If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.



Reactions: Saving Percy Julian’s house, questioning hydrogen peroxide from water, and avoiding stereotypes

June 11, 2022 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 100, Issue 21


The article on Percy Julian's house that appeared in C&EN.
Credit: C&EN

Letters to the editor

Percy Julian’s house

I read the article on Percy Julian’s house in C&EN (May 9, 2022, page 8), and I had an idea. To really showcase the American Chemical Society’s support for diversity, it would be great if you all could reach out to some foundations that could help Faith Julian set up her father’s house and research papers, etc. as a nonprofit educational museum.

I’m just a retired chemistry teacher, but I sent $50 toward the cause through the GoFundMe campaign found in the article. I’m sure ACS has the resources to find the kind of help that Faith Julian needs to bring her dream of a museum into reality. As a member for nearing 50 years, I have noticed that you are increasingly featuring the work of people of color in C&EN. I applaud that effort, but here is something tangible that you can help establish: a museum that recognizes the work of an early Black chemist who, against all odds, in the racist climate of the time, still succeeded.

Elaine Livingston
Vestal, New York

Water into hydrogen peroxide?

On May 16, 2022, you published an article about the debate on hydrogen peroxide formation from sprayed microsized water droplets. While important publications from Richard Zare’s and Himanshu Mishra’s groups were mentioned in the article, the below work should be discussed as well to have an adequate picture of this research topic. Further discussions and experimental suggestions are presented in this letter to help us tackle this interesting topic.

Alongside the spray experiments reported in 2019 (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A., DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1911883116), Zare and coworkers also reported in 2020 that hydrogen peroxide was formed spontaneously when water droplets were created by condensing water vapor in the air on inert substrates (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A., DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2020158117). Although this work introduced a different way to prepare water droplets as compared with the spray method, Zare and coworkers claimed the same mechanism for hydrogen peroxide formation. However, Mishra’s and my groups independently showed that the 2020 report was likely to have an experimental artifact (J. Phys. Chem. Lett. 2021, DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpclett.1c02953; J. Phys. Chem. B 2022, DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpcb.2c01310). The water vapor source that Zare and coworkers used might already contain hydrogen peroxide because the compound was generated by cavitation in their ultrasonic humidifier. These two papers do not support the 2020 report or strengthen the hydrogen peroxide formation mechanism initially proposed in the 2019 report.

Zare and coworkers proposed that the electric field at the air-water interface of the water droplets can assist hydroxyl ions, from the autodissociation of water, to release their electrons, then the hydroxyl radical product recombines to form hydrogen peroxide. The fate of these electrons is still unknown; thus, further discussion is needed to validate the proposed mechanism. If hydrogen peroxide formation from water droplets is indeed not influenced by any contamination, then protons, also from the autodissociation of water, should quench the released electrons. Therefore, hydrogen gas is a consequent product. Detection of hydrogen gas product could further prove the hydrogen peroxide formation from water droplets.

Air-water interfaces are expected to favor some chemical processes that are unlikely to happen in the bulk; however, collecting experimental evidence is still challenging. As we have learned from these reports, the studied interfacial phenomenon is quite sensitive to contaminants and requires low-detection methods, control experiments, and careful analysis in future studies.

Son Nguyen
Merced, California

Avoiding stereotypes

I enjoyed this brief Newscripts article on stereotypes of boring people (C&EN, May 23, 2022, page 32). There is a flurry of activity about biases, mindsets, prejudices—books, articles, many training opportunities in industry, government agencies, and academia—mostly couched in diversity, equity, and inclusion topics. The whole idea is to understand ourselves and others better.

I’m currently working up an invited TEDx talk about this topic, looking at mindsets—the culmination of life experiences as a life lens. However, we can decide to change our minds and assume a wide-angle life view by asking others about their life stories and how they have led to their mindsets and life lenses.

It’s easy to escape the boring stereotype by asking others their life stories!

Heinz Plaumann
Brownstown, Michigan



This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.