Archive for the ‘Hot Article’ Category

Self-assembled growth of Sn@CNTs on vertically aligned graphene for binder-free high Li-storage and excellent stability

The first thing I did after reading this article was google Li-ion batteries. I know the general stuff about them but I wanted to know more – typical scientist. They really are pretty fantastic, even lithium itself is rather special. I have never really thought about it before but lithium is the lightest of all the metals yet it has the greatest electrochemical potential and provides the largest energy density for weight. Although Li-ion does have a slightly lower energy density than lithium metal it makes a safer battery, especially where recharging is concerned. Sony were the first to commercialise the use of the Li-ion battery in 1991 and they are still the battery of choice especially for tech items such as mobile phones.
Anyway enough of a history lesson. Despite being an incredily promising battery there are drawbacks to the use of Li-ion batteries. One of which is addressed in this work by Li et al is the lack of suitable electrodes with enhanced energy and power density, cycling stability, energy efficiency and cycling life. Metallic Sn has attracted significant attention as a promising anode material that over comes some of these issues. This paper reports for the first time a new stratergy to grow  self-assembled tin carbon nanotubes on vertically aligned graphene. The work uses microwave plasma irradiation to produce the encapsulated Sn nanoparticles in the CNTs.

The resulting Sn anode is shown to give the best performance values of any other Sn anode to date. The authors write that they “expect the proposed route to be adopted by the rapidly growing energy storage research community” and with these results they might not be far off the mark.

Self-assembled growth of Sn@CNTs on vertically aligned graphene for binder-free high Li-storage and excellent stability
Na Li, Huawei Song, Hao Cui, Guowei Yang and Chengxin Wang
J. Mater. Chem. A, 2014, 2, 2526-2537. C3TA14217E

H. L. Parker is a guest web writer for the Journal of Materials Chemistry blog. She currently works at the Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence, the University of York.

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Ever heard of useful collision? Here it is!!

“It’s cold and white everywhere. What else can you expect on early January’s very snowy evening!” I mumbled to myself and was heading towards home exhausted when I witnessed the almost ungovernable sliding inevitable collision of two nice looking vehicles with people on driving seats trying hard to salvage the situation. It was not a gratifying view for the spectators let alone for the vehicle owners and insurance companies (of course). Knowing that not much could be done from my side, I resumed my meticulous “frictionless” walk but this time pondering over the collisions.

(more…)

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Hot Article: The role of material structure and mechanical properties in cell-matrix interactions

When thinking about movement of the human body it is often thought about it in terms of muscles contracting and relaxing, joints bending and straightening, but I don’t think I have ever thought about movement on a cellular level.

During movement cells in our bodies are subject to mechanical force and as a result they are stretched, sheared and compressed. Many cells passively experience this force and some have even evolved to be particularly sensitive to it and act as sensors – such as the tiny hairs present inside the human ear.

However, some cells are a bit more active and can actually exert their own mechanical force on the environment around them. This interaction is used to achieve various physiological functions like the healing of tissue, fighting infection and growth and differentiation of cells. In order to carry out these functions the cells must be able to sense and understand the mechanical context of the world around them.

This review summarises the evolution of the area of science focused on understanding the mechanobiology of cells and tissues and how different properties of their surrounding environment can be analysed both scientifically and by the cell itself. It also goes further to discuss of different material properties effect the mechanosensing of cells.  Whilst this is still a developing field this review gives a good overview of where our present understanding is at and what limitations there are to overcome in the future.

The role of material structure and mechanical propertie in cell-matrix interactions
Nicholas D. Evans and Eileen Gentleman
J. Mater. Chem. B, 2014, 2, 2345-2356. C3TB21604G

H. L. Parker is a guest web writer for the Journal of Materials Chemistry blog. She currently works at the Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence, the University of York.

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NIR Luminescent Nanomaterials for Biomedical Imaging

Commonly in my household the phrase “you make a better door than you do a window” is often fired at whichever thoughtless member is blocking the latest episode of whatever intelligence diluting programme is being watched at the time. However, this same, seemingly mundane problem, of human solidity is also being suffered by scientists developing new techniques for biomedical imaging.

Luminescent labels have been widely used for biological applications, primarily bioimaging and assays. They offer advantages over tomographic imaging techniques (e.g. CT, PET and MRI) including fast feedback and high selectivity and resolution. Unfortunately, adsorption and scattering of the photos emitted by these labels caused by biological tissue and water inside the body create problems such as weak signals and limited depth of detection.

Luckily, there are some wavelengths of light that are not adsorbed by the body and fall into what is known as the “biological transparency window”. There are two ranges: NIR I 650 – 900 nm and NIR II 1000 – 1450 nm. Since the discovery of these NIR regions research has increased with the focus of developing nanomaterials that can be excited or emitted within these wavelengths. The main content of this review written by Wang and Zhang is an overview of these novel nanomaterials, divided into four main species: lanthanide based nanomaterials, carbon based nanomaterials, quantum dots and noble metal nanoparticles. Covering their fabrication and application and also their shortcomings and what challenges and opportunities there are in the future.

NIR Luminescent Nanomaterials for Biomedical Imaging
Rui Wang and Fan Zhang
J. Mater Chem. B, 2014, 2, 2422-2443. C3TB21447H


H. L. Parker is a guest web writer for the Journal of Materials Chemistry blog. She currently works at the Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence, the University of York.

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Hot Article: A simple, low-cost CVD route to thin films of BiFeO3 for efficient water photo-oxidation

Hydrogen holds immeasurable promise in our search for alternative, sustainable, cleaner fuels. However, the simple, cheap production of hydrogen is still proving a problem. Water photolysis is a great way to achieve pure H2 and as O2 is the only side product it does not result in the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that arise from using hydrocarbons to produce H2. Unfortunately, the generation of H2 by water photolysis is challenging as the reaction that forms O2 is much slower than the H2 forming reaction. The use of an efficient photocatalyst can significantly improve the success of this process.

This paper by Moniz et al. details the development of just such a photocatalyst. In this work a bimetallic BiFeO3 catalyst is prepared using a novel method of Aerosol Assisted Chemical Vapour Deposition (AA CVD). This is the first time that this method has been used to prepare a photocatalyst of this type. The team go on to test this photocatalyst for the electrolysis of water using both UV and solar irridation and encouragingly, activity is confirmed for the BiFeO3 catalyst. Even more impressively the catalyst greatly outperforms both a commercially available photocatalyst (TiO2 Activ® glass) and another recently published photocatalyst (B-doped TiO2 films).

The novel synthetic methodology presented in this paper enables large area thin film deposition and as a result has potential for high volume applications in the future.

A simple, low-cost CVD route to thin films of BiFeO3 for efficient water photo-oxidation

Savio J. A. Moniz, Raul Quessada-Cabrera, Christopher S. Blackman, Junwang Tang, Paul Southern, Paul M. Weaver and Claire J. Carmalt,
J. Mater. Chem. A, 2014, 2, 2922-2927 C3TA14824F

H. L. Parker is a guest web writer for the Journal of Materials Chemistry blog. She currently works at the Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence, the University of York.

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Hot Article: A highly luminescent chameleon: fine-tuned emission trajectory and controllable energy transfer

Luminescent materials are a part of our everyday life featuring in lighting, television screens, etc. The recent emergence of lanthanide-based metal-organic frameworks (Ln-MOFs) has illuminated the future development of new functional luminescent materials. Research into Ln-MOFs is still at its early stages but they have shown promise in the development of effective novel compounds.

This paper by Zhang et al. takes Ln-MOFs to the next level and presents the first example of mixed-lanthanide MOFs. The work combines Eu3+, Gd3+ and Tb3+ as co-doped ions on to one MOF framework. The co-doped Ln-MOF is capable of excitation-dependent mutual conversion between blue, white and yellow emission chromaticity…I am guessing this is where the rather whimsical title has come from.

This succinctly written communication gives a first look at the synthesis and testing of this exciting new Ln-MOF and gives an idea of where the research into Ln-MOFs might be heading in the future.

A highly luminescent chameleon: fine tuned emission trajectory and controllable energy transfer
Huabin Zhang, Xiaochen Shan, Zuju Ma, Liujiang Zhou. Mingjian Zhang, Ping Lin, Shengmin Hu, En Ma, Renfu Li and Shaowu Du
 J. Mater Chem. C, 2014, 2, 1367-1371. C3TC31624F

H. L. Parker is a guest web writer for the Journal of Materials Chemistry blog. She currently works at the Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence, the University of York.

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Hot Article: Chemical modification of inorganic nanostructures for targeted and controlled drug delivery in cancer treatment

The use of engineered nanostructures in biomedical applications and optimized therapy is revolutionising medicine and the way we treat disease. It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that cancer is one of the biggest driving forces responsible for development of therapeutic nanotechnologies. The potential for earlier detection and targeted treatment of tumours using nanotechnologies will act not only to reduce the number of cancer deaths but also reduce the side effects and increase the efficacy of treatments.

This review by Zhang et al. examines the recent advances in nanotechnology for targeted drug delivery and controlled drug release in cancer treatment. The focus of the introduction is on inorganic nanostructures, highlighting the advantages of these materials over bioorganic nanomaterials, namely the ease of synthesis, modification and the control of size, shape and surface functionalization can be carried out. All of which allow for the design of materials for specific tissue or cell type targeting, controlled drug delivery and in vivo diagnostic imaging.

The review also covers the mechanisms of systematic targeted drug delivery, stimuli-responsive drug release and biocompatibility of these inorganic nanostructures. Overall, this review gives a clear and varied look at the different technologies under development that I would recommend to many scientists, not just those working in this field.

Chemical modification of inorganic nanostructures for targeted and controlled drug delivery in cancer treatment
Lei Zhang, Yecheng Li and Jimmy C. Yu
 J. Mater Chem. B, 2014, 2, 452-470. C3TB21196G

H. L. Parker is a guest web writer for the Journal of Materials Chemistry blog. She currently works at the Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence, the University of York.

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Hot Articles for April!

Strong transparent magnetic nanopaper prepared by immobilization of Fe3O4 nanoparticles in a nanofibrillated cellulose network
Yuanyuan Li, Hongli Zhu, Hongbo Gu, Honggi Dai, Zhiqiang Fang, Nicholas J. Weadock, Zhanhu Guo and Liangbing Hu

Bidirectional actuation of a thermoplastic polyurethane elastomer
Martin Bothe and Thorsten Pretsch

Injectable biodegradable hydrogels: progress and challenges
Ki Hyun Bae, Li-Shan Wang and Motoichi Kurisawa

These papers are free to access until 8th May 2014 

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Hot Article: Rubicene: a molecular fragment of C70 for use in organic field-effect transistors

If cells are the building blocks of life, an analogy can be made that transistors are the building blocks of the digital world. They could be credited as the discovery of the 20th century. One of the IEEE milestones, transistors can be counted as biggest step in technology. For the first 20 years after the discovery of transistors, Germanium based transistors were used all over the globe replacing vacuum tube based gadgets. Germanium transistors certainly helped kick off the table size computer age, but silicon based transistors revolutionized the design of it and produced an entire industry in California namely silicon valley. But researchers would not be termed researchers if they stopped inventing and innovating making this world a better place to live. Inventions of materials like graphene, carobon nanotubes and fullerens are stretching the boundaries and making a dent in bringing a new generation of transistors which would shrink the size of electronic gadgets even further with landmark speed.

Excellent Performance of the Rubicene as semiconductor for transistor

Rubicene, a molecule with unusual electronic properties, is capturing the imagination of researchers as a molecule for a new generation transistors. Lee et al. successfully attempted use of this promising organic semiconductor material for organic field effect transistors. Rubicene, molecular fragment of C70 also a type of cyclopenta fused polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon is well suited for the this application because of the high electron affinity. Lee et al studied theoretical electronic properties along with energy level alignments. Investigators also investigated the performance of Rubicene on the pentafluorobenzenethiol(PFBT) self-assembled mono-layer on Au electrodes. They found the mobility of the charge carriers was increased remarkably and also showed that systems like Rubicene based transistors will take the transistors to the higher levels. This suggests that no matter where development goes, transistors will continue to drive product research and technological advances.

Rubicene: a molecular fragment of C70 for use in organic field-effect transistors
Hyunbok Lee, Yue Zhang, Lei Zhang, Timothy Mirabito, Edmund K. Burnett, Stefan Trahan, Ali Reza Mohebbi, Stefan C. B. Mannsfield, Fred Wudl and Alejandro L. Briseno
J. Mater. Chem. C, 2014, Advanced Article. DOI:10.1039/C3TC32117G

Padmanabh Joshi is a guest web writer for the Journal of Materials Chemistry blog. He currently works at the Department of Chemistry, University of Cincinnati.

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Hot Article: Noncytotoxic artificial bacterial flagella fabricated from biocompatible ORMOCOMP and iron coating

Targeted drug delivery has developed greatly over the past fifty years although it remains a largely uncontrolled exercise. In general, even the most effective vectors rely on passive targeting analogous to a driver travelling from Land’s End to John o’ Groats by making random turns until they see a sign saying “Welcome to John o’ Groats”.

Nano- and microrobots have the potential to offer a more guided method of drug delivery as well as facilitating new approaches to non-invasive surgery and diagnosis. A recent paper by Qiu et al. describes the preparation of a helical microrobot inspired by the flagella used to propel bacteria. To start with, polymer helices of around 10 µm in length were prepared using a two-photon polymerisation whereby a laser is used to “write” a 3D structure is photoresist. These helices were then covered in iron or iron/titanium thin films.

It was found that by using low-strength magnetic fields it was possible to control the movement of the helices through water. Pleasingly, the helices also showed no signs of cytotoxicity according to both direct cellular imaging and an MTT assay.

Noncytotoxic artificial bacterial flagella fabricated from biocompatible ORMOCOMP and iron coating
Famin Qiu, Li Zhang, Kathrin E. Peyer, Marco Casarosa, Alfredo Franco-Obregón, Hongsoo Choi and Bradley J. Nelson
J. Mater. Chem. B, 2014, 2, 357.  DOI:10.1039/C3TB20840k

James Serginson is a guest web writer for the Journal of Materials Chemistry blog. He currently works at Imperial College London carrying out research into nanocomposites.

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