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

Journal: Nano letters


We report cellular nanosponges as an effective medical countermeasure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Two types of cellular nanosponges are made of the plasma membranes derived from human lung epithelial type II cells or human macrophages. These nanosponges display the same protein receptors, both identified and unidentified, required by SARS-CoV-2 for cellular entry. It is shown that, following incubation with the nanosponges, SARS-CoV-2 is neutralized and unable to infect cells. Crucially, the nanosponge platform is agnostic to viral mutations and potentially viral species, as well. As long as the target of the virus remains the identified host cell, the nanosponges will be able to neutralize the virus.


Metal halides perovskites, such as hybrid organic-inorganic CH3NH3PbI3, are newcomer optoelectronic materials that have attracted enormous attention as solution-deposited absorbing layers in solar cells with power conversion efficiencies reaching 20%. Herein we demonstrate a new avenue for halide perovskties by designing perovskite-based quantum dot materials. We have synthesized monodisperse, colloidal nanocubes (4-15 nm edge lengths) of fully inorganic cesium lead halide perovskites (CsPbX3, X=Cl, Br, I or mixed halide systems Cl/Br and Br/I) using inexpensive commercial precursors. Through compositional modulations and quantum size-effects, the bandgap energies and emission spectra are readily tunable over the entire visible spectral region of 410-700 nm. The photoluminescence of CsPbX3 nanocrystals is characterized by narrow emission line-widths of 12-42 nm, wide color gamut covering up to 140% of the NTSC color standard, high quantum yields of up to 90% and radiative lifetimes in the range of 4-29 ns. The compelling combination of enhanced optical properties and chemical robustness makes CsPbX3 nanocrystals appealing for optoelectronic applications, particularly for blue and green spectral regions (410-530 nm), where typical metal chalcogenide-based quantum dots suffer from photodegradation.

Concepts: Quantum dot, Color, Solar cell, Light-emitting diode, Color space, Band gap, Color theory, Gamut


The COVID-19 pandemic is currently causing a severe disruption and shortage in the global supply chain of necessary personal protective equipment (e.g., N95 respirators). The U.S. CDC recommended use of household cloth by the general public to make cloth face coverings as a method of source control. We evaluated the filtration properties of natural and synthetic materials using a modified procedure for N95 respirator approval. Common fabrics of cotton, polyester, nylon, and silk had filtration efficiency of 5-25%, polypropylene spunbond had filtration efficiency 6-10%, and paper-based products had filtration efficiency of 10-20%. An advantage of polypropylene spunbond is that it can be simply triboelectrically charged to enhance the filtration efficiency (from 6 to >10%), without any increase in pressure (stable overnight and in humid environments). Using the filtration quality factor, fabric microstructure, and charging ability, we are able to provide an assessment of suggested fabric materials for homemade facial coverings.


We present artificially motorized sperm cells-a novel type of hybrid micromotor, where customized microhelices serve as motors for transporting sperm cells with motion deficiencies to help them carry out their natural function. Our results indicate that metal-coated polymer microhelices are suitable for this task due to potent, controllable, and nonharmful 3D motion behavior. We manage to capture, transport, and release single immotile live sperm cells in fluidic channels that allow mimicking physiological conditions. Important steps toward fertilization are addressed by employing proper means of sperm selection and oocyte culturing. Despite the fact that there still remain some challenges on the way to achieve successful fertilization with artificially motorized sperms, we believe that the potential of this novel approach toward assisted reproduction can be already put into perspective with the present work.

Concepts: Cell nucleus, Reproduction, Sperm, Fertility, Spermatozoon, Semen, Transport, Oocyte


The electrostatic confinement of massless charge carriers is hampered by Klein tunneling. Circumventing this problem in graphene mainly relies on carving out nanostructures or applying electric displacement fields to open a band gap in bilayer graphene. So far, these approaches suffer from edge disorder or insufficiently controlled localization of electrons. Here we realize an alternative strategy in monolayer graphene, by combining a homogeneous magnetic field and electrostatic confinement. Using the tip of a scanning tunneling microscope, we induce a confining potential in the Landau gaps of bulk graphene without the need for physical edges. Gating the localized states towards the Fermi energy leads to regular charging sequences with more than 40 Coulomb peaks exhibiting typical addition energies of 7-20meV. Orbital splittings of 4-10meV and a valley splitting of about 3meV for the first orbital state can be deduced. These experimental observations are quantitatively reproduced by tight binding calculations, which include the interactions of the graphene with the aligned hexagonal boron nitride substrate. The demonstrated confinement approach appears suitable to create quantum dots with well-defined wave function properties beyond the reach of traditional techniques.

Concepts: Electron, Electric charge, Energy, Quantum mechanics, Electric field, Condensed matter physics, Band gap, Boron nitride


Direct imaging becomes important when the knowledge at few/single molecule level is requested and where the diffraction doesn’t allow to get structural and functional information. Here we report on the direct imaging of double strand (ds) λ-DNA in the A conformation, obtained by combining a novel sample preparation method based on super hydrophobic DNA molecules self aggregation process with Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM). The experimental breakthrough is the production of robust and highly ordered paired DNA nanofibers that allowed its direct TEM imaging and the double helix structure revealing.

Concepts: DNA, Electron, Gene, Molecule, Transmission electron microscopy, Double helix, Helix, The Double Helix


Bacterial microcompartments (BMCs) are proteinaceous organelles widespread among bacterial phyla. They compartmentalize metabolic enzymes within a selectively permeable shell, and play important roles in CO2 fixation, pathogenesis and microbial ecology. Here we combine X-ray crystallography and high-speed atomic force microscopy to characterize, at molecular resolution, the structure and dynamics of BMC shell facet assembly. Our results show that pre-formed hexamers assemble into uniformly oriented shell layers, a single hexamer thick. We also observe the dynamic process of shell facet assembly. Shell hexamers can dissociate from and incorporate into assembled sheets, indicating a flexible intermolecular interaction. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the self-assembly and dynamics of shell proteins are governed by specific contacts at the interfaces of shell proteins. Our study provides novel insights into the formation, interactions and dynamics of BMC shell facets, which are essential for the design and engineering of self-assembled biological nanoreactors and scaffolds based on BMC architectures.

Concepts: DNA, Photosynthesis, Bacteria, Molecular biology, Metabolism, Enzyme, Organelle, Bacterial microcompartment


Carbon nanofibers, CNFs, due to their superior strength, conductivity, flexibility and durability have great potential as a material resource, but still have limited use due to the cost intensive complexities of their synthesis. Herein, we report the high-yield and scale-able electrolytic conversion of atmospheric CO2 dissolved in molten carbonates into CNFs. It is demonstrated that the conversion of CO2 → CCNF + O2 can be driven by efficient solar, as well as conventional, energy at inexpensive steel or nickel electrodes. The structure is tuned by controlling the electrolysis conditions, such as the addition of trace transition metals to act as CNF nucleation sites, the addition of zinc as an initiator and the control of current density. A less expensive source of CNFs will facilitate its adoption as a societal resource, and using carbon dioxide as a reactant to generate a value added product such as CNFs provides impetus to consume this greenhouse gas to mitigate climate change.

Concepts: Oxygen, Carbon dioxide, Iron, Magnesium, Carbon, Climate change, Carbon monoxide, Greenhouse gas


Silkworm silk is gaining significant attention from both the textile industry and research society because of its outstanding mechanical properties and lustrous appearance. The possibility of creating tougher silks attracts particular research interest. Carbon nanotubes and graphene are widely studied for their use as reinforcement. In this work, we report mechanically enhanced silk directly collected by feeding Bombyx mori larval silkworms with single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) and graphene. We found that parts of the fed carbon nanomaterials were incorporated into the as-spun silk fibers, whereas the others went into the excrement of silkworms. Spectroscopy study indicated that nanocarbon additions hindered the conformation transition of silk fibroin from random coil/α-helix to β-sheet, which may contribute to increased breaking elongation and toughness modules. We further investigated the pyrolysis of modified silk, and a highly developed graphitic structure with obviously enhanced electrical conductivity was obtained through the introduction SWNTs and graphene. The successful generation of these SWNT- or graphene- embedded silks by in vivo feeding is expected to open up possibilities for the large-scale production of high strength silk fibers.

Concepts: Carbon, Carbon nanotube, Graphite, Graphene, Silk, Bombyx mori, Bombycidae, Bombyx


Plasmonic lasers exploit strong electromagnetic field confinement at dimensions well below the diffraction limit. However, lasing from an electromagnetic hot spot supported by discrete, coupled metal nanoparticles (NPs) has not been explicitly demonstrated to date. We present a new design for a room-temperature nanolaser based on three-dimensional (3D) Au bowtie NPs supported by an organic gain material. The extreme field compression, and thus ultrasmall mode volume, within the bowtie gaps produced laser oscillations at the localized plasmon resonance gap mode of the 3D bowties. Transient absorption measurements confirmed ultrafast resonant energy transfer between photoexcited dye molecules and gap plasmons on the picosecond time scale. These plasmonic nanolasers are anticipated to be readily integrated into Si-based photonic devices, all-optical circuits, and nanoscale biosensors.

Concepts: Fundamental physics concepts, Laser, Resonator, Wave, Surface plasmon resonance, Plasmon, Plasma oscillation, Waves in plasmas