Another year means only one thing, another chance for some epic chemistry doodles to deface the front of our favourite reading material. So far, the first few months of the year have certainly not disappointed.

The Royal Society of Chemistry has made a strong start to the year; in Chemical Society Reviews some smart art quite literally added to the chemical toolbox, whilst another elemental superhero smashed the main group of the periodic table in a focussed special edition from February. Over at Chem. Comm. I spotted a delightful entry using a stained glass window to demonstrate MOFs forming ‘holey glass’.

Across the sea at Wiley, Angewandte Chemie continues to stack up the comical pictures in their ever growing art gallery. Every week they put out not just one, but four front covers! Because as we all know a magazine obviously has four fronts, including the front front, the inside front, the back to front, the inside out and probably some others. Angewandte also produces a frontispiece, which serves as yet another cover for a featured article. A particularly forceful recent entry announced the latest episode in the benzene chemistry saga as the Cubane Awakens.

One of my favourite covers from the start of this year, however, is from Green Chemistry where it appears that a new set of emoticons have taken over. One happy smiley gives the thumbs up, blissfully ignorant of the fate of the other little yellow folk. Those others are stricken with maladies making them melt or smoke, be dizzy or misshapen, pair up or crack up.

The image refers to an article from the group of Professor Pérez-Ramírez from the ETH in Zurich. This is not the first artistic flourish from Pérez-Ramírez; his group’s website boasts a cover art gallery showcasing phoenixes, an accordion and the occasional catalytic reaction. This particular cover from his latest Green Chemistry article focuses on deactivation mechanisms of tin-zeolite catalysts in biomass conversion. The emoticons from the cover each represent a different mode of catalyst deactivation and the search to find those optimal conditions for the happy smiley. But I hate to think what conditions were used to cover that one emoticon in black gunk.

Pérez-Ramírez is a self-confessed art addict and uses these emoticons, and his other creations, in scientific presentations as well as the classroom. He told me that he wants to share these depictions with the catalysis community and hopes they will be adopted whenever describing the various mechanisms of catalyst decay. He may have a hard task ahead to convince many in the community but personally I think it’s a wonderful idea. Standardisation of descriptions and images, as well as simplified cartoons, not only makes follow up research much clearer but can have a great impact on the potential for better public understanding.

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Catalytic emoticons, 9.7 out of 10 based on 3 ratings
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