Volume 1

  • No. 12 December 2017

    The four step sequence that leads to unidirectional rotation of a light-driven molecular motor based on a sterically crowded alkene is depicted. In their Perspective article, Ben Feringa, Sander Wezenberg and co-workers describe how this concept has been exploited to dynamically control the function of molecular systems. Applications in catalysis, chirality transfer, co-operative action and the control of biological properties are described. The article highlights future challenges that will be necessary in order to fully exploit the molecular motor blueprint. 

    See: van Leeuwen, T., Lubbe, A. S., Štacko, P. Wezenberg S. J. & Feringa, B. L. Dynamic control of function by light-driven molecular motorsw. Nat. Rev. Chem. 1, 0096 (2017).

  • No. 11 November 2017

    The huge osmotic pressure generated by the salinity gradient at the interface between fresh and salt waters, such as rivers and seas, can be converted in energy. The efficient harvesting of this so-called blue energy requires atomistic understanding of processes at the fresh–salt water interface, nanofluidics and the design of specific membranes. See Siria, A., Bocquet, M.-L. & Bocquet, L., New avenues for the large-scale harvesting of blue energy. Nat. Rev. Chem. 1, 0091 (2017).



  • No. 10 October 2017

    Cascade reactions rapidly generate molecular complexity from simple starting materials. The high reactivity of radicals generated by single electron transfer makes them ideal intermediates in the design of such reactions. Shown here are the simplified structures of radical intermediates in the synthesis of pleuromutulin triggered by single electron transfer from a samarium(II) catalyst.

    See Plesniak, M. P., Huang, H.-M. & Procter, D. J. Nat. Rev. Chem. 1, 0077 (2017).

  • No. 9 September 2017

    DNA polymerases are enzymes that mediate DNA replication. Their active sites can be fine-tuned to such a degree so as to mediate only the formation of Watson–Crick pairs and thus replicate DNA with high fidelity. Pictured here is the replication fork of DNA, with a polymerase incorporating nucleotides into the leading DNA strand.

    See Wu, W.-J. Yang, W. & Tsai, M.-D. Nat. Rev. Chem. 1, 0068 (2017).

  • No. 8 August 2017

    Interlocked molecules — once a synthetic curiosity — have become readily accessible molecules with potential applications in a wide variety of fields, perhaps most famously in the production of molecular machines. The active template method — which uses metal ions to both template assembly and mediate bond formation has enabled the synthesis of ever more complex interlocked structures.

    See: Denis, M. & Goldup, S. M. Nat. Rev. Chem. 1, 0061 (2017)

  • No. 7 July 2017

    The pore sizes in covalent organic frameworks (COFs) can be tuned by selecting the appropriate building blocks. Applying the mathematical principles of tessellation to the synthesis of 2D COFs will allow the selective preparation of multiporous materials — a key requirement for many potential future applications.

    See: Jin, Y., Hu, Y. & Zhang, W. Nat. Rev. Chem. 1, 0056 (2017).

  • No. 6 June 2017

    Protein–protein interactions help synaptic vesicles bind the cell membrane, to which they fuse prior to releasing their neurotransmitter cargo. Several analytical techniques allow one to probe the nature of the macromolecules involved, as well as the small molecules delivered between cells. Among these techniques is electrochemistry: pictured here is an electrode placed outside the fusion pore, poised to sense dopamine in the form of anodic current signals.

    See  Phan, N. T. N., Li, X. & Ewing, A. G. Nat. Rev. Chem. 1, 0048 (2017).

  • No. 5 May 2017

    Quadruplex structures are known to form from guanine rich DNA sequences such as those found in the telomere. Formation of these structures is known to decrease the activity of telomerase, an enzyme whose activity has been implicated in the development of several types of cancer. Small molecules which bind to and stabilize quadruplex DNA are thus being investigated as potential cancer therapeutics.

    See  Neidle, S. Nat. Rev. Chem. 1, 0041 (2017).

  • No. 4 April 2017

    A fingerprint is a unique feature whose detection and analysis make the recognition of an individual fail-safe. Similarly, adding chemical fingerprints to goods is a promising approach to make them unclonable. Using optical properties to image, for example, the unpredictable structures that arise from polymer corrugation it is possible to produce tags that are impossible to counterfeit.

    See Arppe & Just Sørensen, Nat. Rev. Chem. 1, 0031 (2017).

  • No. 3 March 2017

    Small molecules often mediate or modulate interactions between species. Roseobacticide A, shown in the foreground, is a potent anti-algal secondary metabolite that is produced as a result of a relationship between the bacteria Phaeobacter inhibens and the alga Emiliania huxleyei that begins as mutualistic but later becomes parasitic. There are multiple examples of natural products that result from such ‘group effort’ but such interactions are underappreciated in laboratory studies that often focus on a single-species.

    See Wang and Seyedsayamdost, Nat. Rev. Chem. 1, 0021 (2017)

  • No. 2 February 2017

    2D allotropes often exhibit peculiar properties. Although graphene — which can be isolated from the naturally occurring layered bulk counterpart, graphite — is the most popular representative of this class of materials, the library of 2D materials is being significantly expanded to elemental species like borophene, silicene and phosphorene that offer unique structures and functions.

  • No. 1 January 2017

    Single molecule manipulation

    Atomic force microscopy enables manipulation and characterization of individual molecules at atomic resolution. For example, 9,10-dibromoanthracene can be fragmented into bromine atoms and a species featuring fused ten- and six-membered rings. Bonds can be formed as well as broken and control over such processes will allow the generation and study of a range of new intermediates and products.

    See Pavliček and Gross 1, 16014 (2017)