Scientific Papers in SCI

2014


Title: Controlled synthesis of single-chirality carbon nanotubes
Author(s): J.R. Sanchez-Valencia, T. Dienel, O. Gröning, I. Shorubalko, A. Mueller, M. Jansen, K. Amsharov, P. Ruffieux, R. Fasel
Source: Nature, 512 (2014) 61-64

abstract | fulltext

Over the past two decades, single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) have received much attention because their extraordinary properties are promising for numerous applications1, 2. Many of these properties depend sensitively on SWCNT structure, which is characterized by the chiral index (n,m) that denotes the length and orientation of the circumferential vector in the hexagonal carbon lattice. Electronic properties are particularly strongly affected, with subtle structural changes switching tubes from metallic to semiconducting with various bandgaps. Monodisperse ‘single-chirality’ (that is, with a single (n,m) index) SWCNTs are thus needed to fully exploit their technological potential1, 2. Controlled synthesis through catalyst engineering3, 4, 5, 6, end-cap engineering7 or cloning strategies8, 9, and also tube sorting based on chromatography10, 11, density-gradient centrifugation, electrophoresis and other techniques12, have delivered SWCNT samples with narrow distributions of tube diameter and a large fraction of a predetermined tube type. But an effective pathway to truly monodisperse SWCNTs remains elusive. The use of template molecules to unambiguously dictate the diameter and chirality of the resulting nanotube8, 13, 14, 15, 16 holds great promise in this regard, but has hitherto had only limited practical success7, 17, 18. Here we show that this bottom-up strategy can produce targeted nanotubes: we convert molecular precursors into ultrashort singly capped (6,6) ‘armchair’ nanotube seeds using surface-catalysed cyclodehydrogenation on a platinum (111) surface, and then elongate these during a subsequent growth phase to produce single-chirality and essentially defect-free SWCNTs with lengths up to a few hundred nanometres. We expect that our on-surface synthesis approach will provide a route to nanotube-based materials with highly optimized properties for applications such as light detectors, photovoltaics, field-effect transistors and sensors2.

August, 2014 | DOI: 10.1038/nature13607

Title: Dye sensitized solar cells as optically random photovoltaic media
Author(s): Galvez, FE; Barnes, PRF; Halme, J; Miguez, H
Source: Energy & Environmental Science, 6 (2014) 1260-1266

abstract | fulltext

In order to enhance optical absorption, light trapping by multiple scattering is commonly achieved in dye sensitized solar cells by adding particles of a different sort. Herein we propose a theoretical method to find the structural parameters (particle number density and size) that optimize the conversion efficiency of electrodes of different thicknesses containing spherical inclusions of diverse composition. Our work provides a theoretical framework in which the response of solar cells containing diffuse scattering particles can be rationalized. Optical simulations are performed by combining a Monte Carlo approach with Mie theory, in which the angular distribution of scattered light is accounted for. Several types of scattering centers, such as anatase, gold and silver particles, as well as cavities, are considered and their effect compared. Estimates of photovoltaic performance, insight into the physical mechanisms responsible for the observed enhancements, and guidelines to improve the cell design are provided. We discuss the results in terms of light transport in weakly disordered optical media and find that the observed variations between the optimum scattering configurations attained for different electrode thicknesses can be understood as the result of the randomization of the light propagation direction at different depths within the active layer. A primary conclusion of our study is that photovoltaic performance is optimised when the scattering properties of the film are adjusted so that the distance over which incident photons are randomized is comparable to the thickness of the film. This simple relationship could also be used as a design rule to attain the optimum optical design in other photovoltaic materials.

February, 2014 | DOI: 10.1039/C3EE42587H

Title: Low Temperature Production of Formaldehyde from Carbon Dioxide and Ethane by Plasma-Assisted Catalysis in a Ferroelectrically Moderated Dielectric Barrier Discharge Reactor
Author(s): Gomez-Ramirez, A; Rico, VJ; Cotrino, J; Gonzalez-Elipe, A; Lambert, RM
Source: ACS Catalysis, 4 (2014) 402-408

abstract | fulltext

Plasma-assisted catalysis of the reaction between CO2 and C2H6 in a single-pass, ferroelectrically moderated dielectric barrier discharge reactor has been studied at near ambient temperature as a function of physicochemical and electrical reaction variables. The presence of small amounts of a vanadia/alumina catalyst dispersed on the BaTiO3 ferroelectric markedly enhanced the production of formaldehyde, the focus of this work. A maximum HCOH selectivity of 11.4% (defined with respect to the number of ethane carbon atoms consumed) at 100% ethane conversion was achieved, the other products being CO, H2O, H2, CH4 and a small amount of C3H8. N2O was also an effective partial oxidant (HCOH selectivity 8.9%) whereas use of O2 led to complete combustion, behavior that may be rationalized in terms of the electron impact excitation cross sections of the three oxidants. Control experiments with the coproducts CH4 and C3H8 showed that these species were not intermediates in HCOH formation from C2H6. Analysis of reactor performance as a function of discharge characteristics revealed that formaldehyde formation was strongly favored at low frequencies where the zero-current fraction of the duty cycle was greatest, the implication being that plasma processes also acted to destroy previously formed products. A tentative reaction mechanism is proposed that accounts for the broad features of formaldehyde production.

February, 2014 | DOI: 10.1021/cs4008528

Title: Tailor-made directional emission in nanoimprinted plasmonic-based light-emitting devices
Author(s): Lozano, G; Grzela, G; Verschuuren, MA; Ramezani, M; Rivas, JG
Source: Nanoscale, 6 (2014) 9223-9229

abstract | fulltext

We demonstrate an enhanced and tailor-made directional emission of light-emitting devices using nanoimprinted hexagonal arrays of aluminum nanoparticles. Fourier microscopy reveals that the, luminescence of the device is not only determined by the material properties of the organic dye molecules but is also strongly influenced by the coherent scattering resulting from periodically arranged metal nanoparticles. Emitters can couple to lattice-induced hybrid plasmonic-photonic modes sustained by plasmonic arrays. Such modes enhance the spatial coherence of an emitting layer, allowing the efficient beaming of the emission along narrow angular and spectral ranges. We show that tailoring the separation of the nanoparticles in the array yields an accurate angular distribution of the emission. This combination of large-area metal nanostructures fabricated by nanoimprint lithography and light-emitting devices is beneficial for the design and optimization of solid-state lighting systems.

August, 2014 | DOI: 10.1039/c4nr01391c

Title: Shape-defined nanodimers by tailored heterometallic epitaxy
Author(s): Garcia-Negrete, Carlos A; Rojas, Teresa C; Knappett, Benjamin R; Jefferson, David A; Wheatley, Andrew E H; Fernandez, Asuncion
Source: Nanoscale, 6 (2014) 11090-11097

abstract | fulltext

The systematic construction of heterogeneous nanoparticles composed of two distinct metal domains (Au and Pt) and exhibiting a broad range of morphologically defined shapes is reported. It is demonstrated that careful Au overgrowth on Pt nanocrystal seeds with shapes mainly corresponding to cubeoctahedra, octahedra and octapods can lead to heterometallic systems whose intrinsic structures result from specific epitaxial relationships such as {111} + {111}, {200} + {200} and {220} + {220}. Comprehensive analysis shows also that nanoparticles grown from octahedral seeds can be seen as comprising of four Au tetrahedral subunits and one Pt octahedral unit in a cyclic arrangement that is similar to the corresponding one in decahedral gold nanoparticles. However, in the present case, the multi-component system is characterized by a broken five-fold rotational symmetry about the [011] axis. This set of bimetallic dimers could provide new platforms for fuel cell catalysts and plasmonic devices.

October, 2014 | DOI: 10.1039/C4NR01815J

Title: Direct evidence of Lowenstein's rule violation in swelling high-charge micas
Author(s): Pavon, E; Osuna, FJ; Alba, MD; Delevoye, L
Source: Chemical Communications, 53 (2014) 6984-6986

abstract | fulltext

The structure of high-charged micas, Na-n-micas (n = 2 and 4), a family of synthetic silicates with a wide range of applications, was investigated through the use of 17O solid-state NMR at natural abundance in order to preserve quantitative spectral information. The use of a very high-field and highly sensitive probehead, together with 17O NMR literature data allowed for the detection of an isolated signal at 26 ppm, assigned partially to AlOAl, as evidence of the violation of Lowenstein's rule for Na-4-mica.

July, 2014 | DOI: 10.1039/C4CC01632G

Title: Biomechanical properties of the tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) fruit cuticle during development are modulated by changes in the relative amounts of its components
Author(s): Espana, L; Heredia-Guerrero, JA; Segado, P; Benitez, JJ; Heredia, A; Dominguez, E
Source: New Phytologist, 202 (3) (2014) 790-802

abstract | fulltext

Keywords:
attenuated total reflectance–Fourier transform infrared (ATR-FTIR);biomechanics;cuticle;cutin;flavonoids;tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) fruit


Summary

- In this study, growth-dependent changes in the mechanical properties of the tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) cuticle during fruit development were investigated in two cultivars with different patterns of cuticle growth and accumulation.

- The mechanical properties were determined in uniaxial tensile tests using strips of isolated cuticles. Changes in the functional groups of the cuticle chemical components were analysed by attenuated total reflectance–Fourier transform infrared (ATR-FTIR).

- The early stages of fruit growth are characterized by an elastic cuticle, and viscoelastic behaviour only appeared at the beginning of cell enlargement. Changes in the cutin:polysaccharide ratio during development affected the strength required to achieve viscoelastic deformation. The increase in stiffness and decrease in extensibility during ripening, related to flavonoid accumulation, were accompanied by an increase in cutin depolymerization as a result of a reduction in the overall number of ester bonds.

- Quantitative changes in cuticle components influence the elastic/viscoelastic behaviour of the cuticle. The cutin:polysaccharide ratio modulates the stress required to permanently deform the cuticle and allow cell enlargement. Flavonoids stiffen the elastic phase and reduce permanent viscoelastic deformation. Ripening is accompanied by a chemical cleavage of cutin ester bonds. An infrared (IR) band related to phenolic accumulation can be used to monitor changes in the cutin esterification index.

May, 2014 | DOI: 10.1111/nph.12727

Title: Impregnation of carbon black for the examination of colloids using TEM
Author(s): Gontard, LC; Knappett, BR; Wheatley, AEH; Chang, SLY; Fernandez, A
Source: Carbon, 76 (2014) 464-468

abstract | fulltext

Nanoparticles are frequently synthesised as colloids, dispersed in solvents such as water, hexane or ethanol. For their characterisation by transmission electron microscopy (TEM), a drop of colloid is typically deposited on a carbon support and the solvent allowed to evaporate. However, this method of supporting the nanoparticles reduces the visibility of fine atomic details, particularly for carbonaceous species, due to interference from the 2-dimensional carbon support at most viewing angles. We propose here the impregnation of a 3 dimensional carbon black matrix that has been previously deposited on a carbon film as an alternative means of supporting colloidal nanoparticles, and show examples of the application of this method to advanced TEM techniques in the analysis of monometallic, core@shell and hybrid nanoparticles with carbon-based shells.

Nanoparticles represent one of the most studied structures in nanotechnology and nanoscience because of the wide range of applications arising from their unique optical, physical and chemical properties [1]. Often they have core@shell structures, or are coated with organic molecules. Nanoparticle functionality is largely affected by the specific configuration of the outer surface atoms. For example, in heterogeneous catalysis activity and selectivity are mostly determined by the type of atomic defects present at the surface of metallic nanoparticles, and in the field of biomedicine the surface coating of hybrid (inorganic core@organic shell) nanoparticles regulates their stability, solubility and targeting.

Nanoparticles are frequently synthesised using solution techniques that yield colloids, i.e., a solid–liquid mixture containing solid particles that are dispersed to various degrees in a liquid medium; most frequently water, ethanol or hexane. Colloid characterisation generally employs a variety of techniques to establish understanding and control over nanoparticle synthesis and properties. Electron microscopy in transmission mode (TEM) and in scanning transmission mode (STEM) are widely used for particle characterisation, and advances in these techniques mean that it is now routinely possible to resolve single atoms at the surfaces of nanoparticles using aberration-corrected microscopes, to elucidate the three-dimensional shapes of nanoparticles using electron tomography, and to enhance the contrast in very low density materials (e.g., carbonaceous materials) using electron holography [2] and [3]. However, the significant potential of these (S)TEM techniques is ultimately limited by the sample and the techniques available for sample preparation.

Typically, examination by (S)TEM requires that a nanoparticulate sample be prepared by depositing a drop of colloid on a thin, electron-transparent support. It is usual that an amorphous carbon film, silicon nitride film or graphene layers deposited on a copper grid constitute the support [4]. Crucially, these sample preparation techniques suffer from the major limitation that the contrast from the support often shadows atomic details at the particle surface. Moreover, it has been established that the thinnest supports can degrade under electron-beam irradiation, affecting particle stability [5], and also that hydrocarbon contamination can be an issue [6]. The most widely used commercially available TEM support is holey carbon, which comprises of a perforated carbon thin film. In this case, sample preparation aims to locate at least some of the nanoparticles of interest at the edges of the perforations. However, the concave nature of the holes means that solvent contaminants tend to accumulate preferentially at these sites. Moreover, if the TEM sample holder is tilted a particle attached to the edge of a hole is very likely to be shadowed by the carbon film. Taken together, these drawbacks significantly limit the application of techniques such as electron tomography [6].

We propose here a method of circumventing some of these fundamental problems by developing a technique for mounting nanoparticulate samples using a carbon matrix that is inspired by the way samples used in electrocatalysis are prepared [7]. Fig. 1 shows an image of a typical Pt-based electrocatalyst supported on carbon black as used in proton-electron membrane fuels cells, and which consists of Pt nanoparticles formed by calcination of a carbon black impregnated with a solution of salt precursor. Carbon black is a low-grade form of graphite, which is composed of nanocrystallites and no long-range order [8]. In Fig. 1 the carbon black is Vulcan XC-72R, which is widely used as a catalyst support in fuel cells because it provides high electrical conductivity, good reactant gas access, adequate water handling and good corrosion resistance, whilst allowing high dispersion of the particles. In electrocatalyst samples it is common to find particles, like the 5 nm Pt particle shown in Fig. 1, attached strongly to the surface of the support and viewed edge-on against a vacuum so as to provide optimal conditions for high-resolution TEM (HRTEM). Fig. 1B is a quantitative phase image of a Pt particle obtained from a defocus series of 20 images at intervals of 5 nm acquired in a FEGTEM JEOL 2020 at 200 kV with spherical aberration of −30 μm and applying the exit-wave restoration technique [2]. The contrast between details of the particle finestructure is very high compared to conventional HRTEM images, and details such as the presence of monoatomic carbon ribbons surrounding the particle can be seen.

September, 2014 | DOI: 10.1016/j.carbon.2014.05.006

Title: Pt vs. Au in water-gas shift reaction
Author(s): Castano, MG; Reina, TR; Ivanova, S; Centeno, MA; Odriozola, JA
Source: Journal of Catalysis, 314 (2014) 1-9

abstract | fulltext

This work presents a comparison of the gold- and platinum-based catalysts behavior in the water–gas shift (WGS) reaction. The influence of the support, e.g., its composition and electronic properties, studied in detail by means of UV–Vis spectroscopy, of the metal nature and dispersion and of the stream composition has been evaluated. The catalytic performance of the samples is directly correlated with the electronic properties modification as a function of metal and/or support. Both metals present high activity in the selected reaction although in a different operation temperature window.

May, 2014 | DOI: 10.1016/j.jcat.2014.03.014

Title: Production of hydrogen by water photo-splitting over commercial and synthesised Au/TiO2 catalysts
Author(s): Mendez, JAO; Lopez, CR; Melian, EP; Diaz, OG; Rodriguez, JMD; Hevia, DF; Macias, M
Source: Applied Catalysis B: Environmental, 147 (2014) 439-452

abstract | fulltext

H2 production from methanol/water photo-splitting was compared using various commercial photocatalysts (Evonik P25 (P25), Hombikat UV-100 (HB) and Kronos vlp7000 (KR)) and others synthesised with a sol–gel-hydrothermal (HT) process and a sol–gel method followed by calcination (SG400 and SG750). All photocatalysts had been surface modified with Au at different concentrations, from 0.2 to 6.0 wt.%, using the photodeposition method. A complete characterisation study of the different photocatalysts was performed (BET, XRD, TEM, SEM-EDX, FTIR, UV–vis Reflectance Diffuse Spectra and aggregate size). The experiments were conducted for 3.5 h using 1 g L−1 of photocatalyst with methanol (25 vol.%) as sacrificial agent. In addition to H2 generation, production of the main intermediates, formaldehyde and formic acid, and of CO2 was also evaluated. The commercial photocatalyst KR at 0.8 wt.% Au had the highest H2 production of all the photocatalysts studied with 1542.9 μmol h−1. Of the photocatalysts synthesised by our group, SG750 at Au loading of 2.0 wt.% gave the highest H2 production of 723.1 μmol h−1. The SG750 photocatalyst at Au loading of 2.0 wt.% also had the highest H2 production yield per unit of surface area at 45.5 μmol g h−1 m−2.

April, 2014 | DOI: 10.1016/j.apcatb.2013.09.029

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