Reviews & Analysis

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  • Reactive metal–support interactions are generally considered characteristic of oxide supports. Now, two-dimensional niobium carbide, a member of the MXenes family, has been used as a platinum support providing an active water-gas shift catalyst via reduction-induced formation of stable, catalytically active Nb–Pt nanoparticles.

    • Wilfred T. Tysoe
    News & Views
  • Guiding principles for the design of novel catalysts are key to developing new synthesis approaches. Now, a general principle has been defined to predict the reactivity for the hydrogen cycle of atomically dispersed metals on carbon supports.

    • Frédéric Jaouen
    News & Views
  • Discerning the precise mechanisms of photocatalytic energy conversion has long been a challenge. A computational multiscale approach reveals insights into the reaction pathways and rate-limiting steps of the oxygen evolution reaction, the bottleneck for water splitting on TiO2 surfaces.

    • Ashwathi Iyer
    • Elif Ertekin
    News & Views
  • For electrocatalysts, the activity and stability is determined by the surface — often just a few atomic layers thick. Now atom probe tomography is used to examine the changing surface of an oxygen evolution catalyst at near-atomic-scale resolution, linking structure to activity and stability.

    • Alexis Grimaud
    News & Views
  • The solid electrolyte interphase that forms on graphite anodes plays a vital role in the performance of lithium-ion batteries. Now research shows that the formation of lithium fluoride deposits — one of the main components of the solid electrolyte interphase — is strongly influenced by the electrocatalytic activity of the anode.

    • Harry E. Hoster
    News & Views
  • Tensile strain of a solid surface can result in either strengthening or weakening of bonds with adsorbates. Adsorption energies of different adsorbate/site combinations may be shifted in different directions — a striking violation of the Brønsted–Evans–Polanyi relation.

    • Jörg Weissmüller
    News & Views
  • CO is a vital building block in organic synthesis but, due to its toxicity, storage and transport can be problematic. This review focuses on the methods — both chemical and electrochemical — for the in situ generation of CO from CO2, and its subsequent incorporation into chemicals through catalytic means.

    • Dennis U. Nielsen
    • Xin-Ming Hu
    • Troels Skrydstrup
    Review Article
  • Solvents are used pervasively in catalytic studies to enhance kinetics and selectivities. Now, the analysis of biomass upgrading has been remarkably simplified by elucidating the solvation effects of dehydration for key compounds with solvent-enabled control of reactivity.

    • Hu Li
    • Richard L. Smith Jr
    News & Views
  • Fluctuations in the composition of reactant gas mixtures often lead to activity and selectivity variations in automotive catalysts. Now, time-resolved operando spectroscopy sheds light on the transient changes of surface species for a commercially applied catalyst and leads to process optimization.

    • Feng Gao
    • János Szanyi
    News & Views
  • Lyases are enzymes that catalyse the breaking of chemical bonds. Now, reversing this reaction towards carbon–nitrogen bond formation allows for the synthesis of various chiral aminocarboxylic acids such as the potential antibiotic co-drug aspergillomarasmine A.

    • Romas J. Kazlauskas
    News & Views
  • Ammonia synthesis is an energy-intensive process due to the high activation barrier for N2 dissociation, which is the rate-determining step on conventional catalysts. Now, a ternary intermetallic catalyst is reported to be capable of catalysing this reaction through an alternative pathway.

    • Malte Behrens
    News & Views
  • Understanding the fundamentals of a catalytic process remains an intellectual challenge. Now, a method has been developed that can discriminate mass transport phenomena from reaction kinetics at the single-molecule and single-particle levels.

    • Bert M. Weckhuysen
    News & Views
  • Selective, electrochemical transformation of carbon dioxide into industrially relevant C2+ products has remained a challenge. Now, a copper-based ‘nanoneedle’ electrocatalyst has been used to selectively convert carbon dioxide to ethylene at extremely high current density.

    • Douglas R. Kauffman
    • Dominic Alfonso
    News & Views
  • Given the abundance of amines in pharmaceutical substances, new strategies for the formation of C–N bonds are highly sought after. Now, using a dual photoredox–copper catalysis system, a method for amine synthesis has been developed.

    • Joyann S. Barber
    • Francesca M. Ippoliti
    • Neil K. Garg
    News & Views
  • In nature, a manganese catalyst is used for photosynthetic water oxidation, but efforts to develop artificial manganese-based counterparts have been hampered by the lability of manganese complexes. By using a bulky and hydrophilic ligand, a water-soluble Mn12 complex is found to be a stable and efficient water oxidation electrocatalyst.

    • Gary W. Brudvig
    News & Views
  • Most electrochemical CO2 reduction research has been confined to fundamental studies that attempt to understand how to overcome low selectivity and energy efficiency for valuable oxygenated products. Now, a modular, scalable system generates multi-carbon oxygenates with a potential solar-to-alcohol efficiency of more than 8%.

    • Erin B. Creel
    • Bryan D. McCloskey
    News & Views
  • Electrophilic substitution of aromatics on zeolites is generally assumed to occur through the Wheland-type intermediate, although direct experimental evidence is lacking. Now, this carbenium ion has been identified as a stable intermediate in the alkylation of benzene with ethanol on an industrial zeolite catalyst.

    • Teresa Blasco
    News & Views
  • Chemical and biological catalysts provide distinct advantages and disadvantages to the synthetic chemist. This Review focuses on efforts to combine chemo- and biocatalysts, outlining the opportunities achievable by this approach and also efforts to overcome any incompatibilities between these different systems.

    • Florian Rudroff
    • Marko D. Mihovilovic
    • Uwe T. Bornscheuer
    Review Article