Molecules to save the planet
Knowledge about molecules and how they interact is crucial when we try to tackle problems with environmental issues. Chemical research plays a very important role in our struggle to minimize air pollution, fight the effects of greenhouse gases on global warming, recycle materials and provide access to drinking water in all parts of the world.
Molecules for energy
Our modern society needs an increasing amount of energy, but we cannot keep draining Earth’s natural resources and let energy production have such a devastating effect on our environment. We need to develop methods to produce energy in a sustainable way. Solar power, biofuels and hydrogen energy are examples of technologies where chemistry is involved, and in many labs all over the world, teams of scientists work hard to find better and more efficient solutions.
Molecules in medicine, health and food
The human cell is a fascinating machinery, where thousands of chemical reactions take place simultaneously. Although we have leant a lot about how it works on a molecular level, we are only beginning to understand the full picture. When we understand which molecules are involved in a disease, and the chemical reactions behind it, we can make new molecules to treat the disease. This could for example mean constructing a drug molecule that prevents a certain chemical reaction by binding to a protein in the cell. Our health is also strongly linked to what we eat and drink. This is how we add molecules that serve as building blocks to make the molecules that we are made of, and this is how we get the chemical energy that we need to stay alive!
Molecules to make new materials
Throughout history, society has changed in many ways thanks to the development of new materials. You have probably heard of the Stone Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. These names reflect how the introduction of a new and better material enabled people to create objects which were harder and more durable than previously possible. In more recent years, the development of plastic materials drastically changed how we live our lives. The silicon integrated circuits, or chips, in the middle of the 20th century led to the development of microelectronics and what is called “the information age”. What age are we currently living in? The progress of research and development is so fast now, and going in so many directions, that it is hard to put a label on it. Perhaps the nano age? When we make a new material, we now have the knowledge to choose (design) its properties to fit our needs, by carefully arranging the atoms or molecules that make up the material. We say that we manipulate the material on a scale of 0.000000001 meter (nanometer). This has opened possibilities that man could not dream of 50 years ago.