Volume 7

  • No. 9 September 2023

    The backbone structure of a polymer typically remains unchanged throughout its lifecycle — polymer modifications are usually focussed on the periphery of the structure. But changing the backbone of a polymer — editing it just as one can change the meaning of sentence by altering the words — offers opportunities to alter both function and sustainability. The cover illustrates the process of defining the backbone and illustrates the central concept with a hand drawn polymer structure in the course of being edited. See Ditzler et al.

  • No. 8 August 2023

    In proteins, loops are flexible structures that act as gates and frequently decorate the active sites of enzymes. Manipulating and controlling the dynamics of these loops enables the catalytic efficiency and even selectivity of enzymes to be tailored, without directly making changes to the active sites. The cover image illustrates the evolving loops in the tryptophan-B protein against a background of the phylogenetic tree of life. See Corbella et al.

  • No. 7 July 2023

    Solar cells are a major contributor to reducing carbon footprint and achieving global carbon neutrality. In halide perovskite photovoltaics, a stable photoactive phase is a prerequisite for long-term effective energy conversion. To achieve this goal it is essential to understand the root of perovskite phase instability at the atomic scale and develop strategies for photoactive phase stabilization. The cover image highlights a unidirectional transition from photoinactive (hexagonal) to the photoactive (cubic) phase that will be the key to realizing the industrialization of perovskite photovoltaics. See Liu et al.

  • No. 6 June 2023

    Virtually all naturally occurring biomolecules are homochiral. Powerful modern synthetic methods can access these complex molecules as their mirror-images, whereby their unique properties can be leveraged for application in drug discovery, racemic crystallography, and ultimately, in early progress towards constructing mirror-image life. This cover image is a kaleidoscopic representation of a mirror-image T7 RNA polymerase (the largest protein that has been chemically synthesized to date), highlighting the incredible size and complexity of mirror-image proteins that are now synthetically accessible. See Harrison et al.

  • No. 5 May 2023

    Silk is synonymous with luxury, but silk-chemistry extends beyond textiles. This cover image details the structure of silk fibroin polymer chains, which are extracted from silkworm cocoons, and consists of neatly folded crystalline domains connected by amorphous coils. Silk fibroin can be functionalised by carboxylation and coupling reactions to fine-tune its physicochemical properties. Crosslinking reactions facilitate network formation in composite biomaterials. The applications of silk fibroin are legion ranging from tissue adhesives to thermoplastics, for use from biosensing to 3D printing. See Sahoo et al.

  • No. 4 April 2023

    In cells, enzymes (that are themselves proteins) catalyse the process of peptide ligation. On the cover of this issue this is envisaged as a factory line in which proteins work to assemble new proteins from various building blocks. Drawing upon nature’s manufacturing processes, researchers have repurposed these enzymatic methods to build a toolbox of chemical protein ligation strategies. This has enabled the development of improved polypeptide-based therapeutics and provided access to new protein structures that help us to better understand the inner workings of the cell. See Pihl et al.

  • No. 3 March 2023

    The availability of synthetic DNA is outstripped by its growing number of uses. With applications in engineering biology, therapy, data storage and nanotechnology, the demand for synthetic DNA is increasing. New technologies have been developed and commercialised to meet this need. By analogy to the advances in word processing, this cover image represents how technological advances can improve the efficiency and scale of DNA syntheses. See Hoose et al.

  • No. 2 February 2023

    Organic molecules with a chromophore tethered to a stable radical can be excited into a triplet–doublet state following irradiation with light. The magnetic and optical properties of these modular systems have intrigued researchers interested in future materials for molecular spintronics, with applications in quantum information technology and artificial photosynthesis. The cover image represents the communication lines between typical chromophores and radicals in triplet–doublet systems such as the one drawn in the central structure. See Quintes et al.

  • No. 1 January 2023

    Time is an often-neglected variable in biological research. Plants respond to biotic and abiotic stressors with a range of chemical signals, but as plants are non-equilibrium systems, single-point measurements often cannot provide sufficient temporal resolution to capture these time dependent signals. Continuous measurement of the most important chemical species (including ions, organic molecules, inorganic molecules, and radicals) is possible through electrochemical and optical methods. The cover image represents this interface between technology and plants. See Coatsworth et al.