Chemical Innovations That Will Change the Way We Live
Welcome to our science blog! In today's post, we'll be discussing the top 5 chemical breakthroughs of 2022. These advancements in the field of chemistry have the potential to revolutionize a variety of industries and change the way we live our daily lives. From new materials to innovative technologies, these discoveries are sure to make a significant impact in the coming year. We can't wait to share them with you, so let's get started!
1. Click Chemistry
Click chemistry is a revolutionary method of connecting small molecular building blocks into larger, more complex molecules. Developed by Morten Meldal and K. Barry Sharpless at the turn of the 21st century, this technique uses copper ions to facilitate the linking of two molecules in a simple reaction.
One major application of click chemistry is in the field of drug development. By attaching enzymes that break down cancer-protective molecules to antibodies that target them, researchers have been able to create new cancer drugs using click chemistry.
But the impact of click chemistry doesn't stop there. Carolyn R. Bertozzi extended the use of this technique to living cells through a process called bio-orthogonal chemistry. This allowed her to attach light-emitting compounds to biological molecules in a cell and track their movement, providing valuable insight into the role of these molecules in disease and how to combat them.
The simplicity and efficiency of click chemistry makes it a valuable tool in the synthesis of drugs and materials, as it allows for the creation of larger, more complicated forms in a cost-effective manner. With its numerous applications and continued potential for advancement, click chemistry is sure to have a significant impact on the field of chemistry for years to come.
2. Decomposition of ‘forever chemicals’
Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals that have been used in a variety of products, including non-stick cookware, water-resistant clothing, and firefighting foams. These chemicals are known as "forever chemicals" because they persist in the environment and do not break down naturally. They have been found in soil, water, and even in the blood of humans and wildlife around the world. Exposure to PFAS has been linked to a range of health problems, including cancer, immune system disorders, and developmental problems in children. These chemicals have also been shown to harm the environment, including wildlife and plants.
There is growing concern about the widespread use of PFAS and the potential health and environmental impacts of these chemicals. As a result, many countries are taking steps to regulate or ban the use of PFAS in certain products.
In a recent study, researchers at the University of Toronto found that exposing PFAS to UV light and iodide can significantly reduce their concentration in water and soil. This discovery could potentially lead to the development of new technologies for cleaning up PFAS contamination.
The dangers of PFAS are clear, and it is important that we take steps to limit our use of these chemicals and find ways to clean up existing contamination. The research from the University of Toronto offers a promising solution for addressing PFAS contamination and protecting both human health and the environment.
3. Advances in solid-state battery
Solid electrolytes are a promising alternative to traditional liquid electrolytes in lithium-ion batteries, and researchers are working on developing them in order to overcome the limitations of traditional batteries. One promising approach is the use of all-solid-state batteries, which have a solid electrolyte that electronically separates the electrodes and is mixed into the cathode composite for better interfacial contact. These batteries have the potential for high energy and power density, fast charging, and improved safety.
In a recent study, Zeng et al. (Science, v. 378, n. 6626, p. 1320-1324, 2022.) found that introducing chemical disorder to inorganic solid electrolytes can significantly increase ionic conductivity and improve overall battery performance. NASA is also investing in the development of solid state battery technology for aeronautics applications, as solid state batteries are considered to be a promising alternative to traditional lithium-ion batteries due to their improved safety, higher energy density, and longer lifespan.
The development of solid electrolytes has the potential to address several sustainability and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues related to lithium-ion batteries. One of the main sustainability concerns with lithium-ion batteries is the sustainability of material production, as they rely on rare and expensive materials such as cobalt and lithium. In contrast, solid electrolytes can be made from more abundant and inexpensive materials, reducing the environmental impact of battery production. In addition, the use of a solid electrolyte in place of an organic liquid electrolyte can improve the safety of batteries by reducing the risk of flammability.
Overall, the development of solid electrolytes for use in all-solid-state batteries is a promising development that has the potential to address several limitations of traditional lithium-ion batteries, including sustainability and ESG issues. This technology has the potential to revolutionize the aerospace industry, enabling the deployment of more advanced and efficient aircraft with improved safety and performance.
4. Water harvesting technology
Water scarcity is a major global challenge that is expected to worsen due to population and economic growth, as well as climate change. Traditional approaches to addressing water scarcity, such as conserving existing resources, are insufficient due to declining freshwater availability caused by overuse and climate change. In this blog post, we will explore a number of technologies that have been proposed as potential solutions to the water scarcity problem.
Desalination involves removing salt and other minerals from seawater to make it suitable for drinking and irrigation. Reverse osmosis is a common method of desalination, where seawater is forced through a membrane to remove contaminants. Other approaches include solar stills, which use the heat of the sun to evaporate seawater and collect the resulting freshwater, and fog harvesting, which involves using mesh or other materials to capture water droplets from fog or mist.
Another potential solution is the use of wastewater treatment technologies, which can remove contaminants from used water and make it suitable for reuse. This approach not only helps to conserve freshwater, but also reduces the amount of wastewater that needs to be treated and disposed of.
One proposed solution to water scarcity is the use of structures to capture moisture from the air over ocean surfaces. This approach has the potential to provide a significant amount of freshwater for large population centers in the subtropics. It is scalable, has minimal environmental impacts, and has the potential to increase in capacity under warmer climate conditions. The energy cost of this approach is expected to be low, and efficient methods can be used for the condensation process.
In this research, the authors explored the feasibility of using MOFs as sorbents for AWH, an emerging approach for harvesting freshwater from the atmosphere. MOFs have shown great potential as sorbents due to their large specific surface area, adjustable pore structures, and chemistry. However, there are still challenges to be addressed in the use of MOFs for AWH, and the review also discusses the current limitations and future prospects of this emerging field.
Addressing the water scarcity problem will require a combination of approaches, including conservation, efficient use of existing resources, and the development of new technologies. By exploring and implementing these solutions, we can work towards a future where everyone has access to clean, safe drinking water.
5. Fluorescent film sensor
Film-based fluorescent sensors are a promising technology in the field of chemical and biological sensing due to their tuneability and versatility. They are made by immobilizing fluorescent molecules on surfaces to form films that can react to external stimuli, and they are small in size, making them ideal for miniaturizing analytical tools. These sensors have been developed to detect a wide range of species, including gases, pesticides, nerve agents, and explosives, and they have also been used to detect nicotine and foodborne pathogens with high sensitivity.
Despite their potential, film-based fluorescent devices are still in the prototype stage and await commercialization. However, some sensors allow for roll-to-roll fabrication, which enables the combination of different functionalities in single arrays and high-throughput production. This, along with their sensitivity, selectivity, miniaturization, and reusability, could be the push needed to bring this emerging technology to market.
Overall, film-based fluorescent sensors have the potential to play a key role in environmental remediation, pollution detection, and biomedical devices, as well as in the deployment of interconnected monitoring networks and wearable electronics. As research and development in this field continues, we can look forward to the potential practical applications of these sensors in addressing the challenges of chemical and biological sensing.
1) Click Chemistry:
2) Decomposition of ‘forever chemicals’:
4) Water harvesting technology:
5) Fluorescent film sensor: