Volume 16

  • No. 6 June 2024

    Gasoline from plastic waste

    Strategies for upcycling waste plastics are urgently required. Now, Han and co-workers have developed a strategy to convert polyethylene into gasoline over a layered self-pillared zeolite without the need for external molecular hydrogen or noble metal catalysts. The reaction proceeds through a self-supplied hydrogen mechanism enabled by the open framework aluminium sites. The cover shows an artistic representation of polyethylene diffusing through zeolite pores and being converted into gasoline.

    See Cen et al.

  • No. 5 May 2024

    Monitoring the structural dynamics of MOF crystals

    Serial femtosecond crystallography (SFX) is a powerful technique for monitoring structural transformations in crystalline samples, but its use has so far been limited to the study of biological systems. Now, Ihee and co-workers have shown that this technique can be applied to synthetic materials. Specifically, they collected time-resolved SFX data to visualize light-initiated structural dynamics in metal–organic framework single crystals at the atomic level. The cover shows an artistic representation of the metal–organic framework being irradiated by the laser during a serial crystallography measurement.

    See Ihee et al.

  • No. 4 April 2024

    Monitoring molecular relaxation

    Molecular photoswitches can be exploited for solar thermal energy storage and information processing. One such system involves the rapid conversion between the molecular isomers norbornadiene (an artistic representation of which is depicted on the cover) and quadricyclane; however, our understanding of the switching processes is incomplete. Daniel Rolles and co-workers have used time-resolved gas-phase extreme ultraviolet photoelectron spectroscopy combined with non-adiabatic molecular dynamics simulations to monitor the electronic relaxation of quadricyclane after ultraviolet excitation and have observed two competing relaxation pathways that occur on different timescales.

    See Borne et al.

  • No. 3 March 2024

    Caught in a trap

    Sulfate-binding proteins — which capture sulfate from water using hydrogen bonds from charge-neutral motifs — serve as key inspiration in anion receptor chemistry, but synthetic systems showing similar selectivity have so far been elusive. Xin Wu, Evelyne Deplazes and colleagues have now made a neutral molecular cage that binds sulfate in water using 12 hydrogen atoms, as depicted artistically on the cover. The background shows an empty cage and an unbound sulfate.

    See Jing et al.

  • No. 2 February 2024

    Links in a chain

    The assembly of artificial cell-like structures into interconnected networks with collective functions can improve our understanding of artificial multicellularity and is a step towards the construction of artificial tissues. Now, Yiyang Lin, Stephen Mann, Yan Qiao and co-workers have shown that a population of coacervate micro-droplets can spontaneously assemble into chain-like networks self-sorted as alternating sequences (as shown in an artistic representation on the cover). These superstructures enable spatially localized catalysis, molecular translocation and biomolecular sorting.

    See Mu et al.

  • No. 1 January 2024

    Identifying an elusive intermediate

    Trans–cis photoisomerization plays an essential role in various biological settings such as vision, ion pumping, and light sensing. The prototypical trans–cis photoisomerization of stilbenes (an artistic impression of which is depicted on the cover) is thought to occur via an intermediate with a perpendicular conformation; however, its unambiguous identification has thus far proved difficult. Using ultrafast Raman spectroscopy and ab initio molecular dynamics simulations, Tahei Tahara and colleagues now characterize the common, perpendicular intermediate of stilbene photoisomerization, revealing its ultrafast birth and decay upon photoexcitation of the trans and cis forms.

    See Kuramochi et al.