Research articles

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  • X-ray diffraction is crucial for the phase elucidation of polycrystalline materials but remains challenging for complex multiphase systems. Now serial rotation electron diffraction has been shown to enable rapid, reliable and semiquantitative phase analysis of such systems, facilitating high-throughput screening of complex synthesis systems and providing new opportunities for materials development.

    • Yi Luo
    • Bin Wang
    • Xiaodong Zou
    Article Open Access
  • Neutral homoaromatic hydrocarbons—which possess an interrupted π-system yet display aromatic properties owing to through-space or through-bond interactions—have remained rare as they are typically unstable. Now a class of stable neutral homoaromatic homoannulenes has been synthesized, including one that acts as a photoswitch through a reversible [1, 11] sigmatropic rearrangement.

    • Trung Tran Ngoc
    • Niklas Grabicki
    • Johannes F. Teichert
    Article Open Access
  • Current strategies for photoinduced olefin metathesis lack wavelength tunability. Now, plasmonic nanoparticles have been used to activate latent ruthenium catalysts, enabling light-induced olefin metathesis in the infrared range with several advantages when compared with conventional heating. Implementing this approach in ring-opening metathesis polymerization resulted in photoresponsive polymer–nanoparticle composites with enhanced mechanical properties.

    • Nir Lemcoff
    • Noy B. Nechmad
    • Yossi Weizmann
  • Mechanochemical generation of dyes with different photophysical properties generally requires the use of discrete mechanophore derivatives with unique chemical structures. Now it has been shown that diverse donor–acceptor Stenhouse adducts can be produced via a mechanically gated chromogenic reaction, enabling mechanochemical multicolour lithography.

    • Anna C. Overholts
    • Wendy Granados Razo
    • Maxwell J. Robb
  • Cycloaddition reactions are among the most useful reactions in chemical synthesis, but biosynthetic enzymes with 2 + 2 cyclase activity have yet to be observed. Now it is shown that a β-barrel-fold protein catalyses competitive 2 + 2 and 4 + 2 cycloaddition reactions. This protein can be engineered to preferentially produce the exo-2 + 2, exo-4 + 2 or endo-4 + 2 product.

    • Hongbo Wang
    • Yike Zou
    • K. N. Houk
  • The direct conversion of sulfones to chiral sulfinyl compounds is one of the major challenges in the fields of asymmetric synthesis and organosulfur chemistry. Now, through incorporation of a cyano group into the sulfone, an organocatalytic asymmetric deoxygenation strategy has been developed that enables the synthesis of chiral sulfinyl compounds.

    • Shengli Huang
    • Zhen Zeng
    • Hailong Yan
  • An active-template approach has been used to prepare π-conjugated interlocked nanocarbons derived from [n]cycloparaphenylenes. A metal ion bound within the central cavity of a precursor macrocycle first catalyses cross-coupling reactions and then the resulting mechanically interlocked intermediates are further transformed into π-conjugated species—[2] and [3]catenanes as well as a conjugated [3]rotaxane.

    • James H. May
    • Jeff M. Van Raden
    • Ramesh Jasti
  • A Diels–Alderase that catalyses the inherently disfavoured cycloaddition and forms a bicyclo[2.2.2]diazaoctane scaffold with a strict α-anti-selectivity has now been discovered. This Diels–Alderase, called CtdP, is an NmrA-like protein. Isotopic labelling, structural biology and computational studies reveal that the CtdP-catalysed Diels–Alder reaction involves a NADP+/NADPH-dependent redox mechanism.

    • Zhiwen Liu
    • Sebastian Rivera
    • Xue Gao
  • Controlling various selectivities in radical reactions presents both formidable challenges and great opportunities. Now, Co(II)-based metalloradical catalysis has enabled the concurrent control of multiple convergences and selectivities in intermolecular radical allylic C−H amination. The reaction provides access to valuable chiral α-tertiary amines directly from an isomeric mixture of alkenes.

    • Pan Xu
    • Jingjing Xie
    • X. Peter Zhang
  • Asymmetric systems for catalytic carbohydrate functionalization are mostly limited to chiral copper complexes and organocatalysts. Now, a synergistic chiral Rh(I)- and organoboron-catalysed site-selective functionalization of carbohydrate polyols has been developed, giving stereocontrolled access to biologically relevant arylhydronaphthalene glycosides. Enantio-, diastereo-, regio- and anomeric control and dynamic kinetic resolution were found to be concomitantly operative.

    • V. U. Bhaskara Rao
    • Caiming Wang
    • Charles C. J. Loh
    Article Open Access
  • Heteroatom–heteroatom cross-couplings have so far remained elusive. Now, a copper-catalysed enantioselective S–O cross-coupling of diverse diols or triols with sulfonyl chlorides has been realized via a single-electron reductive elimination manifold. The reaction provides access to value-added chiral C3 building blocks and inositol phosphates through enantioselective desymmetrization of biomass-derived alcohols.

    • Yong-Feng Cheng
    • Zhang-Long Yu
    • Xin-Yuan Liu
  • Macrocyclic peptides can be genetically encoded and synthesized in cells; however, the programmable diversity is limited. Now, macrocycles containing two non-canonical amino acids have been genetically encoded and synthesized in codon-reassigned Syn61Δ3 cells. Incorporating diverse hydroxy acids in Syn61Δ3 cells enables the synthesis of non-natural depsipeptides containing either one or two ester bonds.

    • Martin Spinck
    • Carlos Piedrafita
    • Jason W. Chin
    Article Open Access
  • The enantioselective functionalization of C60 is highly challenging, typically requiring complex chiral tethers or demanding chromatography. Fullerenes have now been shown to undergo Diels–Alder reactions in a chemo-, regio- and enantio-selective fashion through confinement within an enantiopure metal–organic cage functionalized with a chiral formylpyridine group.

    • Zifei Lu
    • Tanya K. Ronson
    • Jonathan R. Nitschke
  • Aromaticity is a ubiquitous concept in organic chemistry yet it is less widespread for inorganic species. Now the cluster [(CpRu)3Bi6], obtained as part of a soluble salt, has been shown to exhibit aromatic behaviour referred to as φ-type, owing to a highly regular {Bi6} substructure causing a non-localizable molecular orbital of \(f_{z^3}\)-like symmetry.

    • Benjamin Peerless
    • Andreas Schmidt
    • Stefanie Dehnen
    Article Open Access
  • The nitrogen reduction reaction is an extremely valuable but energy-intensive process. Now, a coordination polymer based on a [Zn–N2–Zn] unit has been shown to promote the formation of ammonia under ambient conditions by a photocatalytic reaction. The N2 moieties within the framework are reduced, creating unsaturated [Zn2+···Zn+] intermediates that are able to capture external N2 and sustain the cycle.

    • Yan Xiong
    • Bang Li
    • Zhong Jin
  • The transition state, a transient species where bond transformation occurs, fundamentally controls reaction dynamics. This important species can be probed through the photodetachment of an anionic precursor, as has now been shown in the F + NH3 reaction. A combination of theory and experiment reveals resonances that span the transition state.

    • Mark C. Babin
    • Martin DeWitt
    • Daniel M. Neumark
  • The strong regiochemical preferences of electrophilic aromatic substitution have played a key role in defining the diversity of accessible chemical space. Now, it has been shown that the electrophilic arylation of phenols can be achieved at the electronically disfavoured meta-position via a formal 1,2-migration of a key σ-complex intermediate.

    • Aaron Senior
    • Katie Ruffell
    • Liam T. Ball
  • Direct oxidative methods for the enantioselective synthesis of heterobiaryl compounds that exhibit axial chirality remain elusive. Now, the use of an iron catalyst in the presence of a chiral PyBOX ligand and an oxidant enables the direct coupling of naphthols and indoles with high levels of enantio- and cross-selectivity.

    • Richard R. Surgenor
    • Xiangqian Liu
    • Martin D. Smith