Scientific Papers in SCI


Title: Polyester Films Obtained by Noncatalyzed Melt-Condensation Polymerization of Aleuritic (9,10,16-Trihydroxyhexadecanoic) Acid in Air
Author(s): Benitez, JJ; Heredia-Guerrero, JA; Guzman-Puyol, S; Dominguez, E; Heredia, A
Source: Journal of Applied Polymer, 132 (2015) Art. 41328

abstract | fulltext

To mimic nontoxic and fully biodegradable biopolymers like the plant cutin, polyester films from a natural occurring fatty polyhydroxyacid like aleuritic (9,10,16-trihydroxyhexadecanoic) acid have been prepared by noncatalyzed melt-polycondensation at moderate temperature (150 degrees C) directly in air. The course of the reaction has been followed by infrared spectroscopy, C-13 magic angle spinning nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, differential scanning calorimetry and X-ray diffraction and well differentiated stages are observed. First, a high conversion esterification reaction leads to an amorphous rubbery, infusible, and insoluble material whose structure is made out of ester linkages mostly involving primary hydroxyls and partially branched by minor esterification with secondary ones. Following the esterification stage, the cleavage of vicinal secondary hydroxyls and further oxidation to carboxylic acid is observed at the near surface region of films. New carboxylic groups created also undergo esterification and generate cross-linking points within the polymer structure. Additionally, and despite the harsh preparation conditions used, very little additional side reaction like peroxidation and dehydration are observed. Results demonstrate the feasibility of polyester films fabrication from a reference fatty polyhydroxyacid like aleuritic acid by noncatalyzed melt-polycondensation directly in air. The methodology can potentially be extended to similar natural occurring hydroxyacids to obtain films and coatings to be used, for instance, as nontoxic and biodegradable food packaging material.

January, 2015 | DOI: 10.1002/app.41328


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: Quantification and comparison of the reaction properties of FEBEX and MX-80 clays with saponite: Europium immobilisers under subcritical conditions
Author(s): Villa-Alfageme, M; Hurtado, S; Castro, MA; El Mrabet, S; Orta, MM; Pazos, MC; Alba, MD
Source: Applied Clay Science, 101 (2014) 10-15

abstract | fulltext

The evaluation of the retention mechanisms in FEBEX and MX-80 bentonites, selected as reference materials to construct engineered barriers, carries major implications in the safe storage of immobilisation capacity through a recently discovered chemical retention mechanism and the structural analysis of the reaction products. Hydrothermal treatments were accomplished with immobilisation capacity through a recently discovered chemical retention mechanism and the structural analysis of the reaction products. Hydrothermal treatments were accomplished with Eu(NO3)3 (151Eu and 153Eu, with 52.2% 153Eu) and spiked with radioactive 152Eu for the quantification of the reactions. Results were compared with saponite as the reference smectite. The strong dependence of the reaction parameters with temperature and time was quantified and the reaction velocity was evaluated. The velocity follows these trends: 240 days are needed for the total retention of europium for temperatures over 200 °C; below 150 °C, significantly longer reaction times, on the order of three years, are required to complete the reaction. Clays do not influence velocity rates, but the retention capacity of bentonites remains lower than for saponite. At 300 °C, the milliequivalents retained by the three clays are consistently over CEC. The structural analyses reveal not only adsorption of europium but also the presence of Eu(OH)3 precipitation and Eu2SiO3 confirming the existence of a chemical reaction.

November, 2014 | DOI: 10.1016/j.clay.2014.08.012

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: Active Site Considerations on the Photocatalytic H-2 Evolution Performance of Cu-Doped TiO2 Obtained by Different Doping Methods
Author(s): Valero, JM; Obregon, S; Colon, G
Source: ACS Catalysis, 4 (2014) 3320-3329

abstract | fulltext

A photocatalytic H2 evolution reaction was performed over copper doped TiO2. The influence of sulfate pretreatment over fresh TiO2 support and the Cu doping method has been evaluated. Wide structural and surface characterization of catalysts was carried out in order to establish a correlation between the effect of sulfuric acid treatment and the further Cu-TiO2photocatalytic properties. Notably a different copper dispersion and oxidation state is obtained by different metal decoration methods. From the structural and surface analysis of the catalysts we have stated that the occurrence of highly disperse and reducible Cu2+ species is directly related to the photocatalytic activity for the H2 production reaction. Highly active materials have been obtained from a chemical reduction method leading to 18 mmol·h–1·g–1for 3 mol % copper loading.

October, 2014 | DOI: 10.1021/cs500865y

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

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


- 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

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