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  • Selection mechanisms were critical at the emergence of life and will also be important for the synthesis of life. Now, it has been shown that template-based copying controls the selection of unstable molecules in a chemically fuelled dynamic combinatorial library. Moreover, when encapsulated inside coacervate droplets, these mechanisms change the coacervate’s physical properties.

    • Christine M. E. Kriebisch
    • Ludwig Burger
    • Job Boekhoven
    ArticleOpen Access
  • The mechanism of collagen heterotrimer folding is difficult to recapitulate synthetically. Now an ABC collagen mimetic heterotrimer has been designed that employs pairwise amino acid interactions, validated by X-ray crystallography, to promote composition- and register-specific assembly. The high specificity of its assembly leads to an increased rate of folding compared with similar collagen heterotrimers.

    • Carson C. Cole
    • Douglas R. Walker
    • Jeffrey D. Hartgerink
  • Conventional Li-ion battery electrolytes often show sluggish kinetics and severe degradation due to high Li+ desolvation energies and poor compatibility. Now, a molecular-docking strategy between solvents and inducers has been shown to enable dynamic Li+ coordination that promotes fast, stable and high-voltage lithium battery chemistries.

    • Baochen Ma
    • Haikuo Zhang
    • Xiulin Fan
  • Phosphinidene oxides are intermediates in the combustion of organic phosphorus compounds; however, they are highly unstable and their observation requires ultralow temperatures. Now it has been shown that a combination of steric bulk and electronic stabilization enables the isolation and manipulation of a two-coordinate phosphorus(III) oxide compound at room temperature.

    • Chenyang Hu
    • Nicolas H. Rees
    • Jose M. Goicoechea
  • Most lipid nanoparticles are structurally simplistic, existing as single-compartment assemblies. Now, a microfluidic technology to create liposomes-in-liposomes—with full control over particle features, such as the composition of each membrane, the intermembrane distance and payload of each compartment—has been developed. These particles are exploited for multi-stage release and in situ enzymatic synthesis within the particle’s attolitre volume.

    • Colin P. Pilkington
    • Ignacio Gispert
    • Yuval Elani
    ArticleOpen Access
  • A class of cationic—amidine-based degradable—lipids can now be readily synthesized through a tandem multi-component amine–thiol–acrylate conjugation reaction. Mechanistic studies provided key insights, from which the observed lead lipid enabled mRNA delivery to multiple organs, highlighting the potential for developing mRNA vaccines and therapeutics to treat various diseases.

    • Xuexiang Han
    • Mohamad-Gabriel Alameh
    • Michael J. Mitchell
  • The electrochemical double layer dictates how many energy conversion and storage technologies operate, but such interfacial systems are challenging to examine. Now, Schreier and colleagues have developed a way to correlate variations in the electrochemical double layer with audible frequency changes to afford real-time ‘audiolization’ of molecular movements.

    • Adam Weingarten
    News & Views
  • In this issue we feature several articles that explore advances in the study of phase separation. They highlight some recently reported mechanistic features and progress in the methodology used to study it within cells, and they delve into the implications that phase separation has for select cellular functions.

  • A. Ken Inge pores over the history and applications of bismuth subsalicylate, from dispelling digestive distress to breaching bacterial biodefences.

    • A. Ken Inge
    In Your Element
  • Expanded use of earth-abundant chromophores for excited-state chemistry requires the ability to increase the energy content of excited states while simultaneously lengthening their lifetimes. It has now been shown that this goal can be achieved in Co(III)-based chromophores by virtue of their photophysical dynamics occurring in the Marcus inverted region.

    • Atanu Ghosh
    • Jonathan T. Yarranton
    • James K. McCusker
  • Living anionic polymerization generally requires stringent conditions and one metal initiator per polymer chain. Now it has been shown that a weakly acidic compound serves as the initiator or chain-transfer agent in the presence of a potassium base catalyst to produce a polymer chain through a proton transfer anionic polymerization mechanism.

    • Mineto Uchiyama
    • Natsumi Ohira
    • Masami Kamigaito
  • Compounds containing metal–metal bonds can provide fresh insights into electronic structure and bonding, and their synthesis can open up new chemical space. A sandwich complex containing a lithium–aluminium bond has now delivered some food for thought in this arena.

    • David P. Mills
    News & Views
  • Carbenes are reactive intermediates that undergo many useful transformations yet are typically accessed via functionalized precursors and often require additives. Now, shelf-stable alkynes have been used to generate metal-free carbenes in an additive- and by-product-free method that rapidly affords diverse heterocyclic frameworks.

    • Khushal Siddiq
    • Christopher R. Jones
    News & Views
  • Unlike homo-dihalogenation, selective hetero-dihalogenation reactions are underdeveloped. Now an oxidative alkene hetero-dihalogenation reaction adds chloride and fluoride ions over unactivated alkenes with high regio-, chemo- and diastereoselectivity. A switch in the mechanism triggers a reversal of the diastereoselectivity to promote either anti- or syn-addition.

    • Sayad Doobary
    • Andrew J. D. Lacey
    • Alastair J. J. Lennox
    ArticleOpen Access
  • The oxidative addition of the H–H bond to a single main-group centre in a metallomimetic fashion and its further use in catalysis is challenging. Now the oxidative addition of the H–H bond to a single phosphorus centre is shown and used for the catalytic hydrogenation of unsaturated compounds.

    • Deependra Bawari
    • Donia Toami
    • Roman Dobrovetsky
  • The characterization of surface ligands around nanoparticles is challenging and often limited to static studies. Now, the structure of the ligand shell around gold nanoparticles, and at the ligand–gold interface, has been investigated by transmission electron microscopy in a liquid environment by using high-quality graphene liquid cells.

    • Adrián Pedrazo-Tardajos
    • Nathalie Claes
    • Sara Bals
  • De novo syntheses of 1,2-arylheteroaryl ethanes, key scaffolds in drug discovery, are challenging, typically relying on pre-functionalized synthons, harsh conditions and multi-step processes. Now a modular assembly of arenes, ethylene and heteroarenes yields diverse drug-like 1,2-arylheteroaryl ethanes, highlighting the importance of radical polarity matching in selective multi-component couplings.

    • Tao Liu
    • Talin Li
    • Jie Wu
  • Thermal generation of free carbenes with 100% atom economy is rare. Now, it has been shown that this can be achieved by the net [3+2] cycloaddition between many classes of 2-alkynyl iminoheterocycles and electrophilic alkynes. Together with a host of carbene trapping reactions, this method provides facile and versatile access to diverse heterocycle scaffolds.

    • Qian Xu
    • Thomas R. Hoye
  • Nitrogen-rich Ruddlesden–Popper nitrides are notoriously difficult to stabilize. Now a high-pressure high-temperature synthesis method has enabled the preparation of Pr2ReN4, Nd2ReN4 and Ce2TaN4. Neutron diffraction analysis reveals fully nitrided materials and intricate magnetic structures.

    • M. Weidemann
    • D. Werhahn
    • Simon D. Kloß