Sunday, 24 February 2013

Macro Letters "cool cover"

The relatively new ACS Macro Letters journal has joined Twitter ("finally", I hear you all call out)! Their 3rd ever tweet boldly publicises, "The cool cover for the sample Jan '13 issue". So let's see just how cool it is...

Cool. adjective, 1. moderately cold

Macro Letters cool coverThe cover image for the first edition of 2013 really does stand out, but is it for being cool? Simple, is maybe the biggest compliment I could give it. Old fashioned, boring, forgettable are perhaps more fitting descriptions. Perhaps the editors had inadvertently left their first paper copy in the fridge and so were just commenting on how it was now at a fairly low temperature. Different journals do often distinguish between articles with catchy names, such as Chemical Science's "edge articles" and Angewandte's "hot papers". Using these definitions does lead to a distinction between papers in the same journal and is in part an (successful?) attempt to bring modern and exciting language into a sometimes dry, emotionless academic world.

But leaving behind this first attempt to reach out into the hip and trendy world of twittering, let's dissect the imagery...

Separated into four pictures, the bright colours and ambiguity of the images at least attracted my curiosity as to what this is all meant to mean. Some nice regular pattern going on at the top left with a close up at bottom right. The always fashionable brown shading, favoured by eccentric physicists, indicating an AFM image. In the top right corner we have a mold pressing in to a surface or perhaps a representation of some complimentary interactions? I'm a big fan of simple cartoons, but a little context would be nice. And finally at the bottom left we have some actual science with a cross-linked polymer structure that can possibly rotate. This piece of the puzzle confirms the polymeric patterning idea, although it would have been good of them to choose slightly nicer ChemDraw settings.

The January issues of ACS Macro Letters are open access, a rare and potentially lucrative way of attracting a new readership. But this also puts more of an emphasis on first impressions and therefore the cover. A great opportunity then to show off some eye-catching, "cool" scientific artwork. Opportunity missed I fear for this year.

Reversible covalent bonds

The paper: Thermally Induced Nanoimprinting of Biodegradable Polycarbonates Using Dynamic Covalent Cross-Links

The actual science is not too bad at all. Copolymers are produced with furanyl and maleimido side chains which can undergo a Diels-Alder reaction at an elevated temperature of 130 °C. This process cross-links the polymer, giving it an increased rigidity. They use a nanoimprinting method to put a pattern into the polymer film at the high temperature and then when cooled down the design stays put. The effect is reversible, as when the temperature is increased once more the side chains break apart and, in the absence of a mold, will form new unstructured bonds with no overall shape on the macroscale. A simple and nicely demonstrated idea.

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