Cover To Cover | May 14, 2007 Issue - Vol. 85 Issue 20 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 85 Issue 20 | p. 3 | Editor's Page
Issue Date: May 14, 2007

Cover To Cover

Department: Editor's Page
Credit: Linda Wang/C&EN
Credit: Linda Wang/C&EN

There is a clear plastic case mounted on the wall of my office that displays the nine most recent issues of C&EN. Issues travel from the top left to the bottom right during their nine weeks of glory.

To the casual observer, the case may appear to be a minor act of vanity by the editor-in-chief of the magazine on display. In fact, it serves a useful purpose: At a glance, I can get a sense of the balance among images—people, molecules, instruments, buildings—that C&EN has presented on its cover over the most recent two months.

A couple of weeks ago, I poked my head into Managing Editor Ivan Amato's office and said, "We need a molecule on the cover soon. There's only one molecule up on my wall, and it's coming down next week."

Amato responded: "We've got one for the May 14 issue. It's not a single molecule, but it is molecular in nature. It's an exploded view of an encapsulation particle that you can use to deliver active ingredients in skin creams."

And that is, indeed, the image on the cover of the issue you are reading, which contains C&EN's annual personal care feature story. This year, Senior Correspondent Marc Reisch focuses on the development of sophisticated macromolecular systems to deliver products' active ingredients to skin and hair (see page 15).

I've noted many times in this space that I find remarkable the ingenious chemistry that goes into the everyday products even we chemists take for granted. Reisch's story drives the point home once again. He writes: "Many shampoos, lipsticks, face creams, and even toothpastes contain minute envelopes with tiny molecular messages inside. Designed as a small-scale mail system, these envelopes protect and deliver active ingredients that might otherwise degrade or get lost before they get to their intended destinations." Some of the microcapsules are broken open by simple friction during use of the product. Other, more sophisticated capsules that have been developed, Reisch writes, are dissolved by moisture on the skin or respond to a change in pH. (Human skin, I learned, has a relatively acidic pH of 4 to 5.)

The image on the cover is of an encapsulation system developed by Ciba Specialty Chemicals that is between 20 and 40 nm in diameter. The outer layer of the particle is composed of a phospholipid membrane that surrounds an inner lipid core that contains an active ingredient. Ciba markets the materials preloaded with a number of standard active ingredients such as oil-soluble ester derivatives of vitamin A or E, Reisch reports.

The market for encapsulation systems is not large, but has grown rapidly, from about $30 million in 2001 to about $90 million in 2006. That growth is attracting the attention of specialty chemical companies like Ciba and Degussa and of majors like Dow Chemical and Rohm and Haas, as well as small niche companies.

Attractive, interesting, and relevant covers are a critical component of a successful magazine. Finding 51 or 52 of them a year on a limited budget is a challenge, especially for a magazine like C&EN. Unlike many magazines, some of C&EN's cover stories, while interesting and important to the chemical enterprise, are less than highly photogenic. Since taking over as managing editor at the beginning of this year, Amato has worked closely with C&EN reporters, editors, and designers to develop striking covers that showcase ingenious chemistry at a glance and take full advantage of the magazine's new design.

Thanks for reading.


Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.

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