouay
    • , Chikara Watanabe
    • , Shuto Mochizuki
    • , Masayoshi Takayanagi
    • , Masataka Nagaoka
    • , Takashi Kitao
    •  &  Takashi Uemura
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Understanding quantum tunnelling of the magnetisation in single-molecule magnets is crucial for their potential application in information storage. Here the authors conduct a field- and temperature-dependent study of the magnetisation dynamics of a dysprosium-based SMM, finding four distinct relaxation processes that dominate in different regimes.

    • You-Song Ding
    • , Ke-Xin Yu
    • , Daniel Reta
    • , Fabrizio Ortu
    • , Richard E. P. Winpenny
    • , Yan-Zhen Zheng
    •  &  Nicholas F. Chilton
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Stimuli-responsive porous materials are attractive for a range of applications, but each material typically exhibits only one type of transformation. Here, the authors report on a metal–organic material that exhibits six distinct phases as a result of four types of structural transformation in response to different stimuli.

    • Mohana Shivanna
    • , Qing-Yuan Yang
    • , Alankriti Bajpai
    • , Ewa Patyk-Kazmierczak
    •  &  Michael J. Zaworotko
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Spin-crossover molecules offer a potential route towards molecular spintronics, but retaining the bistability of the spin state upon surface deposition is challenging. Here, the authors study the spin-crossover behaviours of an Fe(II) complex deposited on graphite, determining the scale limit at which cooperative spin switching becomes effective.

    • Lalminthang Kipgen
    • , Matthias Bernien
    • , Sascha Ossinger
    • , Fabian Nickel
    • , Andrew J. Britton
    • , Lucas M. Arruda
    • , Holger Naggert
    • , Chen Luo
    • , Christian Lotze
    • , Hanjo Ryll
    • , Florin Radu
    • , Enrico Schierle
    • , Eugen Weschke
    • , Felix Tuczek
    •  &  Wolfgang Kuch

Ariane Vartanian

  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    The weak and directional CH-π hydrogen bond has rarely been exploited in the design of supramolecular complexes and molecular machinery. Here, the authors construct a bowl-in-tube complex stabilized solely by concyclic CH-π hydrogen bonds, and show that the guest exhibits single-axis rotational motion despite tight association with the host.

    • Taisuke Matsuno
    • , Masahiro Fujita
    • , Kengo Fukunaga
    • , Sota Sato
    •  &  Hiroyuki Isobe
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    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.

    • Cornelius Krull
    • , Marina Castelli
    • , Prokop Hapala
    • , Dhaneesh Kumar
    • , Anton Tadich
    • , Martina Capsoni
    • , Mark T. Edmonds
    • , Jack Hellerstedt
    • , Sarah A. Burke
    • , Pavel Jelinek
    •  &  Agustin Schiffrin
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Atomic shell closure and electronic shell closure are generally considered to be competing effects in stabilizing magic-sized metal nanoclusters. Here, the authors show, by co-crystallizing two differently-sized clusters, that both mechanisms can work concurrently during magic cluster synthesis.

    • Juanzhu Yan
    • , Sami Malola
    • , Chengyi Hu
    • , Jian Peng
    • , Birger Dittrich
    • , Boon K. Teo
    • , Hannu Häkkinen
    • , Lansun Zheng
    •  &  Nanfeng Zheng
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    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.

    • Yang-Yang Fan
    • , Dandan Chen
    • , Ze-Ao Huang
    • , Jun Zhu
    • , Chen-Ho Tung
    • , Li-Zhu Wu
    •  &  Huan Cong
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Chiral-icosahedral symmetry is exceptionally rare in molecular systems. Here, the authors predict the spontaneous formation of a stable chiral-icosahedral gold shell, in which all 60 atoms are symmetrically equivalent.

    • S.-M. Mullins
    • , H.-Ch. Weissker
    • , R. Sinha-Roy
    • , J. J. Pelayo
    • , I. L. Garzón
    • , R. L. Whetten
    •  &  X. López-Lozano
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Complex assembly pathways often involve transient, partly-formed intermediates that are challenging to characterize. Here, the authors present a simple and rapid spectroscopic thermal hysteresis method for mapping the energy landscapes of supramolecular assembly.

    • Robert W. Harkness V
    • , Nicole Avakyan
    • , Hanadi F. Sleiman
    •  &  Anthony K. Mittermaier

Adam West

  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Femtosecond laser spectroscopy has contributed to our understanding of structure and function of matter. Here, the authors explore the applicability of superfluid helium nanodroplets as a sample preparation method that allows investigation of previously inaccessible classes of tailor-made or fragile molecular systems.

    • Bernhard Thaler
    • , Sascha Ranftl
    • , Pascal Heim
    • , Stefan Cesnik
    • , Leonhard Treiber
    • , Ralf Meyer
    • , Andreas W. Hauser
    • , Wolfgang E. Ernst
    •  &  Markus Koch
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    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.

    • Johanna Eichhorn
    • , Christoph Kastl
    • , Jason K. Cooper
    • , Dominik Ziegler
    • , Adam M. Schwartzberg
    • , Ian D. Sharp
    •  &  Francesca M. Toma
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Energy transfer from carotenoids to chlorophylls in light-harvesting is still not fully understood, especially in the ultrafast regime. Here, the authors investigate the coherent dynamics of this process in peridinin-chlorophyll a-protein complex via 2D electronic spectroscopy and quantum chemical calculations.

    • Elena Meneghin
    • , Andrea Volpato
    • , Lorenzo Cupellini
    • , Luca Bolzonello
    • , Sandro Jurinovich
    • , Vincenzo Mascoli
    • , Donatella Carbonera
    • , Benedetta Mennucci
    •  &  Elisabetta Collini
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Some photo-physical processes in multichromophore systems might get triggered only if two excitations are present. Here, the authors introduce exciton–exciton-interaction 2D spectroscopy, which is a non-linear optical method that can selectively track the time evolution of such effects.

    • Jakub Dostál
    • , Franziska Fennel
    • , Federico Koch
    • , Stefanie Herbst
    • , Frank Würthner
    •  &  Tobias Brixner
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    The concentration of formic acid in Earth’s atmosphere is under-predicted by atmospheric models. Here the authors show that acetaldehyde photo-tautomerizes to vinyl alcohol under tropospheric conditions, with subsequent oxidation via OH radicals supplying up to 60% of total modeled formic acid production over oceans.

    • Miranda F. Shaw
    • , Bálint Sztáray
    • , Lisa K. Whalley
    • , Dwayne E. Heard
    • , Dylan B. Millet
    • , Meredith J. T. Jordan
    • , David L. Osborn
    •  &  Scott H. Kable