Thus, scientists not only can examine the individual and combined behavior of all the molecules, and how they affect the cells’ properties, but also can see what happens to the system when they change the mix, for example, by adding a drug or some other chemical.
Moreover, in technology, researchers can study “catalysis,” which means speeding up a chemical reaction, a process used by industry in manufacturing virtually all types of materials, from plastics and drugs to renewable energy conversion materials, which, for example, convert sunlight to power. “A catalyst is a material that accelerates a chemical reaction,” Walter says. “By looking at single molecules, you can see how they bind to the catalyst’s surface and come together to react.”
This could result in improved catalysts. “If you learn how the catalyst works, you can design a better catalyst,” Walter says. “This could mean lower costs, and more efficiency. It also could result in more ‘green’ chemistry to avoid waste. You can avoid waste best if the catalyst only makes the target molecule, and nothing else.”