What one chemistry fact should every member of the public know?

A: All life is based on chemical matter and processes. Our body is made out of chemicals, and functions according to the principles of chemical reactivity, and chemistry greatly improves living conditions: without antibiotics and other powerful medicines created by chemists our life expectancy would be much reduced, without polymers and plastics, there might be no trees left on earth. Without chemistry, the world population of more than seven billion people could not be fed.

François Diederich, ETH, Switzerland

A: To some people, the word ’chemical’ has become synonymous with poison. But Joe (and Josephine) Public should know that all matter, animal, vegetable or mineral, is made up of chemicals. Imagine life without chemicals: no coffee or drugs; no plastics or TV; no chocolate or sex hormones. No chemicals, no life!

Saiful Islam, University of Surrey, UK

A: Some 70 per cent of the world’s food supply is grown with fertiliser produced by the Haber Bosch process in which hydrogen from fossil fuels and nitrogen from the air are passed over an iron catalyst heated by fossil fuel to about 1000°C.

Harry Kroto, Florida State University, US