July 2022 - ACS Axial | ACS Publications

ACS Materials Au: Call for papers Virtual Special Issue on Innovations in Bioengineering

Recent advances in bioengineering have enabled innovative solutions that have the possibility to revolutionize health care. Personalized medical therapies, ultrasensitive biosensors, and biofabricated tissues are tantalizingly close.

ACS Materials Au will publish a virtual special issue to showcase the range and depth of new materials and devices, and their many applications. We invite Articles, Letters, Reviews, or Perspectives on all topics relating to biomaterials and bioengineering, including (but not limited to):

  • Natural, synthetic, hybrid, and bioinspired materials
  • Properties and applications of materials in biology, medicine, agriculture, and veterinary science
  • Novel devices, delivery systems, diagnostics, and their applications
  • Needs, challenges, and opportunities for the biomaterials and bioengineering communities

Guest Editors

  • Maryam Badv, Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Calgary, Canada
  • Ali Khademhosseini, Terasaki Institute for Biomedical Innovation, USA
  • Paul S. Weiss, University of California, Los Angeles, USA

How to submit

To submit for this special issue, log in to the ACS Paragon Plus submission site, and choose ACS Materials Au as your journal. Select your manuscript type, and, under the ‘Special Issue Selection,’ choose ‘Innovations in Bioengineering.’

All articles will be peer reviewed prior to acceptance to ensure they fit the scope of the virtual special issue and meet the high scientific publishing standards of ACS Materials Au. Accepted papers will go online as soon as possible after acceptance and be published in the next available issue. In Spring 2023, the publications on this topic will be gathered into a virtual special issue on a dedicated webpage and be promoted as a collection.

Please see our Author Guidelines for more information on submission requirements. The deadline for submissions is 31 December 2022.

ACS Synthetic Biology Call for Papers for Synthetic Cells

Living organisms offer extensive diversity in terms of their phenotypes, metabolic processes, and adaptation to various niches. However, the basic building blocks that create this diversity are remarkably similar. How can we advance our understanding of the fascinating mechanisms that drive biological complexity and how can we harness biological components to build entirely new materials and devices?

A new Virtual Special Issue from ACS Synthetic Biology will focus on this dynamic topic, including contributions that deconstruct as well as build up and mimic biological systems. The resulting work serves both to test our scientific understanding and to extend known biology to develop new concepts and applications. The issue will be led by Associate Editor Michael Jewett with Guest Editors Kate Adamala, Marileen Dogterom, and Neha Kamat.

Relevant topics include:

  • Artificial cells / Protocells
  • Biomimetic systems and Compartments
  • Cell-free transcription-translation
  • Minimal & primordial cells
  • Synthetic cell engineering
  • Synthetic genomes
  • Design prototyping
  • Bioengineering tools that enable the field
  • New materials derived from minimal systems
  • Teaching and outreach tools

Author Instructions:

To submit your manuscript, please visit the ACS Synthetic Biology website. Please follow the normal procedures for manuscript submission, and when in the ACS Paragon Plus submission site, select the special issue of “Synthetic Cells.” All manuscripts will undergo the normal peer review process. For additional submission instructions, please see the ACS Synthetic Biology Author Guidelines.

The deadline for submissions is April 30, 2023. Submit your manuscript now.

ACS Publications improves institutional customer security

In an effort to continuously improve the security of the ACS Publications website, we are introducing two new safeguards to prevent unauthorized access of customer data.

  • Effective July 20, 2022, we are enhancing Two-Factor Authentication on attempts to access your institutional accounts. If you attempt to access your account from outside of your institution’s IP range, you will be prompted for one of the following:
    • PIN code delivered to a registered mobile device
    • PIN code delivered to the administrator’s email address
    • A one-time code provided by an Authenticator app
  • Effective July 20, 2022, institutional administrator accounts that have not been accessed for more than one year will be locked. Users that have not logged into their accounts will receive an email notification 30 days prior to the lock. Accounts will remain intact after that, but administrators will have to contact ACS Publications to reinstate their account access.

If you have any questions regarding these safeguards, please contact ACS Publications Customer Service & Support.

Huimin Zhao Named the New Editor-in-Chief of ACS Synthetic Biology

Huimin Zhao, professor of chemical & biomolecular engineering

ACS Publications is pleased to introduce Dr. Huimin Zhao as the new Editor-in-Chief of ACS Synthetic Biology. Dr. Zhao is the Steven L. Miller Chair of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) and director of NSF AI Research Institute for Molecule Synthesis.

Dr. Zhao received his B.S. degree in Biology from the University of Science and Technology of China in 1992 and his Ph.D. degree in Chemistry from the California Institute of Technology in 1998 under the guidance of Nobel Laureate Dr. Frances Arnold. Prior to joining UIUC in 2000, he was a project leader at the Industrial Biotechnology Laboratory of the Dow Chemical Company.

Dr. Zhao has authored and co-authored over 380 research articles and over 30 issued and pending patent applications with several being licensed by industry. Dr. Zhao received numerous research and teaching awards and honors such as the ECI Enzyme Engineering Award (2019), the Marvin Johnson Award (2018), and the Charles Thom Award (2016). His primary research interests are in the development and applications of synthetic biology, machine learning, and laboratory automation tools to address society’s most daunting challenges in health, energy, and sustainability.

“Advances in synthetic biology are needed more than ever, as the world seeks solutions to improve human health, mitigate climate change and reduce environmental waste,” says Dr. Zhao. “I am excited to lead the world-renowned journal ACS Synthetic Biology, particularly as the field enters an exponential growth phase that has attracted numerous researchers, government funding and private sector interest.”

I had the pleasure of connecting with Dr. Zhao in this recent interview. Learn more about his background in synthetic biology, machine learning, his vision for the journal, and more below.

What are you currently working on?

My group is currently developing new tools of synthetic biology, artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML), and laboratory automation for biosystems design with a goal of making biology easier to engineer and understand. Particularly, my group is interested in developing AI/ML-enabled closed design-build-test-learn loops for protein engineering and metabolic engineering. In addition, my group is interested in engineering microbial cell factories for the production of chemicals and materials, activating silent natural product biosynthetic gene clusters for the discovery of novel bioactive compounds, and developing new synthetic biology tools for health care.

What element has been most central to your scientific career, and why?

A passion for science. Research is a long and arduous process that is full of uncertainty and failure. Many young people who are initially enthusiastic about science decide to quit their scientific careers mainly because of this lengthy process of doing research. However, I love the thrill of discovery and don’t mind lengthy or even repetitive processes. Like most scientists, I also had many ups and downs in my scientific career, but what kept me motivated in this long and sometimes lonely journey is my passion for science. There are simply so many interesting scientific problems awaiting to be solved.

What opportunities in your field excite you the most?

Synthetic biology is entering an exponential growth phase. With the rapid advances of DNA/RNA technologies (reading, writing, and editing), AI/ML, and automation, biology is indeed becoming easier to engineer and understand than ever, which has created numerous new opportunities in basic and applied biological research and medicine. Synthetic biology has been regarded as one of the most important enabling technologies in the rapidly growing bioeconomy. I expect there will be more integration of synthetic biology, AI/ML, and automation in the future, which will also lead to a new data-driven research paradigm.

What do you hope to bring to the journal as Editor-in-Chief?

My own scientific career parallels the growth of the synthetic biology field and I see many more growth opportunities in the synthetic biology field in the coming years. What I hope to bring to the journal as Editor-in-Chief is to make ACS Synthetic Biology the go-to publication venue for all fields of synthetic biology and biological systems and use ACS Synthetic Biology as a vehicle to lead the growth of the synthetic biology field. I believe that to a large extent, a journal’s strength depends on the strength of the research field/discipline it covers. Fortunately, synthetic biology is a rapidly growing field that has attracted numerous researchers, government funding agencies, and private sectors. So, I think ACS Synthetic Biology is well-positioned to move up to the next level.

Explore Dr. Zhao’s recent work in the journal today.

Learn More About ACS Synthetic Biology.

The Journal of Physical Chemistry A/B/C invites submissions to the ‘Early Career and Emerging Researchers in Physical Chemistry: Volume 2’ Virtual Special Issue

The Journal of Physical Chemistry A/B/C will publish a Virtual Special Issue (VSI) in 2023 featuring work from early career scientists (15 years or less since receiving a Ph.D). This second volume will serve as a follow-up to the first volume, published in 2019.

We invite submissions from early career researchers in all areas of physical chemistry, which spans the scopes of The Journal of Physical Chemistry A (Molecules Clusters and Aerosols, as well as New Tools and Methods in Experiment and Theory), The Journal of Physical Chemistry B (Biophysics, Biomaterials, Liquids, and Soft Matter), and The Journal of Physical Chemistry C (Energy, Materials, and Catalysis).

We aim to honor the work of early career researchers for the new experience, expertise, and knowledge they bring to the physical chemistry community through contributions to The Journal of Physical Chemistry A/B/C.

The deadline for submission is February 28, 2023.

Submission Instructions

To ensure an unbiased peer-review process, we ask that you do not indicate within your manuscript that the submission is intended for the VSI. If you do, your manuscript will be returned for correction. Instead, when you submit your manuscript, please indicate this in your cover letter and note what part and section you feel will be the best fit. Please also indicate the year the corresponding author received their Ph.D. You can find a complete list of sections and other important information for authors in The Journal of Physical Chemistry A/B/C Author Guidelines.

As with all article submissions to The Journal of Physical Chemistry A/B/C, manuscripts should represent a rigorous scientific report of original research, as it will be peer-reviewed as a regular article. Manuscripts are expected to provide new physical insight and/or present new computational or experimental methods of broad interest.

If you have any questions, please contact:

Joan-Emma Shea, The University of California, Santa Barbara, Editor-in-Chief, The Journal of Physical Chemistry A/B/C (eic@jpc.acs.org)

T. Daniel Crawford, Virginia Tech, Deputy Editor, The Journal of Physical Chemistry A, (crawford-office@jpc.acs.org)

Martin Zanni, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Deputy Editor, The Journal of Physical Chemistry B, (zanni-office@jpc.acs.org)

Gregory Hartland, University of Notre Dame, Deputy Editor, The Journal of Physical Chemistry C, (hartland-office@jpc.acs.org)

JCED: Three Things We Want Authors to Know

The Journal of Chemical & Engineering Data’s Editor-in-Chief, Ilja Siepmann, would like to highlight three items all prospective JCED authors should know, but may be underappreciated, as part of the journal’s efforts to continuously improve.


Author Guidelines simply should not be viewed as something that can be ignored. JCED has both general guidelines applying to all manuscripts and guidelines specific to the topical section(s) appropriate for your manuscript’s content. As some are aware, five thematic sections were introduced for JCED’s table of contents in 2022. Your efforts to align with these guidelines will not only expedite the review process for your manuscript and increase the likelihood of acceptance for publication in JCED, but will ultimately lead to your research publications providing accurate, precise, reproducible, and consequential data that will have a greater impact. For example, JCED requires a chemical sample table for all manuscripts. Forgetting to include the sample table is the clearest signal to an editor that authors have neither read the JCED guidelines nor utilized the 1-page submission checklist as a cheat sheet. You would be amazed to know the fraction of manuscripts submitted without a chemical sample table and the rather low acceptance rate for these manuscripts.

Especially for new JCED authors or previous authors that have not submitted a manuscript during the past year, please read and familiarize yourself with the complete JCED Author Guidelines to ensure you are up to date. This will surely increase the likelihood for a smooth peer review process.


As some of you are aware, JCED adopted a new design in 2021. The new cover design features eye-catching and informative artwork supplied by our authors that allows you to draw attention to your research work. Did you know there is NO fee for artwork featured on the front cover of ACS journals? A front cover is completely free for authors (the fee only pertains to author requested supplementary covers). However, there are cover art guidelines relating to theme and formatting expectations. At present, an estimated 80% of the cover art proposals are identical to the TOC graphic, which is no longer JCED’s approach. Our cover art guidelines describe, “The cover image should not resemble a graphical abstract or data figure, but rather should be an artistic and scientifically accurate representation of the manuscript.” Following the Guidelines increases the chance of having your artwork selected for the front cover by a huge margin.


When selecting a journal for submission of your manuscript, it is important to peruse the description of the journal’s scope to ensure you are targeting the best journal. JCED’s scope description can be found here. Fast track your manuscript toward acceptance by selecting a best-fit journal from the start. Please note that manuscripts with a focus on reaction kinetics, adsorption kinetics, adsorption on natural product materials or micellization/aggregation behavior of amphiphiles, or that predict properties via a correlation approach (including machine learning), are not in JCED’s scope. The likelihood for acceptance of these submitted topics is low as a result.


Whether you might be considering the Journal of Chemical & Engineering Data for a submission for the first time or have published with us many times before, take stock of these three things we want all authors to know. The EIC office will be happy to address questions and provide more information as needed ( eic@jced.acs.org ).

ACS Publications at the MACRO 2022 Conference


ACS Publications’ journals publish high-quality articles in impactful publications from top authors around the globe. With a comprehensive portfolio of more than 75 journals, including 12 fully open access journals, ACS Publications has a home for every type of article.

A division of the American Chemical Society, ACS Publications supports researchers through journals, eBooks, scientific programs, and the news magazine Chemical & Engineering News. With a comprehensive portfolio of more than 75 journals, including 12 “gold” completely open access journals, ACS Publications has a home for every variety of research.

Learn more about ACS Polymer journals


Biomacromolecules is a leading forum for the dissemination of cutting-edge research at the interface of polymer science and biology. Submissions to Biomacromolecules should contain strong elements of innovation in terms of macromolecular design, synthesis and characterization, or in the application of polymer materials to biology and medicine.

Topics covered by Biomacromolecules include, but are not exclusively limited to: sustainable polymers, polymers based on natural and renewable resources, degradable polymers, polymer conjugates, polymeric drugs, polymers in biocatalysis, biomacromolecular assembly, biomimetic polymers, polymer-biomineral hybrids, biomimetic-polymer processing, polymer recycling, bioactive polymer surfaces, original polymer design for biomedical applications such as immunotherapy, drug delivery, gene delivery, antimicrobial applications, diagnostic imaging and biosensing, polymers in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, polymeric scaffolds and hydrogels for cell culture and delivery.


Macromolecules publishes original, fundamental, and impactful research on all aspects of polymer science. Topics of interest include synthesis (e.g., controlled polymerizations, polymerization catalysis, post polymerization modification, new monomer structures and polymer architectures, and polymerization mechanisms/kinetics analysis); phase behavior, thermodynamics, dynamic, and ordering/disordering phenomena (e.g., self-assembly, gelation, crystallization, solution/melt/solid-state characteristics); structure and properties (e.g., mechanical and rheological properties, surface/interfacial characteristics, electronic and transport properties); new state of the art characterization (e.g., spectroscopy, scattering, microscopy, rheology), simulation (e.g., Monte Carlo, molecular dynamics, multi-scale/coarse-grained modeling), and theoretical methods. Renewable/sustainable polymers, polymer networks, responsive polymers, electro-, magneto- and opto-active macromolecules, inorganic polymers, charge-transporting polymers (ion-containing, semiconducting, and conducting), nanostructured polymers, and polymer composites are also of interest. Typical papers published in Macromolecules showcase important and innovative concepts, experimental methods/observations, and theoretical/computational approaches that demonstrate a fundamental advance in the understanding of polymers.

ACS Macro Letters

ACS Macro Letters publishes research in all areas of contemporary soft matter science in which macromolecules play a key role, including nanotechnology, self-assembly, supramolecular chemistry, biomaterials, energy generation and storage, and renewable/sustainable materials. Submissions to ACS Macro Letters should justify clearly the rapid disclosure of the key elements of the study. The scope of the journal includes high-impact research of broad interest in all areas of polymer science and engineering, including cross-disciplinary research that interfaces with polymer science.

With the launch of ACS Macro Letters, all Communications that were formerly published in Macromolecules and Biomacromolecules will be published as Letters in ACS Macro Letters.

ACS Applied Polymer Materials

ACS Applied Polymer Materials is an interdisciplinary journal publishing original research covering all aspects of engineering, chemistry, physics, and biology relevant to applications of polymers.

The journal is devoted to reports of new and original experimental and theoretical research of an applied nature that integrates fundamental knowledge in the areas of materials, engineering, physics, bioscience, polymer science and chemistry into important polymer applications. The journal is specifically interested in work that addresses relationships among structure, processing, morphology, chemistry, properties, and function as well as work that provide insights into mechanisms critical to the performance of the polymer for applications. Sample research topics that span the journal’s scope are polymer applications in energy storage and conversion, separations, membranes, adhesives, functional coatings, sensing, adaptive and reconfigurable materials, electronics, photonics, biomaterials, and nanocomposites. The journal also considers novel approaches to the synthesis of new and existing polymers that are designed for specific applications.

With its focus on applications, ACS Applied Polymer Materials not only complements ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, but also the portfolio of existing ACS publications on fundamental materials science discovery, including Chemistry of Materials, Langmuir, Biomacromolecules, Macromolecules, ACS Macro Letters, The Journal of Physical Chemistry B/C, and Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters.

ACS Polymers Au 

ACS Polymers Au is an open access journal, which publishes original, cutting-edge and impactful research on all aspects of polymer science and related cross-disciplinary areas.

The journal publishes all areas of macromolecular and soft matter science and their applications, including polymer synthesis and modification, polymer characterization, nanotechnology, self-assembly, supramolecular chemistry, energy generation and storage, electronics, photonics, sensing, adaptive materials, membranes, renewable and sustainable materials, biomaterials and biomedical applications of polymers.

Submissions should highlight innovation and advances in the fundamental understanding of polymers through studies covering synthesis; phase behavior, thermodynamics, dynamic phenomena; structure and properties; new state of the art characterization, modeling, simulation, and theoretical methods. Manuscripts in any of the above topics of interest that report studies integrating fundamental knowledge in the areas of polymer science and chemistry into important polymer applications and their performance are also welcome.

Discover More ACS Journal in our Portfolios by visiting our ACS Publications website at


What We Owe to Raney® Nickel

What do microwave popcorn, biscuits, margarine spreads, and coffee creamers have in common? Aside from making you hungry, these foods are made possible thanks to hydrogenation. We may not give a lot of thought to hydrogenation, but it’s used in everything from foods and makeup to petrochemical products.

One widely used catalyst that makes hydrogenation possible is a metallic alloy called Raney® nickel. This nickel-aluminum alloy was invented to transform cottonseed oil from a liquid into a semi-solid shortening. A series of hydrogenation experiments by chemist Murray Raney in Chattanooga, Tennessee, between 1915 and 1926 for the Chattanooga Research Company led to its discovery.1 The first patent was issued in 1925,2 with a second in 1927.3

The discovery opened the door for hydrogenation of oils, fats, and waxes in a variety of food and industrial applications. On April 7, 2022—95 years later—the American Chemical Society granted Raney nickel National Historic Chemical Landmark status.4

What Is Hydrogenation?

We commonly think of hydrogenation as a chemical process that adds texture and shelf-life to foods, but it also extends to industrial applications.

In the food industry, hydrogenation is used to solidify liquid fats fully or partially. In the petrochemical industry, hydrogenation transforms a class of unsaturated hydrocarbons called “alkenes”5—which are used to produce alcohols, plastics, lacquers, detergents, and fuels6—into saturated and less reactive forms known as “alkanes” (e.g., paraffins) and cycloalkanes (e.g., cyclic hydrocarbons, or naphthenes).7,8

The hydrogenation process involves hydrogen and another compound. Because hydrogen is generally unreactive with organic compounds, however, a catalyst is needed. Raney nickel is widely used to make a variety of catalysts for this purpose.7

What Is Raney Nickel?

In the 1920s, when Murray Raney was experimenting with nickel alloys, he patented two versions. The first version contained equal parts nickel and silicon, which was then treated with sodium hydroxide.2 His version was found to be five times more active than the existing nickel-based industry standard. Raney continued to experiment and devised a subsequent catalyst using equal parts nickel and aluminum, which forms the basis of Raney nickel catalysts still in use today.3 Promoters such as zinc, molybdenum, and chromium are also sometimes added for different uses.9

Writing in 1940, Raney noted the importance of basic research in exploring the catalytic properties of metals:

The probability that nickel or any other metal will catalyze a given reaction is based on the great amount of work that has been done in many fields, rather than on any correlated, calculable properties of either the catalyzing substance or the reacting elements or compounds. The catalytic value of a substance is determined by trial; if it does its work, it is good.10

Since his original catalysts were devised, the world has bent Raney’s discovery to a vast array of uses. At the broadest level, Raney nickel is used today as a catalyst to help convert building-block chemicals into pharmaceuticals, food ingredients, personal care products, agrochemicals, and petroleum processing.4,11 Today, W. R. Grace & Co produces a variety of catalysts for hydrogenation and dehydrogenation using Raney nickel.

Since its discovery, Raney nickel has been used in a variety of oxidative and reductive applications including:

Novel uses of Raney Nickel

Today, new uses are being explored for Raney nickel. One application is in the emerging field of biomass conversion, where it is used as a catalyst to upgrade raw biomass into biofuels.12,13 With the admirable goal of weaning the world off fossil fuels, this use of Raney nickel may prove to be its most valuable contribution yet. Another use is as a catalyst for hydrogenation to synthesize cariprazine, an anti-psychotic drug used in the treatment of schizophrenia.14


  1. The Discoverer of Raney Nickel. Raymond B. Seymour. Chemical and Engineering News Archive, 1947, 25 (37), p 2628. DOI:10.1021/cen-v025n037
  2. Method of Preparing Catalytic Material [US Patent Application]. Murray Raney. 1924, https://patents.google.com/patent/US1563587A/en
  3. Method of Producing Finely-Divided Nickel [US Patent Application]. Murray Raney. May 10, 1927, https://patentimages.storage.googleapis.com/30/af/21/aca0026193570c/US1628190.pdf
  4. Development of Raney Nickel Catalyst Earns Historic Chemical Landmark Designation [Press Release]. American Chemical Society. April 6, 2022, https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/pressroom/newsreleases/2022/april/development-of-raney-nickel-catalyst-earns-historic-chemical-landmark-designation.html
  5. Alkenes. LibreTexts Chemistry. Updated September 13, 2020, https://chem.libretexts.org/Bookshelves/Organic_Chemistry/Supplemental_Modules_(Organic_Chemistry)/Alkenes
  6. Alkenes. ByJu’s. Accessed April 14, 2022, https://byjus.com/chemistry/alkene/
  7. Hydrogenation: Catalysts. Wikipedia. Updated February 8, 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrogenation#Catalysts
  8. Naphthenes. ScienceDirect. Accessed April 14, 2022, https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/naphthenes
  9. Raney Nickel. Wikipedia. Updated December 21, 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raney_nickel
  10. Catalysts from Alloys. Murray Raney. Industrial and Engineering Chemistry, 1940, 32 (9), pp 1199–1203. DOI: 10.1021/ie50369a030
  11. Chemical Processing. GRACE. Accessed April 14, 2022, https://grace.com/industries/chemical-processing
  12. Raney Ni as a Versatile Catalyst for Biomass Conversion. Zhouhua Sun, Zhe-Hui Zhang, Tong-Qi Yuan, Xiaohong Ren, and Zeming Rong. ACS Catalysis, 2021, 11 (16), pp 10508–10536. DOI: 10.1021/acscatal.1c02433
  13. Advances and Challenges in the Valorization of Bio-Oil: Hydrodeoxygenation Using Carbon-Supported Catalysts. Tomás Cordero-Lanzac, José Rodríguez-Mirasol, Tomás Cordero, and Javier Bilbao. Energy Fuels, 2021, 35 (21), pp 17008–17031. DOI: 10.1021/acs.energyfuels.1c01700
  14. Review of Synthetic Approaches toward the Synthesis of Cariprazine, an Antipsychotic Drug. Siddhanath D. Bhosle, Shivanand V. Image, Balraju Gangapuram, Gyanchander Eppa, RRajesh S. Bhossal, and Jhillu Singh Yadav. Org. Process Res. Dev, 2022, 26 (3) 493-507. DOI: 10.1021/acs.oprd.1c00488

Sharps in the Lab: Safety Procedures

Sharps are often used in the chemistry lab, but represent a risk of puncture wounds or chemical exposure. Yet information about their proper usage – and prevention of injuries – remains scarce in the literature. A new report published in the journal, ACS Chemical Health & Safety, promotes safe techniques for the use of needles and cannulas in chemistry.

In 2018, a student working at the University of Lyon pricked his finger on a syringe containing a few residual drops of dichloromethane.1 Unlike the needle pricks received in classic fairy tales, this resulted in necrosis, and the need for emergency reconstructive surgery. The incident also prompted a call for safety updates in chemistry labs. A new paper published in ACS Chemical Health & Safety sets out some guidelines for safe management, and tips for developing a good safety plan and risk assessment.2

The World Health Organization estimates there are over 2 million needlestick injuries every year among healthcare workers,3 but data are not widely available for chemistry research labs, despite the frequent use of sharps such as cannulas and needles for chemical transfer. In the healthcare setting, needlestick injuries pose an infection risk, but in the lab there is an additional risk of exposure to dangerous chemicals. Retrospective data from one institution suggest cuts, lacerations, and punctures account for the largest proportion of laboratory injuries (32%), while chemical exposure accounts for another 19%.4 Another study reports up to 30% of scientists in academic chemistry labs have witnessed a work injury severe enough to need medical attention.5

Stainless-steel cannulas and needles provide an enclosed system for the safe manipulation of air-sensitive, pyrophoric, or toxic chemicals. Needles and cannulas are also used in gas chromatography and high-performance liquid chromatography applications. Inadequate situational awareness has been identified as one of the primary causes of accidents attributed to human error. Injuries caused by sharps in the lab typically reflect inadequate training around chemical transfer procedures, and incorrect recapping, storage, or disposal. Thorough planning can reduce injuries and exposures incurred by students and researchers. With this in mind, safety plans should include hands-on training, a standard operating procedure, and information about any engineering controls. An appropriate risk assessment may also identify alternative transfer methods that are safer than needles and cannulas.

Preventing injury requires situational awareness which is achieved by using proper techniques and a proper reaction set up, performing a risk assessment, and having group discussions about the risks within the context of the overall experimental procedure.

Tips for safe handling of sharps in the lab:

  • Assemble glassware inside a functional and uncluttered fume hood before transferring chemicals with a needle or a cannula.
  • Only use new disposable or clean reusable syringes and cannulas.
  • Methanol, acid water, deionized water, or acetone work well for cleaning.
  • Cannulas may also be cleaned using a vacuum or nitrogen pressure.
  • Inspect syringes and needles before use for leaks or clogs.
  • Use the correct size, and avoid using needles that are bent.
  • Never apply excess force while uncapping a needle.
  • Needles should not be recapped, bent, removed, or otherwise manipulated by hand.
  • If a needle must be recapped, use a mechanical device or a one-handed scoop method.
  • Be attentive when using sharps in the glovebox to avoid puncturing the gloves.
  • Avoid plastic syringes for chlorinated solvents.
  • Use syringes only for transfers <50 mL, and take special precautions when transferring pyrophoric chemicals.
  • Syringes should be filled at less than half capacity so the plunger does not accidentally come out.
  • When transferring chemicals that are air- or moisture-reactive, use a cannula or syringe only once for a single transfer; multiple transfers should use fresh transfer equipment.
  • Store protected needles and cannulas in their appropriate lab drawer.
  • Collect all disposable needles in a heavy-duty sharps container, and never overfill.


  1. Vidal S. Safety First: A Recent Case of a Dichloromethane Injection Injury. ACS Central Science 2020;6(2):83–86.
  2. Chandra T, et al. Safe Handling of Cannulas and Needles in Chemistry Laboratories. ACS Chem Health Saf 2022;29(2):175–183.
  3. World Health Organization (WHO). Needlestick injuries. 2019; Available from: https://www.who.int/occupational_health/topics/needinjuries/en/.
  4. Gosavi A, et al. A retrospective analysis of compensable injuries in university research laboratories and the possible prevention of future incidents. J Chem Health Saf 2019;26(2):31–37.
  5. McLeod RW. Approaches to Understanding Human Behavior When Investigating Incidents in Academic Chemical Laboratories. ACS Chem Health Saf 2022;29(3):263–279.


Read more about lab safety


10 Hot Topics in Chemistry so far in 2022

AI and Big Data 

At number ten, it’s artificial intelligence and big data in water environments. These powerful new tools are increasingly being used in environmental science to assess risks, examine contaminants, identify and characterize pollution sources, and to model water treatment processes. But there remain opportunities and challenges in applying machine learning and data analytics to solving environmental problems, and it is hoped that new techniques will significantly advance water-related research in the coming years.1

Read more

Thermochemical processing of waste and biomass

Next up: recent advances in biomass and wastes thermochemical processing. Earlier in the year the ACS journal Energy & Fuels highlighted developments presented by participants at a virtual symposium organized by the Washington State University Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Bioproducts Institute. The world is gradually transitioning from an era fueled by fossil power to one characterized by sustainability and renewable resources. Recent progresses the understanding of biomass thermochemical reactions are allowing research communities to visualize these in practical solutions to mitigate environmental issues. Contents within the issue fall into four areas: (1) fundamentals of biomass thermochemical reactions, (2) liquefaction technologies, (3) catalytic upgrading/refining, and (4) techno-economic analysis/material.2

Read more

Next Gen Active Materials

At eight, bioconjugate biomaterials, and the next generation of active materials. Biomaterials are redefining modern medicine – from new chemical strategies to modify hydrogels, or  biocompatible methods to stabilize proteins and peptides, biomaterials are changing the detection and treatment of disease. In addition, engineered systems reveal new insights into biological processes, including stem cell signaling, cellular motions, and tissue repair, with many applications in human health.3

Read more

Advances in TB drug discovery and diagnosis

Or how about drug discovery and diagnosis in tuberculosis? Before the emergence of SARS-CoV-2, tuberculosis was the leading cause of death from an infectious disease, with drug resistance limiting the effectiveness of current treatments. But recent advances in drug discovery and diagnostics promise new efforts to combat this global health threat, which may come back to the forefront as COVID recedes.4

Read more

Smoking and chemical toxicology

At six, research into the chemical toxicology of smoking – with consideration of the use of cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and cannabis, particularly given the rise of lung injury cases associated with vaping. It is likely that both conventional and innovative chemical tools will play a major role in understanding the mechanisms of toxicity of tobacco and its related products, as well as the transformation of e-cigarette constituents during vaping.5

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Process safety in chemistry

Into the top five now, and our pick is process safety. Many industrial chemical incidents happen around the world every year, resulting in deaths, property damage, and disrupted supply chains. Systematically studying process performance and learning from the past is an effective way to prevent such incidents, with new research contributing to strategies for improving chemical safety across  natural, social, management, and engineering sciences.6

Read more

Catalysis and energy snapshot in China

At four, energy and catalysis, with a focus on China. Energy plays a central role in society, and the hunt for clean and sustainable resources is becoming one of the most important global issues of our time. Over the past decade, researchers in China have made extensive efforts and achieved significant advances in the fields of energy and catalysis – both in the understanding of fundamental mechanisms, and the development of efficient materials and devices.7

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Applied chemistry in healthcare

The top three hot topics in this selection all take us back into chemical applications in healthcare. At three is antifungal drug discovery. Fungal diseases cause millions of deaths each year, and can increase the morbidity of other bacterial and viral infections. Current treatments such as polyenes, azoles, and echinocandins are old, and often do not offer cure – as well as being associated with severe side effects. New research and development is needed to improve outcomes, and to keep pace with emerging pathogens.8

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Neglected tropical diseases

Coming in at number two, neglected tropical diseases, which affect more than a billion people worldwide in tropical areas and impoverished communities. This category of diseases includes schistosomiasis, which can damage the bladder, kidneys and liver, and other tropical parasites. ACS journals collaborated in a special virtual issue to showcase recent advances in the diagnosis and treatment of these illnesses.9

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And our number one hot topic for the summer of 2022 – it’s vaccines. As we have all seen in recent years, vaccines are a key mitigation strategy against viruses. But their application is wider than just inoculating against infectious pathogens; indeed, they show utility in cancer and other diseases, and are driving new options for personalized medicine. Now, new materials and conjugation methods may simplify production and enhance outcomes. Furthermore, new biomolecules and display modalities can expand the reach of vaccines to target emerging and endemic viruses. Improved strategies to deliver vaccines and induce immunogenicity are critical to protect against future outbreaks.10

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All these topics have been covered in recent special and virtual issues of ACS journals. Visit the website to explore more, and connect with us on social media to tell us about your own favourite hot topics in the world of chemistry.

Find more hot topics and article collections


  1. AI and Big Data in Water Environments. ACS EST Water Available at: https://pubs.acs.org/page/aewcaa/vi/ai-big-data-water-environments.
  2. Recent Advances in Biomass and Wastes Thermochemical Processing. Energy Fuels Available at: https://pubs.acs.org/page/enfuem/vi/thermochemical-processing
  3. Bioconjugate Biomaterials: Leveraging Biology for the Next Generation of Active Materials. Bioconjugate Chem Available at: https://pubs.acs.org/page/bcches/vi/bioconjugatebiomaterials
  4. Tuberculosis Drug Discovery and Diagnosis. ACS Infect Dis Available at: https://pubs.acs.org/page/vi/tuberculosis
  5. Chemical Toxicology of Cigarette, e-Cigarette and Cannabis Smoking. Chem Res Toxicol Available at: https://pubs.acs.org/page/crtoec/vi/chemical-toxicology-cigarette
  6. Process Safety from Bench to Pilot to Plant. A special collaboration issue. Available at: https://pubs.acs.org/page/vi/process-safety-bench-pilot-plant
  7. Energy and Catalysis in China. J Phys Chem C Available at: https://pubs.acs.org/page/jpccck/vsi/energy-catalysis-china
  8. Antifungal Drug Discovery. A special collaboration issue. Available at: https://pubs.acs.org/page/vi/antifungals
  9. Neglected tropical Diseases. A special collaboration issue. Available at: https://pubs.acs.org/page/vi/ntdday
  10. Vaccine Strategies. Bioconjugate Chem Available at: https://pubs.acs.org/page/bcches/vi/vaccinestrategies