The biggest chemistry stories of 2020

January 06, 2021

2020 was an eventful year, with science at the front and center of most news cycles. As this seemingly long year wraps up, Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, is highlighting the biggest chemistry stories, top research trends and predictions for the coming year.

Predictably, research on the novel coronavirus was the biggest chemistry story of the year, beginning in January when the genetic code for SARS-CoV-2 was published. Since then, thousands of papers have been published on the subject, with topics like mask efficacy, disinfectants and virus transmission getting the most attention. Other popular chemistry subjects included new insights about the atmospheres of other planets and how climate change fueled the year's wildfires. New lab tools and discoveries also caught the attention of C&EN editors, including a magnetic stir bar that measures a solution while it mixes, a mobile robot that can do the lab's "grunt work," a 3D printed fluorescent material considered the world's brightest and a metallic berry that could help researchers design new materials.

With 2020 in the rearview mirror, C&EN asked experts to weigh in on what might be in store for the coming year. Predictions for 2021 include advances in artificial intelligence, connectivity and automation, as well as increased interdisciplinary projects, all of which will help tackle big issues in a socially distanced world. Other guesses include new technologies that will make urban water supplies safer and increase recycling capabilities while reducing energy use. The ongoing pandemic also has researchers applying lessons learned from 2020 into the new year, from chemistry education strategies to the key role of nanoscience in scientific collaboration.
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The article, "C&EN's Year in Chemistry 2020," is freely available here.

The American Chemical Society (ACS) is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. ACS' mission is to advance the broader chemistry enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of Earth and its people. The Society is a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related information and research through its multiple research solutions, peer-reviewed journals, scientific conferences, eBooks and weekly news periodical Chemical & Engineering News. ACS journals are among the most cited, most trusted and most read within the scientific literature; however, ACS itself does not conduct chemical research. As a specialist in scientific information solutions (including SciFinder® and STN®), its CAS division powers global research, discovery and innovation. ACS' main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.  

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