ACS Publications is excited to announce Professor Jinlong Yang as the inaugural Editor-in-Chief of Precision Chemistry, a new partner journal between the University of Science and Technology of China and the American Chemical Society. Professor Yang is a professor of chemistry at the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC), where he received his PhD in condensed matter physics in 1991 and has served as Vice President since 2018.
We connected with Professor Yang recently to learn more about him, his research, and his hopes for the future of Precision Chemistry. These are the highlights of our conversation.
What is precision chemistry and why is it so important to scientific research?
Precision chemistry as a concept mainly covers two aspects. First, chemical research generates a large number of data, which needs to be accurate and reliable to obtain precise physicochemical pictures. We increasingly need higher precision in computational simulation and experimental characterization.
Second, traditional chemical research relies heavily on the method of “trial and error.” As the discipline has developed, the precise control of chemical reaction paths and tuning the properties of molecular and material systems have become increasingly important. As a result, precision synthesis and manufacturing based on such abilities is another important and growing research goal.
To sum up, precision chemistry aims to use and develop theories and experimental methods to improve the precision of chemical research, so as to realize precise calculation, design, synthesis, characterization, manufacturing, etc., and improve the efficiency of chemical research.
So precision chemistry can provide improved efficiency, better performance, and increased environment friendliness—this is the dream for chemists. On the one hand, demand for precision in chemical research comes from the development of chemistry at the level above the molecular, and the exploration and understanding of the construction, properties, and the nature of intermolecular interactions of complex chemical systems such as macromolecules, supramolecules, molecular aggregates, and even living systems – focusing on multi-scale effects in chemical processes.
On the other hand, it comes from the requirements for the creation of new substances beyond the “trial-and-error” research paradigm to achieve sustainable development of human society and to fundamentally solve energy, environmental, and health problems. Precision chemistry will have a significant impact on many areas of scientific research.
Why is the new journal Precision Chemistry open access?
Precision chemistry is at the frontier of chemical research. Future developments cannot be achieved without interdisciplinary cooperation and the combined efforts of scientists from many fields relevant to chemistry. And further, to accelerate this cooperation, we need to increase the accessibility and usability of articles published in Precision Chemistry—which is the only journal focusing on precision in chemistry. Based on these considerations, we decided to adopt an open access publishing model for Precision Chemistry.
How important is it for you to be supported as Editor-in-Chief by your fellow Editors?
The success of any journal is dependent on editorial teamwork. The support of team members is very important for my work and the development of Precision Chemistry. We have established a prestigious and truly international editorial team, whose expertise covers many fields of chemistry for Precision Chemistry. I believe Precision Chemistry and the fields it serves will evolve quickly thanks to the collaboration within our team.
What excites you about your current research in the field?
The most exciting part of my own work in the field of precision chemistry is to make things possible that initially seemed impossible. Taking electronic structure calculation as an example, we can only deal with very small system containing a few atoms if we solve the Schrödinger equation directly without making any approximation. As a result, high precision calculations of the electronic structure of complex chemical systems containing tens of thousands of atoms were considered to be out of reach a few years ago. But recently, we developed algorithms to use a supercomputer with 40 million cores to perform the density functional theory calculation of a complex lithium-sodium alloy system containing 2.5 million atoms in parallel. This greatly expands the application scope of high-precision electronic structures.
And the gradual application of quantum computers promises to continue to expand this range significantly. In addition, the precise control of chemical synthesis is also greatly improved through the development of artificial intelligence algorithms to build a robot automation platform. With such precision synthesis technology, experiments that would previously have taken decades can be completed in a few days. These emerging new advances will drive the development of precision chemistry.
Why should people doing work in the field submit their next best manuscript to Precision Chemistry?
Although much of the previous work in chemical research fell into the realm of precision chemistry, it was published across different journals that focused on different fields of chemistry. Bringing this work together under the banner of precision chemistry will greatly enhance the overall impact of these many different but related topics. We hope that Precision Chemistry will clearly convey the significance of the goal of precision across many branches of chemistry and related disciplines and will enhance the influence and impact of precision chemistry in the scientific community.
Where do you see research in precision chemistry going in the field in the next 5-10 years?
In the next 5-10 years, we will see significant improvement in the precision of computational modeling and experimental characterization of complex chemical systems. A large number of precise chemical data will then be generated, enabling chemical intelligence to be established based on big data, which ultimately allows the precise tuning of the properties of chemical systems and chemical reaction paths.
Possible future advances include but are not limited to:
- achieving precise detection, imaging and characterization of molecules and chemical reactions
- conducting theoretical modeling of chemical, biological and material systems with high accuracy and computational efficiency
- realizing precise and controllable chemical synthesis with high selectivity and efficiency
- creating molecular machines and devices based on molecular engineering of complex and multi-functional molecular systems
- achieving controllable self-assembly with precise designed structures, precise synthesis of macromolecular and supramolecular systems
- realizing precise regulation of nanostructures
- fabricating high-performance functional materials based on rational design
- applying precision chemistry to complete gene editing, protein and enzyme engineering, molecular diagnosis, and targeted therapy
- solving important issues in energy and environmental sciences including energy conversion, energy storage, water resources, environmental remediation, carbon neutrality, and so on.
What advice would you give to young scientists today?
I think it is very important for young researchers to think about the big questions and identify a research goal that has important scientific value. Young researchers are creative and should not blindly chase hot spots and just undertake research superficially. They can both greatly improve the overall research endeavour and create new opportunities for themselves.