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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

2022’s largest chemistry tales – Compound Curiosity

Infographic summarising twelve significant chemistry stories from 2022. More detail on each is provided in the text of the post below.
Click on to enlarge

For the primary time because the onset of the pandemic, COVID’s domination of the science information cycle waned in 2022. The main focus more and more shifted to the longer-term disaster we face: that of local weather change and taking steps to make parts of our fashionable lives extra sustainable. This graphic summarises a number of the key chemistry information over the previous yr, with extra element and hyperlinks to associated articles beneath.

Considerations over growing atmospheric methane
Whereas growing carbon dioxide ranges within the environment proceed to trigger alarm, this yr researchers additionally highlighted considerations about one other potent greenhouse gasoline: methane. Methane’s world warming potential is 25 occasions that of carbon dioxide, and although its atmospheric lifetime is round 10 occasions decrease, information that 2021 noticed a report rise of 17 components per billion of methane within the environment brought about concern. 30% of methane emissions are attributable to the manufacturing and use of fossil fuels and additional analysis this yr confirmed that the venting of methane from oil and gasoline manufacturing websites is greater than was thought.

Wildfires set again ozone layer restoration
Analysis this yr confirmed that the extreme Australian wildfires in 2019 and 2020 considerably impacted atmospheric concentrations of ozone. The ozone layer has been recovered from the now banned use of ozone-depleting chemical substances for many years, however the results of the wildfires are estimated to have set again this restoration by 10 years.

Click on chemistry wins Nobel Prize in Chemistry
The 2022 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded collectively to Carolyn R. Bertozzi, Morten Meldal and Okay. Barry Sharpless for his or her growth of click on chemistry and bioorthogonal chemistry. Click on chemistry snaps collectively small molecular constructing blocks utilizing simply achievable response circumstances and avoiding undesirable byproducts. Bioorthogonal chemistry takes this one step additional and carries out these reactions in dwelling cells with out affecting their regular chemistry. There’s extra element within the explainer graphic I made when the prize was introduced.

New prefix for the mass of an electron
Should you’ve gotten uninterested in remembering the proper energy of ten for the mass of an electron in grams, despair not, as a result of due to the introduction of a sequence of new prefixes for very massive and really small numbers, now you can simply say that the mass of an electron is round 1 rontogram. Quectograms (ten to the facility of minus 30) can be found for even smaller stuff.
The brand new prefixes for bigger numbers are quetta- (the planet Jupiter weighs two quettagrams) and ronna- (Earth weighs 6 ronnagrams).

Common flu vaccine profitable in animals
A common flu vaccine that goals to guard in opposition to all strains of Influenza A and B has been efficiently examined in animals. The subsequent step for the vaccine candidate, which makes use of the identical mRNA expertise which proved profitable in COVID vaccines, is human trials. If it proves profitable in these, it might be out there within the subsequent few years, which is an encouraging thought for anybody at present battling a foul bout of flu.

Lab-grown meat declared fit for human consumption
The US Meals and Drug Administration has deemed lab-grown hen produced by a Californian firm to be protected for human consumption. The lab-grown meat is made by taking dwelling cells from chickens after which rising them to supply the meat for consumption. The information doesn’t imply the merchandise can be hitting grocery store cabinets immediately, as particular person product approval will nonetheless be required, however it’s a promising step in the direction of meat from animals with out the necessity to slaughter them.

JWST probes exoplanet atmospheres
NASA’s James Webb House Telescope has confronted controversy over its selection of identify however made higher information this yr by registering quite a few astrochemistry firsts. The telescope was in a position to present an in depth atmospheric composition of an exoplanet, together with the presence of carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide. It additionally offered concrete proof of photochemical reactions going down within the environment.

Proof for 2 types of liquid water
That’s proper, plain outdated water might haven’t only one liquid state, however two. Don’t begin scrutinising the water out of your faucet, although — the totally different states can solely be noticed when water is supercooled, requiring low temperatures and excessive pressures. This yr direct proof for the attainable existence of two separate liquid states was supplied up by Japanese scientists.

Graphene sensors can monitor blood strain
Graphene feels prefer it’s been an innovation searching for a killer software for some time now. Yearly there appear to be varied research repurposing it for one use or one other, however this graphene sensor for measuring blood strain was one of the crucial fascinating this yr. Overlook the old-school sphygmomanometers docs at present use (although maybe keep in mind that incredible identify), this might allow steady blood strain readings. It’s solely a prototype for the time being, although, so that you’ll nonetheless need to endure the inflating sphygmomanometer cuffs for some time longer.

Construction predictions for many recognized proteins
This most likely appears like much less of a giant deal than it’s for non-scientists, however predicting protein buildings is tough. They’re made up of a whole lot and even 1000’s of amino acids in an extended chain, which might fold in 3D area to kind any variety of potential shapes. Realizing the precise form it does take up will help with understanding protein operate and concentrating on them with medicines.
This story follows from final yr’s information abstract, the place Google’s AlphaFold AI system had predicted buildings for all of the proteins within the human physique. They’ve now gone one higher and predicted buildings for nearly all proteins at present recognized.

Firm to cease ‘ceaselessly chemical substances’ manufacturing
‘Ceaselessly chemical substances’, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFOA) to present them their extra chemically particular identify, are the chemistry unhealthy information story that’s simply stored on giving over the previous few years. Concern over their persistence within the atmosphere and potential impression on human well being has usually hit the headlines.
This yr alone introduced information that PFAS utilized in liquid containers can leach into the liquids, a proposal to designate a few of them as hazardous chemical substances, and a causal hyperlink between them and liver illness.
It’s no large shock, then, that chemical substances producers are beginning to reevaluate their use of those chemical substances, and the primary producer to decide to phasing them out is 3M. The corporate plan to stop manufacturing of PFAS by 2025.
It wasn’t all unhealthy information on the fluorochemical entrance: Researchers additionally discovered a easy technique to make PFAS molecules collapse, which can assist with environmental clean-up.

Additional steps in the direction of sustainable jet fuels
Final yr’s information abstract highlighted a solar-powered redox reactor which may make kerosene from carbon dioxide and water vapour. This yr, the reactor was efficiently scaled up – although it’s nonetheless solely in a position to produce a litre of kerosene a day, so a way off offering for the wants of the whole aviation trade.
It’s not the one occasion of progress being made in the direction of sustainable aviation fuels, nevertheless — there’s abstract of the broader progress being made right here.

The graphic on this article is licensed below a  Inventive Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 Worldwide License. See the location’s content material utilization pointers.

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