Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology
  • Barcelona, Bellaterra (Barcelona), Spain
Recent publications
There is an urgent need for cost-effective strategies to produce hydrogen from renewable net-zero carbon sources using renewable energies. In this context, the electrochemical hydrogen evolution reaction can be boosted by replacing the oxygen evolution reaction with the oxidation of small organic molecules, such as ethylene glycol (EG). EG is a particularly interesting organic liquid with two hydroxyl groups that can be transformed into a variety of C1 and C2 chemicals, depending on the catalyst and reaction conditions. Here, a catalyst is demonstrated for the selective EG oxidation reaction (EGOR) to formate on nickel selenide. The catalyst nanoparticle (NP) morphology and crystallographic phase are tuned to maximize its performance. The optimized NiS electrocatalyst requires just 1.395 V to drive a current density of 50 mA cm-2 in 1 m potassium hydroxide (KOH) and 1 m EG. A combination of in situ electrochemical infrared absorption spectroscopy (IRAS) to monitor the electrocatalytic process and ex situ analysis of the electrolyte composition shows the main EGOR product is formate, with a Faradaic efficiency above 80%. Additionally, C2 chemicals such as glycolate and oxalate are detected and quantified as minor products. Density functional theory (DFT) calculations of the reaction process show the glycol-to-oxalate pathway to be favored via the glycolate formation, where the CC bond is broken and further electro-oxidized to formate.
Signal amplification strategies are widely used for improving the sensitivity of lateral flow immunoassays (LFiAs). Herein, the artificial miniaturized peroxidase Fe(III)-MimochromeVI*a (FeMC6*a), immobilized on gold nanoparticles (AuNPs), is used as a strategy to obtain catalytic signal amplification in sandwich immunoassays on lateral flow strips. The assay scheme uses AuNPs decorated with the mini-peroxidase FeMC6*a and anti-human-IgG as a detection antibody (dAb), for the detection of human-IgG, as a model analyte. Recognition of the analyte by the capture and detection antibodies is first evidenced by the appearance of a red color in the test line (TL), due to the accumulation of AuNPs. Subsequent addition of 3,3',5,5'-tetramethylbenzidine (TMB) induces an increase of the test line color, due to the TMB being converted into an insoluble colored product, catalyzed by FeMC6*a. This work shows that FeMC6*a acts as an efficient catalyst in paper, increasing the sensitivity of an LFiA up to four times with respect to a conventional LFiA. Furthermore, FeMC6*a achieves lower limits of detection that are found in control experiments where it is replaced with horseradish peroxidase (HRP), its natural counterpart. This study represents a significant proof-of-concept for the development of more sensitive LFiAs, for different analytes, based on properly designed artificial metalloenzymes.
Self-assembly of colloidal particles into ordered superstructures enables the development of novel advanced materials for diverse applications such as photonics, electronics, sensing, energy conversion, energy storage, diagnosis, drug or gene delivery, and catalysis. Recently, polyhedral metal-organic framework (MOF) particles have been proposed as promising colloidal particles to form ordered superstructures, based on their colloidal stability, size-tunability, rich polyhedral shapes, porosity and multifunctionality. In this review, we present a comprehensive overview of strategies for the self-assembly of colloidal MOF particles into ordered superstructures of different dimensionalities, highlighting some of their properties and applications, and sharing thoughts on the self-assembly of MOF particles.
Space cooling and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) accounts for roughly 10% of global electricity use and is responsible for ca. 1.13 gigatonnes of CO2 emissions annually. Adsorbent-based HVAC technologies have long been touted as an energy-efficient alternative to traditional refrigeration systems. However, thus far, no suitable adsorbents have been developed which overcome the drawbacks associated with traditional sorbent materials such as silica gels and zeolites. Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) offer order of magnitude improvements in water adsorption and regeneration energy requirements. However, the deployment of MOFs in HVAC applications has been hampered by issues related to MOF powder processing. Herein, we develop three high-density, shaped, monolithic MOFs (UiO-66, UiO-66-NH2 and Zr-Fumarate) with exceptional volumetric gas/vapor uptake - solving previous issues in MOF-HVAC deployment. We visualized the monolithic structures across the mesoporous range using SAXS and lattice-gas models, giving accurate predictions of adsorption characteristics of the monolithic materials. We also demonstrate that a fragile MOF such as Zr-fumarate can be synthesized in monolithic form with a bulk density of 0.76 gcm-3 without losing any adsorption performance, having a coefficient of performance (COP) of 0.71 with a low regeneration temperature (≤ 100 ᵒC). This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Charge noise in the host semiconductor degrades the performance of spin-qubits and poses an obstacle to control large quantum processors. However, it is challenging to engineer the heterogeneous material stack of gate-defined quantum dots to improve charge noise systematically. Here, we address the semiconductor-dielectric interface and the buried quantum well of a ²⁸Si/SiGe heterostructure and show the connection between charge noise, measured locally in quantum dots, and global disorder in the host semiconductor, measured with macroscopic Hall bars. In 5 nm thick ²⁸Si quantum wells, we find that improvements in the scattering properties and uniformity of the two-dimensional electron gas over a 100 mm wafer correspond to a significant reduction in charge noise, with a minimum value of 0.29 ± 0.02 μeV/Hz½ at 1 Hz averaged over several quantum dots. We extrapolate the measured charge noise to simulated dephasing times to CZ-gate fidelities that improve nearly one order of magnitude. These results point to a clean and quiet crystalline environment for integrating long-lived and high-fidelity spin qubits into a larger system.
Regulating the local microenvironment of active sites to increase their specific CO2 concentration and pH gradient, is a promising approach to optimize the electrochemical CO2 reduction reaction (eCO2RR). However, currently reported morphological strategies display an uncertainty to the compatibility and distribution between catalytic sites and their microenvironment. Here, a uniform spatial‐separation metal–organic framework (MOF) layer between active sites and bulk electrolyte is proposed, which enables each active site to locate in a similarly favorable microenvironment. Zinc oxide (ZnO) nanorods (NR), a representative electrocatalyst for eCO2RR, is covered with a Zeolitic imidazolate framework‐8 (ZIF‐8) thin layer to serve as a model system. The prepared ZnO NR@ZIF‐8 exhibits an enhanced Faradaic efficiency toward CO at a wide range of potentials and reaches a maximum FE of CO (85%) at −1.05 V versus reversible hydrogen electrode, which is one of the best records till date. Moreover, the hydrophobic ZIF‐8 layer protects ZnO against self‐reduction. Such performance benefits from the porous ZIF‐8 shell with high CO2 affinity, realizing efficient CO2 access and retaining an increased local pH near ZnO active sites. Herein, a favorable microenvironment for electrochemical CO2 reduction reaction is constructed by introducing a uniform spatial‐separation metal–organic frameworks layer between ZnO and bulk electrolyte. This spatial‐separation structure achieves the accessibility to high concentrations of CO2 and the retainability of increased local pH near the active sites, leading to an enhanced selectivity of CO.
Background Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is characterized by a polyetiological origin. Despite the global burden of AD and the advances made in AD drug research and development, the cure of the disease remains elusive, since any developed drug has demonstrated effectiveness to cure AD. Strikingly, an increasing number of studies indicate a linkage between AD and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), as both diseases share some common pathophysiological features. In fact, β-secretase (BACE1) and acetylcholinesterase (AChE), two enzymes involved in both conditions, have been considered promising targets for both pathologies. In this regard, due to the multifactorial origin of these diseases, current research efforts are focusing on the development of multi-target drugs as a very promising option to derive effective treatments for both conditions. In the present study, we evaluated the effect of rhein-huprine hybrid (RHE-HUP), a synthesized BACE1 and AChE inhibitor, both considered key factors not only in AD but also in metabolic pathologies. Thus, the aim of this study is to evaluate the effects of this compound in APP/PS1 female mice, a well-established familial AD mouse model, challenged by high-fat diet (HFD) consumption to concomitantly simulate a T2DM-like condition. Results Intraperitoneal treatment with RHE-HUP in APP/PS1 mice for 4 weeks reduced the main hallmarks of AD, including Tau hyperphosphorylation, Aβ 42 peptide levels and plaque formation. Moreover, we found a decreased inflammatory response together with an increase in different synaptic proteins, such as drebrin 1 (DBN1) or synaptophysin, and in neurotrophic factors, especially in BDNF levels, correlated with a recovery in the number of dendritic spines, which resulted in memory improvement. Notably, the improvement observed in this model can be attributed directly to a protein regulation at central level, since no peripheral modification of those alterations induced by HFD consumption was observed. Conclusions Our results suggest that RHE-HUP could be a new candidate for the treatment of AD, even for individuals with high risk due to peripheral metabolic disturbances, given its multi-target profile which allows for the improvement of some of the most important hallmarks of the disease.
Nanophononics has the potential for information transfer, in an analogous manner to its photonic and electronic counterparts. The adoption of phononic systems has been limited, due to difficulties associated with the generation, manipulation, and detection of phonons, especially at GHz frequencies. Existing techniques often require piezoelectric materials with an external radiofrequency excitation that are not readily integrated into existing CMOS infrastructures, while nonpiezoelectric demonstrations have been inefficient. In this Letter, we explore the optomechanical generation of coherent phonons in a suspended 2D silicon phononic crystal cavity with a guided mode around 6.8 GHz. By incorporating an air-slot into this cavity, we turn the phononic waveguide into an optomechanical platform that exploits localized photonic modes resulting from inherent fabrication imperfections for the transduction of mechanics. Such a platform exhibits very fine control of phonons using light, and is capable of coherent self-sustained phonon generation around 6.8 GHz, operating at room temperature. The ability to generate high frequency coherent mechanical vibrations within such a simple 2D CMOS-compatible system could be a first step towards the development of sources in phononic circuitry and the coherent manipulation of other solid-state properties.
Two-dimensional conjugated polymers (2DCPs)─organic 2D materials composed of arrays of carbon sp2 centers connected by π-conjugated linkers─are attracting increasing attention due to their potential applications in device technologies. This interest stems from the ability of 2DCPs to host a range of correlated electronic and magnetic states (e.g., Mott insulators). Substitution of all carbon sp2 centers in 2DCPs by nitrogen or boron results in diamagnetic insulating states. Partial substitution of C sp2 centers by B or N atoms has not yet been considered for extended 2DCPs but has been extensively studied in the analogous neutral mixed-valence molecular systems. Here, we employ accurate first-principles calculations to predict the electronic and magnetic properties of a new class of hexagonally connected neutral mixed-valence 2DCPs in which every other C sp2 nodal center is substituted by either a N or B atom. We show that these neutral mixed-valence 2DCPs significantly energetically favor a state with emergent superexchange-mediated antiferromagnetic (AFM) interactions between C-based spin-1/2 centers on a triangular sublattice. These AFM interactions are surprisingly strong and comparable to those in the parent compounds of cuprate superconductors. The rigid and covalently linked symmetric triangular AFM lattice in these materials thus provides a highly promising and robust basis for 2D spin frustration. As such, extended mixed-valence 2DCPs are a highly attractive platform for the future bottom-up realization of a new class of all-organic quantum materials, which could host exotic correlated electronic states (e.g., unusual magnetic ordering, quantum spin liquids).
Organocopper(II) reagents are an unexplored frontier of copper catalysis. Despite being proposed as reactive intermediates, an understanding of the stability and reactivity of the CuII-C bond has remained elusive. Two main pathways can be considered for the cleavage mode of a CuII-C bond: homolysis and heterolysis. We recently showed how organocopper(II) reagents can react with alkenes via radical addition, a homolytic pathway. In this work, the decomposition of the complex [CuIILR]+ [L = tris(2- dimethylaminoethyl)amine, Me6tren, R = NCCH2-] in the absence and presence of an initiator (RX, X = Cl, Br) was evaluated. When no initiator was present, first-order CuII-C bond homolysis occurred producing [CuIL]+ and succinonitrile, via radical termination. When an excess of the initiator was present, a subsequent formation of [CuIILX]+ via a second-order reaction was found, which results from the reaction of [CuIL]+ with RX following homolysis. However, when Brønsted acids (R'-OH: R' = H, Me, Ph, PhCO) were present, heterolytic cleavage of the CuII-C bond produced [CuIIL(OR')]+ and MeCN. Kinetic studies were undertaken to obtain the thermal (ΔH⧧, ΔS⧧) and pressure (ΔV⧧) activation parameters and deuterium kinetic isotopic effects, which provided an understanding of the strength of the CuII-C bond and the nature of the transition state for the reactions involved. These results reveal possible reaction pathways for organocopper(II) complexes relevant to their applications as catalysts in C-C bond forming reactions.
The orbital magnetoelectric effect (OME) generically refers to the appearance of an orbital magnetization induced by an applied electric field. Here, we show that nanoribbons of transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs) with zigzag edges may exhibit a sizable OME activated by an electric field applied along the ribbons' axis. We examine nanoribbons extracted from a monolayer (1L) and a bilayer (2L) of MoS2 in the trigonal structural phase. Transverse profiles of the induced orbital angular momentum accumulations are calculated to first order in the longitudinally applied electric field. Our results show that close to the nanoribbon's edge-state crossings energy, the orbital angular momentum accumulations take place mainly around the ribbons' edges. They have two contributions: one arising from the orbital Hall effect (OHE) and the other consisting in the OME. The former is transversely antisymmetric with respect to the principal axis of the nanoribbon, whereas the latter is symmetric and hence responsible for the resultant orbital magnetization induced in the system. We found that the orbital accumulation originating from the OHE for the 1L nanoribbon is approximately half that of a 2L nanoribbon. Furthermore, while the OME can reach fairly high values in 1L-TMD nanoribbons, it vanishes in the 2L ones that preserve spatial inversion symmetry. The microscopic features that justify our findings are also discussed.
Thermoelectric materials capable of converting heat into electrical energy are used in sustainable electric generators, whose efficiency has been normally increased with incorporation of new materials with high figure of merit (ZT) values. Because the performance of these thermoelectric generators (TEGs) also depends on device geometry, in this study we employ the finite element method to determine optimized geometries for highly efficient miniaturized TEGs. We investigated devices with similar fill factors but with different thermoelectric leg geometries (filled and hollow). Our results show that devices with legs of hollow geometry are more efficient than those with filled geometry for the same length and cross-sectional area of thermoelectric legs. This behavior was observed for thermoelectric leg lengths smaller than 0.1 mm, where the leg shape causes a significant difference in temperature distribution along the device. It was found that for reaching highly efficient miniaturized TEGs, one has to consider the leg geometry in addition to the thermal conductivity.
Diffusion is one of the most ubiquitous transport phenomena in nature. Experimentally, it can be tracked by following point spreading in space and time. Here, we introduce a spatiotemporal pump–probe microscopy technique that exploits the residual spatial temperature profile obtained through the transient reflectivity when probe pulses arrive before pump pulses. This corresponds to an effective pump–probe time delay of 13 ns, determined by the repetition rate of our laser system (76 MHz). This pre-time-zero technique enables probing the diffusion of long-lived excitations created by previous pump pulses with nanometer accuracy and is particularly powerful for following in-plane heat diffusion in thin films. The particular advantage of this technique is that it enables quantifying thermal transport without requiring any material input parameters or strong heating. We demonstrate the direct determination of the thermal diffusivities of films with a thickness of around 15 nm, consisting of the layered materials MoSe 2 (0.18 cm ² /s), WSe 2 (0.20 cm ² /s), MoS 2 (0.35 cm ² /s), and WS 2 (0.59 cm ² /s). This technique paves the way for observing nanoscale thermal transport phenomena and tracking diffusion of a broad range of species.
Increasing the chemical complexity of metal-organic cages (MOCs) or polyhedra (MOPs) demands control over the simultaneous organization of diverse organic linkers and metal ions into discrete caged structures. Herein, we...
Research on graphene based nanomaterials has flourished in the last decade due their unique properties and emerging socio-economic impact. In the context of their potential exploitation for biomedical applications, there is a growing need for the development of more efficient imaging techniques to track the fate of these materials. Herein we propose the first correlative imaging approach based on the combination of radioimaging and mass spectrometry imaging for the detection of Graphene Oxide (GO) labelled with carbon-14 in mice. In this study, 14C-graphene oxide nanoribbons were produced from the oxidative opening of 14C-carbon nanotubes, and were then intensively sonicated to provide nano-size 14C-GO flakes. After Intravenous administration in mice, 14C-GO distribution was quantified by radioimaging performed on tissue slices. On the same slices, MS-imaging provided a highly resolved distribution map of the nanomaterial based on the detection of specific radical anionic carbon clusters ranging from C2˙- to C9˙- with a base peak at m/z 72 (12C) and 74 (14C) under negative laser desorption ionization mass spectrometry (LDI-MS) conditions. This proof of concept approach synergizes the strength of each technique and could be advantageous in the pre-clinical development of future Graphene-based biomedical applications.
Gold nanoparticles (Au NPs) and gold-based nanomaterials combine unique properties relevant for medicine, imaging, optics, sensing, catalysis, and energy conversion. While the Turkevich-Frens and Brust-Schiffrin methods remain the state-of-the-art colloidal syntheses of Au NPs, there is a need for more sustainable and tractable synthetic strategies leading to new model systems. In particular, stabilizers are almost systematically used in colloidal syntheses, but they can be detrimental for fundamental and applied studies. Here, a surfactant-free synthesis of size-controlled colloidal Au NPs stable for months is achieved by the simple reduction of HAuCl4 at room temperature in alkaline solutions of low-viscosity mono-alcohols such as ethanol or methanol and water, without the need for any other additives. Palladium (Pd) and bimetallic Au x Pd y NPs, nanocomposites and multimetallic samples, are also obtained and are readily active (electro)catalysts. The multiple benefits over the state-of-the-art syntheses that this simple synthesis bears for fundamental and applied research are highlighted.
Erythrocytes are deformable cells that undergo progressive biophysical and biochemical changes affecting the normal blood flow. Fibrinogen, one of the most abundant plasma proteins, is a primary determinant for changes in haemorheological properties, and a major independent risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. In this study, the adhesion between human erythrocytes is measured by atomic force microscopy (AFM) and its effect observed by micropipette aspiration technique, in the absence and presence of fibrinogen. These experimental data are then used in the development of a mathematical model to examine the biomedical relevant interaction between two erythrocytes. Our designed mathematical model is able to explore the erythrocyte–erythrocyte adhesion forces and changes in erythrocyte morphology. AFM erythrocyte–erythrocyte adhesion data show that the work and detachment force necessary to overcome the adhesion between two erythrocytes increase in the presence of fibrinogen. The changes in erythrocyte morphology, the strong cell-cell adhesion and the slow separation of the two cells are successfully followed in the mathematical simulation. Erythrocyte-erythrocyte adhesion forces and energies are quantified and matched with experimental data. The changes observed on erythrocyte–erythrocyte interactions may give important insights about the pathophysiological relevance of fibrinogen and erythrocyte aggregation in hindering microcirculatory blood flow.
Bond-free integration of two-dimensional (2D) materials yields van der Waals (vdW) heterostructures with exotic optical and electronic properties. Manipulating the splitting and recombination of photogenerated electron-hole pairs across the vdW interface is essential for optoelectronic applications. Previous studies have unveiled the critical role of defects in trapping photogenerated charge carriers to modulate the photoconductive gain for photodetection. However, the nature and role of defects in tuning interfacial charge carrier dynamics have remained elusive. Here, we investigate the nonequilibrium charge dynamics at the graphene-WS2 vdW interface under electrochemical gating by operando optical-pump terahertz-probe spectroscopy. We report full control over charge separation states and thus photogating field direction by electrically tuning the defect occupancy. Our results show that electron occupancy of the two in-gap states, presumably originating from sulfur vacancies, can account for the observed rich interfacial charge transfer dynamics and electrically tunable photogating fields, providing microscopic insights for optimizing optoelectronic devices.
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Campus de la UAB, Edifici ICN2, 08193, Barcelona, Bellaterra (Barcelona), Spain
Head of institution
Prof Pablo Ordejón
+34 93 737 26 49