Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Journal: ACS applied materials & interfaces


We present a multifunctional tactile sensor inspired by human hairy skin structure, in which the sensitive hair sensor and the robust skin sensor are integrated into a single device via a pair of Co-based ferromagnetic microwire arrays in a very simple manner. The sensor possesses a self-tunable effective compliance with respect to the magnitude of the stimulus, allowing a wide range of loading force to be measured. The sensor also exhibits some amazing functions, such as air-flow detection, material property characterization, and excellent damage resistance. The novel sensing mechanism and structure provide a new strategy for designing multifunctional tactile sensors and show great potential applications on intelligent robot and sensing in harsh environments.

Concepts: Skin, Novel, Transducer, Hair, Hair follicle, Robot, Sensor, Transducers


We report the new development of fire extinguishing agents employing the latest technology of fighting and preventing fires. The in situ technology of fighting fires and explosions involves using large-scale ultrafast-gelated foams, which possess new properties and unique characteristics, in particular, exceptional thermal stability, mechanical durability and full biocompatibility. We provide a detailed description of the physico-chemical processes of silica foam formation at the molecular level and functional comparison with current fire extinguishing and fighting agents. The new method allows to produce controllable gelation silica hybrid foams in the range from 2 to 30 seconds up to 100 Pa·s viscosity. Chemical structure and hierarchical morphology obtained by SEM and TEM images develop thermal insulation capabilities of the foams, reaching a specific heat value of more than 2.5 kJ/(kg·°С). The produced foam consists of organized silica nanoparticles as determined by XPS and X-Ray diffraction analysis with a narrow particle size distribution of about 10-20 nm. As a result of fire extinguishing tests, it is shown that the extinguishing efficiency exhibited by silica-based sol-gel foams is almost 50 times higher than that for ordinary water and 15 times better than that for state-of-the-art firefighting agent AFFF(aqueous film forming foam). The biodegradation index determined by the time of the induction period was only 3 days, while even for conventional foaming agents this index is several times higher.

Concepts: X-ray, Nanoparticle, Colloid, Heat, Particle size distribution, Silicon dioxide, Foam, Aerogel


Electrochromic polymers (ECPs) have been shown to be synthetically tunable, producing a full palette of vibrantly colored to highly transmissive polymers. The development of these colored-to-transmissive ECPs employed synthetic design strategies for broad color targeting; however, due to the subtleties of color perception and the intricacies of polymer structure and color relationships, fine color control is difficult. In contrast, color mixing is a well-established practice in the printing industry. We have identified three colored-to-transmissive switching electrochromic polymers, referred to as ECP-Cyan (ECP-C), ECP-Magenta (ECP-M), and ECP-Yellow (ECP-Y), which, via the co-processing of multicomponent ECP mixtures, follow the CMY color mixing model. The presented work qualitatively assesses the thin film characteristics of solution co-processed ECP mixtures. To quantitatively determine the predictability of the color properties of ECP mixtures, we estimated mass extinction coefficients (εmass) from solution spectra of the CMY ECPs and compared the estimated and experimentally observed color values of blends via a calculated color difference (ΔEab). The values of ΔEab range from 8 to 26 across all mixture compositions, with an average value of 15, representing a reasonable degree of agreement between predicted and observed color values. We demonstrate here the ability to co-process ECP mixtures into vibrantly colored, visually continuous films and the ability to estimate the color properties produced in these mixed ECP films.

Concepts: Polymer, Color, Printing, Primary color, RGB color model, Color space, Color theory, Mix


The morphology and electronic structure of metal oxides, including TiO2 on the nanoscale, definitely determine their electronic or electrochemical properties, especially those relevant to application in energy devices. For this purpose, a concept for controlling the morphology and electrical conductivity in TiO2, based on tuning by electrospinning, is proposed. We found that the 1D TiO2 nanofibers surprisingly gave higher cyclic retention than 0D nanopowder, and nitrogen doping in the form of TiO2Nx also caused further improvement. This is due to higher conductivity and faster Li+ diffusion, as confirmed by electrochemical impedance spectra. Our findings provide an effective and scalable solution for energy storage efficiency.

Concepts: Electrochemistry, Oxide, Cadmium, Battery, Electrode, Rechargeable battery, Capacitor, Lithium


Optical biosensing techniques have become of key importance for label-free monitoring of biomolecular interactions in the current proteomics era. Together with an increasing emphasis on high-throughput applications in functional proteomics and drug discovery, there has been demand for facile and generally applicable methods for the immobilization of a wide range of receptor proteins. Here, we developed a polymer platform for microring resonator biosensors, which allowed the immobilization of receptor proteins on the surface of waveguide directly without any additional modification. A sol-gel process based on a mixture of three precursors was employed to prepare a liquid hybrid polysiloxane, which was photopatternable for the photocuring process and UV imprint. Waveguide films were patterned on silicon substrates and characterized by atomic force microscopy for roughness, and protein adsorption. The results showed that the spin-coating polymer surface was smooth (Rms = 0.658 nm), and exhibits a moderate hydrophobicity with the water contact angle of 97 degree. Such a hydrophobic extent could provide a necessary binding strength for stable immobilization of proteins on the material surface in various sensing conditions. Biological activity of the immobilized Staphylococcal protein A and its corresponding biosensing performance were demonstrated by its specific recognition of human Immunoglobulin G. This study showed the potential of preparing dense, homogeneous, highly specific, and highly stable biosensing surfaces by immobilizing receptor proteins on polymer-based optical devices through the direct physical adsorption method. We expect that such polymer waveguide could be of special interest in developing low-cost and robust optical biosensing platform for multidimensional arrays.

Concepts: Proteins, Protein, Receptor, Polymer, Sol-gel, Materials science, Biosensor, Protein A/G


Nanoclay minerals play a promising role as additives in the liquid electrolyte to form a gel electrolyte for quasi-solid-state dye-sensitized solar cells because of their high chemical stability, unique swelling ability, ion exchange capacity and rheological properties. Here we report the improved performance of a quasi-solid-state gel electrolyte comprising a liquid electrolyte and synthetic nitrate-hydrotalcite nanoclay. Charge transport mechanism in the gel electrolyte, and nanoclay interactions with TiO2/electrolyte interface are discussed in detail. The electrochemical analysis reveals that the charge transport is solely based on physical diffusion. The calculated physical diffusion coefficient shows that the diffusion of redox ions is not much affected by the viscosity of nanoclay gel. The addition of nitrate-hydrotalcite clay in electrolyte has the effect of buffering the protonation process at TiO2/electrolyte interface, resulting in conduction band up-shift and a boost in Voc. Higher Voc with undiminished photocurrent is achieved with nitrate-hydrotalcite nanoclay gel electrolyte for organic as well as for inorganic dye (D35 and N719) systems. 10 % improvement in the efficiency for hydrotalcite clay gel electrolyte is obtained, compared to that of the liquid electrolyte. The power conversion efficiency can be achieved as high as 10.1% under 0.25 sun and 9.6% under full sun. This study demonstrates that nitrate-hydrotalcite nanoclay in the electrolyte not only solidifies the liquid electrolyte to prevent solvent leakage, but also facilitates the improvement in cell efficiency.  

Concepts: Electrochemistry, Physical chemistry, Solar cell, Titanium dioxide, Energy conversion, Energy conversion efficiency, Dye-sensitized solar cell, Thin film solar cell


We develop a simple approach to fabricate graphene loaded TiO2 thin films on glass substrates by spin-coating technique. Our graphene-loaded TiO2 films were highly conductive, transparent and showed enhanced photocatalytic activities. More significantly, graphene-TiO2 films displayed super-hydrophilicity within short time even under white fluorescent light bulb, as compared to a pure TiO2 film. The enhanced photocatalytic activity of graphene-TiO2 films is attributed to its efficient charge separation, owing to electrons injection from the conduction band of TiO2 to graphene. The electroconductivity of the graphene loaded TiO2 thin film also contributes to the self-cleaning function by its anti-fouling effect against particulate contaminants. The present study reveals the ability of graphene as a low cost co-catalyst instead of expensive noble metals (Pt, Pd), and further shows its capability for the application of self-cleaning coatings with transparency. The promising characteristics of (inexpensive, transparent, conductive, super-hydrophilic, and high photocatalytic active) graphene loaded TiO2 films may have the potential use in various indoor applications.

Concepts: Fluorescence, Ultraviolet, Light, Semiconductor, Fluorescent lamp, Incandescent light bulb, Thin film, Self-cleaning glass


We report the fabrication of a highly flexible indium tin oxide (ITO) electrode that is completely transparent to light in the visible spectrum. The electrode was fabricated via the formation of a novel ITO nanoarray structure, consisting of discrete globular ITO nanoparticles superimposed on an agglomerated ITO layer, on a heat-sensitive polymer substrate. The ITO nanoarray spontaneously assembled on the surface of the polymer substrate by a simple sputter coating at room temperature, without nanolithographic or solution-based assembly processes being required. The ITO nanoarray exhibited a resistivity of approximately 2.3 × 10(-3) Ω cm and a specular transmission of about 99% at 550 nm, surpassing all previously reported values of these parameters in the case of transparent porous ITO electrodes synthesized via solution-based processes at elevated temperatures. This novel nanoarray structure and its fabrication methodology can be used for coating large-area transparent electrodes on heat-sensitive polymer substrates, a goal unrealizable through currently available solution-based fabrication methods.

Concepts: Light, Solar cell, Indium tin oxide, Liquid crystal display, Indium(III) oxide, Indium, Transparent electrodes, Sputter deposition


Si has the highest theoretical capacity among all known anode materials, but it suffers from the dramatic volume change upon repeated lithiation and delithiation processes. In order to overcome the severe volume change, Si nanoparticles were first coated with a polymer-driven carbon layer, and then dispersed in a CNT network. In this unique structure, the carbon layer can improve electronic conductivity and buffer the severe volume change; while the tangled CNT network is expected to prevent the crack and pulverization, maintain the integrity of electrodes, stabilize the electronic conductive network, and eventually lead to better cycling performance. Electrochemical test result indicates the carbon-coated Si nanoparticles dispersed in CNT networks show a capacity retention of 70% after 40 cycles, which is much better than the carbon-coated Si nanoparticles without CNTs.

Concepts: Electrochemistry, Carbon, Carbon nanotube, Graphite, Materials science, Battery, Electrolyte, Rechargeable battery


The applicability of gallium-based liquid metal alloy has been limited by the oxidation problem. In this paper, we report a simple method to remove the oxide layer on the surface of such alloy to recover its non-wetting characteristics, using hydrochloric acid (HCl) vapor. Through the HCl vapor treatment, we successfully restored the non-wetting characteristics of the alloy and suppressed its viscoelasticity. We analyzed the change of surface chemistry before and after the HCl vapor treatment using x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and low energy ion scattering spectroscopy (LEIS). Results showed that the oxidized surface of Galinstan® (Ga2O3 and Ga2O) was replaced with InCl3 and GaCl3 after the treatment. Surface tension and static contact angle on a Teflon®-coated glass of the HCl vapor treated Galinstan® were measured to be 523.8 mN/m and 152.5°. A droplet bouncing test was successfully carried out to demonstrate the non-wetting characteristics of the HCl vapor treated Galinstan®. Finally, the stability of the transformed surface of the HCl vapor treated Galinstan® was investigated by measuring contact angle and LEIS spectra after re-oxidation in ambient environment.

Concepts: Hydrogen, Zinc, Liquid, Surface tension, Materials science, Chlorine, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, Surface chemistry