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  • Medium-chain linear α-olefins are commodity chemicals; however, manufacturing α-olefins from biomass is challenging due to inefficient removal of the last oxygen atoms. Now, a two-step biological–chemical catalysis strategy to produce medium-chain linear α-olefins provides a route to sustainable polymers.

    • Shaafique Chowdhury
    • Pamela Peralta-Yahya
    News & Views
  • Atmospheric chemists have been unable to explain the rapid sulfate formation observed during wintertime aerosol pollution events. Now, kinetic measurements in atmospherically relevant aerosol particles have highlighted a significant role for nitrogen dioxide in sulfate formation via its interfacial reaction with dissolved SO2.

    • Jian Zhen Yu
    News & Views
  • A protein–nanopore machine that can unfold, thread and degrade a protein has now been developed. Fabricated in a bottom-up fashion, the nanopore machine is assembled from three proteins and provides an important step towards deciphering the sequence of single proteins via nanopores.

    • Yi-Lun Ying
    News & Views
  • Machine learning algorithms are fast surpassing human abilities in multiple tasks, from image recognition to medical diagnostics. Now, machine learning algorithms have been shown to be capable of accurately predicting the folded structures of proteins.

    • Cecilia Clementi
    News & Views
  • Phase separation offers a fundamental mechanism for organization and compartmentalization. Now, peptide-based synthons have been shown to form catalytically active coacervates providing a stepping stone for creating synthetic primitive cells.

    • Samrat Mukhopadhyay
    News & Views
  • Diazoolefins are long-sought-after compounds, but experimental evidence for them is limited because of their high reactivity. Now, it has been shown that the reaction of N-heterocyclic olefins with nitrous oxide provides access to diazoolefins, enabling structural characterization and applications in organometallic and synthetic chemistry.

    • Claire Empel
    • Rene M. Koenigs
    News & Views
  • Aziridines — three-membered nitrogen-containing heterocycles — are important synthetic targets, but N-alkyl aziridines are difficult to synthesize. Now, an electrochemical method, involving a dicationic intermediate, enables the coupling of alkenes and amines.

    • Tiffany Piou
    • Louis-Charles Campeau
    News & Views
  • Finding alternative fates for plastics that would otherwise end up in landfills requires innovative chemistry. Now, poly(acrylic acid) from diaper waste has been converted into valuable pressure-sensitive adhesives through an open-loop recycling method that is cost-effective and environmentally competitive.

    • Meredith A. Borden
    • Frank A. Leibfarth
    News & Views
  • Methods for the synthesis of bicyclo[1.1.1]pentanes (BCPs) typically rely on the release of strain energy, but these routes cannot easily introduce substituents on the BCP bridges. Now, an intramolecular coupling gives access to multi-substituted BCPs, through the synthesis of bridge-substituted bicycloalkyl boronic esters.

    • Cara E. Brocklehurst
    • Edward A. Anderson
    News & Views
  • Charged nanoparticles can behave as large ions or as small colloids. Their interaction with multivalent ions has now been shown to reflect this dichotomy, providing new paths to large, self-assembled nanoparticle superstructures.

    • Tobias Kraus
    News & Views
  • Transition metal complexes with metal-to-ligand charge transfer (MLCT) luminescence and photoactivity typically rely on precious metals such as ruthenium or iridium. Now, two complexes of the Earth-abundant 3d manganese have displayed room-temperature MLCT luminescence in solution and a unique excited-state reactivity.

    • Katja Heinze
    News & Views
  • Although the natural lasso peptide microcin J25 remains an elusive target for total chemical synthesis itself, this topologically non-trivial building block has now been used to construct a range of interlocked molecular architectures including rotaxanes, catenanes and daisy chains.

    • Jan H. van Maarseveen
    News & Views
  • Self-organization — ubiquitous in living systems — occurs out-of-equilibrium, with dissipation of energy and matter. Researchers have now shown that slow proton dissipation switches the assembly of DNA-based fibres to a growth mechanism that heals their gaps, yielding tight nanocable architectures.

    • Mathieu Surin
    News & Views
  • The precisely ordered helical structures of biomacromolecules have long-inspired chemists to create synthetic helical polymers. Now, a new step-growth approach has enabled facile synthesis of helical polymers through the highly efficient sulfur(vi) fluoride exchange click chemistry.

    • Cangjie Yang
    • Jia Niu
    News & Views
  • Carbon–carbon single bonds are generally among the least reactive chemical bonds. While olefin metathesis reactions are well established, direct metathesis of C–C single bonds is rare. Now, a C–C single bond metathesis reaction has been developed, forming cross-biaryl products from unstrained homo-biaryl compounds.

    • Michael M. Gilbert
    • Daniel J. Weix
    News & Views
  • A new class of interwoven metal–organic containers, including one with a cubic architecture, twelve crossing points and a large internal volume, has now been reported. Interconversion between different self-assembled structures can be triggered by simply exchanging the associated anions.

    • Andrew W. Heard
    • Natasha M. A. Speakman
    • Jonathan R. Nitschke
    News & Views
  • The origin and evolution of translational machinery — which produces a specific peptide from an RNA sequence — is a major unsolved puzzle in prebiotic chemistry. Now, the coupling of amino acids directed by RNA templates in the absence of a ribosome provides clues on how this protein synthesis process might have started.

    • Ya Ying Zheng
    • Jia Sheng
    News & Views