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.

Physical chemistry problemsEdit

Organic chemistry problemsEdit

Biochemistry problemsEdit

  • Enzyme kinetics: Why do some enzymes exhibit faster-than-diffusion kinetics?[7]
  • 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][8] This has been achieved for several small globular proteins in recent years.[9]
  • 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?[10]
  • Biosynthesis: Can desired molecules, natural products or otherwise, be produced in high yield through biosynthetic pathway manipulation?[11]


  1. ^ a b c The Future of Post-Human Chemistry: A Preface to a New Theory of Substances ..., de Peter Baofu, page 285
  2. ^ The problem may actually occur at approximately Element 173, given the finite extension of nuclear-charge distribution.[citation needed] See the article on Extension of the periodic table beyond the seventh period, and the article section Relativistic effects of Atomic orbital.
  3. ^ Duffie, John A. (August 2006). Solar Engineering of Thermal Processes. Wiley-Interscience. p. 928. ISBN 978-0-471-69867-8.
  4. ^ Brabec, Christoph; Vladimir Dyakonov; Jürgen Parisi; Niyazi Serdar Sarıçiftçi (March 2006). Organic Photovoltaics: Concepts and Realization. Springer. p. 300. ISBN 978-3-540-00405-9.
  5. ^ a b "So much more to know". Science. 309 (5731): 78–102. July 2005. doi:10.1126/science.309.5731.78b. PMID 15994524.
  6. ^ S. Narayan, J. Muldoon, M.G. Finn, V.V. Fokin, H.C. Kolb, K.B. Sharpless,2005, "On Water: Unique Reactivity of Organic Compounds in Aqueous Suspension," Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 21:3157, see []. accessed 15 December 2015.
  7. ^ 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. doi:10.1074/jbc.272.35.22092. PMID 9268351.
  8. ^ King, Jonathan (2007). "MIT OpenCourseWare - 7.88J / 5.48J / 7.24J / 10.543J Protein Folding Problem, Fall 2007 Lecture Notes - 1". MIT OpenCourseWare. Archived from the original on September 28, 2013. Retrieved June 22, 2013.
  9. ^ Dill KA; et al. (June 2008). "The Protein Folding Problem". Annu Rev Biophys. 37: 289–316. doi:10.1146/annurev.biophys.37.092707.153558. PMC 2443096. PMID 18573083.
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-04-01. Retrieved 2012-12-19.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ Peralta-Yahya, Pamela P.; Zhang, Fuzhong; Del Cardayre, Stephen B.; Keasling, Jay D. (2012). "Microbial engineering for the production of advanced biofuels". Nature. 488 (7411): 320–328. Bibcode:2012Natur.488..320P. doi:10.1038/nature11478. PMID 22895337.

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