Sun, sand and sea: the chemistry of summer

Read our special summer research collection for free


Summer is at its peak in the northern hemisphere, with its longer days, balmy evenings, sand, sea and sunshine. To celebrate, we have chosen a selection of articles published in Elsevier’s chemistry, engineering, energy, earth and materials science journals that are reminiscent of the season. You can read them at your leisure (perhaps while you relax on the beach) for free until December 31, 2016.

Here are some highlights:

Harvesting the sun’s rays

In the summer, it’s not just people who are soaking up the sun: dye-sensitized solar cell (DSSC) technology, which converts light photons into energy, could help tackle global energy and environmental problems. Despite its potential, the efficiency of the technology has been limited because the chemical reaction behind it is often incomplete.

A team from Yunnan Normal University in China has developed a double-layered titanium dioxide/silica nanosphere (TiO2/SiO2) photoanode with light-scattering behaviors, which enhances light harvesting and electron excitation. The results, published in Electrochimica Acta, show the photoelectric efficiency of the solar cell using the anode is increased from 6.21 percent to 8.86 percent.

Reflecting the sun’s rays

Sometimes we don’t want to soak up the sun but reflect it away instead. In hot climates, cool pigments are used to produce non-white colors that stay cool in the sun. But it’s possible to create even cooler colors: in an article in Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells, researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and PPG Industries in the US showed how photoluminescent synthetic ruby (Al2O3:Cr) can be applied as a layer of crystals on a white surface to stay cooler than other red materials.

The value of sand

From sun to sand – analysis of natural deposit sand found in the Jezza area of North West Tunisia shows it can be used by a variety of industries, including ceramics, concrete, foundry and glass. A study in the International Journal of Mineral Processing by researchers at the University of Carthage in Tunisia reveals a high and almost constant percentage of silica (SiO2), reaching 98 percent, and low percentages of iron oxide and Aluminum oxide at 0.17 percent and 0.32 percent respectively. They also found that the grains varied in size, with a useful fraction of 70 percent, and in shape, from rounded to angular.

Discoveries from the sea

Summer wouldn’t be complete without the sea. Researchers from Kumamoto University in Japan and the National Research Centre in Egypt have isolated five compounds from the marine sponge Stylissa carteri, also known as the elephant ear sponge. These include two new cyclic heptapeptides – carteritins A and B – the structures of which are published in Tetrahedron Letters. The researchers also found that carteritin A is toxic for cervical and colon cancer cells in vitro.

Read all 12 articles:



Rob van Daalen
Written by

Rob van Daalen

Written by

Rob van Daalen

Rob van Daalen is Senior Publisher for Green, Physical and Theoretical Chemistry at Elsevier, responsible for a portfolio of chemistry journals. He studied Analytical Chemistry and is based in Amsterdam. He has held various positions within Elsevier and has been working as a publisher for 10 years. Rob is the initiator the Green and Sustainable Chemistry Challenge, which is now organized in collaboration with the Elsevier Foundation. He was an Elsevier volunteer for the IMC Weekendschool, which offers extracurricular motivating education to children aged 10 to 14 from underprivileged neighborhoods.


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