As we draw to the end of 2019 and the International Year of the Periodic Table, this graphic summarises some of the biggest stories in chemistry this year. Highlights included a new form of elemental carbon, concerns over vaping health risks, unexpected stir bar effects on reactions, and more.
2019 saw celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary of Dmitri Mendeleev’s periodic table. The year saw the oldest classroom periodic table uncovered, and the smallest and largest ever tables assembled.
The Nobel Prize in chemistry was awarded to the development of lithium-ion batteries that power phones, computers, and more. One winner, John B Goodenough, became the oldest ever Nobel Prize winner at 97.
Chemists created a new form of elemental carbon: a ring consisting solely of 18 carbon atoms. Meanwhile, a new algorithm suggests there could be 43 different forms of carbon yet to be discovered.
The magnetic stir bars used in many laboratories are coated in an inert polymer. However, new research shows that scratches and cracks could trap metal particles, which could then interfere with reactions.
Strange bonds and molecules were detected in space. The helium hydride ion was detected for the first time in a nebula, while calculations suggest that reactions between ammonia and hydrogen could produce nitrogen heptahydride on Neptune and Uranus.
Concerns relating to polyfluorinated compounds hit the news regularly in 2019. Denmark banned their use in food packaging, while chemists worked on ways to remove them from contaminated water.
A new vaccine for Ebola was approved in Europe after successfully undergoing clinical trials. A ruling on the vaccine’s US approval is expected in March, with the vaccine available from late 2020.
Evidence of periodicity’s breakdown in the far reaches of the periodic table continued to mount. New calculations show that copernicium is a highly volatile ‘noble liquid’, and oganesson is a metallic semiconductor.
Chemists trialled ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. A battery-like device can capture CO2 emissions in car exhausts, while a copper catalyst converts CO2 from the atmosphere into useful chemicals.
Clinical trials on Alzheimer’s drug elenbecestat were halted, making it the sixth Alzheimer’s drug of its type to enter but fail clinical trials. Results of trials for other drugs are expected in the coming years.
In light of concerns relating to plastics pollution, chemists continued to investigate ways to convert used plastics into new, useful materials. One new process converts a plastic used in food and drinks packaging into jet fuel, while another transformed polyethene into lubricants. A new family of recyclable polymers was also discovered.
Concerns regarding the health effects of vaping continued to hit the news in 2019. Over 2,500 people were hospitalised in the U.S. with lung injuries associated with vaping, with 54 deaths. The cause of the issues was attributed to vitamin E acetate in THC-containing vaping products.
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