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Concept: Glass transition


The structural description of disordered systems has been a longstanding challenge in physical science. We propose an atomic cluster alignment method to reveal the development of three-dimensional topological ordering in a metallic liquid as it undercools to form a glass. By analyzing molecular dynamic (MD) simulation trajectories of a Cu(64.5)Zr(35.5) alloy, we show that medium-range order (MRO) develops in the liquid as it approaches the glass transition. Specifically, around Cu sites, we observe “Bergman triacontahedron” packing (icosahedron, dodecahedron and icosahedron) that extends out to the fourth shell, forming an interpenetrating backbone network in the glass. The discovery of Bergman-type MRO from our order-mining technique provides unique insights into the topological ordering near the glass transition and the relationship between metallic glasses and quasicrystals.

Concepts: Scientific method, Iron, Solid, Titanium, Glass, Glass transition, Physics of glass, Icosidodecahedron


Water exists in high- and low-density amorphous ice forms (HDA and LDA), which could correspond to the glassy states of high- (HDL) and low-density liquid (LDL) in the metastable part of the phase diagram. However, the nature of both the glass transition and the high-to-low-density transition are debated and new experimental evidence is needed. Here we combine wide-angle X-ray scattering (WAXS) with X-ray photon-correlation spectroscopy (XPCS) in the small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) geometry to probe both the structural and dynamical properties during the high-to-low-density transition in amorphous ice at 1 bar. By analyzing the structure factor and the radial distribution function, the coexistence of two structurally distinct domains is observed at T = 125 K. XPCS probes the dynamics in momentum space, which in the SAXS geometry reflects structural relaxation on the nanometer length scale. The dynamics of HDA are characterized by a slow component with a large time constant, arising from viscoelastic relaxation and stress release from nanometer-sized heterogeneities. Above 110 K a faster, strongly temperature-dependent component appears, with momentum transfer dependence pointing toward nanoscale diffusion. This dynamical component slows down after transition into the low-density form at 130 K, but remains diffusive. The diffusive character of both the high- and low-density forms is discussed among different interpretations and the results are most consistent with the hypothesis of a liquid-liquid transition in the ultraviscous regime.

Concepts: Ice, Force, Viscosity, Phase transition, Glass, Glass transition, X-rays, Small-angle X-ray scattering


We present a new 4D printing approach that can create high resolution (up to a few microns), multimaterial shape memory polymer (SMP) architectures. The approach is based on high resolution projection microstereolithography (PμSL) and uses a family of photo-curable methacrylate based copolymer networks. We designed the constituents and compositions to exhibit desired thermomechanical behavior (including rubbery modulus, glass transition temperature and failure strain which is more than 300% and larger than any existing printable materials) to enable controlled shape memory behavior. We used a high resolution, high contrast digital micro display to ensure high resolution of photo-curing methacrylate based SMPs that requires higher exposure energy than more common acrylate based polymers. An automated material exchange process enables the manufacture of 3D composite architectures from multiple photo-curable SMPs. In order to understand the behavior of the 3D composite microarchitectures, we carry out high fidelity computational simulations of their complex nonlinear, time-dependent behavior and study important design considerations including local deformation, shape fixity and free recovery rate. Simulations are in good agreement with experiments for a series of single and multimaterial components and can be used to facilitate the design of SMP 3D structures.

Concepts: Polymer, Polymer chemistry, Differential scanning calorimetry, Glass, Glass transition, Shape memory alloy, Polymers, Shape memory polymer


Vitrification, a kinetic process of liquid solidification into glass, poses many potential benefits for tissue cryopreservation including indefinite storage, banking, and facilitation of tissue matching for transplantation. To date, however, successful rewarming of tissues vitrified in VS55, a cryoprotectant solution, can only be achieved by convective warming of small volumes on the order of 1 ml. Successful rewarming requires both uniform and fast rates to reduce thermal mechanical stress and cracks, and to prevent rewarming phase crystallization. We present a scalable nanowarming technology for 1- to 80-ml samples using radiofrequency-excited mesoporous silica-coated iron oxide nanoparticles in VS55. Advanced imaging including sweep imaging with Fourier transform and microcomputed tomography was used to verify loading and unloading of VS55 and nanoparticles and successful vitrification of porcine arteries. Nanowarming was then used to demonstrate uniform and rapid rewarming at >130°C/min in both physical (1 to 80 ml) and biological systems including human dermal fibroblast cells, porcine arteries and porcine aortic heart valve leaflet tissues (1 to 50 ml). Nanowarming yielded viability that matched control and/or exceeded gold standard convective warming in 1- to 50-ml systems, and improved viability compared to slow-warmed (crystallized) samples. Last, biomechanical testing displayed no significant biomechanical property changes in blood vessel length or elastic modulus after nanowarming compared to untreated fresh control porcine arteries. In aggregate, these results demonstrate new physical and biological evidence that nanowarming can improve the outcome of vitrified cryogenic storage of tissues in larger sample volumes.

Concepts: Blood, Extracellular matrix, Blood vessel, Fourier transform, Glass transition, Cryobiology, Cryopreservation, Cryoprotectant


The widespread prevalence of commercial products made from microgels illustrates the immense practical value of harnessing the jamming transition; there are countless ways to use soft, solid materials that fluidize and become solid again with small variations in applied stress. The traditional routes of microgel synthesis produce materials that predominantly swell in aqueous solvents or, less often, in aggressive organic solvents, constraining ways that these exceptionally useful materials can be used. For example, aqueous microgels have been used as the foundation of three-dimensional (3D) bioprinting applications, yet the incompatibility of available microgels with nonpolar liquids, such as oils, limits their use in 3D printing with oil-based materials, such as silicone. We present a method to make micro-organogels swollen in mineral oil, using block copolymer self-assembly. The rheological properties of this micro-organogel material can be tuned, leveraging the jamming transition to facilitate its use in 3D printing of silicone structures. We find that the minimum printed feature size can be controlled by the yield stress of the micro-organogel medium, enabling the fabrication of numerous complex silicone structures, including branched perfusable networks and functional fluid pumps.

Concepts: Polymer, Polymer chemistry, Liquid, Glass transition, Elasticity, Linear elasticity, Oil, Lubricant


Tardigrades are microscopic animals that survive a remarkable array of stresses, including desiccation. How tardigrades survive desiccation has remained a mystery for more than 250 years. Trehalose, a disaccharide essential for several organisms to survive drying, is detected at low levels or not at all in some tardigrade species, indicating that tardigrades possess potentially novel mechanisms for surviving desiccation. Here we show that tardigrade-specific intrinsically disordered proteins (TDPs) are essential for desiccation tolerance. TDP genes are constitutively expressed at high levels or induced during desiccation in multiple tardigrade species. TDPs are required for tardigrade desiccation tolerance, and these genes are sufficient to increase desiccation tolerance when expressed in heterologous systems. TDPs form non-crystalline amorphous solids (vitrify) upon desiccation, and this vitrified state mirrors their protective capabilities. Our study identifies TDPs as functional mediators of tardigrade desiccation tolerance, expanding our knowledge of the roles and diversity of disordered proteins involved in stress tolerance.

Concepts: Gene, Solid, Silicon dioxide, Glass, Glass transition, Tardigrade, Trehalose, Amorphous solid


While ∼75% of commercially utilized polymers are semicrystalline, the generally low mechanical modulus of these materials, especially for those possessing a glass transition temperature below room temperature, restricts their use for structural applications. Our focus in this paper is to address this deficiency through the controlled, multiscale assembly of nanoparticles (NPs), in particular by leveraging the kinetics of polymer crystallization. This process yields a multiscale NP structure that is templated by the lamellar semicrystalline polymer morphology and spans NPs engulfed by the growing crystals, NPs ordered into layers in the interlamellar zone [spacing of [Formula: see text] (10-100 nm)], and NPs assembled into fractal objects at the interfibrillar scale, [Formula: see text] (1-10 μm). The relative fraction of NPs in this hierarchy is readily manipulated by the crystallization speed. Adding NPs usually increases the Young’s modulus of the polymer, but the effects of multiscale ordering are nearly an order of magnitude larger than those for a state where the NPs are not ordered, i.e., randomly dispersed in the matrix. Since the material’s fracture toughness remains practically unaffected in this process, this assembly strategy allows us to create high modulus materials that retain the attractive high toughness and low density of polymers.

Concepts: Sol-gel, Liquid, Materials science, Differential scanning calorimetry, Glass, Glass transition, Plasticizer, Physics of glass


In recent years, amorphous formulations and other special dosage forms of drug products have been investigated to achieve adequate solubility and disintegration. We have evaluated the distribution of crystalline and amorphous states of a drug product using Nanothermal analysis (Nano-TA) and Raman imaging methods. Compared to conventional differential scanning calorimetry, Nano-TA can be used to more rapidly characterize the crystalline and amorphous states of model formulations, including their ingredient distributions, without any sample preparation. In the current study, imaging maps obtained for specific model formulations were evaluated on the basis of their visual appearance and the physicochemical properties of the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API). In addition, the crystalline and amorphous states of the model formulations were distinguished by Raman mapping. Nano-TA was found to be useful for the characterization of crystalline and amorphous states of APIs and the distribution of other ingredients. This technology could be used to monitor the changes in crystalline forms of drug substances and dosage forms during processing. In addition, Nano-TA can be used to characterize amorphous states.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Physical chemistry, Materials science, Differential scanning calorimetry, Pharmaceutical drug, Glass transition, Active ingredient, Isothermal titration calorimetry


Abstract The objective of this study was to improve the dissolution rate and to enhance the stability of a poorly water-soluble and low glass-trasition temperature (T(g)) model drug, fenofibrate, in low molecular weight grades of hydroxypropylcellulose matrices produced by hot-melt extrusion (HME). Percent drug loading had a significant effect on the extrudability of the formulations. Dissolution rate of fenofibrate from melt extruded pellets was faster than that of the pure drug (p < 0.05). Incorporation of sugars within the formulation further increased the fenofibrate release rates. Differential scanning calorimetry results revealed that the crystalline drug was converted into an amorphous form during the HME process. Fenofibrate is prone to recrystallization due to its low T(g). Various polymers were evaluated as stabilizing agents among which polyvinylpyrrolidone 17PF and amino methacrylate copolymer exhibited a significant inhibitory effect on fenofibrate recrystallization in the hot-melt extrudates. Subsequently immediate-release fenofibrate tablets were successfully developed and complete drug release was achieved within 5 min. The dissolution profile was comparable to that of a currently marketed formulation. The hot-melt extruded fenofibrate tablets were stable, and exhibited an unchanged drug release profile after 3-month storage at 40°C/75% RH.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Polymer, Thermodynamics, Differential scanning calorimetry, Glass transition, Solvation, Stability, Pharmaceutical formulation


When size matters! Silver iodide nanoparticles (AgI NPs) with a mean diameter of 6.3±4.2 nm were synthesized using potassium iodide. The α phase of the AgI NPs was stable up to 37 °C, as determined by differential scanning calorimetry, which is in good agreement with variable temperature XRD measurements.

Concepts: Thermodynamics, Gold, Phase transition, Differential scanning calorimetry, Silver, Glass transition, Iodides, Silver iodide