NChem Research Highlights: graphene, the chemistrode and hypervalence

It’s a good week for Research Highlights

Firstly, it’s good to see chemists really getting in on the act with graphene. The original route to make it (using sticky tape) was a little bit comical, but “chemical” methods were hindered by the sheets of carbon atoms re-aggregating. It turns out that using the reducing agent, hydrazine, as a solvent as well stops the problem.

Next, electrodes have been used to investigate biological signalling for oooh ages. But most biological signals are chemical, not electrical. To investigate them, Rustem Ismagilov and colleagues have created a microfluidic ‘chemistrode’ – it can stimulate, record and analyse the released molecules. [Alternative headline for this piece that I wouldn’t let Gav get away with: Chemistrode to joy. Groan.]

Thirdly, sulfur can form bonds to itself very easily (hence its many allotropes), but it can also form ‘hypervalent’ bonds (in sulfuranes) – where its formal valence is above 8. Organic compounds like this are incredibly rare, and generally unstable, so its quite an achievement that a sulfur-substituted organosulfurane has been made and structurally characterised. Similar S–S bonds are found in proteins, so the ease with which they can be cleaved in this model has implications for redox processes in biology.

And finally, in an effort to even up the culinary War of the Roses, here is a link to a recipe for Lancashire Hotpot. It’s quite interesting to see that the page says “Keep in mind that this is cooking, not chemistry, so a few grams this way or that won’t matter.” What an excellent and accurate sentiment!


Neil Withers (Associate Editor, Nature Chemistry)