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  • Suppressing the formation of oxide encapsulation layers on the active metal during pretreatment would lead to increased catalytic activity in supported catalysts, but controlling the strong metal-support interactions is challenging. Now it is shown that cleverly introducing TiOx patches onto Ru/MnO allows engineering effective oxide–oxide interface channels and avoids oxide overlayer formation, thus improving the performance of CO2 hydrogenation to produce CO.

    • Yuhua Liu
    • Wei Zhang
    News & Views
  • Diverse cytochrome P450s (CYPs) in nature can modify terpenoid scaffolds toward products with higher structural complexity and chemical diversity, but their discovery remains challenging. Now, an Escherichia coli -based gene screening platform enables high-throughput bacterial CYP screening, leading to efficient and diverse terpenoid biosynthesis.

    • Jianing Han
    • Sijin Li
    News & Views
  • A better understanding of the mechanism of electrochemical CO2 reduction should enable development of electrocatalysts that are more active and selective. Now, through an isotopic labelling strategy, it has been discovered that there are at least two types of active sites on Cu electrocatalysts, one responsible for converting CO2 to CO and another for further converting CO to useful C2+ products.

    • Yanwei Lum
    • Joel W. Ager
    News & Views
  • Selective electrochemical oxidation of ammonia provides an ideal pathway to synthesize hydrazine, but this process is outcompeted by a more favourable overoxidation to N2. A molecular ruthenium catalyst has now flipped the script, circumventing the thermodynamic challenges to selectively generate hydrazine.

    • Pablo Garrido-Barros
    • Ignacio Funes-Ardoiz
    News & Views
  • CRISPR-Cas9 is a major gene-editing tool that has attracted tremendous interdisciplinary efforts to ameliorate precise genome manipulation. Now, the pivotal structural features behind concerted double-stranded DNA cleavages by the Cas9 endonuclease have been captured through cryo-electron microscopy, laying the groundwork for improved Cas9 engineering.

    • Aakash Saha
    • Chinmai Pindi
    • Giulia Palermo
    News & Views
  • The selective oxidation of methane to methanol using O2 under mild conditions has been a challenge for decades. Now, this transformation is selectively achieved at ambient temperature with productivity as high as 67.4 μmol gcat−1 h−1 on a reduced phosphomolybdate catalyst, where H2 is required to keep the catalyst surface in a reduced state.

    • Liang Wang
    • Feng-Shou Xiao
    News & Views
  • The electrochemical conversion of carbon dioxide to high-value multicarbon products is very desirable, but also fraught with immense complexity in process design. A twist in tuning product yields in this reaction could be based on water activity.

    • Frank Marken
    News & Views
  • The electrochemical reduction of CO2 in strong acids is difficult. Now a strategy utilizing immobilized cations significantly enhances system stability and efficiency, opening up avenues for optimized CO2 conversion to C2 products.

    • Anthony Shoji Hall
    News & Views
  • Enzymes are capable of controlling the reactivity and selectivity of catalytic mechanisms involving highly reactive intermediates. Now, flavine mononucleotide-dependent ene-reductases have been repurposed as photobiocatalysts for generating and taming unstable N-centred radicals, enabling their application in asymmetric radical C–N couplings.

    • Marc Garcia-Borràs
    News & Views
  • Directed evolution has been extensively used to develop enzymes with enhanced properties, but there are limited examples of diverting key intermediates in catalytic cycles down alternative pathways. Now, a cytochrome P450 variant with promiscuous catalytic activity has been repurposed into a ketone synthase for the catalytic aerobic oxidation of internal alkenes to ketones.

    • Elaine O’Reilly
    • Marianne B. Haarr
    News & Views
  • Ethylene glycol is traditionally manufactured through energy-intensive thermocatalytic processes. Now, in a marked advance, a cascade catalytic system using electrochemically synthesized H2O2 for ethylene oxidation has been introduced. This strategy represents a benchmark for sustainable chemical manufacturing.

    • Chuan Xia
    News & Views
  • The chlor-alkali industry is one of the largest global electricity consumers. In the 1970s, the discovery of dimensionally stable anodes (DSAs) allowed for drastic savings in electricity consumption. The fundamental reasons behind the effectiveness of DSAs, however, were only clarified decades later.

    • Aleksandar R. Zeradjanin
    News & Views
  • The d-band model was proposed by Bjørk Hammer and Jens Nørskov almost 30 years ago to explain trends in the interaction of adsorbates with transition-metal surfaces. It remains a cornerstone in heterogeneous catalysis research and has inspired a wealth of later models.

    • Mie Andersen
    News & Views
  • Scientific research on human insulin was a crucial development in medicine, and its discovery led to the treatment of diabetes, one of the most prevalent global chronic diseases. A seminal work published in 1979 describing recombinant DNA technology to produce human insulin through biocatalysis has resulted in this field’s establishment and routine industrial applications.

    • Thavendran Govender
    • Tricia Naicker
    News & Views
  • The conditions employed for alkane dehydrogenation reactions are usually detrimental for catalyst stability. Now, subnanometre Pt clusters stabilized by the Ge-enriched double four-membered-ring units in a UTL-type zeolite structure show exceptionally high stability for this important transformation.

    • Lichen Liu
    News & Views
  • Linear polyethylene and isotactic polypropylene, the two largest-volume polymers on the market, were invented in the 1950s thanks to diverse mixes of serendipity, intuition and talent. After 70 years, a thoughtful revisitation of those ground-breaking discoveries can still be revealing and inspirational.

    • Giuseppe Antinucci
    • Roberta Cipullo
    • Vincenzo Busico
    News & Views
  • Proton exchange membrane fuel cell catalyst layers (CLs) have complex structures that largely determine their performance and durability. Their three-dimensional morphology and component spatial distribution is still poorly understood. This comprehensive work reports one of the first cryogenic transmission electron tomography reconstructions of a full commercial CL section, including challenging-to-image ionomer distribution.

    • Jasna Jankovic
    News & Views
  • The issue of gas solubility has profound implications for studying the activity of oxygen reduction reaction electrocatalysts. Aqueous solutions endowed with permanent microporosity — termed microporous water — could be the answer.

    • Christopher Batchelor-McAuley
    News & Views
  • The discovery of the Tetrahymena group I intron’s self-splicing defined RNAs as capable catalysts. Now, cryogenic electron microscopy structures of this ribozyme have revealed large conformational changes and mechanistic details of its two-step mode of action.

    • Kyle H. Cole
    • Katrina Mogannam
    • Andrej Lupták
    News & Views
  • In a standard electrochemistry experiment, the electrochemical signal reports on all electron transfer, chemical, and diffusion steps between the anode and cathode. Now, a membrane reactor decouples each of these steps to enable direct measurement of elementary reaction steps in ways that are otherwise not possible.

    • Yunzhou Wen
    • Curtis P. Berlinguette
    News & Views