Reviews & Analysis

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  • Selective electroreduction of CO2-derived CO presents an opportunity to produce sustainable fuels and chemicals; however, its performance has been below practical levels. Now, an ordered Cu–Pd bimetallic catalyst has been developed for selective electroreduction of CO to acetate at an industrially relevant activity.

    • Lei Wang
    News & Views
  • Low-temperature CO2 electrolysis is increasingly attractive for the production of sustainable electrofuels and electrochemicals as intensified research keeps pushing performance higher. Recent efforts on system engineering now offer solutions to downstream purification challenges, taking this technology one step closer to maturity.

    • Sarah Lamaison
    • David Wakerley
    News & Views
  • Studying the kinetics of high-energy and high-power batteries is a formidable challenge. Now, it has been shown that redox-mediated (RM) catalysis in Li–O2 and Li–S batteries can be controlled by tuning parameters such as Li-ion concentration or electrolyte solvent, revealing threshold potentials in which rate constants increase several-fold.

    • Haoshen Zhou
    News & Views
  • Most applications of machine learning in catalysis use black-box models to predict physical properties, but extracting meaningful physical insights from them is challenging. This Perspective discusses machine learning approaches for heterogeneous catalysis and classifies them in terms of their interpretability.

    • Jacques A. Esterhuizen
    • Bryan R. Goldsmith
    • Suljo Linic
  • For microbial industrial lignin conversion, a key challenge is to overcome rate-limiting steps in the upper pathways of aromatic catabolism. This Review discusses the critical enzymatic reactions of aromatic O-demethylation, decarboxylation and hydroxylation for lignin valorization via biological funnelling.

    • Erika Erickson
    • Alissa Bleem
    • Gregg T. Beckham
    Review Article
  • Phosphorus compounds with unique chirality due to the presence of a P-stereocentre are obtained through stereoselective catalytic cross-coupling of phosphoramidites and aryl halides. Axial-to-central transfer of chirality is shown to provide ready access to various classes of P-chirogenic compounds that are key to catalysis and drug development.

    Research Briefing
  • A new class of catalysts based on ternary ruthenium complex hydrides are developed for low-temperature ammonia synthesis. They support a non-dissociative reaction path for dinitrogen reduction, in which lithium or barium cations stabilize the NxHy intermediates and the electron- and H-rich [RuH6]4– anionic centres facilitate an energetically balanced multi-step reaction for ammonia synthesis.

    Research Briefing
  • Liquid fuels produced by electrocatalytic CO2 reduction are costly to separate from liquid electrolytes in a conventional cell. This Perspective identifies the need for novel cell designs that can directly produce high-concentration and high-purity products and discusses the progress towards this goal using porous solid electrolytes.

    • Peng Zhu
    • Haotian Wang
  • The practical implementation of CO2 electrocatalysis is premised on the availability of captured CO2—a consideration that is often overlooked. This Perspective presents several concepts for integrating CO2 capture with electrochemical CO2 conversion for the enhancement of overall efficiency.

    • Ian Sullivan
    • Andrey Goryachev
    • Chengxiang Xiang
  • Electrochemical CO2 reduction is a complex process with many competing products, yet nature has evolved ways to overcome these issues. This Perspective makes connections between the motifs observed in nature and strategies that can be employed in synthetic systems for the advancement of selectivity in CO2 reduction.

    • Hannah S. Shafaat
    • Jenny Y. Yang
  • Methanol is a leading candidate for storage of solar-energy-derived renewable electricity as energy-dense liquid fuel, yet there are different approaches to achieving this goal. This Perspective comparatively assesses indirect CO- and direct CO2-based solar strategies and identifies the conditions under which the former becomes economically viable.

    • Athanasios A. Tountas
    • Geoffrey A. Ozin
    • Mohini M. Sain
  • Of the few known catalytic RNAs in biology, all but the ribosome involve reactions with phosphodiester bonds. Now, a ribozyme that catalyses a completely different reaction was discovered in all three domains of life.

    • Ulrich F. Müller
    News & Views
  • Artificial metalloenzymes (ArMs) combine the reaction scope of chemocatalysts with the selectivity of enzymes. This Review discusses the prospects and recent progress in utilizing ArMs in whole cells for applications in diverse areas such as drug therapy and integration with biosynthetic pathways.

    • Malte Wittwer
    • Ulrich Markel
    • Ulrich Schwaneberg
    Review Article
  • Harnessing a clean, affordable and inexhaustible source of energy is an immense scientific challenge. Scientists moved a step closer in 1972 when the first practical device for direct solar power-to-fuel conversion was reported.

    • Elizabeth A. Gibson
    News & Views
  • The Haber–Bosch process was introduced at the beginning of the twentieth century; however, its mechanism remained controversial for many years. Thus, a comprehensive mechanistic picture was provided in the eighties.

    • Jianping Guo
    • Ping Chen
    News & Views
  • To produce chemicals and fuels from CO2 and water while storing excess energy from renewable resources will play a big role in sustainability. Three decades ago, we learned that copper possesses the unique ability to break the stable CO2 bonds and to form C–C bonds, a key step towards higher-value products.

    • Raffaella Buonsanti
    News & Views
  • More than 35 years ago, telomerase activity was discovered by Elizabeth H. Blackburn and Carol W. Greider. Today, this enzyme is a promising approach to curing some age-related diseases as well as cancer, but it took time for telomerase to be in the spotlight.

    • Paula Martinez
    • Maria A. Blasco
    News & Views
  • Methods for the direct one-step replacement of a hydrogen atom in a C–H bond by an organic functional group can create enormous possibilities for synthetic applications. On the way to solve this challenge, the discovery of the reaction of organopalladium complexes with olefins opened a new era in catalysis and organic chemistry.

    • Valentine P. Ananikov
    News & Views
  • The ability to control the subtle differences in reaction mechanisms and outcomes is an aspiration of many synthetic chemists. Now protein evolution has enabled the control of selectivity for hydroamination reactions catalysed by gold-based artificial metalloenzymes by favouring dual-gold catalysis over monomeric catalysis.

    • Amanda G. Jarvis
    News & Views