Much of the news this year continued to be dominated by instability around the world. Russia’s war on Ukraine shows no signs of letting up, with the destruction of the Nova Kakhova dam in June threatening to leave Europe’s largest nuclear power plant without enough water to cool its reactors. The war has also seen long-running scientific partnerships with Russia end. Researchers in Israel took to the streets in April to join mass protests against judicial reforms that many feared would erode democratic norms and harm the country’s scientific sector. These reforms were shelved following the attack by Hamas in October that led to over a thousand deaths. Israel’s subsequent efforts to eradicate Hamas have killed thousands of people in Gaza and destroyed universities there.
In happier news, the world’s first Crispr therapy was approved by the UK in November. Casgevy will be life-changing for patients with sickle cell disease and beta-thalassaemia and may be a cure for some. This exciting development is set to be followed by further Crispr therapies – clinical trials are currently taking place for HIV, cancer and protein-folding disorders.
The old adage about extraordinary claims requiring extraordinary evidence got a good outing again this year. This was the result of not one but two claims of room-temperature superconductivity. The claims by a group at the University of Rochester, US, have been doing the rounds since 2020. But in March this year the team claimed to have produced a room-temperature superconductor that functioned at pressures far lower than those previously reported for this class of hydride material. However, in November the paper was retracted as problems with the data mounted. It is the third room-temperature superconductivity retraction for this research group. The other superconductivity claim was even more extraordinary. A South Korean team claimed to have produced a superconductor that functioned not only at room temperature but also at ambient pressure. Feverish speculation followed as researchers raced to reproduce this relatively simple metal-doped lead apatite. Perhaps unsurprisingly, disappointment followed. The superconductivity supposedly witnessed could not be reproduced by other teams.
Plenty of fundamental chemistry has been on display this year too with the creation of an all-metal fullerene, caesium-based artificial atoms and an anti-aromatic ring of pure carbon. A personal favourite was a piece of spectroscopic detective work that revealed in May that the first catenane – two mechanically linked molecular rings – really had been made 63 years ago by Ed Wasserman. The claim met with scepticism at the time and the Manchester team investigating expected to find it had never been made. The story has a lovely coda though, as Ed Wasserman’s son contacted the Manchester group to let them know that his father was delighted to learn that he really had made the world’s first catenane in 1960!
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Biogen–Eisai’s lecanemab can slow disease progression a little, but at significant cost and risk of side effects
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Acrolein levels at Norfolk Southern train derailment site in late February were up to six times higher than normal
Deadly glycol contamination discovered in Uzbekistan, following cases in The Gambia and Indonesia
Low-cost gels improve the handling and storage of traditionally dangerous organometallics, expanding applications and possibilities in synthesis
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Political uncertainty risks UK losing out to China, US and EU
Hundreds of thousands of victims of deadly disaster still seeking support 39 years later
Discoveries could contribute to new understanding of organic chemistry, triggering applications in catalysis and materials science
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Paper mills that produce papers to order are thought to be targeting some of the biggest journals
1,2,3-cyclohexatriene proves to be an unexpected hit as a reagent in a wide range of reactions
Company re-files for bankruptcy of a subsidiary in the hopes of resolving tens of thousands of claims its products caused cancer
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Amie Fornah Sankoh has persevered from failing primary school in Sierra Leone to gaining a biochemistry PhD in the US
Nasa’s Cassini probe reveals dust and ice around the planet is only a few hundred million years old
Researchers hoping to debunk Edel Wasserman’s doubted claims of the first interlinked rings end up supporting them
As war and pandemic-related cost increases and demand slowdowns continued to bite hard, the chemicals industry and parts of the pharmaceuticals sector are tightening belts: cutting jobs and costs to remain competitive.
Covid-19 therapy suppliers are bracing for a steep drop in revenues, while producers of a new crop of hormone-mimicking obesity drugs are racing to expand manufacturing capacity to keep up with soaring demand for their products.
Various sectors are fighting ongoing regulatory battles – whether over pricing of pharmaceuticals or responsibility for PFAS pollution. It seems unlikely these will be resolved very quickly.
Tributes paid to the inventor of the lithium–ion battery, who has passed away a month before his 101st birthdayRead story
Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station’s access to water for cooling from nearby reservoir cut off by demolition
Manufactured atoms offer chemists chance to play ‘mind games’ with matter and change bond order of molecules
Historical ±0.4% accuracy standard was discovered to have little evidence backing in 2022
Combination of materials allows higher energy photons to be captured to beat silicon’s limit
MDMA and psilocybin are to be offered to be patients suffering from intractable mental health conditions
Professionals and amateurs are racing to recreate LK-99 a claimed superconductor that has yet to be verified
A reversible cycloaddition triggered with visible light offers new opportunities for solid-state energy storageRead story
Company was accused of profiting from HeLa cells derived from Lacks’ tumour without her family’s approval
Ultracold atoms can undergo chemical reactions all at once
As contaminated water builds plant’s owner hopes to begin discharging it this summer
Crispr-based system could ease development of novel RNA therapiesRead story
Autoclaved aerated concrete corrosion issues puts some buildings at risk of collapse
Find could point to new ways to prospect for material in high demand for batteries.
Nuclei expected to be ‘doubly magic’ but experimental observations cast doubt on this
Science minister Michelle Donelan demanded a response from UKRI after accusing members of the panel of ‘extremist views’
Fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sees US go it alone on efforts to synthesise new elements
As war rages in the Middle East, the plight of Gazan scientists is unclear as international students and researchers leave Israel and scientists are called up to fight
Researchers seek dialogue with new leader who plans to eliminate the nation’s science ministry and possibly its research councilRead story
Swedish firm highlights cells’ cheap and sustainable materials for energy storage
First steps of solvation monitored as single sodium ions dissolve in helium droplets
Treatment aims to cure patients with β-thalassaemia and sickle-cell disease
US drug agency examining six CAR-T therapies after reports of T-cell malignanciesRead story
Algorithm discovered more than 2 million inorganic structures
US chemists report the mildest conditions to date for Nylon-6 depolymerisation, recovering 99% of the original monomers in the plastic
Solution helps to explain the mystery of why common mineral won’t crystallise in the lab