Back to the future (of chemistry)

As I’m sure many of the readers of this blog will know, 2011 is the International Year of Chemistry. This has chemists looking to both the past and the future of our subject.

When we launched Nature Chemistry back in 2009, our first issue included a feature called ‘The future of chemistry’ where we asked eight leaders in the field to share their vision for how their own fields might (and/or should) develop in the coming years.

If you missed it at the time, we invite you to go and have a look at what they had to say. This (and everything else published in the April 2009 issue) is completely free to access, no registration required.

Ryoji Noyori in Synthesizing our futureIdeally, we should aim at synthesizing target compounds with a 100% yield and 100% selectivity and avoid the production of waste. This process must be economical, safe, resource-efficient, energy-efficient and environmentally benign.

Harry B. Gray in Powering the planet with solar fuelSome time in the future we will be able to put three components of our atmosphere — carbon dioxide, nitrogen and oxygen — along with sea water into solar reactors to make not only fuels, electricity and pure water, but polymers, food and almost everything else we need.

Mark A. Johnson in Experiment and theory in harmonyWith the overall perspective of contributing accurate, experimentally vetted, molecular-level pictures of reactive pathways and relevant structures, physical chemists are in an excellent position to engage chemistry in all of its complexity.

Barbara Imperiali in Interrogating biology with a chemical lexicon. . . most good things take time and we must remind the community that chemistry, like a fine wine, may take many years to mature.

Gary M. Hieftje in Weighing up the future of scientific tools Modern science, indeed much of the future, will be driven and enabled by the scientific instruments that are just now emerging.

James H. Clark in Chemistry goes greenThe challenge for green chemistry is not just to replace undesirable chemicals . . . but also to make sure that, wherever possible, the substitutes and the chemistry used to manufacture them are green and sustainable.

Achim Müller in Predicting a structured future. . . chemists should always have their eyes open for interesting but unexpected phenomena that could open new avenues of research.

J. Fraser Stoddart in Thither supramolecular chemistry?. . . we need to forsake embracing routine projects that we know will yield results and lead to answers that are largely expected, so as to face challenges that are function-oriented and applications-driven . . .

We hope you enjoy travelling back in time just a little to consider what the future may hold!


Stuart Cantrill (Chief Editor, Nature Chemistry)