Drugs, electronics, and 'green' catalysts: The chemical year in review

In fields ranging from computers to medicines to the environment, chemists published work in 2001 that opened new paths that promise to make things better faster, smaller, safer. Chemical & Engineering News, the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, the worlds largest scientific society, reviews the significant chemical advances of the year in the current (December 10) issue.

Among the research published in 2001:

  • The ever-faster computers of the last few decades were possible because engineers packed more and more information onto ever-smaller chips. Many researchers fear, however, that the silicon-based chip currently in use will soon reach its smallest size limit. Phaedon Avouris of IBM used carbon nanotubes to construct the first single-molecule logic gate. The work shows, he said, that carbon nanotubes are now the top candidate to replace silicon when current chip features just cant be made any smaller.
  • Promising drug candidates must be abandoned sometimes because they cannot get into the target cells. Paul A. Wender and co-workers at Stanford University developed molecular transporters that are rapidly and efficiently taken up by cells and can be linked to drugs. By using molecular transporters, drug candidates buried in obscurity may now be available for clinical development.
  • A widely used industrial reaction may become less environmentally harmful, if businesses adopt a catalyst developed by chemists from the University of Valencia. The green catalyst produces water as a byproduct; the current catalyst produces considerable acid waste.
  • Mad cow disease — which is currently diagnosed after a patient dies could be identified in living patients using a technique developed by Claudio Soto and coworkers at the Serono Pharmaceutical Research Institute in Geneva. The misshapen prion molecules that cause mad cow disease are presen

Contact: Beverly Hassell
American Chemical Society

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