Chemical bonding

Upcycling: Turning plastic bags into adhesives

December 18, 2020

Large pile of plastic in a dump

While plastic bags clog the waste stream, recycling them isn’t financially attractive, since they’re usually turned into very low-value products. If polyethylene packaging could be processed into high-value products, more of them would be recycled instead of ending up in landfills. (photo: Adobe Stock)

Scientists finally crack nature’s most common chemical bond

May 26, 2020

cracking the hydrocarbon bond

The most common chemical bond in the living world — that between carbon and hydrogen — has long resisted attempts by chemists to crack it open, thwarting efforts to add new bells and whistles to old carbon-based molecules. Now, after nearly 25 years of work by chemists at the University of California, Berkeley, those hydrocarbon bonds — two-thirds of all the chemical bonds in petroleum and plastics — have fully yielded.

Artificial proteins have a firm grasp on heavy metals

December 27, 2019


A team of researchers at Berkeley Lab, led by alumna Rebecca Abergel, have developed a library of artificial proteins or “peptoids” that effectively “chelate” or bind to lanthanides and actinides, heavy metals that make up the so-called f-block elements at the bottom of the periodic table. The new library offers researchers an automated, high-throughput method for precisely designing new peptoids – protein-like polymers with a precise sequence of monomer units – that chelate lanthanides such as gadolinium, a common ingredient in MRI contrast agents, and actinides such as plutonium.

Meet our faculty: John Hartwig

November 15, 2019

John Hartwig

John Hartwig is the Henry Rapoport Professor of Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley. He received the 2019 Wolf Prize in Chemistry. His research aims to find new metal-catalysed reactions, and he was one of the developers of the Buchwald-Hartwig amination, one of the most-used reactions in drug discovery. He spoke with Katrina Krämer at the 2019 American Chemical Society national meeting in Orlando, Florida.

What happens when you explode a chemical bond?

July 11, 2019

Tom Laser pulse takes snapshot of changing bondsUniversity of California, Berkeley, chemists using some of the shortest laser pulses available — one quintillionth of a second — have now been able to resolve the step-by-step process leading to the exploding of a chemical bond, essentially making a movie of the event.

Bio-inspired material targets oceans' uranium stores for sustainable nuclear energy

May 17, 2019

Bio-inspired material targets oceans' uranium stores

A research team which include members from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories, the lab of John Arnold at the University of California - Berkeley, and the University of South Florida have developed a material that selectively binds dissolved uranium with a low-cost polymer adsorbent. The results, published in Nature Communications, could help push past bottlenecks in the cost and efficiency of extracting uranium resources from oceans for sustainable energy production.

Revealing the rules behind virus scaffold construction

March 28, 2019

Frances Arnold

A team of researchers, including faculty from Northwestern Engineering and UC Berkeley's College of Chemistry, has expanded the understanding of how virus shells self-assemble, an important step toward developing techniques that use viruses as vehicles to deliver targeted drugs and therapeutics throughout the body.

Chemists make first Re-Zn-Zn-Re molecule

January 16, 2019

Re-Zn-Zn-Re moleculeZinc-zinc bonds are rare in chemistry. So are linear four-metal compounds. Nevertheless, Trevor D. Lohrey, a member of John Arnold’s group at the University of California, Berkeley, has made the first molecule with a Re-Zn-Zn-Re core. Lohrey used a rhenium(I) salt to reduce ZnCl2 and make a zinc cation to which anionic rhenium compounds coordinated.

Actinide acts as electron donor for first time

May 3, 2018

A new thorium-aluminum complex discovered A new thorium-aluminum complex is the first in which an actinide element donates electrons when bonding with a metal.

Turning chemical bonds inside out

July 23, 2018

Richmond Sarpong research teamImagine a future where chemists could restructure the morphine molecule to have the opiate pain management value but not the addictive side effect. That is one possible outcome of an exciting new process being reported in Science magazine from the chemistry lab of Richmond Sarpong at UC Berkeley.