Chemistry appears to have been overtaken by physics and engineering when it comes to technological development. In industrial research, there is little sense of adventure in the area of chemistry, and engineering is seen as a safer alternative. However, are all the materials that are produced really perfect? Where can chemists contribute their talents?
Graphite as battery anodes or Nafion as fuel-cell membranes, for example, are not particularly efficient. There is not enough platinum in the world for all the envisaged electrically powered cars. Graphene nanoribbons lack structural perfection. Inorganic materials with specific properties such catalysts need to be synthesized, and methods of producing graphene are becoming more important. These are all areas where chemists can use their expertise.
In his Editorial in Angewandte Chemie, Klaus Müllen, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, states his view that chemists need to play an active part in the synthesis of materials. In particular, they should direct their experimental skills and abilities towards creating tailored structures for the synthesis of materials. Chemists are not always highly thought of by the public and often have to justify their use of research funding. However, it is chemists who have the know-how needed to make materials that can be applied in useful devices.
Professor Müllen urges chemists to not only view architectural beauty as a goal, but also function, and to consider the bulk behavior of compounds and not only solution-phase properties. As time progresses, the field of materials is only going to become more relevant to chemists.
- Chemistry in a Materials World,
Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2015.