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Concept: Physical chemistry


Recent simulations have indicated that vinyl cyanide is the best candidate molecule for the formation of cell membranes/vesicle structures in Titan’s hydrocarbon-rich lakes and seas. Although the existence of vinyl cyanide (C2H3CN) on Titan was previously inferred using Cassini mass spectrometry, a definitive detection has been lacking until now. We report the first spectroscopic detection of vinyl cyanide in Titan’s atmosphere, obtained using archival data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), collected from February to May 2014. We detect the three strongest rotational lines of C2H3CN in the frequency range of 230 to 232 GHz, each with >4σ confidence. Radiative transfer modeling suggests that most of the C2H3CN emission originates at altitudes of ≳200 km, in agreement with recent photochemical models. The vertical column densities implied by our best-fitting models lie in the range of 3.7 × 10(13) to 1.4 × 10(14) cm(-2). The corresponding production rate of vinyl cyanide and its saturation mole fraction imply the availability of sufficient dissolved material to form ~10(7) cell membranes/cm(3) in Titan’s sea Ligeia Mare.

Concepts: Model, Spectroscopy, Titan, Extraterrestrial life, Sea, Electromagnetic radiation, Physical chemistry, Frequency


Although the energy densities of batteries continue to increase, safety problems (for example, fires and explosions) associated with the use of highly flammable liquid organic electrolytes remain a big issue, significantly hindering further practical applications of the next generation of high-energy batteries. We have fabricated a novel “smart” nonwoven electrospun separator with thermal-triggered flame-retardant properties for lithium-ion batteries. The encapsulation of a flame retardant inside a protective polymer shell has prevented direct dissolution of the retardant agent into the electrolyte, which would otherwise have negative effects on battery performance. During thermal runaway of the lithium-ion battery, the protective polymer shell would melt, triggered by the increased temperature, and the flame retardant would be released, thus effectively suppressing the combustion of the highly flammable electrolytes.

Concepts: Physical chemistry, Lithium-ion battery, Temperature, Water, Rechargeable battery, Fire, Lithium, Lithium battery


Cholesterol has been suggested to play a role in stable vesicle formation by adjusting the molecular packing of the vesicular bilayer. To explore the mechanisms involved in adjusting the bilayer structure by cholesterol, the molecular packing behavior in a mimic outer layer of cationic dialkyldimethylammonium bromide (DXDAB)/cholesterol vesicular bilayer was investigated by the Langmuir monolayer approach with infrared reflection-absorption spectroscopy (IRRAS). The results indicated that the addition of cholesterol in the DXDAB Langmuir monolayers not only restrained the desorption of the DXDAB with short hydrocarbon chains, such as ditetradecyldimethylammonium bromide or dihexadecyldimethylammonium bromide, into the aqueous phase but also induced a condensing effect on the DXDAB monolayers. At a liquid-expanded (LE) state, the ordering effect of cholesterol accompanying the condensing effect occurred in the mixed DXDAB/cholesterol monolayers due to the tendency of maximizing hydrocarbon chain contact between cholesterol and the neighboring hydrocarbon chains. However, for the mixed monolayers containing the DXDAB with long hydrocarbon chains, such as dioctadecyldimethylammonium bromide (DODAB), the disordering effect of cholesterol took place at a liquid-condensed (LC) state. This was related to the molecular structure of cholesterol and hydrocarbon chain length of DODAB. The rigid sterol ring of cholesterol hindered the portion of neighboring hydrocarbon chains from motion. However, the flexible alkyl side-chain of cholesterol along with the corresponding portion of neighboring hydrocarbon chains formed a fluidic region, counteracting the enhanced conformational order induced by the sterol ring of cholesterol. Furthermore, the long hydrocarbon chains of DODAB possessed a more pronounced motion freedom, resulting in a more disordered packing of the monolayers.

Concepts: Physical chemistry, Molecular geometry, Steroid, Lipid bilayer, Infrared spectroscopy, Langmuir, Hydrocarbon, Monolayer


High thermal conductivity is critical for many applications of polymers (for example, packaging of light-emitting diodes), in which heat must be dissipated efficiently to maintain the functionality and reliability of a system. Whereas uniaxially extended chain morphology has been shown to significantly enhance thermal conductivity in individual polymer chains and fibers, bulk polymers with coiled and entangled chains have low thermal conductivities (0.1 to 0.4 W m(-1) K(-1)). We demonstrate that systematic ionization of a weak anionic polyelectrolyte, polyacrylic acid (PAA), resulting in extended and stiffened polymer chains with superior packing, can significantly enhance its thermal conductivity. Cross-plane thermal conductivity in spin-cast amorphous films steadily grows with PAA degree of ionization, reaching up to ~1.2 W m(-1) K(-1), which is on par with that of glass and about six times higher than that of most amorphous polymers, suggesting a new unexplored molecular engineering strategy to achieve high thermal conductivities in amorphous bulk polymers.

Concepts: Nylon, Chain, Electrical conductivity, Polystyrene, Thermal conductivity, Physical chemistry, Heat, Polymer


Despite a major expansion of uranium-ligand multiple bond chemistry in recent years, analogous complexes involving other actinides (An) remain scarce. For thorium, under ambient conditions only a few multiple bonds to carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and chalcogenides are reported, and none to arsenic are known; indeed only two complexes with thorium-arsenic single bonds have been structurally authenticated, reflecting the challenges of stabilizing polar linkages at the large thorium ion. Here, we report thorium parent-arsenide (ThAsH2), -arsinidiides (ThAs(H)K and ThAs(H)Th) and arsenido (ThAsTh) linkages stabilized by a bulky triamidoamine ligand. The ThAs(H)K and ThAsTh linkages exhibit polarized-covalent thorium-arsenic multiple bonding interactions, hitherto restricted to cryogenic matrix isolation experiments, and the AnAs(H)An and AnAsAn linkages reported here have no precedent in f-block chemistry. 7s, 6d and 5f orbital contributions to the Th-As bonds are suggested by quantum chemical calculations, and their compositions unexpectedly appear to be tensioned differently compared to phosphorus congeners.

Concepts: Hydrogen, Physical chemistry, Quantum chemistry, Chemical element, Molecule, Bond, Atom, Chemistry


Porous yet densely packed carbon electrodes with high ion-accessible surface area and low ion transport resistance are crucial to the realization of high-density electrochemical capacitive energy storage but have proved to be very challenging to produce. Taking advantage of chemically converted graphene’s intrinsic microcorrugated two-dimensional configuration and self-assembly behavior, we show that such materials can be readily formed by capillary compression of adaptive graphene gel films in the presence of a nonvolatile liquid electrolyte. This simple soft approach enables subnanometer scale integration of graphene sheets with electrolytes to form highly compact carbon electrodes with a continuous ion transport network. Electrochemical capacitors based on the resulting films can obtain volumetric energy densities approaching 60 watt-hours per liter.

Concepts: Capacitor, Electrolyte, Energy density, Physical chemistry, Electrochemistry, Volume, Water, Battery


Lithium-ion conducting solid electrolytes hold the promise for enabling high-energy battery chemistries and circumventing safety issues of conventional lithium batteries. Achieving the combination of high ionic conductivity and broad electrochemical window in solid electrolytes is a grand challenge for the synthesis of battery materials. Herein we show an enhancement of room-temperature lithium-ion conductivity of 3 orders of magnitude by creating nanostructured Li3PS4. This material has a wide (5 V) electrochemical window and superior chemical stability against lithium metal. The nanoporous structure of Li3PS4 reconciles two vital effects that enhance ionic conductivity: (1) The reduced dimension to nanometer-sized framework stabilizes the high conduction beta phase that occurs at elevated temperatures; and (2) The high surface-to-bulk ratio of nanoporous β-Li3PS4 promotes surface conduction. Manipulating the ionic conductivity of solid electrolytes has far-reaching implications for materials design and synthesis in a broad range of applications such as batteries, fuel-cells, sensors, photovoltaic systems, and so forth.

Concepts: Physical chemistry, Lithium-ion battery, Metal, Electrolysis, Lithium battery, Battery, Electrochemistry, Lithium


Fine-particle pollution associated with winter haze threatens the health of more than 400 million people in the North China Plain. Sulfate is a major component of fine haze particles. Record sulfate concentrations of up to ~300 μg m(-3) were observed during the January 2013 winter haze event in Beijing. State-of-the-art air quality models that rely on sulfate production mechanisms requiring photochemical oxidants cannot predict these high levels because of the weak photochemistry activity during haze events. We find that the missing source of sulfate and particulate matter can be explained by reactive nitrogen chemistry in aerosol water. The aerosol water serves as a reactor, where the alkaline aerosol components trap SO2, which is oxidized by NO2 to form sulfate, whereby high reaction rates are sustained by the high neutralizing capacity of the atmosphere in northern China. This mechanism is self-amplifying because higher aerosol mass concentration corresponds to higher aerosol water content, leading to faster sulfate production and more severe haze pollution.

Concepts: Sulfuric acid, Beijing, Air pollution, Physical chemistry, North China, Particulate, Chemistry, Smog


A strategy to halt dissolution of particle-coated air bubbles in water based on interfacial rheology design is presented. Whereas previously a dense monolayer was believed to be required for such an “armored bubble” to resist dissolution, in fact engineering a 2D yield stress interface suffices to achieve such performance at submonolayer particle coverages. We use a suite of interfacial rheology techniques to characterize spherical and ellipsoidal particles at an air-water interface as a function of surface coverage. Bubbles with varying particle coverages are made and their resistance to dissolution evaluated using a microfluidic technique. Whereas a bare bubble only has a single pressure at which a given radius is stable, we find a range of pressures over which bubble dissolution is arrested for armored bubbles. The link between interfacial rheology and macroscopic dissolution of [Formula: see text] 100 [Formula: see text]m bubbles coated with [Formula: see text] 1 [Formula: see text]m particles is presented and discussed. The generic design rationale is confirmed by using nonspherical particles, which develop significant yield stress at even lower surface coverages. Hence, it can be applied to successfully inhibit Ostwald ripening in a multitude of foam and emulsion applications.

Concepts: Design, Linear elasticity, Elasticity, Yield surface, Volume, Physical chemistry


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