This past couple of days I have been attending more traditional, ‘core’ areas of chemistry at the inorganic, macromolecular and organic sessions. I first went to “the new age of advanced materials” symposium, and although I was fighting a little bit of jet lag and sleep deprivation (not a good combination) it made for a very interesting morning. Among exciting endeavours on helicity, supramolecular chirality, and controlled assembly and organization, Sam Stupp from Northwestern University showed interesting bioapplications with his supramolecular polymers, such as some neurotherapy studies that look promising against Parkinson’s disease.
In the inorganic sessions, I indulged in some metal–organic frameworks (MOFs) chemistry — these relatively young hybrid materials seem to be acquiring some maturity, rapidly moving to a new level of complexity and functionality. For example, Seth Cohen from University of California, San Diego, wishes that they could soon(ish) be used as scaffolds, in which just the right functional groups would be held in just the right place and orientation to mimic a metallo-protein active centre. Talking about bio-inspired applications, I particularly liked this comment from Ivan Huc that “mimicking isn’t copying”: scientist do get inspiration from nature – who controls activity, accessibility, or selectivity with remarkable precision – but rather than trying to reproduce the same functions they will then look to construct systems that do what nature cannot.
This morning I headed over to a ‘redox redux’ session on non-innocent ligands from an inorganic and an organometallic perspectives. Although as Cortlandt Pierpont reminded us they have been alluded to as far back as 1966, and described clearly in 1978, the role of these redox-active ligands had then not been mentioned much. They have recently been attracting attention, and I was happy to see elegant compounds and reactivities, including a combination of redox and acidic activities in Thomas Rauchfuss’ talk, or some unusual oxidation states [such as Pd and Pt(III), Ag(II), or Ni(III)] from Martin Schröder’s lab. Over on the organic side of things, a symposium dedicated to Bob Moss was also packed with intermediates and unusual molecules, and we saw in particular some pretty versatile reactivity from carbenes and nitrenes.
I’d like to borrow the (nearly) last thought for today from Eugenio Coronado at the University of Valencia, who showed some interesting studies in which monolayers – rather than molecules – serve as building blocks to prepare functional materials. He highlighted that this work requires a combination of inorganic, organic, coordination, supramolecular and surface chemistries, which fits nicely in the spirit of such a broad conference.
And finally… for those of you who haven’t finished their Christmas shopping, check out the Periodic Quest! Featuring two board games and about 4 or 5 card games – all centred about the elements, as the name suggests – this might just be the perfect present to keep busy with (chemistry-friendly) family and friends during those long winter nights (those what?)
Anne Pichon, Associate Editor (Nature Chemistry)