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List of unsolved problems in chemistry

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Title: List of unsolved problems in chemistry  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: List of unsolved problems in computer science, AI-complete, Theoretical chemistry, Outline of chemistry, List of unsolved problems in physics
Collection: Chemistry-Related Lists, Lists of Unsolved Problems
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

List of unsolved problems in chemistry

Unsolved problems in chemistry tend to be questions of the kind "Can we make X chemical compound?", "Can we analyse it?", "Can we purify it?" and are commonly solved rather quickly, but may just as well require considerable efforts to be solved. However, there are also some questions with deeper implications. This article tends to deal with the areas that are the center of new scientific research in chemistry. Problems in chemistry are considered unsolved when an expert in the field considers it unsolved or when several experts in the field disagree about a solution to a problem.[1]


  • Organic chemistry problems 1
  • Biochemistry problems 2
  • Physical chemistry problems 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Organic chemistry problems

  • [2]
  • What is the origin of the bond rotation barrier in ethane, steric hindrance or hyperconjugation?
  • What is the origin of the alpha effect? Nucleophiles with an electronegative atom and one or more lone pairs adjacent to the nucleophilic center are particularly reactive.
  • What is the nature of strong bonds between organic-sulfur (and higher chalcogen) compounds and gold?[3]
  • Many mechanisms proposed for catalytic processes are poorly understood and often fail to explain all relevant phenomena.

Biochemistry problems

  • Better-than perfect enzymes: Why do some enzymes exhibit faster-than-diffusion kinetics?[4] See Enzyme kinetics.
  • What is the origin of homochirality in amino acids and sugars?[5]
  • Protein folding problem: Is it possible to predict the secondary, tertiary and quaternary structure of a polypeptide sequence based solely on the sequence and environmental information? Inverse protein-folding problem: Is it possible to design a polypeptide sequence which will adopt a given structure under certain environmental conditions?[5][6]
  • RNA folding problem: Is it possible to accurately predict the secondary, tertiary and quaternary structure of a polyribonucleic acid sequence based on its sequence and environment?
  • What are the chemical origins of life? How did non-living chemical compounds generate self-replicating, complex life forms?
  • Protein design: Is it possible to design highly active enzymes de novo for any desired reaction?[7]
  • Biosynthesis: Can desired molecules, natural products or otherwise, be produced in high yield through biosynthetic pathway manipulation?[8]

Physical chemistry problems


  1. ^ For relevant citations also see the satellite pages
  2. ^ Sridhar Narayan, John Muldoon, M. G. Finn, Valery V. Fokin, Hartmuth C. Kolb,Unique Reactivity of Organic Compounds in Aqueous Suspension K. Barry Sharpless Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 21/2005 p 3157 ,
  3. ^ : "What is the true nature of gold-sulfur bonds?"Synthetic Remarks, by Fredrik von Kieseritzky, August 29th, 2013, at
  4. ^ Hsieh M, Brenowitz M (August 1997). "Comparison of the DNA association kinetics of the Lac repressor tetramer, its dimeric mutant LacIadi, and the native dimeric Gal repressor". J. Biol. Chem. 272 (35): 22092–6.  
  5. ^ a b c "So much more to know". Science 309 (5731): 78–102. July 2005.  
  6. ^ King, Jonathan (2007). "MIT OpenCourseWare - 7.88J / 5.48J / 7.24J / 10.543J Protein Folding Problem, Fall 2007 Lecture Notes - 1".  
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ Duffie, John A. (August 2006). Solar Engineering of Thermal Processes. Wiley-Interscience. p. 928.  
  10. ^ Brabec, Christoph; Vladimir Dyakonov; Jürgen Parisi; Niyazi Serdar Sariciftci (March 2006). Organic Photovoltaics: Concepts and Realization. Springer. p. 300.  

External links

  • "First 25 of 125 big questions that face scientific inquiry over the next quarter-century". Science 309 (125th Anniversary). 1 July 2005. 
  • "So much more to know — Next 100 of 125 big questions that face scientific inquiry over the next quarter-century". Science 309 (5731): 78–102. July 2005.  
  • Unsolved Problems in Nanotechnology: Chemical Processing by Self-Assembly - Matthew Tirrell - Departments of Chemical Engineering and Materials, Materials Research Laboratory, California NanoSystems Institute, University of California, Santa Barbara
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