Physics has the origins of the universe; biology has the origins of life. But what are the 'big' scientific challenges for chemistry?
Q Physics has the origins of the universe; biology has the origins of life. But what are the ’big’ scientific challenges for chemistry?
A As Richard Smalley proselytised, the big challenge for science and engineering is the continued provision of the world’s energy requirements as fossil fuel reserves go into decline. The facile photolysis of water is the real carrot. The promise of using sunlight to produce hydrogen and oxygen from water which you react with the release of substantial energy to get back to water has surely got to be the holy grail that would prove to society that chemistry is not the problem; it is the solution!
Andrew Burgess, ICI, UK
A Almost all chemistry can be understood from first principles of physics under the condition that adequate computer time and data storage capacity can be provided. However, the general question of the origin of the natural abundance of enantiomers and their biological activity cannot yet be answered. Why are most natural amino acids l and most natural sugars d?
Horst Hippler, University of Karlsruhe, Germany
A The chemistry of atmospheres is wonderfully complex. Our understanding is certainly lagging behind our capability to foul up, which leads into the next challenge: chemistry of transport, energy conversion, land- and water-use. Finally, the chemistry of life: as the naming of parts has become ever more detailed the question is how chemistry can be organised. How are all those substances arranged to be in the right place at the right time, at the right concentration? It seems a pretty grand challenge to try to understand that.
David Williams, University of Auckland, New Zealand