In any field, there are always some current topics that get pulses racing. Chemistry is no different, so today we bring you our top ten hot topics of the summer. Grab an iced drink, and see if you agree with our run down…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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.


  1. AI and Big Data in Water Environments. ACS EST Water Available at:
  2. Recent Advances in Biomass and Wastes Thermochemical Processing. Energy Fuels Available at:
  3. Bioconjugate Biomaterials: Leveraging Biology for the Next Generation of Active Materials. Bioconjugate Chem Available at:
  4. Tuberculosis Drug Discovery and Diagnosis. ACS Infect Dis Available at:
  5. Chemical Toxicology of Cigarette, e-Cigarette and Cannabis Smoking. Chem Res Toxicol Available at:
  6. Process Safety from Bench to Pilot to Plant. A special collaboration issue. Available at:
  7. Energy and Catalysis in China. J Phys Chem C Available at:
  8. Antifungal Drug Discovery. A special collaboration issue. Available at:
  9. Neglected tropical Diseases. A special collaboration issue. Available at:
  10. Vaccine Strategies. Bioconjugate Chem Available at:

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