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Concept: Chemical bond


Polymer binders in battery electrodes may be either active or passive. This distinction depends on whether the polymer influences charge or mass transport in the electrode. Although it is desirable to understand how to tailor the macromolecular design of a polymer to play a passive or active role, design rules are still lacking, as is a framework to assess the divergence in such behaviors. Here, we reveal the molecular-level underpinnings that distinguish an active polyelectrolyte binder designed for lithium-sulfur batteries from a passive alternative. The binder, a cationic polyelectrolyte, is shown to both facilitate lithium-ion transport through its reconfigurable network of mobile anions and restrict polysulfide diffusion from mesoporous carbon hosts by anion metathesis, which we show is selective for higher oligomers. These attributes allow cells to be operated for >100 cycles with excellent rate capability using cathodes with areal sulfur loadings up to 8.1 mg cm-2.

Concepts: Cathode, Molecule, Atom, Chemical bond, Ion, Sulfur, Battery, Rechargeable battery


Covalent and supramolecular polymers are two distinct forms of soft matter, composed of long chains of covalently and noncovalently linked structural units, respectively. We report a hybrid system formed by simultaneous covalent and supramolecular polymerizations of monomers. The process yields cylindrical fibers of uniform diameter that contain covalent and supramolecular compartments, a morphology not observed when the two polymers are formed independently. The covalent polymer has a rigid aromatic imine backbone with helicoidal conformation, and its alkylated peptide side chains are structurally identical to the monomer molecules of supramolecular polymers. In the hybrid system, covalent chains grow to higher average molar mass relative to chains formed via the same polymerization in the absence of a supramolecular compartment. The supramolecular compartments can be reversibly removed and re-formed to reconstitute the hybrid structure, suggesting soft materials with novel delivery or repair functions.

Concepts: Electron, Chemical bond, Polymer, Polymer chemistry, Monomer, Soft matter, Polymerization, Delocalized electron


In polymeric semiconductors, charge carriers are polarons, which means that the excess charge deforms the molecular structure of the polymer chain that hosts it. This results in distinctive signatures in the vibrational modes of the polymer. Here, we probe polaron photogeneration dynamics at polymer:fullerene heterojunctions by monitoring its time-resolved resonance-Raman spectrum following ultrafast photoexcitation. We conclude that polarons emerge within 300 fs. Surprisingly, further structural evolution on ≲50-ps timescales is modest, indicating that the polymer conformation hosting nascent polarons is not significantly different from that near equilibrium. We interpret this as suggestive that charges are free from their mutual Coulomb potential because we would expect rich vibrational dynamics associated with charge-pair relaxation. We address current debates on the photocarrier generation mechanism at molecular heterojunctions, and our work is, to our knowledge, the first direct probe of molecular conformation dynamics during this fundamentally important process in these materials.

Concepts: DNA, Electron, Electric charge, Chemical bond, Polymer, Nuclear magnetic resonance, Semiconductors, Polyanhydrides


Molecular solids and polymers can form low-symmetry crystal structures that exhibit anisotropic electron and ion mobility in engineered devices or biological systems. The distribution of molecular orientation and disorder then controls the macroscopic material response, yet it is difficult to image with conventional techniques on the nanoscale. We demonstrated a new form of optical nanocrystallography that combines scattering-type scanning near-field optical microscopy with both optical antenna and tip-selective infrared vibrational spectroscopy. From the symmetry-selective probing of molecular bond orientation with nanometer spatial resolution, we determined crystalline phases and orientation in aggregates and films of the organic electronic material perylenetetracarboxylic dianhydride. Mapping disorder within and between individual nanoscale domains, the correlative hybrid imaging of nanoscale heterogeneity provides insight into defect formation and propagation during growth in functional molecular solids.

Concepts: Electron, Crystal, Crystal structure, Chemistry, Atom, Chemical bond, Ion, Solid


Charge transport in organic semiconductors is strongly dependent on the molecular orientation and packing, such that manipulation of this molecular packing is a proven technique for enhancing the charge mobility in organic transistors. However, quantitative measurements of molecular orientation in micrometre-scale structures are experimentally challenging. Several research groups have suggested polarised Raman spectroscopy as a suitable technique for these measurements and have been able to partially characterise molecular orientations using one or two orientation parameters. Here we demonstrate a new approach that allows quantitative measurements of molecular orientations in terms of three parameters, offering the complete characterisation of a three-dimensional orientation. We apply this new method to organic semiconductor molecules in a single crystal field-effect transistor in order to correlate the measured orientation with charge carrier mobility measurements. This approach offers the opportunity for micrometre resolution (diffraction limited) spatial mapping of molecular orientation using bench-top apparatus, enabling a rational approach towards controlling this orientation to achieve optimum device performance.

Concepts: Chemistry, Atom, Chemical bond, Semiconductor, Silicon, Transistor, Germanium, Organic semiconductor


The rational design of improved electrode-electrolyte interfaces (EEI) for energy storage is critically dependent on a molecular-level understanding of ionic interactions and nanoscale phenomena. The presence of non-redox active species at EEI has been shown to strongly influence Faradaic efficiency and long-term operational stability during energy storage processes. Herein, we achieve substantially higher performance and long-term stability of EEI prepared with highly dispersed discrete redox-active cluster anions (50 ng of pure ∼0.75 nm size molybdenum polyoxometalate (POM) anions on 25 μg (∼0.2 wt%) carbon nanotube (CNT) electrodes) by complete elimination of strongly coordinating non-redox species through ion soft landing (SL). Electron microscopy provides atomically resolved images of a uniform distribution of individual POM species soft landed directly on complex technologically relevant CNT electrodes. In this context, SL is established as a versatile approach for the controlled design of novel surfaces for both fundamental and applied research in energy storage.

Concepts: Electron, Quantum mechanics, Molecule, Atom, Chemical bond, Ion, Carbon nanotube, Ionic bond


Energy harvesting from noise is a paradigm proposed by the theory of stochastic resonances. We demonstrate that the random switching of a hydrogen (H(2)) molecule can drive the oscillation of a macroscopic mechanical resonator. The H(2) motion was activated by tunneling electrons and caused fluctuations of the forces sensed by the tip of a noncontact atomic force microscope. The stochastic molecular noise and the periodic oscillation of the tip were coupled in a concerted dynamic that drives the system into self-oscillation. This phenomenon could be a way for enhancing the transfer of energy from incoherent sources into coherent dynamics of a molecular engine.

Concepts: Electric charge, Physics, Molecule, Atom, Chemical bond, Torque, Resonator, Mass


New capabilities at X-ray free-electron laser facilities allow the generation of two-colour femtosecond X-ray pulses, opening the possibility of performing ultrafast studies of X-ray-induced phenomena. Particularly, the experimental realization of hetero-site-specific X-ray-pump/X-ray-probe spectroscopy is of special interest, in which an X-ray pump pulse is absorbed at one site within a molecule and an X-ray probe pulse follows the X-ray-induced dynamics at another site within the same molecule. Here we show experimental evidence of a hetero-site pump-probe signal. By using two-colour 10-fs X-ray pulses, we are able to observe the femtosecond time dependence for the formation of F ions during the fragmentation of XeF2 molecules following X-ray absorption at the Xe site.

Concepts: Electron, Molecule, Laser, Chemistry, Atom, Chemical bond, Ion, Free electron laser


Therapeutic effects of molecular hydrogen for a wide range of disease models and human diseases have been investigated since 2007. A total of 321 original articles have been published from 2007 to June 2015. Most studies have been conducted in Japan, China, and the USA. About three-quarters of the articles show the effects in mice and rats. The number of clinical trials is increasing every year. In most diseases, the effect of hydrogen has been reported with hydrogen water or hydrogen gas, which was followed by confirmation of the effect with hydrogen-rich saline. Hydrogen water is mostly given ad libitum. Hydrogen gas of less than 4 % is given by inhalation. The effects have been reported in essentially all organs covering 31 disease categories that can be subdivided into 166 disease models, human diseases, treatment-associated pathologies, and pathophysiological conditions of plants with a predominance of oxidative stress-mediated diseases and inflammatory diseases. Specific extinctions of hydroxyl radical and peroxynitrite were initially presented, but the radical-scavenging effect of hydrogen cannot be held solely accountable for its drastic effects. We and others have shown that the effects can be mediated by modulating activities and expressions of various molecules such as Lyn, ERK, p38, JNK, ASK1, Akt, GTP-Rac1, iNOS, Nox1, NF-κB p65, IκBα, STAT3, NFATc1, c-Fos, and ghrelin. Master regulator(s) that drive these modifications, however, remain to be elucidated and are currently being extensively investigated.

Concepts: Oxygen, Medicine, Epidemiology, Infection, Water, Hydrogen, Atom, Chemical bond


Sensitive detection of black powder (BP) by stand-alone ion mobility spectrometry (IMS) is full of challenges. In conventional air-based IMS, overlap between reactant ion O2-(H2O)n peak and sulfur ion peak occurs severely; and common doping methods, providing alternative reactant ion Cl-(H2O)n, would hinder the formation of ionic sulfur allotropes. In this work, an ion mobility spectrometer embedded a titration region (TR-IMS) downstream from ionization region was developed for selective and sensitive detection of sulfur in BP with CH2Cl2 as titration reagent. Sulfur ions were produced via reactions between sulfur molecules and O2-(H2O)n ions in the ionization region and the remaining O2-(H2O)n ions that entered the titration region were converted to Cl-(H2O)n ions, which avoided the peak overlap as well as the negative effect of CH2Cl2 on sulfur ions. The limit of detection for sulfur was measured to be 5 pg. Furthermore, it was demonstrated that this TR-IMS was qualified for detecting less than 5 ng BP and other nitro-organic explosives.

Concepts: Mass spectrometry, Chemical bond, Ion, Sodium, Chloride, Ions, Ion mobility spectrometry, Ion mobility