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Dr. Bryan Dickinson wins the 2022 ACS Chemical Biology Young Investigator Award

The ACS Chemical Biology Young Investigator Award honors the contributions of an early-career individual who is doing outstanding work in chemical biology. The first winner of this annual award, Dr. Bryan Dickinson from The University of Chicago, will present the ACS Chemical Biology Young Investigator Lecture during the ACS Spring 2023 Meeting & Exposition March 26 – 30 in Indianapolis, IN.

The award is sponsored jointly by ACS Chemical Biology and the ACS Division of Biological Chemistry.

“The review committee was delighted to receive a large number of highly-competitive nominations for the inaugural ACS Chemical Biology Young Investigator award,” said Editor-in-Chief Chuan He. “Following detailed deliberations, we are excited to name Dr. Bryan Dickinson as the winner of the 2022 ACS Chemical Biology Young Investigator Award, for his unique and outstanding contributions to designing and applying both small-molecule-driven and bioengineering-based strategies that enable novel means to perturb, probe, or control, numerous important biological regulatory programs spanning from the lipid signaling to epitranscriptome and RNA targeting. Work from the Dickinson laboratory over the past 8 years pushes the boundaries of chemical biology. This laboratory further demonstrates that when studied with depth and breath, how chemical biologists can bring novel interdisciplinary solutions to address important problems in the life sciences.”

Read a Brief Interview With Dr. Bryan Dickinson

Dr. Bryan Dickinson

Dr. Bryan Dickinson

Can you give us a short overview of the research you are currently undertaking and/or the project you are most excited about?

The motivating principle of my group is that our ability as chemists to create functional molecules will lead to new breakthroughs in biology and biotechnology. We are molecule-type agnostic though, engaging in everything from synthetic organic chemistry to create small molecules, molecular evolution to reprogram molecules, and protein/RNA design to develop novel biotechnology platforms. We select problems that we think are important, both in basic biology and translational science, and then do what only chemists can do—think about molecular solutions to those problems, and then go in the lab and create, find, or engineer those molecules!

One subgroup I am very excited about right now is our subgroup developing technologies to harness evolution to engineer and optimize molecules with specific bioactivities. Evolution, nature’s design philosophy, is not only a powerful method for optimizing or redirecting existing molecular function but can also lead to the de novo discovery of novel mechanisms of activity of molecules. I believe this function-first approach to molecular design could be impactful in the ways we discover bioactive molecules, but critically, can also lead to new mechanisms of action.

Over the past seven years, though iterative platform technology development, in particular our group’s proximity-dependent split RNAP biosensing system, we have developed technologies that allow us to rapidly evolve selective molecular interfaces between proteins, to evolve “molecular glues” that drive biomolecular interactions, to evolve biocatalysts, and finally, to evolve selective inhibitors of target biomolecular interactions.

Now, we are using these systems to try to tackle complex biophysical “puzzles” with a disease-focus, such as how to selectively disrupt disease-driving pre-formed protein complexes or how to drive biomolecular interactions with molecular glues to rewire cell signaling. We believe that the throughout and library sizes enabled by our evolution-based systems will yield novel solutions to these puzzles and lay the foundation for new classes of therapeutics.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone just entering the field?

I suggest anyone entering the field of chemical biology really try to identify and follow their passions. There are so many problems facing society today—from seemingly intractable diseases to looming climate and energy disasters. Chemistry can provide some of the solutions to these challenges, and chemical biologists, with their exceptional abilities to build interdisciplinary teams, can help lead those efforts.

I always sought highly interdisciplinary training environments with a “problem-focused,” rather than “technique or model-focused,” approach to science. I would advise burgeoning chemical biologists to find groups to work with that align with your values and passions, who think creatively and interdisciplinarily, and who value team-based science with a mission-driven attitude. At least for me, this has been a fulfilling and energizing way for me to navigate my own career choices and led me to work with two of the best advisors I could possibly imagine for my Ph.D. and postdoc.

Relatedly, one of the things I am most proud of is a PI is my group culture. Our team tackles problems we think are important with bravery, creativity, and a sense of purpose. In short—find science to pursue that you really care about and the people to pursue it with that share your values and passions, and everything will flow beautifully from there!

What new directions in chemical biology do think will be most impactful in the next few years?

I am really interested in the ever-changing role of academic science in the broader biotech and drug discovery ecosystem. Academic science—both discovery and technology development—plays a critically important role in that ecosystem, and increasingly, serves as springboard for young entrepreneurs to build and test innovative ideas and then move them outside of academia to the “real world.”

There are so many exciting therapeutic modalities that emerged from academia that are poised to make major inroads in medicine in the next decade, from CRISPR technologies, to PROTACs and related bifunctional recruiter systems, to RNA-targeting technologies. While chemical biologists have and will continue to serve a critical role as “tool developers” to break down barriers in the study of biology, I think major impacts will be made in changing the paradigms of what a drug can look like and what can be targeted therapeutically.

Related to that goal, I think innovative training environments that help both support and foster diverse trainees to become successful in their futures, which within chemical biology, are increasingly translational and therefore outside of academia, will ensure chemical biology as a field continues to generate leaders in both academia and industry.

In short, there are so many patients in need with seemingly intractable medical problems, but also, so many exciting and innovative ideas out there, I think the next decade will really lead to a golden age of biotechnology, fueled in large part by chemical biology.

Explore Recent ACS Journal Articles by Dr. Bryan Dickinson

  1. Charting the Chemical Space of Acrylamide-Based Inhibitors of zDHHC20. ACS Med. Chem. Lett. 2022, 13, 10, 1648–1654
  2. A High-Throughput Fluorescent Turn-On Assay for Inhibitors of DHHC Family Proteins. ACS Chem. Biol. 2022, 17, 8, 2018–2023
  3. Development of Mild Chemical Catalysis Conditions for m1A-to-m6A Rearrangement on RNA. ACS Chem. Biol. 2022, 17, 6, 1334–1342
  4. Phage-Assisted Continuous Evolution and Selection of Enzymes for Chemical Synthesis. ACS Cent. Sci. 2021, 7, 9, 1581–1590
  5. A System for the Evolution of Protein–Protein Interaction Inducers. ACS Synth. Biol. 2021, 10, 8, 2096–2110
  6. Development of an Acrylamide-Based Inhibitor of Protein S-Acylation. ACS Chem. Biol. 2021, 16, 8, 1546–1556
  7. Small Molecule-Inducible RNA-Targeting Systems for Temporal Control of RNA Regulation. ACS Cent. Sci. 2020, 6, 11, 1987–1996
  8. A Phage-Assisted Continuous Selection Approach for Deep Mutational Scanning of Protein–Protein Interactions. ACS Chem. Biol. 2019, 14, 12, 2757–2767
  9. Activity-Based Sensing of S-Depalmitoylases: Chemical Technologies and Biological Discovery. Acc. Chem. Res. 2019, 52, 11, 3029–3038
  10. Development of a Split Esterase for Protein–Protein Interaction-Dependent Small-Molecule Activation. ACS Cent. Sci. 2019, 5, 11, 1768–1776

Call for Papers: The Exposome and Human Health

This new Special Issue from Environmental Science & Technology, “The Exposome and Human Health,” strives to capture the diversity and range of life-long exposures to a wide range of external factors (e.g., chemicals, diet, psychosocial stressors or physical factors), and their internal biological responses. The theme, Exposome, is defined as the “totality of environmental exposures from conception onwards.”

The Special Issue is seeking high-quality research articles on, but not limited to, the following topics:

  • Novel and innovative approaches for human biomonitoring and human exposome for a broad range of chemicals, including persistent organic pollutants, emerging contaminants (e.g., EDCs, PFAS) and microplastics.
  • Exposure assessment and epidemiology of indoor and outdoor air quality, diet, drinking water.
  • Environmental exposures and multi-omics.
  • Novel and innovative study design (e.g., natural experiment design), to establish causality of the relationship between environmental exposures and human health across the life course.
  • Modelling and impact of chemicals of emerging concern on human exposure and human exposome in general.
  • Innovative studies focused on the link between ecosystem health and human health and their input on chemicals policy and regulation.
  • Application of interdisciplinary research (omics/system biology, environmental epidemiology, toxicology) to better understand adverse health outcomes and their environmental origins.

GUEST EDITORS

  • Pablo Gago Ferrero, Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research, Spain
  • Akhgar Ghassabian, NYU Langone Health, United States
  • Marja Lamoree, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • Leisa-Maree Toms, Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Australia

SUBMISSION DEADLINE

  • June 20, 2023

AUTHOR INSTRUCTIONS

To submit your manuscript, please visit the Environmental Science & Technology website. Please follow the normal procedures for manuscript submission and when in the ACS Paragon Plus submission site, select the Special Issue “The Exposome and Human Health.” All manuscripts will undergo rigorous peer review. For additional submission instructions, please see the Environmental Science & Technology Author Guidelines.

Submit your manuscript by June 20, 2023.

View Submission Guidelines

Submit Your Manuscript

Greener Methods for Cleaner Water

Water, water everywhere…but is it clean enough to drink? For more than one-third of the world’s population, the answer is no.1 Access to clean drinking water is currently one of the most challenging global issues, exacerbated by climate change, increasing water scarcity, population growth, demographic changes, and continued urbanization. But scientists are now harnessing the power of the sun to effectively and sustainably turn salty ocean water into a clean, drinkable resource. 

Advances in Solar-Powered Desalination Technology

A Paper-Based Answer to Salt Accumulation

While the majority of the earth’s surface is covered by water, more than 97% is found in the oceans and cannot be consumed due to its high salinity. But chemists have been working to address the global water crisis by developing more efficient and environmentally sustainable seawater desalination techniques.

Solar-powered desalination is steadily becoming a leading force in battling global water scarcity, and there is a strong drive to advance solar desalination methods for more widespread applications in sustainable clean water production. Most traditional solar evaporation systems operate using thermal conduction, but the biggest challenge for these evaporators is excessive salt accumulation on the absorption layer, which hinders evaporation efficiency and makes the devices difficult to clean and maintain.

However, research recently published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces demonstrates a novel solution in the form of a paper-based thermal radiation-enabled evaporation system (TREES).2 This system uses a contactless configuration consisting of a vertical evaporation wall made of filter paper, which surrounds a thermally insulated bottom solar absorber constructed from surface-inked wood and polystyrene foam.

The evaporation wall can efficiently capture thermal energy from the solar absorber while also gaining energy from the warmer environment, enhancing the evaporation process. The wall is also unique in its ability to efficiently collect the salt on its exterior and, through energy down-conversion, enable water to serve as its own absorber and create a dynamic evaporation front from the accumulated salt layer. Furthermore, since the TREES system is contactless, the salt layer does not accumulate on the bottom absorber surface.

After testing the TREES system outdoors for eight consecutive days, the researchers reported that it can enhance evaporation by more than 1000% compared to traditional systems. By overcoming the salt accumulation challenge and improving the evaporation process, TREES exhibits tremendous potential as a driver of next-generation desalination technology. Watch a video of TREES in action.

Doing Double Duty with Hydrogel

Another desalination approach published in ACS ES&T Water uses a hydrogel platform to produce fresh water from both the ocean and the atmosphere.3 Salt accumulation presents a challenge here as well—hydrogel-based solar steam generators currently used for seawater desalination are easily clogged and dirtied by excess salt deposits.

Despite their obstructive nature, researchers observed that these salts could be quite useful for absorbing water from the atmosphere, and they worked to develop a versatile solar-thermal hydrogel (TA-Fe@PAM) that could integrate oceanic desalination and atmospheric water collection within a singular device.

The team constructed the TA-Fe@PAM hydrogel by embedding a tannin-iron (TA-Fe) photothermal complex into a polyacrylamide (PAM) hydrogel system. The hydrogel’s porous nature allowed for efficient photothermal conversion and water transport while effectively trapping large amounts of deliquescent salts during rapid solar desalination. The hydrogel containing the incorporated salts (DS-TA-Fe@PAM) was then dried and tested for atmospheric water collection performance. The DS-TA-Fe@PAM hydrogel was able to successfully capture atmospheric water vapor and then release almost all of the water it had collected.

Finally, the team tested DS-TA-Fe@PAM within a device made from cheap, easy-to-assemble household materials, and it again demonstrated efficient water harvesting and release. This is especially promising for use in developing countries and low-resource settings where it is difficult to regularly access clean water.

Taken together, these new findings provide novel insights into the design of next-generation salt-harvesting solar evaporators and take a step further to advance their applications in sustainable desalination.

Explore Related Research on Desalination from ACS Journals

  1. Zhang, C. et al. Dual-Layer Multichannel Hydrogel Evaporator with High Salt Resistance and a Hemispherical Structure toward Water Desalination and Purification. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2022, 14, 22, 26303–26313
  2. Aleid, S. et al. Salting-in Effect of Zwitterionic Polymer Hydrogel Facilitates Atmospheric Water Harvesting. ACS Materials Lett. 2022, 4, 3, 511–520
  3. Pan, Y. et al. Simple Design of a Porous Solar Evaporator for Salt-Free Desalination and Rapid Evaporation. Sci. Technol. 2022, 56, 16, 11818–11826
  4. Chu, A. et al. Sustainable Self-Cleaning Evaporators for Highly Efficient Solar Desalination Using a Highly Elastic Sponge-like Hydrogel. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2022, 14, 31, 36116–36131
  5. Wilson, H. et al. Highly Efficient and Salt-Rejecting Poly(vinyl alcohol) Hydrogels with Excellent Mechanical Strength for Solar Desalination. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2022, 14, 42, 47800–47809

References

  1. Patel, P. Improving the efficiency of solar desalination. C&EN Global Enterprise 2019, 97, 26, 8-8
  2. Bian, Y. et al. Enhanced Contactless Salt-Collecting Solar Desalination. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2022, 14, 29, 34151–34158
  3. Li, X. et al. Multipurpose Solar-Thermal Hydrogel Platform for Desalination of Seawater and Subsequent Collection of Atmospheric Water. ACS EST Water 2022, Article ASAP

10 Chemistry Articles Everyone Was Reading in October 2022

There are many ways to measure an article’s success after it is published. One helpful method of evaluating a scientific publication’s reach and influence is by looking at how many times it has been read. Below, we have gathered a selection of recently published chemistry articles that were among the most read in October 2022 across all ACS Publications journals.*  

These articles cover a variety of topics, including Nobel-winning click chemistry, plastic degradation rates, PFAS, and more. We hope you find this content informative and useful. If you are interested in publishing in an ACS journal, click below to learn more about how your research can further our commitment to being the “Most Trusted. Most Cited. Most Read.” 

Learn More About Publishing with ACS

 

Presumptive Contamination: A New Approach to PFAS Contamination Based on Likely Sources

Presumptive Contamination: A New Approach to PFAS Contamination Based on Likely Sources
Derrick Salvatore, Kira Mok, Kimberly K. Garrett, Grace Poudrier, Phil Brown, Linda S. Birnbaum, Gretta Goldenman, Mark F. Miller, Sharyle Patton, Maddy Poehlein, Julia Varshavsky, and Alissa Cordner 
DOI: 10.1021/acs.estlett.2c00502 

 

On the Topic of Substrate Scope 

On the Topic of Substrate Scope 
Marisa C. Kozlowski 
DOI: 10.1021/acs.orglett.2c03246 

 

Introduction: Click Chemistry

Introduction: Click Chemistry 
Neal K. Devaraj and M. G. Finn 
DOI: 10.1021/acs.chemrev.1c00469 

 

Fewer Sandwich Papers, Please

Fewer Sandwich Papers, Please 
Song Jin 
DOI: 10.1021/acsenergylett.2c02197 

 

Improved Stability of Inverted and Flexible Perovskite Solar Cells with Carbon Electrode

Improved Stability of Inverted and Flexible Perovskite Solar Cells with Carbon Electrode 
Vivek Babu, Rosinda Fuentes Pineda, Taimoor Ahmad, Agustin O. Alvarez, Luigi Angelo Castriotta, Aldo Di Carlo, Francisco Fabregat-Santiago, and Konrad Wojciechowski 
DOI: 10.1021/acsaem.0c00702 

 

Operando Transmission Electron Microscopy Study of All-Solid-State Battery Interface: Redistribution of Lithium among Interconnected Particles

Operando Transmission Electron Microscopy Study of All-Solid-State Battery Interface: Redistribution of Lithium among Interconnected Particles 
Shibabrata Basak, Vadim Migunov, Amir H. Tavabi, Chandramohan George, Qing Lee, Paolo Rosi, Violetta Arszelewska, Swapna Ganapathy, Ashwin Vijay, Frans Ooms, Roland Schierholz, Hermann Tempel, Hans Kungl, Joachim Mayer, Rafal E. Dunin-Borkowski, Rüdiger-A. Eichel, Marnix Wagemaker, and Erik M. Kelder 
DOI: 10.1021/acsaem.0c00543 

 

Composition, Emissions, and Air Quality Impacts of Hazardous Air Pollutants in Unburned Natural Gas from Residential Stoves in California

Composition, Emissions, and Air Quality Impacts of Hazardous Air Pollutants in Unburned Natural Gas from Residential Stoves in California 
Eric D. Lebel, Drew R. Michanowicz, Kelsey R. Bilsback, Lee Ann L. Hill, Jackson S. W. Goldman, Jeremy K. Domen, Jessie M. Jaeger, Angélica Ruiz, and Seth B. C. Shonkoff 
DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.2c02581 

 

Degradation Rates of Plastics in the Environment

Degradation Rates of Plastics in the Environment 
Ali Chamas, Hyunjin Moon, Jiajia Zheng, Yang Qiu, Tarnuma Tabassum, Jun Hee Jang, Mahdi Abu-Omar, Susannah L. Scott, and Sangwon Suh 
DOI: 10.1021/acssuschemeng.9b06635 

 

Unified Access to Pyrimidines and Quinazolines Enabled by N–N Cleaving Carbon Atom Insertion

Unified Access to Pyrimidines and Quinazolines Enabled by N–N Cleaving Carbon Atom Insertion 
Ethan E. Hyland, Patrick Q. Kelly, Alexander M. McKillop, Balu D. Dherange, and Mark D. Levin  
DOI: 10.1021/jacs.2c09616 

 

Total Synthesis of Yuzurine-type Alkaloid Daphgraciline

Total Synthesis of Yuzurine-type Alkaloid Daphgraciline 
Li-Xuan Li, Long Min, Tian-Bing Yao, Shu-Xiao Ji, Chuang Qiao, Pei-Lin Tian, Jianwei Sun, and Chuang-Chuang Li 
DOI: 10.1021/jacs.2c09548


*This list was not chosen by the journals’ editors and should not be taken as a “best of” list, but as another perspective on where the chemistry community is recently allocating their attention.
 

Update on ACS Publications’ Name Change Policy: Two Years Later

ACS Publications recognizes and respects that authors may change their names for many reasons during their academic careers including—but not limited to—gender identity, marriage, divorce, or religious conversion. As part of ACS Publications’ commitment to reducing barriers to inclusion, equity, and professional mobility, we implemented an inclusive name change policy in October 2020, offering a more inclusive and author-centric path to updating one’s name on prior publications. Over the last two years, we have updated approximately 400 published articles. In doing so, nearly 100 researchers have rightfully claimed ownership of their academic work under their lived names.

Though this policy benefits anyone who changes their name, we were originally motivated to update our policy in response to a call from the transgender scientific community. For many researchers, particularly those from the transgender community, name changes can be a sensitive issue. Submitting change requests can be taxing—emotionally and administratively—especially for researchers who have published in multiple journals or across publishers whose policies and procedures may vary.

To help address this burden, in 2021 ACS Publications announced a partnership with the U.S. National Laboratories as they implemented their name change policy. The partnership with all seventeen U.S. National Laboratories enables researchers to ask the National Laboratories to pursue name changes on their behalf directly with participating publishers. This streamlined process reduces the emotional toll often associated with name changes and the administrative burden involved in requesting name changes at multiple publishers or journals. Over the last year, we have been diligently working to honor this partnership. We have also been advancing other planned improvements to our policy and processes.

We’re pleased to share that we can now accept name change requests submitted by an approved institutional representative on behalf of an author. Through a revised request form, institutional representatives can submit all the necessary information for ACS to process the change. Authors must still update their ACS Paragon Plus profile and ORCiD, and they must be copied on the request and made available for questions if needed. More information for interested authors and institutional representatives can be found on our policy page and FAQs.

We continue to encourage authors to submit requests on their own behalf, if their institution does not have a name change policy or they do not want to involve an institutional representative. For authors, the revised form allows them to provide more relevant information from the start of the request and aims to minimize the burden on the author later in the process. ACS staff might still contact the author throughout the process as questions arise. 

Through efforts like ACS’ name change policy, ACS Publications is committed to promoting diversity, equity, inclusion, and respect (DEIR), identifying and dismantling barriers to success, and creating a welcoming and supportive environment so that all ACS contributors, members, employees, and volunteers can thrive. We continue to actively listen to the community on these issues and welcome your feedback on how we are doing. Please complete our Diversity Feedback form to share your comments.

Visit the ACS Publications Name Change Policy Page

Learn About Our Commitment to Advancing DEIR

Share Your Feedback With Us!

Call for Papers: Electrified Membranes for Environmental Applications

Environmental pollution and the energy crisis have created an urgent demand to develop high-efficiency, cost-effective and sustainable technologies for water purification.

By integrating the advantages of electrochemistry and membrane separation, the electrified membrane has risen as a new-generation technology, as reflected by a rapid growth in the number of peer-reviewed publications in the last five years. There have been significant advances in the design of various electroactive materials, functionalization strategies, and reactor configurations. Both an understanding of the working mechanism and environmental applications are of essential importance to accelerate research and development, to explain the fundamental mechanisms and to address the practical challenges regarding widespread industrial applications.

This new Special Issue from ACS ES&T Engineering is seeking original and high-quality research and review articles that explore the remediation of environmental hazardous materials using electrified membranes. Both fundamental and applied research papers covering multidisciplinary topics will be considered.

The scope of the Special Issue includes, but is not limited to, the following topics:

  • Electrified membranes for the decontamination of heavy metal ions.
  • Electrified membranes for the inactivation of waterborne pathogens.
  • Electrified membranes for water and wastewater treatment.
  • Full-scale engineering applications of electrified membranes for water treatment.
  • Nanotechnology strengthened electrified membranes for water purification.
  • Electrified membranes for the treatment of emerging contaminants.
  • Advanced electroactive materials and functionalization strategies for water treatment.

Explore Research on Electrified Membranes in ACS Journals

Editors

Guest Editors:

  • Yanbiao Liu, Donghua University, China
  • Zhiwei Wang, Tongji University, China
  • Xing Xie, Georgia Institute of Technology, United States
  • Shijie You, Harbin Institute of Technology, China

Associate Editor:

  • Jaehong Kim, Yale University, United States

Author Instructions

To submit your manuscript, please visit the ACS ES&T Engineering website. Please follow the normal procedures for manuscript submission and when in the ACS Paragon Plus submission site, select the Special Issue of “Electrified Membranes for Environmental Applications.” All manuscripts will undergo rigorous peer review. For additional submission instructions, please see the ACS ES&T Engineering Author Guidelines.

The deadline for submissions is May 2, 2023.

Author Guidelines

Submit Your Manuscript

 

Call for Papers: Special Focus Issue on High Throughput in Mass Spectrometry

Mass spectrometry is a leading and information-rich analytical method that is used and applied in both industrial and academic settings.  For example, liquid chromatographic mass spectrometry is an indispensable technique that is used during the research and development stages of most therapeutic drugs.

This Special Focus Issue in the Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry will highlight high throughput strategies, application solutions and software processing developments, in all aspects of mass spectrometry. Erin S. Baker (JASMS Critical Insight Editor) will manage this Special Focus Issue along with Guest Editors John C. Tran and Iain D. G. Campuzano.

For readers, this Special Focus Issue will be an easily identifiable source of high-quality papers. For authors, it provides increased visibility for the latest high throughput techniques in mass spectrometry.

Focus manuscripts publish ASAP and in-issue as they are ready, and then, once all designated papers have been published, they will be compiled into an online collection.

Author Instructions:

To submit your manuscript, please visit the Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry website. Please follow the normal procedures for manuscript submission, and when in the ACS Paragon Plus submission site, select the special issue of “High Throughput in Mass Spectrometry.” All manuscripts will undergo the normal peer review process. For additional submission instructions, please see the Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry Author Guidelines. The deadline for submissions is January 31, 2023.

Learn More About How to Submit

Sparking Interest in New Firework Colors

Sparklers are a favorite for holidays and celebratory events across the world, providing dramatic and eye-catching bursts of light. While their flames can span the rainbow, the actual sparks that fly and branch out are traditionally limited to dark red, gold, or white light. But chemists are now uncovering new ways to expand the pyrotechnic color palette using rare-earth metals.

Read the Full Paper

Sparks are tiny pieces of materials that, when heated to a certain temperature, produce visible light. Long-flying sparks formed from hot, incandescent metal particles are essential components of sparklers, fireworks, and other pyrotechnic spectacles—however, these traditional metallic sparks may leave something to be desired due to their limited color range. This is because the color of the spark is controlled exclusively by the temperature of the metal heated by surface combustion, a phenomenon known as black or gray body radiation.

In recent decades, studies have demonstrated the potential for rare-earth metals to be promising agents for more colorful pyrotechnic displays and spark variety due to their low boiling points and ability to burn in the vapor phase. Unfortunately, the metals are consumed very quickly during vapor-phase combustion, resulting in only brief flashes of light rather than the desired effect of long, branching sparks.

But now, a recent study published in ACS Omega reports that rare-earth metals in alloy powder form can produce flashes that shift from gold to green while maintaining continuous branching and sparking effects. This study is thought to be the first investigation into how such alloys expand spark colors beyond the black body limit, as well as their impact on branching behavior.

Overall, the researchers studied 11 commercial and synthesized alloys plus six rare-earth elements. They were able to achieve deep green spark segments based on eutectic ytterbium–zinc (Yb–Zn) and ytterbium–copper (Yb–Cu) powders. Once ignited, Yb–Cu burst into a shower of both gold and green sparks. In contrast to pure Yb, the Yb–Cu sparks successfully traveled outside of the flame, reaching significant lengths of 3–6 cm. The resulting effects appeared as a mixture of surface combustion (gold), vapor combustion (green flashes), and color-changing sparks with deep green and golden stages, repeating several times over.

In addition to color, the researchers demonstrated that rare-earth metal alloys could influence the branching behavior of sparks. Among the various candidates that were analyzed, the neodymium-iron-boron alloy Nd2Fe14B proved to be the most ideal and practical due to its stable phase and ability to produce bright, continuous branching effects. 

The authors conclude that binary metal alloys could one day play a vital role in enhancing the color variety and spark behavior of handheld sparklers and other pyrotechnic devices. However, further research and intensive safety testing must be conducted to ensure commercial viability.

So, as you stand under your next fireworks show or trace shapes in the cold night air with a sparkler, spare a thought for the chemists working to light up the skies and add color to our celebrations.  

To see the research in action, watch the video below created by the ACS Science Communications team:

Read the Original Article

Read the Full Press Release

Learn more about the chemistry of pyrotechnics in ACS journals:

  1. Ritchie, T. et al. Evolution of Medieval Gunpowder: Thermodynamic and Combustion Analysis. ACS Omega 2021, 6, 35, 22848–22856
  2. Dong, W. et al. Multidimensional Energetic Coordination Polymers as Flame Colorants: Intriguing Architecture and Excellent Performance. Cryst. Growth Des. 2022, 22, 9, 5449–5458
  3. Cao, W. et al. Access to Green Pyrotechnic Compositions via Constructing Coordination Polymers: A New Approach to the Application of 3,4-Dinitropyrazole. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2022, 14, 28, 32084–32095
  4. Zeman, O. Diketopyrrolopyrrole─A Greener Alternative for Pyrotechnic Smoke Compositions. ACS Sustainable Chem. Eng. 2022, 10, 14, 4788–4791
  5. Fan, S. et al. Are Environmentally Friendly Fireworks Really “Green” for Air Quality? A Study from the 2019 National Day Fireworks Display in Shenzhen. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2021, 55, 6, 3520–3529

Call for Papers: Hot Electrons in Catalysis

The Journal of Physical Chemistry C will publish a Virtual Special Issue on “Hot Electrons in Catalysis.”

The Virtual Special Issue is led by Guest Editors Prof. Reinhard Maurer (University of Warwick) and Prof. Prashant Jain (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign). Together they encourage researchers to submit their new and unpublished work by March 31, 2023.

Learn More About How to Submit

Research areas of particular interest include:

  • Understanding and controlling hot carrier production by optical excitation and other methods
  • Energetics and dynamics of hot electron generation, relaxation, and dissipation through catalytic reactions
  • Mechanisms of catalysis and chemical reactions involving hot electrons
  • New photochemical processes enabled by hot electrons
  • Development and application of new theoretical methods for modeling hot electron chemistry
  • Mechanistic aspects of the syntheses and characteristics of materials for hot electron generation and harvesting

In conceiving this Virtual Special Issue, the Guest Editors were inspired by some recent exciting innovations and discoveries, including:

  • Plasmonically generated hot electrons inducing new reaction pathways and modifying reaction selectivity
  • Energetically unfavorable reactions being driven by carrier photoexcitation
  • Strategies for resolving thermal and non-thermal effects in hot electron chemistry
  • Selective activation of adsorbate vibrational modes by photogenerated hot electrons
  • Recent experimental advances in studying ultrafast dynamics of hot-electron-mediated energy transfer

Read Articles on Hot Electrons in ACS Journals

Submission Instructions

The review process for all submissions for this Virtual Special Issue will be handled by The Journal of Physical Chemistry C’s Senior Editors Stephan Link and Gregory Hartland.

To ensure an unbiased peer-review process, the journal asks that you do not indicate within your manuscript that the submission is intended for the Virtual Special Issue. If you do, your manuscript will be returned for correction. Instead, when you submit your manuscript, please indicate this on your cover letter and note what part and section you feel will be the best fit. You can find a complete list of sections and other important information for authors in The Journal of Physical Chemistry C’s Author Guidelines.

As with all submissions to The Journal of Physical Chemistry C, your manuscript 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 theoretical or computational methods of broad interest.

Information for Authors

Submit Your Manuscript

If you are unsure if your research is within the Virtual Special Issue’s scope or have other questions about submitting a manuscript to this Virtual Special Issue, please email The Journal of Physical Chemistry C Deputy Editor Gregory Hartland’s office at hartland-office@jpc.acs.org.

Call for Papers: AI for Synthetic Biology

Synthetic biology has been successfully used to design biological systems with new and improved functions. However, due to the complexity of biological systems, performing synthetic biology in a quantitative and predictive manner still remains a challenge. In recent years, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) that allow computers to learn from experience has emerged as a potentially powerful tool to address this challenge.

A new Virtual Special Issue from ACS Synthetic Biology will focus on this dynamic topic, including contributions that develop and apply AI and ML tools for synthetic biology applications. The issue will be led by Editor-in-Chief Huimin Zhao with Guest Editors Hector Garcia-Martin and Stanislav Mazurenko.

Relevant topics include:

  • AI/ML algorithms relevant to synthetic biology
  • AI/ML-guided peptide, protein, and antibody engineering
  • AI/ML-guided metabolic engineering
  • AI/ML for plant, microbial, and mammalian synthetic biology
  • AI/ML for bioprocess development
  • AI/ML for systems biology

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 “AI for Synthetic Biology.” 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 March 31, 2023.

Learn More About How to Submit