ChemMonthly Year in Review

The Year in Chemistry: 2018’s biggest chemistry stories

The Year in Chemistry – 2018
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As we head into 2019, it’s time to take a look back at some of the biggest chemistry news stories over the past year. This year’s chemistry news featured water on Mars, the effects of e-cigarettes, new types of isomerism and bonding, and more!

2018 saw a number of significant discoveries in chemistry. The first new type of stereoisomerism in fifty years, a proposed new type of chemical bonding, and the discovery of liquid water and organic molecules on Mars were all announced.

There was some progress in tackling air pollution. A UN report stated that the ozone layer was on course for recovery as a consequence of the banning of CFCs by the Montreal Protocol. However, attention was also drawn to the emission of CFCs in East Asia, which have the potential to delay the ozone layer’s recovery. While chemists also made progress on methods to tackle air pollution, levels of air pollution in cities across the globe are still above safety limits, and health organisations warned of the potential health effects.

2018 wasn’t without its chemical controversies. In March, the former Russian agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were poisoned with a substance later identified as a Novichok nerve agent. Russia faced questions about its involvement in the incident, and two Russian men were identified by CCTC as the potential perpetrators. 

In November, a Chinese researcher sparked controversy after claiming that he had used CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing to create babies resistant to HIV. The claims were met with wide condemnation, both in terms of the ethical approach taken and the fact that the research had still not been published when the claims were made.

In more positive news, machine learning in chemistry continued to progress. Notably, towards the end of the year, researchers reported a ‘Chemputer’ which could carry out the synthesis of several organic compounds on demand. 

The list of stories here is largely subjective of course; do feel free to comment below if you think I’ve missed anything important, or if there are simply other stories worthy of highlighting. You can click on the graphic above to enlarge it and make it easier to read, but I’ve also posted each individual story in its own image below. I’ve also included the links to both articles and original studies (where relevant) for the stories featured, so if you wanted to read up on any of them in more detail you can!

IUPAC recommends new definition for the mole: 


New definitions for the kilogram and the mole: [Article]

‘Chemputer’ autonomously makes three different drugs: [Article] [Study (£)]

Neural network recognises materials – and predicts new ones: [Article] [Study (£)]

Water lake detected under Martian ice cap: [Article] [Study]

Proof of organic molecules in ancient Martian rocks: [Article] [Study (£)]

Gene-edited babies spark ethics controversy: [Article]

Microscopy technique quickly reveals small molecule structures: [Article] [Study]

Study examines effects of e-cigarette smoke in users’ mouths: [Article]

A new type of isomerism discovered: akamptisomerism: [Article] [Study (£)]

New type of bonding proposed for metalloid elements: [Article] [Study]

EU imposes total outdoor ban on three neonicotinoid pesticides: [Article]

Novichok agent used to poison Russian ex-spy: [Graphic]

‘Directed evolution’ wins Nobel Prize: [Graphic]

Ozone healing confirmed in Montreal Protocol assessment: [Article]

Material removes nitrogen dioxide from air: [Article] [Study (£)]

Illegal CFC production could slow ozone layer recovery: [Article] [Study (£)]

Ozone levels still declining in the lower stratosphere: [Article] [Study]

Carbon dioxide shortage hits European food and drink industries: [Article]

Keep track of #ChemMonthly posts on the category page. You can also keep up with stories through the month via the @Chemunicate account or the #ChemMonthly hashtag on Twitter.

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