Volume 1

  • No. 12 December 2018

    Copper nanocavities in electrosynthesis

    Using renewable electricity to convert carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide to value-added carbon-based chemical feedstocks reduces reliance on fossil fuels. Here, Sargent and co-workers report C3 alcohol fuel (n-propanol) production from carbon monoxide by a copper nanocavity electrocatalyst. They demonstrate that the nanocavity geometry can concentrate the C2 intermediate internally, promoting further conversion to C3 products via C2:C1 coupling.

    See Zhuang et al.

  • No. 11 November 2018

    From model to reality

    Model catalysts are useful tools for the study of chemical reactions. However they may provide simplified pictures that are distinct from real applications. Here, Reece et al. demonstrate an approach to quantitatively predict the selectivity for the oxidative coupling of methanol on nanoporous gold under a large range of experimentally relevant conditions, using kinetic and mechanistic information obtained through model studies on gold single crystals.

    See Reece et al.

  • No. 10 October 2018

    Gas diffusion boosts CO electroreduction

    Electrochemical carbon monoxide reduction is a critical step in the decoupled electrolysis of CO2 to valuable multi-carbon products. Here, Jouny et al. demonstrate a continuous CO electrolyser for producing C2+ products with selectivities over 90% at industrially relevant rates. Isotopic labelling studies and surface pH calculations provide insight into the enhanced performance relative to direct CO2 reduction, particularly enhanced acetate formation.

    See Jouny et al.

  • No. 9 September 2018

    Reversible metalloenzyme-assembly

    Inspired by the way bacteria use siderophores to acquire essential iron, the iron complex of a bacterial siderophore has now been used as redox-switchable anchor to enable a synthetic catalyst to be attached strongly, yet reversibly, to a protein scaffold. The switchable iron–siderophore anchor allows the resulting artificial metalloenzyme to function, while also allowing high-value components, in particular the protein, to be reclaimed and reused.

    See Raines et al.

  • No. 8 August 2018

    A breath of fresh air

    Electrochemical CO2 reduction requires efficient gas–liquid–solid interfaces. Here, Cui and co-workers have designed a system that mimics the alveolus structure in mammalian lungs that enables the formation of these three-phase catalytic interfaces. This is achieved by using polyethylene membranes with high gas permeability but very low water diffusibility.

    See Cui et al.

  • No. 7 July 2018

    A light touch for polymers

    Remote-controlling living polymerization processes by the flip of a light switch offers great potential for the synthesis of sophisticated macromolecules. Now, Eisenreich et al. have created a photoswitchable catalyst, which allows for control over both the length as well as the monomer incorporation into the growing polymer chain by illuminating with light of the proper wavelength.

    See Eisenreich et al.

  • No. 6 June 2018

    Biocatalysed CO2 to fuels

    Stiebritz et al. show that biogenic and synthetic iron–sulfur clusters catalyze the reduction of the greenhouse gas CO2 and the toxic gas CO to hydrocarbons under ambient conditions. This finding provides a useful framework for the mild conversion of these gases into fuels and other useful commodity chemicals.

    See Stiebritz et al.

  • No. 5 May 2018

    Waste turned into energy

    The production of renewable hydrogen is a key factor in the development of the hydrogen economy. Now, Zhang et al. report a one-pot method for the conversion of non-edible biomass and domestic waste into hydrogen. In this process formic acid serves as the intermediate hydrogen donor, releasing the gas to generate electricity within a fuel cell.

    See Zhang et al.

  • No. 4 April 2018

    Enzyme network by design

    The construction of enzymatic reaction networks in vitro with predictable dynamics of interest is an emerging area of synthetic and systems biology. Zhang et al. present a two-enzyme reaction network with delayed substrate competition that can generate tunable pulse responses, be used for a ‘green bottle’ experiment and drive and visualize Rayleigh–Bénard Convection.

    See Zhang et al.

  • No. 3 March 2018

    Visualizing single-site reactivity

    Low-temperature CO oxidation is industrially and environmentally important, and despite recent reports of facile conversion on single metal sites, debate over the nature and function of these sites exists. Therrien et al. unambiguously demonstrate that individual platinum atoms in a neutral charge state can perform this oxidation chemistry efficiently around room temperature, and further elucidate the mechanism with theory.

    See Therrien et al.

  • No. 2 February 2018

    Linking outside the box

    The conversion of carbon dioxide into multi-carbon products is needed to produce liquid fuels and more complex chemicals, though achieving selectivity over single-carbon products can be challenging. Here, Jiang et al. predict that Cu(100) facets are favourable for electrocatalytic C–C coupling, and demonstrate this by preparing copper nanocubes rich in these facets that prove to be selective for C2+ products in water.

    See Jiang et al.

  • No. 1 January 2018

    Identifying single–atom electrocatalysts

    A lack of insight into the structure of single-atom electrocatalysts holds back their rational design. Now, Fei et al. report the synthesis of single-atom nickel, iron and cobalt electrocatalysts in nitrogen-doped graphene. In-depth characterization identifies the exact structure of the active sites and allows a theoretical prediction of their relative activities in oxygen evolution reactions – a structure–activity relationship that is supported by subsequent experiments.

    See Fei et al.