Foam insulation is an important material used in houses and buildings. A wide variety of components are used to make insulation in various forms; some are flammable, some require toxic chemicals. However, in Germany, two groups using chemistry we learned in high school have devised an effective, recoverable, insulating foam that won't burn. It’s a simple, elegant solution using, of all things, calcium carbonate, otherwise known as chalk.
A group of Japanese chemists may have come up with a game-changing solution to ocean plastic pollution. The group has created a plastic using acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin). The best part is that the "aspirin plastic" can easily be converted back to its starting material -- and this can be recovered and recycled to make fresh plastic. With little or no pollution. Very clever.