NChem Research Highlights: Catalysis, catenanes and qubits

Let’s dive straight in: Catalysts’ performances can be tuned by including other metals – for example, a CuPt alloy. You might expect that, for an effective catalyst, the surface would feature more of the reactive metal – in this case, Pt. But no! The less reactive Cu atoms migrate to the surface, where they create islands of Pt atoms to do the biz with the CO molecules.

Catenanes are molecules of interlocked rings and are normally made by interlocking rings containing either pi-donor or -acceptor groups. What Jeremy Sanders and colleagues have done is put pi-donors AND -acceptors into both rings. The building blocks link together with a donor-acceptor-donor-acceptor pi-section.

One day, we’ll all be using quantum computers. But to get to that exciting future, we need quantum binary digits – or qubits as they are handily abbreviated to – and to control their entanglement. Now, two CrNi rings have been linked together through a Cu-containing ligand system. This provides three qubits, and their entanglement could be controlled by microwave pulses.

And finally…Gav caught physical chemistry textbook guru Peter Atkins on TV yesterday morning. You may be able to watch on the BBC’s iPlayer here. Not a vast amount of chemistry, admittedly, but most definitely a chemist!


Neil Withers (Associate Editor, Nature Chemistry)