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This week, The Alchemist closes the Winter Olympics with a novel logo-like molecule, learns how to make and break bonds with a diamond anvil, tests drugs for heavy metals, and sees how an efficient alkaline anode might be possible. In health, heavy drinking and early-onset dementia. Finally, a Wolf in Japan.

As the Winter Olympics draws to a close, Florida State chemists have an apt polyaromatic hydrocarbon (PAH). Igor Alabugin and his colleagues have put together five benzene rings, three at the "top", two on the "bottom", fused in such a way as to resemble the Olympic logo and dubbed olympicene. Now, to find an application, although the team suggests such compounds might be useful in new types of sensor, for information and energy storage, in solar cells, and organic light-emitting diodes.

Researchers at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University have used a diamond anvil to make and break bonds in small molecules for the first time. Diamond anvils have previously been used to measure the mechanical properties of materials. This is the first time this tool has been diverted to another cause. “Unlike other mechanical techniques, which basically pull molecules until they break apart, we show that pressure from molecular anvils can both break chemical bonds and trigger another type of reaction where electrons move from one atom to another,” explains team member Hao Yan.

Metallic and other elemental impurities in oral pharmaceutical products can be detected and determined with precision and speed using axial viewed inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectrometry with ultrasonic nebulisation, according to a team at the Quantum Analytics Group, based in Bridgewater, New Jersey, USA. Given that new regulations are in place in the USA and elsewhere to control specific daily exposures to various heavy metals, it is essential that the tools exist for quality control, assurance, and regulatory compliance. The team hopes their technique will overcome some of the limitations of earlier techniques as well as being more readily available to laboratories worldwide in comparison with other techniques.

Sangaraju Shanmugam of Energy Science and Engineering at DGIST in South Korea and colleagues at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), USA. Have developed an alternative and cheap anode material that allows them to carry out ultra-stable alkaline electrolysis of water. The highly efficient and ultra-durable core-shell nanostructured electrocatalyst allows them to release oxygen and hydrogen gases from water. The catalyst precludes the need for less common and expensive metals such as iridium and ruthenium, instead the team used cobalt to bridge organic ligands in a Prussian blue analog that acts as a precursor for their metal-rich, nitrogen-doped graphitic nanocarbon-encapsulated core-shell electrocatalysts. This works well for the oxygen evolution reaction at the system's anode, which is otherwise sluggish in the water splitting reactions.

A large-scale study in France of the association between heavy drinking and the onset of dementia demonstrates a strong connection. Indeed, alcohol use appears to be the biggest risk factor for early-onset dementia. Of more than one million people diagnosed with dementia before the age of 65 in France, the researchers found that 57,000 of them were or had been heavy drinkers. Heavy drinking is defined as ingesting 60 grams of ethanol from alcoholic beverages per day for men and 40 g for women. Director of the CAMH Institute for Mental Health Policy Research Jürgen Rehm explains: “Alcohol-induced brain damage and dementia are preventable, and known-effective preventive and policy measures can make a dent into premature dementia deaths.”

Makoto Fujita of the University of Tokyo is this year's recipient of the Wolf Prize in Chemistry. The award is in recognition of his research into metal-guided synthesis and "for conceiving metal-directed assembly principles leading to large highly porous complexes." He shares the 2018 prize with Omar Yaghi of the University of California, Berkeley, for his research "pioneering reticular chemistry via metal-organic frameworks and covalent organic framework."