. Scientific Frontline: Chemistry
Showing posts with label Chemistry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chemistry. Show all posts

Monday, April 8, 2024

Finding New Chemistry to Capture Double the Carbon

An established carbon capture solvent can form clusters that could significantly increase the amount of carbon dioxide stored. 
Credits: Photo by Andrea Starr; Composite Graphic by Cortland Johnson
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Finding ways to capture, store, and use carbon dioxide (CO2) remains an urgent global problem. As temperatures continue to rise, keeping CO2 from entering the atmosphere can help limit warming where carbon-based fuels are still needed.

Significant progress has been made in creating affordable, practical carbon capture technologies. Carbon-capturing liquids, referred to as solvents when they are present in abundance, can efficiently grab CO2 molecules from coal-fired power plants, paper mills, and other emission sources. However, these all work through the same fundamental chemistry. Or so researchers assumed.

In a new work published in Nature Chemistry, scientists were surprised to find that a familiar solvent is even more promising than originally anticipated. New details about the solvent’s underlying structure suggest that the liquid could hold twice as much CO2 as previously thought. The newly revealed structure could also hold the key to creating a suite of carbon-based materials that could help keep even more CO2 out of the atmosphere.

The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) team developed the solvent several years ago and has studied it in a variety of scenarios. The team has worked to dial down the costs of using the solvent and turn up its efficiency. Last year, they revealed the least costly carbon capture system to date. It was during this research that the team noticed something odd.

Friday, April 5, 2024

Chemical reactions can scramble quantum information as well as black holes

Rice University theorist Peter Wolynes and collaborators at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have shown that molecules can be as formidable at scrambling quantum information as black holes.
Image Credit: Courtesy of Martin Gruebele; DeepAI was used in image production

If you were to throw a message in a bottle into a black hole, all of the information in it, down to the quantum level, would become completely scrambled. Because in black holes this scrambling happens as quickly and thoroughly as quantum mechanics allows, they are generally considered nature’s ultimate information scramblers.

New research from Rice University theorist Peter Wolynes and collaborators at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, however, shows that molecules can be as formidable at scrambling quantum information as black holes. Combining mathematical tools from black hole physics and chemical physics, they have shown that quantum information scrambling takes place in chemical reactions and can nearly reach the same quantum mechanical limit as it does in black holes. The work is published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“This study addresses a long-standing problem in chemical physics, which has to do with the question of how fast quantum information gets scrambled in molecules,” Wolynes said. “When people think about a reaction where two molecules come together, they think the atoms only perform a single motion where a bond is made or a bond is broken.

Friday, March 29, 2024

Unleashing Disordered Rocksalt Oxides as Cathodes for Rechargeable Magnesium Batteries

Schematics of the battery and present cathode material. The present material contains many metal elements as cations thanks to the effect of the high configurational entropy.
Illustration Credit: ©Tohoku University

Researchers at Tohoku University have made a groundbreaking advancement in battery technology, developing a novel cathode material for rechargeable magnesium batteries (RMBs) that enables efficient charging and discharging even at low temperatures. This innovative material, leveraging an enhanced rock-salt structure, promises to usher in a new era of energy storage solutions that are more affordable, safer, and higher in capacity.

Details of the findings were published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry

The study showcases a considerable improvement in magnesium (Mg) diffusion within a rock-salt structure, a critical advancement since the denseness of atoms in this configuration had previously impeded Mg migration. By introducing a strategic mixture of seven different metallic elements, the research team created a crystal structure abundant in stable cation vacancies, facilitating easier Mg insertion and extraction.

This represents the first utilization of rocksalt oxide as a cathode material for RMBs. The high-entropy strategy employed by the researchers allowed the cation defects to activate the rocksalt oxide cathode.

Monday, March 25, 2024

Electrochemistry helps clean up electronic waste recycling, precious metal mining

A new study from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign shows how electrochemistry can be used to extract precious metals from discarded electronics in an efficient and environmentally friendly manner. 
Photo Credit: Fred Zwicky

A new method safely extracts valuable metals locked up in discarded electronics and low-grade ore using dramatically less energy and fewer chemical materials than current methods, report University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign researchers in the journal Nature Chemical Engineering

Gold and platinum group metals such as palladium, platinum and iridium are in high demand for use in electronics. However, sourcing these metals from mining and current electronics recycling techniques is not sustainable and comes with a high carbon footprint. Gold used in electronics accounts for 8% of the metal’s overall demand, and 90% of the gold used in electronics ends up in U.S. landfills yearly, the study reports. 

The study, led by chemical and biomolecular engineering professor Xiao Su, describes the first precious metal extraction and separation process fully powered by the inherent energy of electrochemical liquid-liquid extraction, or e-LLE. The method uses a reduction-oxidation reaction to selectively extract gold and platinum group metal ions from a liquid containing dissolved electronic waste. 

Novel electrochemical sensor detects dangerous bacteria

By using a customized surface to bait the targeted pathogens, they separate by themselves from a mixture of many different bacteria. This makes it easy to detect them electrochemically.
Illustration Credit: Sebastian Balser, Andreas Terfort Research Group, Goethe University Frankfurt

Researchers at Goethe University Frankfurt and Kiel University have developed a novel sensor for the detection of bacteria. It is based on a chip with an innovative surface coating. This ensures that only very specific microorganisms adhere to the sensor – such as certain pathogens. The larger the number of organisms, the stronger the electric signal generated by the chip. In this way, the sensor is able not only to detect dangerous bacteria with a high level of sensitivity but also to determine their concentration. 

Each year, bacterial infections claim several million lives worldwide. That is why detecting harmful microorganisms is crucial – not only in the diagnosis of diseases but also, for example, in food production. However, the methods available so far are often time-consuming, require expensive equipment or can only be used by specialists. Moreover, they are often unable to distinguish between active bacteria and their decay products. 

By contrast, the newly developed method detects only intact bacteria. It makes use of the fact that microorganisms only ever attack certain body cells, which they recognize from the latter's specific sugar molecule structure. This matrix, known as the glycocalyx, differs depending on the type of cell. It serves, so to speak, as an identifier for the body cells. This means that to capture a specific bacterium, we need only to know the recognizable structure in the glycocalyx of its preferred host cell and then use this as “bait".

A self-cleaning wall paint

Qaisar Maqbool and Günther Rupprechter
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Technische Universität Wien

A breakthrough in catalysis research leads to a new wall paint that cleans itself when exposed to sunlight and chemically breaks down air pollutants.

Typically, beautiful white wall paint does not stay beautiful and white forever. Often, various substances from the air accumulate on its surface. This can be a desired effect because it makes the air cleaner for a while – but over time, the color changes and needs to be renewed.

A research team from TU Wien and the Università Politecnica delle Marche (Italy) has now succeeded in developing special titanium oxide nanoparticles that can be added to ordinary, commercially available wall paint to establish self-cleaning power: The nanoparticles are photocatalytically active, they can use sunlight not only to bind substances from the air, but also to decompose them afterwards. The wall makes the air cleaner – and cleans itself at the same time. Waste was used as the raw material for the new wall paint: metal scrap, which would otherwise have to be discarded, and dried fallen leaves.

New All-Liquid Iron Flow Battery for Grid Energy Storage

Lead author and battery researcher Gabriel Nambafu assembles a test flow battery apparatus.
Photo Credit:  Andrea Starr | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

A commonplace chemical used in water treatment facilities has been repurposed for large-scale energy storage in a new battery design by researchers at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The design provides a pathway to a safe, economical, water-based, flow battery made with Earth-abundant materials. It provides another pathway in the quest to incorporate intermittent energy sources such as wind and solar energy into the nation’s electric grid.

The researchers report in Nature Communications that their lab-scale, iron-based battery exhibited remarkable cycling stability over one thousand consecutive charging cycles, while maintaining 98.7 percent of its maximum capacity. For comparison, previous studies of similar iron-based batteries reported degradation of the charge capacity two orders of magnitude higher, over fewer charging cycles.

Iron-based flow batteries designed for large-scale energy storage have been around since the 1980s, and some are now commercially available. What makes this battery different is that it stores energy in a unique liquid chemical formula that combines charged iron with a neutral-pH phosphate-based liquid electrolyte, or energy carrier. Crucially, the chemical, called nitrogenous triphosphonate, nitrilotri-methylphosphonic acid or NTMPA, is commercially available in industrial quantities because it is typically used to inhibit corrosion in water treatment plants.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

New reactor could save millions when making ingredients for plastics and rubber from natural gas

Illustration Credit: Courtesy of University of Michigan / Department of Chemical Engineering

A new way to make an important ingredient for plastics, adhesives, carpet fibers, household cleaners and more from natural gas could reduce manufacturing costs in a post-petroleum economy by millions of dollars, thanks to a new chemical reactor designed by University of Michigan engineers.

The reactor creates propylene, a workhorse chemical that is also used to make a long list of industrial chemicals, including ingredients for nitrile rubber found in automotive hoses and seals as well as blue protective gloves. Most propylene used today comes from oil refineries, which collect it as a byproduct of refining crude oil into gasoline.

As oil and gasoline fall out of vogue in favor of natural gas, solar, and wind energy, production of propylene and other oil-derived products could fall below the current demand without new ways to make them.

Natural gas extracted from shale holds one potential alternative to propylene sourced from crude oil. It’s rich in propane, which resembles propylene closely enough to be a promising precursor material, but current methods to make propylene from natural gas are still too inefficient to bridge the gap in supply and demand.

“It’s very hard to economically convert propane into propylene,” said Suljo Linic, the Martin Lewis Perl Collegiate Professor of Chemical Engineering and the corresponding author of the study published in Science.

How clean is hydrogen for the energy transition?

Romain Sacchi and his colleagues at Leiden University have analysed the life cycle of nine different hydrogen production processes and extrapolated them globally for the first time.
Photo Credit: Paul Scherrer Institute/Markus Fischer

In a joint study, researchers from Leiden University and the Paul Scherrer Institute have calculated the environmental impact of hydrogen production from today to 2050. For the first time, nine different production processes were considered in one study and extrapolated globally. The result: hydrogen, yes, but only green, please!

All hydrogen is not equal. It comes in many colors – from black to green. This does not refer to its physical color but rather to a terminology identifying its origin (see Additional information below). When we talk about green hydrogen, for example, we mean that it has been produced using water electrolysis that relies on renewable energy and water. We call it black, like coal, when it is produced using hard coal.

Currently, hydrogen is mainly required for chemical conversion processes, such as ammonia production using the Haber-Bosch process, which is used as a fertilizer component. In industrial processes, hydrogen is used as a protective gas and is required in metal and glass production, for example. The steel industry is also dependent on large quantities of this light gas. And hydrogen can be converted directly into electricity via fuel cells, which can be used in vehicles.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Natural recycling at the origin of life

Volcanic freshwater lakes, similar to those found in Iceland today, offered a favorable niche on an early earth. The low-salt, alkaline conditions enabled early RNA replication.
Photo Credit: © Dieter Braun

How was complex life able to develop on the inhospitable early Earth? At the beginning there must have been ribonucleic acid (RNA) to carry the first genetic information. To build up complexity in their sequences, these biomolecules need to release water. On the early Earth, which was largely covered in seawater, that was not so easy to do. In a paper recently published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS), researchers from the team of LMU professor Dieter Braun have shown that in RNA’s struggle with the surrounding water, its natural recycling capabilities and the right ambient conditions could have been decisive.

“The building blocks of RNA release a water molecule for every bond they form in a growing RNA chain,” explains Braun, spokesperson for the Collaborative Research Centre (CRC) Molecular Evolution in Prebiotic Environments and coordinator at the ORIGINS Excellence Cluster. “When, conversely, water is added to an RNA molecule, the RNA building blocks are fed back into the prebiotic pool.” This turnover of water works particularly well under low saline conditions with high pH levels. “Our experiments indicate that life could emerge from a very small set of molecules, under conditions such as those prevailing on volcanic islands on the early Earth,” says Adriana Serrão, lead author of the study.

Monday, March 18, 2024

Alzheimer’s Drug Fermented with Help from AI and Bacteria Moves Closer to Reality

Photo-Illustration Credit: Martha Morales/The University of Texas at Austin

Galantamine is a common medication used by people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia around the world to treat their symptoms. Unfortunately, synthesizing the active compounds in a lab at the scale needed isn’t commercially viable. The active ingredient is extracted from daffodils through a time-consuming process, and unpredictable factors, such as weather and crop yields, can affect supply and price of the drug. 

Now, researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have developed tools — including an artificial intelligence system and glowing biosensors — to harness microbes one day to do all the work instead. 

In a paper in Nature Communications, researchers outline a process using genetically modified bacteria to create a chemical precursor of galantamine as a byproduct of the microbe’s normal cellular metabolism.  Essentially, the bacteria are programmed to convert food into medicinal compounds.

“The goal is to eventually ferment medicines like this in large quantities,” said Andrew Ellington, a professor of molecular biosciences and author of the study. “This method creates a reliable supply that is much less expensive to produce. It doesn’t have a growing season, and it can’t be impacted by drought or floods.” 

Using light to produce medication and plastics more efficiently

Radicals generated by light can only unfold their reactivity as soon as they break out of a kind of "cage" that the solvent forms around them. Researchers in Basel show how to make this "cage escape" more successful and how it leads to more efficient photochemistry.
Illustration Credit: University of Basel, Jo Richers

Anyone who wants to produce medication, plastics or fertilizer using conventional methods needs heat for chemical reactions – but not so with photochemistry, where light provides the energy. The process to achieve the desired product also often takes fewer intermediate steps. Researchers from the University of Basel are now going one step further and are demonstrating how the energy efficiency of photochemical reactions can be increased tenfold. More sustainable and cost-effective applications are now tantalizingly close.

Industrial chemical reactions usually occur in several stages across various interim products. Photochemistry enables shortcuts, meaning fewer intermediate steps are required. Photochemistry also allows you to work with less hazardous substances than in conventional chemistry, as light produces a reaction in substances which do not react well under heat. However, to this point there have not been many industrial applications for photochemistry, partly because supplying energy with light is often inefficient or creates unwanted by-products.

The research group led by Professor Oliver Wenger at the University of Basel now describes a fundamental principle which has an unexpectedly strong impact on the energy efficiency of photochemistry and can increase the speed of photochemical reactions. Their results are published in Nature Chemistry.

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Is life based on a seeming violation of Newton’s law in molecular interactions?

Interactions between molecules that are not equal and opposite, a seeming violation of Newton’s third law of motion, can occur naturally according to new research. A kinase enzyme adds a chemical modification to other molecules, resulting in a phosphorylated protein. Phosphatase enzymes remove the modifications, such that the kinases create products that are acted upon by phosphatases and vice versa. Researchers demonstrated that the kinase is attracted to the phosphatase, but the phosphatase is repelled by the kinase, in what is called a non-reciprocal interaction.
Illustration Credit: Niladri Sekhar Mandal / Pennsylvania State University

It turns out that every action may not have an equal and opposite reaction, despite what Newton’s third law of motion says, according to new research conducted by a team from Penn State and the University of Maine. The finding could offer insight into how certain molecular interactions could have evolved in a pre-life world.

The work was published in the journal Chem, and the researchers said this is the first demonstration of the mechanism by which these interactions occur at the molecular level. Last year’s discovery by researchers at Kyoto University that sperm movement does not cause an opposite reaction in its environment as it moves provided an example of a seeming violation of Newton’s third law of motion, but it did not address the mechanism.

“We all have heard the phrase ‘every action has an equal and opposite reaction,’ to describe Newton’s third law of motion, but we see examples that seemingly violate this every day, especially in the behavior of complex living systems small and large where there is constant input of energy,” said Ayusman Sen, Verne M. Willaman Professor of Chemistry in the Eberly College of Science at Penn State and one of the research team leaders. “An example at the larger scale is that a predator is attracted to its prey, but the prey is repelled by the predator. This type of interaction is called non-reciprocal, and we were interested to see if it also occurred in the much simpler interactions among molecules with constant energy input.”

Monday, March 11, 2024

A Simple and Robust Method to Add Functional Molecules to Peptides

An N-terminal specific three-component [3+2] cycloaddition proceeds without affecting the highly reactive lysine residues. This reaction has been successfully applied to polypeptides of up to 26 residues.
Illustration Credit: ©Kazuya Kanemoto et al.

Peptides are short strands of amino acids that are increasingly used therapeutically, as biomaterials and as chemical and biological probes. The capacity to isolate, manipulate and label peptides and larger proteins is limited, however, by the ability to reliably attach functional molecules, such as fluorescent compounds, to peptides in locations that won't affect the three-dimensional structure and function of the short amino acid strand.

Researchers are most interested in adding functional molecules to the N-terminus, or the end of a peptide with a free amine group (NH2), of an amino acid strand in order to minimize the interference of functional molecules with the structure and function of the bound peptide. Earlier methods of attaching functional molecules to the N-terminus of peptides were insufficient for several reasons: 

  1. the functional groups would release from the peptide in human physiological conditions
  2. only one functional group could be attached to a peptide at a time 
  3. attachment of functional molecules to peptides was not uniform or
  4. reactions simply weren't efficient.

To address this issue, researchers from Tohoku University and Chuo University developed a unique chemical reaction to attach two distinct functional molecules to the N-terminus of a peptide with a glycine amino acid at the N-terminus. The researchers published their study in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

Saturday, March 9, 2024

Researchers develop artificial building blocks of life

Structural comparison of DNA and the artificial TNA, a Xeno nucleic acid with the natural base pairs AT and GC and an additional base pair (XY).
Image Credit: Courtesy of University of Cologne

For the first time, scientists from the University of Cologne (UoC) have developed artificial nucleotides, the building blocks of DNA, with several additional properties in the laboratory. They could be used as artificial nucleic acids for therapeutic applications.

DNA carries the genetic information of all living organisms and consists of only four different building blocks, the nucleotides. Nucleotides are composed of three distinctive parts: a sugar molecule, a phosphate group and one of the four nucleobases adenine, thymine, guanine and cytosine. The nucleotides are lined up millions of times and form the DNA double helix, similar to a spiral staircase. Scientists from the UoC’s Department of Chemistry have now shown that the structure of nucleotides can be modified to a great extent in the laboratory. The researchers developed so-called threofuranosyl nucleic acid (TNA) with a new, additional base pair. These are the first steps on the way to fully artificial nucleic acids with enhanced chemical functionalities. The study ‘Expanding the Horizon of the Xeno Nucleic Acid Space: Threose Nucleic Acids with Increased Information Storage’ was published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Friday, March 8, 2024

Deciphering Catalysts: Unveiling Structure-Activity Correlations

The standard research paradigm uncovers the structure-property-activity relationships for the electrochemical CO2 reduction reaction (CO2RR) over SnO2. This picture illustrates the surface reconstruction induced by oxygen vacancies (1/1 ML coverage) and surface-active species (Sn layer) accountable for selective HCOOH production.
Illustration Credit: ©Hao Li et al.

In a new step towards combating climate change and transitioning to sustainable solutions, a group of researchers has developed a research paradigm that makes it easier to decipher the relationship between catalyst structures and their reactions.

Details of the researchers' breakthrough were published in the journal Angewandte Chemie.

Understanding how a catalyst's surface affects its activity can aid the design of efficient catalyst structures for specific reactivity requirements. However, grasping the mechanisms behind this relationship is no straightforward task given the complicated interface microenvironment of electrocatalysts.

Keeping the immune system in check

Image Credit: © Julian Nüchel, Center for Biochemistry Cologne

Researchers from the UoC’s Center for Biochemistry at the Faculty of Medicine and the UoC CECAD Cluster of Excellence in Aging Research have discovered that an excessive immune response can be prevented by the intramembrane protease RHBDL4. In a study now published in Nature Communications under the title ‘RHBDL4-triggered downregulation of COPII adaptor protein TMED7 suppresses TLR4-mediated inflammatory signaling’, a previously unknown regulatory mechanism is described: The cleavage of a cargo receptor by a so-called intramembrane protease reduces the localization of a central immune receptor on the cell surface and thereby the risk of an overreaction of the immune system.

Intramembrane proteases are reactive proteins that reside in the cell membranes. They form a special group of proteases because they cut proteins within cellular membranes. Many of these unusual proteases have not yet been sufficiently characterized and only a few of the molecules they can cleave – the so-called substrates – and thus their functions are known. One of these intramembrane proteases is RHBDL4. It is located in the endoplasmic reticulum, a large intracellular membrane system that is responsible, among other things, for the correct folding of newly synthesized proteins that are fed into the secretory route.

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Completely recycled viscose for the first time

Edvin Bågenholm-Ruuth
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Lund University

At present, viscose textiles are made of biomass from the forest, and there is no such thing as fully recycled viscose. Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have now succeeded in making new viscose – from worn-out cotton sheets.

Old textiles around the world end up at the rubbish tip and are often burned. In Sweden, they are generally burned to produce district heating. Extensive development work is being conducted to give old clothes and textiles a worthier ending. 

The planet really needs recycled textiles, as it takes a lot of energy, water and land to cultivate cotton and other plant sources for textiles. 

However, there are many challenges.

“Cellulose chains, the main component in plant fibers, are complex and long. Cotton textiles are also intensively treated with dyes, protective agents and other chemicals. And then there is all the ingrained grime in the form of skin flakes and fats,” says Edvin Bågenholm-Ruuth, doctoral student in chemical engineering at Lund University. 

Unveiling Inaoside A: An Antioxidant Derived from Mushrooms

Discovering a new antioxidant compound, Inaoside A from Laetiporus cremeiporus
Image credit: Atsushi Kawamura from Shinshu University, Japan

Natural products have unique chemical structures and biological activities and can play a pivotal role in advancing pharmaceutical science. In a pioneering study, researchers from Shinshu University discovered Inaoside A, an antioxidant derived from Laetiporus cremeiporus mushrooms. This breakthrough sheds light on the potential of mushrooms as a source of therapeutic bioactive compounds.

The search for novel bioactive compounds from natural sources has gained considerable momentum in recent years due to the need for new therapeutic agents to combat various health challenges. Among a diverse array of natural products, mushrooms have emerged as a rich reservoir of bioactive molecules with potential pharmaceutical and nutraceutical applications. The genus Laetiporus has attracted attention for its extracts exhibiting antimicrobial, antioxidant, and antithrombin bioactivities. The species Laetiporus cremeiporus, spread across East Asia, has also been reported to show antioxidant properties. However, the identification and characterization of specific antioxidant compounds from this species have not been conducted.

In a groundbreakng study, researchers led by Assistant Professor Atsushi Kawamura from the Department of Biomolecular Innovation, Institute for Biomedical Sciences, Interdisciplinary Cluster for Cutting Edge Research, Shinshu University, along with Hidefumi Makabe from the Department of Agriculture, Graduate School of Science and Technology, Shinshu University, and Akiyoshi Yamada from the Department of Mountain Ecosystem, Institute for Mountain Science, Interdisciplinary Cluster for Cutting Edge Research, Shinshu University, recently discovered the antioxidant compound derived from L. cremeiporus.

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Aluminum nanoparticles make tunable green catalysts

Aaron Bayles is a Rice University doctoral alum, a postdoctoral researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and a lead author on a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Aaron Bayles / Rice University

Catalysts unlock pathways for chemical reactions to unfold at faster and more efficient rates, and the development of new catalytic technologies is a critical part of the green energy transition.

The Rice University lab of nanotechnology pioneer Naomi Halas has uncovered a transformative approach to harnessing the catalytic power of aluminum nanoparticles by annealing them in various gas atmospheres at high temperatures.

According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Rice researchers and collaborators showed that changing the structure of the oxide layer that coats the particles modifies their catalytic properties, making them a versatile tool that can be tailored to suit the needs of different contexts of use from the production of sustainable fuels to water-based reactions.

“Aluminum is an earth-abundant metal used in many structural and technological applications,” said Aaron Bayles, a Rice doctoral alum who is a lead author on the paper. “All aluminum is coated with a surface oxide, and until now we did not know what the structure of this native oxide layer on the nanoparticles was. This has been a limiting factor preventing the widespread application of aluminum nanoparticles.”

Aluminum nanoparticles absorb and scatter light with remarkable efficiency due to surface plasmon resonance, a phenomenon that describes the collective oscillation of electrons on the metal surface in response to light of specific wavelengths. Like other plasmonic nanoparticles, the aluminum nanocrystal core can function as a nanoscale optical antenna, making it a promising catalyst for light-based reactions.

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