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Invited for this month's cover is the group of Nicolas Mercier at Moltech-Anjou CNRS, Université Angers. The image shows the most recent developments in the chemistry of viologens in halometalate hybrid crystals.

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What are the main challenges in the broad area of your research?

The world of crystallized organic–inorganic hybrid materials is fascinating, first because the imagination is the only limit. Of course, for such materials, one can expect the addition of the specific properties of each component, but hybrid compounds could offer more opportunities in the future: the combination of different properties with synergic effects; for instance, the search for multiferroic hybrid materials is in its infancy...

Did serendipity play a part in this work?

Yes. How can we predict the structural arrangement of a molecular compound when a set of weak interactions have to take into account? ...Quite impossible! However, the accurate analysis of a crystal structure is essential in understanding a chemical system, and can further guide new syntheses in order to, as in this work, stabilize families of compounds with closely related structures. The reading of a structure (retro-crystal engineering analysis) that I learnt from Prof. M. Leblanc and Prof. G. Férey during my PhD thesis in Le Mans (France) is always a very exciting moment as soon as the overall structural arrangement is determined...

Who designed the cover?

Driving along the Maine River at the foot of the Angers' Castle, the idea came to me that the towers were the polar chains of our ferroelectric systems! Then, it remained to imagine shadows and light areas to illustrate photochromism...

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