News & Comment

  • News & Views |

    In biological systems, order typically emerges from out-of-equilibrium molecular processes that control both static patterns and dynamic changes. Now, the self-regulating assembly and disassembly of a synthetic system has been achieved on the micrometre scale, by coupling the growth of a DNA nanotube to a biochemical oscillator.

    • Tim Liedl
  • News & Views |

    The longstanding ‘polyelectrolyte theory of the gene’ proposes that a multiply charged backbone is the universal signature of all genetic polymer systems that support life. Now, the first tenable challenge to this theory has been mounted, through the successful engineering of enzymes which can synthesize and reverse-transcribe from an artificial, uncharged nucleic acid analogue.

    • Asha Brown
    •  & Tom Brown
  • News & Views |

    Methods for generating molecular diversity provide a route to screen a wider section of chemical space, to discover compounds with useful biological properties. Now, a complexity-to-diversity strategy has enabled the discovery of a multi-cyclic structure from a complex natural product that induces ferroptotic cell death in cancer cells.

    • Tatiana Cañeque
    •  & Raphaël Rodriguez
  • Meeting Report |

    Two recent back-to-back meetings conveyed a common set of ongoing challenges for the fields of organocatalysis, photoredox catalysis and photochemistry.

    • Craig P. Johnston
  • Thesis |

    Bruce C. Gibb explains why plastic isn’t always fantastic.

    • Bruce C. Gibb
  • News & Views |

    The direct formation of C–N bonds onto arenes provides a simple route to synthesize a variety of important products. Now, formation of a highly polarized, aminium radical cation enables direct C–H amination, allowing the coupling of an exceptionally broad range of alkyl amines and arenes.

    • David Nagib
  • News & Views |

    Bacterial communication is a potential strategy to control bacterial behaviours and thus, attenuate pathogen infectivity; however, identifying the signalling molecules that regulate communication pathways is challenging. Now, a robust strategy to rapidly identify previously unknown signalling peptides has been developed. This approach provides a means to map out and decipher bacterial signalling mechanisms.

    • Dominic N. McBrayer
    •  & Yftah Tal-Gan
  • Comment |

    The periodic table is immensely powerful for rationalizing many different properties of the chemical elements, but would turning it on its head make some important aspects easier to understand and give everyone a new perspective on chemistry?

    • Martyn Poliakoff
    • , Alexis D. J. Makin
    • , Samantha L. Y. Tang
    •  & Ellen Poliakoff
  • News & Views |

    Maleimide–thiol adducts are popular in both bioconjugation and materials chemistry, however, they are unstable under physiological conditions. Now, a mechanochemical approach uses pulling forces to stabilize maleimide–thiol adducts and improve the stability of polymer–protein conjugates.

    • Cody J. Higginson
    •  & Phillip B. Messersmith
  • Thesis |

    Weighing up whether or not to drink heavy water, Michelle Francl plunges into its history.

    • Michelle Francl
  • News & Views |

    Natural products often provide lead scaffolds for the development of therapeutics, but complexity of their synthesis can limit the discovery of improved analogues. Pharmacophore-directed retrosynthesis aims to accelerate the building of a structure–activity relationship profile of a natural product, aiming to identifying a simplified lead.

    • Jason R. Hudlicky
    •  & Gary A. Sulikowski
  • Editorial |

    In our very first issue, eight scientists shared their visions for how they thought chemistry would develop and now, ten years on, we have asked another group of researchers to look to the future. We also take this opportunity to look back and reflect on a decade of Nature Chemistry.

  • Feature |

    To mark the occasion of Nature Chemistry turning 10 years old, we asked scientists working in different areas of chemistry to tell us what they thought the most exciting, interesting or challenging aspects related to the development of their main field of research will be — here is what they said.

    • Alán Aspuru-Guzik
    • , Mu-Hyun Baik
    • , Shankar Balasubramanian
    • , Rahul Banerjee
    • , Suzanne Bart
    • , Nadine Borduas-Dedekind
    • , Sukbok Chang
    • , Peng Chen
    • , Clemence Corminboeuf
    • , François-Xavier Coudert
    • , Leroy Cronin
    • , Cathleen Crudden
    • , Tanja Cuk
    • , Abigail G. Doyle
    • , Chunhai Fan
    • , Xinliang Feng
    • , Danna Freedman
    • , Shuhei Furukawa
    • , Suhrit Ghosh
    • , Frank Glorius
    • , Malika Jeffries-EL
    • , Nathalie Katsonis
    • , Ang Li
    • , Sara Snogerup Linse
    • , Silvia Marchesan
    • , Nuno Maulide
    • , Anat Milo
    • , Alison R. H. Narayan
    • , Panče Naumov
    • , Cristina Nevado
    • , Tebello Nyokong
    • , Rosa Palacin
    • , Marc Reid
    • , Carol Robinson
    • , Gregory Robinson
    • , Richmond Sarpong
    • , Corinna Schindler
    • , Gabriela S. Schlau-Cohen
    • , Timothy W. Schmidt
    • , Roberta Sessoli
    • , Yang Shao-Horn
    • , Hanadi Sleiman
    • , John Sutherland
    • , Annette Taylor
    • , Akif Tezcan
    • , Mariola Tortosa
    • , Aron Walsh
    • , Allan J. B. Watson
    • , Bert M. Weckhuysen
    • , Emily Weiss
    • , Daniela Wilson
    • , Vivian W.-W. Yam
    • , Xueming Yang
    • , Jackie Y. Ying
    • , Tehshik Yoon
    • , Shu-Li You
    • , Aldo J. G. Zarbin
    •  & Hua Zhang
  • News & Views |

    The structure of self-assembled aggregates depends critically on the manner in which the building blocks organize themselves. Now, such a self-assembly process has been monitored in situ using liquid-phase transmission electron microscopy, unveiling a new pathway of vesicle formation.

    • Arash Nikoubashman
    •  & Friederike Schmid
  • Thesis |

    After a PhD in Canada, a post-graduate career in the USA and fellowships in Japan and Austria, Reuben Hudson discusses how a universal language enables the meaningful pursuit of chemistry across cultures.

    • Reuben Hudson
  • Editorial |

    We reflect on our monthly ‘In Your Element’ feature that comes to an end in this issue.

  • News & Views |

    Enzymatic approaches to synthesize oligosaccharides offer an alternative to chemical syntheses for the production of homogeneous glycans; however, enzyme-based routes typically require lengthy processes. Now, the design of a water-soluble affinity tag has enabled the automation of multistep enzymatic syntheses of mammalian oligosaccharides.

    • Nicola L. B. Pohl
  • Comment |

    By expanding the scope of sustainability to the entire lifecycle of chemical products, the concept of circular chemistry aims to replace today’s linear ‘take–make–dispose’ approach with circular processes. This will optimize resource efficiency across chemical value chains and enable a closed-loop, waste-free chemical industry.

    • Tom Keijer
    • , Vincent Bakker
    •  & J. Chris Slootweg
  • News & Views |

    Gold — long presumed to be an inert metal — has been increasingly shaking this image over the past couple of decades, mostly through electrophilic behaviour. Now, a two-coordinate gold complex has been shown to exhibit nucleophilic reactivity, with the insertion of CO2 into its polarized Auδ−–Alδ+ bond.

    • Didier Bourissou
  • News & Views |

    Finely tuned interactions in the second coordination sphere of enzymes or homogeneous catalysts can be essential for their function. Now, this concept has been applied to the surface of a catalytic material, utilizing pairs of Cu atoms for the selective electrochemical fixation of CO2.

    • Benjamin S. Natinsky
    •  & Chong Liu
  • In Your Element |

    The first element to be identified one atom at a time was named after the main architect of the modern periodic table. This seemingly straightforward etymological choice illustrates how scientific recognition can eclipse geopolitical tensions, says Anne Pichon.

    • Anne Pichon
  • News & Views |

    Strained boronate complexes have now been shown to enable an unprecedented cross-coupling reaction across a C–C σ-bond. Using this approach, highly functionalized cyclobutanes can be prepared with excellent stereocontrol from readily available reagents.

    • Alejandro Parra
    •  & Mariola Tortosa
  • Thesis |

    The elements of the periodic table are more integral to our daily lives now than they have ever been before. Bruce C. Gibb takes a look at the factors used to decide just how critical the supply of any given mineral is.

    • Bruce C. Gibb
  • In Your Element |

    Lanthanum is the first lanthanide — or the last. Or it’s not a lanthanide at all. In any case, Brett Thornton and Shawn Burdette are sure that it’s an element that might or might not be in group three of the periodic table.

    • Brett F. Thornton
    •  & Shawn C. Burdette
  • Thesis |

    Michelle Francl suggests that we should expand our view of the periodic table to new dimensions.

    • Michelle Francl
  • News & Views |

    Most compounds form crystals so small that scientists cannot experimentally determine their atomic structures using X-ray crystallography. Microcrystal electron diffraction now provides a unique solution for this challenge.

    • Oleg Sitsel
    •  & Stefan Raunser
  • News & Views |

    Intersystem crossing plays a role in the mechanism of many reactive collisions between atomic species and organic molecules, and has been generally observed when the reactants are still approaching one another. Now, intersystem crossing has been observed to also occur after their initial interaction.

    • Luis Bañares
  • In Your Element |

    Yuri Oganessian relates the story of the formation and decay of a doubly odd moscovium nucleus.

    • Yuri Oganessian
  • News & Views |

    One goal of synthetic biologists is to develop artificial systems to help study biological processes. Now, cell communication and differentiation have been demonstrated using spatiotemporal patterns created in artificial multicellular compartments.

    • Yi Li
    •  & Rebecca Schulman
  • Comment |

    At its inception, the periodic table sorted elements by weight, so it may be surprising that the heaviest natural element on Earth remains controversial, or at best, nebulous. In the strange, perhaps-unfinished search for this weightiest nucleus, the only definitive conclusion is that it lies somewhere beyond uranium.

    • Brett F. Thornton
    •  & Shawn C. Burdette
  • News & Views |

    Gold nanomaterials are attractive for a variety of applications, including in medicine, but need to be made stable enough to operate in biological systems. Now, gold nanorods have been stabilized for photothermal therapy by sequential surface anchoring, using a bidendate PEG-based ligand that features a thiolate moiety and an Au–NHC moiety.

    • Guillaume Médard
    •  & Anthoula C. Papageorgiou
  • Comment |

    Let’s flip over the periodic table to peek at its dark side.

    • Michelle Francl
  • Comment |

    The periodic table as we know it now seems complete, its current 118 elements nicely fitting in the seven familiar rows. How many more can be synthesized — and how will the table expand to accommodate them? The search for ever-heavier elements is pointing towards new periods, though perhaps not as neatly ordered as the first seven.

    • Hiromitsu Haba
  • Editorial |

    The United Nations has declared 2019 to be the International Year of the Periodic Table to coincide with this iconic chemical chart turning 150 years old. We join in with the celebrations by publishing a collection of articles that explore the edges of the periodic system and look at some of the elements that do — and don’t — make up the table.

  • Comment |

    Scientists and non-scientists alike have long been dreaming of elements with mighty properties. Perhaps the fictional materials they have conjured up are not as far from reality as it may at first seem.

    • Suze Kundu
  • News & Views |

    Covalent organic frameworks (COFs), whose heterogeneous backbones can be easily tuned at the molecular level, are promising photocatalysts for artificial photosynthesis. Sulfone-rich crystalline, wettable COFs have now been shown to exhibit high photocatalytic hydrogen evolution rates with platinum nanoparticles as co-catalysts.

    • Tanmay Banerjee
    •  & Bettina V. Lotsch
  • In Your Element |

    Stuart Cantrill explains why looking to the heavens for element 61 — named after the Titan who stole fire from the gods — could extend the periodic table.

    • Stuart Cantrill
  • News & Views |

    Superoxide dismutase mimics can help regulate the levels of O2•− in the body, but typically rely on redox-active metals that are toxic in their free form. Now, a complex featuring a redox-active quinol moiety complexed to a redox-inactive zinc centre has been shown to catalyse O2•− dismutation.

    • Diane E. Cabelli
  • News & Views |

    Magnetic or electric fields have long been used to align or orient atomic or molecular species in a molecular beam. Now, experiments in a merged beam apparatus show that an external magnetic field can be used to favour one particular reaction path.

    • Astrid Bergeat
    •  & Christian Naulin
  • News & Views |

    The structural features and catalytic performances of catalyst particles have now been correlated using a fluorescence microscopy approach, by tracking nanoprobes as well as fluorescent reaction products. Such mapping enables exploration of structure–function relationships, which is essential for the design of better catalysts.

    • Wei Wang
  • In Your Element |

    Liz Williams explores the synthesis of tennessine, a story in which elements in supporting roles play a crucial part.

    • Elizabeth Williams
  • News & Views |

    The applicability of metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) — in spite of their obvious potential — is hindered by stability issues, in particular towards water. Now, a ‘crumple zone’ concept has been proposed in which the presence of sacrificial bonds protects a MOF without significantly altering its structure or functionality.

    • Jürgen Senker
  • Thesis |

    Bruce Gibb focuses on fatty acids and wonders whether we’ll all be eating cyanobacteria before too long.

    • Bruce C. Gibb
  • News & Views |

    Dynamic covalent chemistry combines the error-correcting behaviour of supramolecular chemistry with the robustness of covalent bonding, but relies on a somewhat limited set of reactions. Now, the classic nucleophilic aromatic substitution (SNAr) reaction has been shown to be reversible and self-correcting.

    • Yinghua Jin
    •  & Wei Zhang
  • Thesis |

    Michelle Francl considers how metaphor breathes life into chemistry.

    • Michelle Francl
  • In Your Element |

    Shawn C. Burdette and Brett F. Thornton examine hafnium’s emergence from ores containing a seemingly identical element to become both a chemical oddity and an essential material for producing nuclear energy.

    • Shawn C. Burdette
    •  & Brett F. Thornton
  • News & Views |

    Probing single-atom alloys has shown that, when interactions between the components are weak, the electronic structure of the dilute element resembles that of a free atom, making bonding with reactants more like that in molecular homogeneous catalysts.

    • Christian Papp
  • News & Views |

    The structure of an antibiotic that is effective against Gram-positive bacteria, but not against Gram-negative bacteria, has now been modified to improve its effectiveness against Gram-negative bacteria. The approach could help broaden the spectrum of activity of other antibiotics.

    • Jed F. Fisher
    •  & Shahriar Mobashery
  • News & Views |

    The preparation of three-dimensional frameworks with multiple stereocentres from simple acyclic hydrocarbons represents a challenging transformation. Now, starting from simple and readily available reagents, formation of these complex targets can be achieved in just three catalytic transformations with high levels of stereocontrol.

    • Laura Castoldi
    •  & Vittorio Pace