lunes, 24 de febrero de 2014

New, inexpensive production materials boost promise of hydrogen fuel

Generating electricity is not the only way to turn sunlight into energy we can use on demand. The sun can also drive reactions to create chemical fuels, such as hydrogen, that can in turn power cars, trucks and trains. Scientists have now combined cheap, oxide-based materials to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gases using solar energy with a solar-to-hydrogen conversion efficiency of 1.7 percent, the highest reported for any oxide-based photoelectrode system.

The trouble with solar fuel production is the cost of producing the sun-capturing semiconductors and the catalysts to generate fuel. The most efficient materials are far too expensive to produce fuel at a price that can compete with gasoline.
"In order to make commercially viable devices for solar fuel production, the material and the processing costs should be reduced significantly while achieving a high solar-to-fuel conversion efficiency," says Kyoung-Shin Choi, a chemistry professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
In a study published last week in the journal Science, Choi and postdoctoral researcher Tae Woo Kim combined cheap, oxide-based materials to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gases using solar energy with a solar-to-hydrogen conversion efficiency of 1.7 percent, the highest reported for any oxide-based photoelectrode system.
Choi created solar cells from bismuth vanadate using electrodeposition -- the same process employed to make gold-plated jewelry or surface-coat car bodies -- to boost the compound's surface area to a remarkable 32 square meters for each gram.
"Without fancy equipment, high temperature or high pressure, we made a nanoporous semiconductor of very tiny particles that have a high surface area," says Choi, whose work is supported by the National Science Foundation. "More surface area means more contact area with water, and, therefore, more efficient water splitting."
Bismuth vanadate needs a hand in speeding the reaction that produces fuel, and that's where the paired catalysts come in.
While there are many research groups working on the development of photoelectric semiconductors, and many working on the development of water-splitting catalysts, according to Choi, the semiconductor-catalyst junction gets relatively little attention.
"The problem is, in the end you have to put them together," she says. "Even if you have the best semiconductor in the world and the best catalyst in the world, their overall efficiency can be limited by the semiconductor-catalyst interface."
Choi and Kim exploited a pair of cheap and somewhat flawed catalysts -- iron oxide and nickel oxide -- by stacking them on the bismuth vanadate to take advantage of their relative strengths.
"Since no one catalyst can make a good interface with both the semiconductor and the water that is our reactant, we choose to split that work into two parts," Choi says. "The iron oxide makes a good junction with bismuth vanadate, and the nickel oxide makes a good catalytic interface with water. So we use them together."
The dual-layer catalyst design enabled simultaneous optimization of semiconductor-catalyst junction and catalyst-water junction.
"Combining this cheap catalyst duo with our nanoporous high surface area semiconductor electrode resulted in the construction of an inexpensive all oxide-based photoelectrode system with a record high efficiency," Choi says.
She expects the basic work done to prove the efficiency enhancement by nanoporous bismuth vanadate electrode and dual catalyst layers will provide labs around the world with fodder for leaps forward.
"Other researchers studying different types of semiconductors or different types of catalysts can start to use this approach to identify which combinations of materials can be even more efficient," says Choi, whose lab is already tweaking their design. "Which some engineering, the efficiency we achieved could be further improved very fast." 

Today, as inspired by the huge energy demands that we are expected to suffer in the following decades, I think that this post is really worth it!

martes, 18 de febrero de 2014

Carbon nanotube fibers outperform copper in carrying electrical current

Carbon nanotube-based fibers have greater capacity to carry electrical current than copper cables of the same mass, scientists show.

Nanotube fibers.

 On a pound-per-pound basis, carbon nanotube-based fibers invented at Rice University have greater capacity to carry electrical current than copper cables of the same mass, according to new research.

While individual nanotubes are capable of transmitting nearly 1,000 times more current than copper, the same tubes coalesced into a fiber using other technologies fail long before reaching that capacity.
But a series of tests at Rice showed the wet-spun carbon nanotube fiber still handily beat copper, carrying up to four times as much current as a copper wire of the same mass.
Scanning electron microscope images show typical carbon nanotube fibers created at Rice University and broken into two by high-current-induced Joule heating. Rice researchers broke the fibers in different conditions -- air, argon, nitrogen and a vacuum -- to see how well they handled high current. The fibers proved overall to be better at carrying electrical current than copper cables of the same mass. (Credit: Kono Lab/Rice University)
That, said the researchers, makes nanotube-based cables an ideal platform for lightweight power transmission in systems where weight is a significant factor, like aerospace applications.
The analysis led by Rice professors Junichiro Kono and Matteo Pasquali appeared online this week in the journal Advanced Functional Materials. Just a year ago the journal Science reported that Pasquali's lab, in collaboration with scientists at the Dutch firm Teijin Aramid, created a very strong conductive fiber out of carbon nanotubes.
Present-day transmission cables made of copper or aluminum are heavy because their low tensile strength requires steel-core reinforcement.
Scientists working with nanoscale materials have long thought there's a better way to move electricity from here to there. Certain types of carbon nanotubes can carry far more electricity than copper. The ideal cable would be made of long metallic "armchair" nanotubes that would transmit current over great distances with negligible loss, but such a cable is not feasible because it's not yet possible to manufacture pure armchairs in bulk, Pasquali said.
In the meantime, the Pasquali lab has created a method to spin fiber from a mix of nanotube types that still outperforms copper. The cable developed by Pasquali and Teijin Aramid is strong and flexible even though at 20 microns wide, it's thinner than a human hair.
Pasquali turned to Kono and his colleagues, including lead author Xuan Wang, a postdoctoral researcher at Rice, to quantify the fiber's capabilities.
Pasquali said there has been a disconnect between electrical engineers who study the current carrying capacity of conductors and materials scientists working on carbon nanotubes. "That has generated some confusion in the literature over the right comparisons to make," he said. "Jun and Xuan really got to the bottom of how to do these measurements well and compare apples to apples."
The researchers analyzed the fiber's "current carrying capacity" (CCC), or ampacity, with a custom rig that allowed them to test it alongside metal cables of the same diameter. The cables were tested while they were suspended in the open air, in a vacuum and in nitrogen or argon environments.
Electric cables heat up because of resistance. When the current load exceeds the cable's safe capacity, they get too hot and break. The researchers found nanotube fibers exposed to nitrogen performed best, followed by argon and open air, all of which were able to cool through convection. The same nanotube fibers in a vacuum could only cool by radiation and had the lowest CCC.
"The outcome is that these fibers have the highest CCC ever reported for any carbon-based fibers," Kono said. "Copper still has better resistivity by an order of magnitude, but we have the advantage that carbon fiber is light. So if you divide the CCC by the mass, we win."
Kono plans to further investigate and explore the fiber's multifunctional aspects, including flexible optoelectronic device applications.
A test rig designed by the Kono Lab at Rice allowed nanofiber and copper cables of equivalent mass to be compared. Image courtesy of the Kono Lab
Pasquali suggested the thread-like fibers are light enough to deliver power to aerial vehicles. "Suppose you want to power an unmanned aerial vehicle from the ground," he mused. "You could make it like a kite, with power supplied by our fibers. I wish Ben Franklin were here to see that!"
The paper's co-authors are Rice alumnus Natnael Behabtu and graduate students Colin Young and Dmitri Tsentalovich. Kono is a professor of electrical and computer engineering, of physics and astronomy, and of materials science and nanoenginyeering. Pasquali is a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, chemistry, and materials science and nanoengineering. Tsentalovich, Kono and Pasquali are members of the Richard E. Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology.

The key for success is just working hard and try to do your best. But it also has to be with being at the right place at the right time.

lunes, 3 de febrero de 2014

Making frozen smoke: Commercializing aerogel fabrication process

One day, "frozen smoke" could improve some of our favorite machines, including cars. 

Aerogel samples.

"When you hold aerogel it feels like nothing -- like frozen smoke. It's about 95 to 97 percent air," said Ann Anderson, professor of mechanical engineering. "Nano-porous, solid and very low density, aerogel is made by removing solvents from a wet-gel. It's used for many purposes, like thermal insulation (on the Mars Rover), in windows or in extreme-weather clothing and sensors."

Together with Brad Bruno, associate professor of mechanical engineering, Mary Carroll, professor of chemistry and others, Anderson is studying the feasibility of commercializing their aerogel fabrication process. A time and money-saver, it could appeal to industries already using aerogel made in other ways.

During rapid supercritical extraction (RSCE), chemicals gel together (like Jell-O) in a hot press; the resulting wet-gel is dried by removing solvents (the wet part). The remaining aerogel (dried gel), is created in hours, rather than the days or weeks alternative methods take.

RSCE, Anderson said, is also approximately seven times cheaper, requiring one hour of labor for every 8 hours the other methods need.

A good place for such a process, and Union aerogel, is the automotive industry.

"Our 3-way catalytic aerogels promote chemical reactions that convert the three major pollutants in automotive exhaust -- unburned hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide -- into less harmful water, nitrogen and carbon dioxide," Anderson said. "Because aerogels have very high surface areas and good thermal properties, we think they could replace precious metals, like platinum, used in current catalytic converters."

Indeed, the surface area of one 0.5-gram bit of aerogel equals 250 square meters.

"That's a lot of surface area for gases to come in contact with, facilitating very efficient pollution mitigation," Anderson said.

The team's work has received support from the National Science Foundation, the ACS Petroleum Research Fund and the Union College Faculty Research Fund.

Such amazing materials are also possible thaks to people that are researching continuously to solve out social demands. I think that we scientists should be more taken into account by the whole community because those developments are of great importance. 

Have a nice and extremely scientific week!

domingo, 2 de febrero de 2014

Researcher turns sights on prostate cancer, tissue engineering, blood vessel repair

When biology and materials science converge, the results can be new materials that can be used to deliver targeted drugs, repair damaged arteries or rebuild failing tissues, such as the anterior cruciate ligament, the ACL injury that can end sports careers. One bioengineer is developing polymers designed to target all three.

In this image, polymers are cross linked by both click reactions and condensation reactions and present key-lock clickable surfaces for easy biomolecule conjugation.

Tissue engineering with click chemistry
Finding the right balance between mechanical strength and elasticity in artificial tissue scaffolding has been problematic, as has been the need to add in the desirable traits of biocompatibility and controlled biodegradability. In a recent article in Advanced Materials, Yang and his colleagues in Penn State's Department of Biomedical Engineering and the Academy of Orthopedics of Guangdong Province in China report on the use of thermal click chemistry to make crosslinked citrate-based biodegradable elastomers with high mechanical strength (up to 40 MPa of tensile stress) with easy surface biofunctionalization. In comparison, the ACL has a tensile strength of 38 MPa and most biodegradable elastomers have a dry tensile strength below 10MPa. Click chemistry is a relatively new technique used primarily in drug discovery that uses a few reliable reactions to lock or "click" together small units of biomaterials in simple processes. Yang believes that this is the first reported use of click chemistry to design versatile biodegradable elastomers for tissue engineering.
Beyond superior mechanical strength, Yang's click polymers provide user-friendly and site-specific functionalization with bioactive molecules to, for instance, promote cell growth. In addition the click polymers show a desirable type of biodegradability he calls "first slow then fast." In many tissue engineering applications the preservation of mechanical strength of the artificial scaffolding during the early period of tissue regeneration is important. Yet many elastomeric polymers begin to degrade at a steady rate after implantation. The click polymer in this study, called POC-click-3, had low degradation for a sustained period compared to other polymers, but then rapidly degraded.
Yang and colleagues believe that their clickable biodegradable elastomer design will greatly expand the application of biodegradable polymers in areas such as drug delivery, orthopedic fixation devices, tissue engineering and other types of medical implants. The paper, "Click Chemistry Plays a Dual Role in Biodegradable Polymer Design," was coauthored by Jinshan Guo, Zhiwei Xie, Richard T. Tran and Jian Yang of Penn State, and Denghui Xie, Dadi Jin, and Xiaochun Bai of the Academy of Orthopedics of Guangdong Province.

Blood Vessel Repair
Yang has recently received funding from the National Institutes of Health on a project to develop nanoparticles that promote healing in damaged endothelium, the lining of blood vessels, which can be injured in surgical procedures that unblock clogged arteries.
"Angioplasty and stenting often damage arterial walls," Yang explains, "with a significant risk of subsequent complications, such as re-narrowing of the artery or blood clot." Platelets accumulate on the damaged vessel, initiating clot formation. Other cells can deposit on the cell wall, building up a blockage. The result is multiple surgeries and multiple stent replacements.
Yang and his co-PI Kytai Truong Nguyen at University of Texas Arlington will develop and test a polymer nanoparticle that mimics the platelet in the blood that forms the clot and create a cover over the damage. Their nanoparticle is decorated with a ligand called GP1b peptide that links to endothelial progenitor cells circulating in the blood that can grow into mature endothelial cells. Over time, the nanoparticles will degrade harmlessly as the new blood vessel lining repairs the damage, avoiding the need for a stent. "The surgeon will still do angioplasty first, but not put in a stent. Instead they will inject the nanoparticle solution, if necessary more than once," Yang explains.
"Our nanoparticles have two functions: They will serve as a temporary template to cover injured vascular wall to prevent the underlying smooth muscle cells' over growth inward to block the artery. Once the nanoparticles attach to the vessel wall the platelets cannot attach. Then the nanoparticles will catch the circulating endothelial progenitor cells to form a healthy endothelium on the injured vascular wall. Once the missions are done, the nanoparticles will simply disappear without causing any long-term toxicity. These injectable nanoparticles have worked well in animal models in studies with our collaborators at UT Arlington," Yang says. The team received $1.4 million over four years from the National Institutes of Health to develop this technology.

Attacking prostate cancer
In a second recent award from NIH, Yang and co-principal investigator Jer-Tsong Hsieh, the Dr. John McConnell Distinguished Chair in Prostate Cancer Research at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, received $1.6 million over five years to develop biodegradable nanoparticles to image and treat prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men. If the cancer develops treatment resistance the tumors will keep growing and spread to other parts of the body. To prevent that, Yang and Hsieh will try to identify a prostate cancer specific drug called a genotoxin that will attack the cancer cells, and develop a fluorescent nanoparticle to target the cancer cells. Yang's group plans to add magnetic resonance imaging particles to the fluorescent nanoparticles in order to find the exact location of the tumor. If surgical removal of the cancer is required, fluorescent nanoparticles will attach to cancer cells and help the surgeon identify those small clusters of cancer cells that are usually invisible to the eye.
"We will need to optimize the genotoxin, and make sure we can put it into the nanoparticle. Then we will have to tune the nanoparticle to emit strong fluorescence, and also control the release of the drug into the tumor and not the bloodstream. But we are confident we can do all that," Yang says.

There is a huge need of investing money in this kind of research, otherwise we would not be able to increase the live expectancy. Science is the key, do not forget never this!

miércoles, 29 de enero de 2014

Flexible, transparent conductor created: Discovery brings bendable cell phone, foldable flat-screen TV closer to reality

Researchers have developed a new stretchable and transparent electrical conductor, bringing the potential for a fully foldable cell phone or a flat-screen television that can be folded and carried under your arm closer to reality.

Zhifeng Ren, a physicist at the University of Houston and principal investigator at the Texas Center for Superconductivity, said there long has been research on portable electronics that could be rolled up or otherwise easily transported. But a material that is transparent and has both the necessary flexibility and conductivity has proved elusive -- some materials have two of the components, but until now, finding one with all three has remained difficult.
The gold nanomesh electrodes produced by Ren and his research associates Chuan Fei Guo and Tianyi Sun at UH, along with two colleagues at Harvard University, provide good electrical conductivity as well as transparency and flexibility, the researchers report in a paper published online Tuesday in Nature Communications.
The material also has potential applications for biomedical devices, said Ren, lead author on the paper. The researchers reported that gold nanomesh electrodes, produced by the novel grain boundary lithography, increase resistance only slightly, even at a strain of 160 percent, or after 1,000 cycles at a strain of 50 percent. The nanomesh, a network of fully interconnected gold nanowires, has good electrical conductivity and transparency, and has "ultrahigh stretchability," according to the paper.
And unlike silver or copper, gold nanomesh does not easily oxidize, which Ren said causes a sharp drop in electrical conductivity in silver and copper nanowires. Guo said the group is the first to create a material that is transparent, stretchable and conductive, as well as the first to use grain boundary lithography in the quest to do so. More importantly, he said, it is the first to offer a clear mechanism to produce ultrahigh stretchability.
The grain boundary lithography involved a bilayer lift-off metallization process, which included an indium oxide mask layer and a silicon oxide sacrificial layer and offers good control over the dimensions of the mesh structure.
"This is very useful to the field of foldable electronics," Guo said. "It is much more transportable." Sun noted that Korean electronics maker Samsung demonstrated a cellphone with a bendable screen in October; LG Electronics has introduced a curved cellphone that is available now in Asia.
But neither is truly foldable or stretchable, instead curving slightly to better fit against the user's face. "For that kind of device, we need something flexible, transparent," Sun said of a foldable phone. "If we want to further that technology, we need something else, and the something else could be the technology we are developing."
Ren noted that, although gold nanomesh is superior to other materials tested, even it broke and electrical resistance increased when it was stretched. But he said conductivity resumed when it was returned to the original dimensions.
That didn't prove true with silver, he said, presumably because of high oxidation. The work at the University of Houston was funded by the Department of Energy, while that at Harvard was funded by a National Science Foundation grant.

Even for those who care about technology and want the new tech items as they are launched out, science has always the answer!!!

martes, 28 de enero de 2014

Graphene-like material made of boron a possibility, experiments suggest

Graphene, a sheet of carbon one atom thick, may soon have a new nanomaterial partner. In the lab and on supercomputers, chemists have determined that a cluster of 36 boron atoms forms a flat disc with a hexagonal hole in the middle. The shape fits theoretical predictions for a potential new nanomaterial: "borophene."

Researchers from Brown University have shown experimentally that a boron-based competitor to graphene is a very real possibility. Graphene has been heralded as a wonder material. Made of a single layer of carbon atoms in a honeycomb arrangement, graphene is stronger pound-for-pound than steel and conducts electricity better than copper. Since the discovery of graphene, scientists have wondered if boron, carbon's neighbor on the periodic table, could also be arranged in single-atom sheets. Theoretical work suggested it was possible, but the atoms would need to be in a very particular arrangement.

Boron has one fewer electron than carbon and as a result can't form the honeycomb lattice that makes up graphene. For boron to form a single-atom layer, theorists suggested that the atoms must be arranged in a triangular lattice with hexagonal vacancies -- holes -- in the lattice.
"That was the prediction," said Lai-Sheng Wang, professor of chemistry at Brown, "but nobody had made anything to show that's the case."

"We haven't made borophene yet, but this work suggests that this structure is more than just a calculation."Wang and his research group, which has studied boron chemistry for many years, have now produced the first experimental evidence that such a structure is possible. In a paper published on January 20 in Nature Communications, Wang and his team showed that a cluster made of 36 boron atoms (B36) forms a symmetrical, one-atom thick disc with a perfect hexagonal hole in the middle. "It's beautiful," Wang said. "It has exact hexagonal symmetry with the hexagonal hole we were looking for. The hole is of real significance here. It suggests that this theoretical calculation about a boron planar structure might be right."
It may be possible, Wang said, to use B36 basis to form an extended planar boron sheet. In other words, B36 may well be the embryo of a new nanomaterial that Wang and his team have dubbed "borophene." "We still only have one unit," Wang said. "We haven't made borophene yet, but this work suggests that this structure is more than just a calculation."

The work required a combination of laboratory experiments and computational modeling. In the lab, Wang and his student, Wei-Li Li, probe the properties of boron clusters using a technique called photoelectron spectroscopy. They start by zapping chunks of bulk boron with a laser to create vapor of boron atoms. A jet of helium then freezes the vapor into tiny clusters of atoms. Those clusters are then zapped with a second laser, which knocks an electron out of the cluster and sends it flying down a long tube that Wang calls his "electron racetrack." The speed at which the electron flies down the racetrack is used to determine the cluster's electron binding energy spectrum -- a readout of how tightly the cluster holds its electrons. That spectrum serves as fingerprint of the cluster's structure.

Wang's experiments showed that the B36 cluster was something special. It had an extremely low electron binding energy compared to other boron clusters. The shape of the cluster's binding spectrum also suggested that it was a symmetrical structure.
To find out exactly what that structure might look like, Wang turned to Zachary Piazza, one of his graduate students specializing in computational chemistry. Piazza began modeling potential structures for B36 on a supercomputer, investigating more than 3,000 possible arrangements of those 36 atoms. Among the arrangements that would be stable was the planar disc with the hexagonal hole.

"As soon as I saw that hexagonal hole," Wang said, "I told Zach, 'We have to investigate that.'"
To ensure that they have truly found the most stable arrangement of the 36 boron atoms, they enlisted the help of Jun Li, who is a professor of chemistry at Tsinghua University in Beijing and a former senior research scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, Wash. Li, a longtime collaborator of Wang's, has developed a new method of finding stable structures of clusters, which would be suitable for the job at hand. Piazza spent the summer of 2013 at PNNL working with Li and his students on the B36 project. They used the supercomputer at PNNL to examine more possible arrangements of the 36 boron atoms and compute their electron binding spectra. They found that the planar disc with a hexagonal hole matched very closely with the spectrum measured in the lab experiments, indicating that the structure Piazza found initially on the computer was indeed the structure of B36.
That structure also fits the theoretical requirements for making borophene, which is an extremely interesting prospect, Wang said. The boron-boron bond is very strong, nearly as strong as the carbon-carbon bond. So borophene should be very strong. Its electrical properties may be even more interesting. Borophene is predicted to be fully metallic, whereas graphene is a semi-metal. That means borophene might end up being a better conductor than graphene. "That is," Wang cautions, "if anyone can make it."

So here there is another amazing chemical discovery!!! Ther never end of science!!!

viernes, 24 de enero de 2014

Carbon Dioxide Paves the Way to Unique Nanomaterials

In common perception, carbon dioxide is just a greenhouse gas, one of the major environmental problems of humankind. For Warsaw chemists CO2 became, however, something else: a key element of reactions allowing for creation of nanomaterials with unprecedented properties.

That Science is advancing day after day or even second after second is a fact. As you may know, I am a chemist but I cannot even avoid wondering myself when seeing this amazing and fast development of science. This discovery is quite important as it may let people think little by little that chemistry is not that bad.

(Credit: Image courtesy of Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences)

In reaction with carbon dioxide, appropriately designed chemicals allowed researchers from the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences (IPC PAS) in Warsaw and the Faculty of Chemistry, Warsaw University of Technology, (WUT) for production of unprecedented nanomaterials. These novel materials are highly porous, and in their class they show the most extended, and so the largest surface area, which is of key importance for the envisaged use. Prospective applications include storage of energetically important gases, catalysis or sensing devices. Moreover, microporous fluorescent materials obtained using CO2 emit light with quantum yield significantly higher than those of classical materials used in OLEDs.

"Our research is not confined to fabrication of materials. Its particular importance comes from the fact that it opens a new synthetic route to metal carbonate and metal oxide based nanomaterials, the route where carbon dioxide plays a key role," notices Prof. Janusz Lewiński (IPC PAS, WUT).

The papers reporting accomplishments of Prof. Lewiński's group, achieved in cooperation with Cambridge University and University of Nottingham, were published, i.a., by the chemical journals Angewandte Chemie and Chemical Communications.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a natural component of Earth's atmosphere. It is the most abundant carbon-based building block, and is involved in the synthesis of glucose, an energy carrier and building unit of paramount importance for living organisms."Carbon dioxide has been for years used in industrial synthesis of polymers. On the other hand, there has been very few research papers reporting fabrication of inorganic functional materials using CO2," says Kamil Sokołowski, a doctoral student in IPC PAS.

Prof. Lewiński's group has shown that appropriately designed precursor compounds in reaction with carbon dioxide lead to fabrication of a microporous material (with pore diameters below 2 nm) resulting from self-assembly of luminescent nanoclusters. Novel microporous material, composed of building blocks with zinc carbonate core encapsulated in appropriately designed organic shell (hydroxyquinoline ligands), is highly luminescent, with photoluminescence quantum yield significantly higher than those of classical fluorescent compounds used in state-of-the-art OLEDs.

"Using carbon dioxide as a building block we were able to construct a highly porous and really highly luminescent material. Can it be used for construction of luminescent diodes or sensing devices? The discovery is new, the research work on the novel material is in progress, but we are deeply convinced that the answer is: yes," says Sokołowski. Polish and international patent applications were filed for the invention and the implementation work in cooperation with a joint venture company is in progress.

The design of precursors was inspired by nature, in particular by the binding of carbon dioxide in enzymatic systems of carbonic anhydrase, an enzyme responsible for fast metabolism of CO2 in human body. Effective enzyme activity is based on its active centre, where a hydroxyzinc (ZnOH) type reaction system is located. The strategy for materials synthesis using carbon dioxide and appropriate alkylhydroxyzinc precursors, seems to be a versatile tool for production of various functional materials. Depending on the composition of the reagents and the process conditions, a mesoporous material (with pore diameter from 2 to 50 nm) composed of zinc carbonate nanoparticles or multinuclear zinc nanocapsules for prospective applications in supramolecular chemistry can be obtained in addition to the material described above.

Further research of Prof. Lewiński's group has shown that the mesoporous materials based on ZnCO3-nanoparticles can be transformed into zinc oxide (ZnO) aerogels. Mesoporous materials made of ZnO nanoparticles with extended surface can be used as catalytic fillings, allowing for and accelerating reactions of various gaseous reagents. Other potential applications are related to semiconducting properties of zinc oxide. That's why the novel materials can be used in future in photovoltaic cells or as a major component of semiconductor sensing devices.

Science development is a never end way. Think about that and have a nice and scientific weekend!!!