Glowing Lanthanides

It’s not the first time we bring these people to our website, and there are several reasons for that. First of all, they keep hiring us to make cool images for them. But the main reason is that they are doing amazing work in the field of chemical sensors.

These time Dr. Juan Cabanillas-Gonzalez and Dr. Jose Sanchez Costa, both at IMDEA Nanociencia (Spain) bring us “A novel gas sensing mechanism exploiting lanthanide luminescence modulation upon NO2 adsorption”. To make a long story short, this is a crystal that glows beautifully when NO2 is around.

This has not only useful practical applications in the detection of NO2 market; it would make a beautiful luminescence displays without requiring expensive electronics. “But it also provides understanding of the nature and effects of NO2 interactions within the MOFs and the signal transduction mechanism.” You can read more about it in their recent article.

The picture we did to illustrate this experiment was featured on the cover of the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters.

 

 

Field Effect, now in 2D!

Despite his age, Dr. Mario Lanza has a long experience and deep knowledge on the physics and development of micro and nanoelectronic devices. In this recent article he an his coworkers discuss “the main challenges and potential solutions towards the fabrication of field effect transistors with 2D semiconducting channels”. In particular, there is a useful analysis on how this technology, now dealing with sizes that approach the interatomic distances, could be implemented in the current semiconductor industry.

This picture we did for him was featured on the cover of Advanced Functional Materials.

Quantum coherence stability

Quantum technologies building on solid-state spin systems, as those used in quantum computing and quantum internet, require unprecedented levels of stability. Even small fluctuations in ambient magnetic field messes up with the coherence time of these systems. So for these technologies to have any future we first have to learn how to stabilize and protect individual quantum ensembles. Doctor (congratulations on that) Johannes Koelbl at Basel University, has spent quite some time dealing with this challenge.

 

In this picture we made for him it is shown a Nitrogen-Vacancy center spin embedded in a diamond mechanical cantilever. As Dr. Koelbl explains: “To enhance its coherence properties, the spin is driven by both a time-varying strain field and microwave magnetic fields. The strain field is caused by harmonic oscillations of the cantilever, while the nearby wire serves as a near-field microwave source. Optical manipulation allows detecting the improved spin properties.”

He has chosen this picture to appear in the cover of his thesis manuscript.

Weighing tumorigenic cells

One of the last papers published by BioNanoMechanics Lab mixes biology, medicine, mechanics and optics. They have developed an efficient method to tell tumorigenic cells from healthy ones using mechanical and optical techniques. This group of researchers seems to be truly committed with the removal of the border between physics and biology.

The resonance frequency of an object ( ωf ) is amazingly sensitive to nearly everything, and in particular, to changes in mass of the object. Now imagine you built a very small glass capillary tube, you fill it with water with cells suspended in it. In this conditions, ωf  will depend somehow in the mass of the cells. Now lets say, tumorigenic and healthy cells have different masses: there you have it! Your oscillating microcapillary tube is now a cancer detector.

Of course it is not that easy. To be sure they are measuring single cells and not clusters of cells or other suspended elements, they’ve added an optical probe, that produces, together with the mechanical data, a simultaneous optical measurement.

In summary, they’ve developed a novel, fast, efficient and beautifully ingenious way to detect tumorigenic cells.

This picture we did under the supervision of Montserrat Calleja and Alberto Martín was featured on the cover of ACS Sensors in December 2019.

pH‐dependent switches

We’ve had the fortune to work for researchers that study the drug delivery process. Ana Pizarro at IMDEA Nanociencia is focusing her efforts in the understanding of how and when to activate this drugs. In an article written for Chemistry A European Journal in 2017 she showed how to control in‐tumor drug activation via pH.

Innactive Ruthenium(II) arene complexes are innocuous and unable to interact with their molecular target. However, at a certain proton concentration this molecules are activated making it possible for them to bind to DNA.

Tumors happen to have a different pH than their environment making this complexes a possible option as drug switches.

I inexcusably forgot this work, considering the importance I give to medical related researchs. Her work was featured in the cover of the journal.

 

Self-defending implants

The manufacturing of bone implants involves a great deal of problems which are still to be solved. One of the most important challenges are implant-associated infections which make the development of implants with intrinsic antibacterial properties a pressing issue. This is precisely what they are trying to achieve at the Department of Biomechanical Engineering (TU Delft).

They’ve just studied the effect of both Ag and copper nanoparticles on TiO2 surfaces and its effectiveness as antibacterial and osteoconductive biomaterials. In fact they’ve observed that these materials “have a strong antibacterial behavior against both planktonic and adherent bacteria in vitro conditions.”

These results have been published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry B and have been featured on the cover. We designed the picture under the supervision of Ingmar A. J. van Hengel, first author of the paper. 

Influenza: the secret of its success

We, as human’s, are pretty familiar with the influenza A virus, so it is confusing to know how much there is still to learn about it. And researchers from CSIC have just reduced our ignorance about it a little bit more. Together with researchers from Stockholm University, CNRS, and Institut Pasteur, and using cryoelectron microscopy, they’ve  unveiled the transcription mechanism of this virus. This is important, among other reasons, to understand why this virus is so successful. And its been published in Nature Microbiology.

The molecules responsible for transcription are the ribonucleoproteins (RNPs). This RNPs which are extremely flexible, adopt a double helical conformation. In this configuration, the RNA, attached to the RNPs, slides in a sort of worm drive fashion. This process can be seen in the video we made for them as supplementary information for their paper. As put by the researchers, “the flexibility of the viral RNPs is key and explains how the virus is able to create a big amount of proteins from a limited number of genes”.

We also attempted the cover of Nature with this picture.

I’ve never whined about not getting a cover, but there is always a first. I’ve had the privilege to follow this research for about two years, thanks to Jaime Martín-Benito, so I can’t but feel it as something personal. The discovery is amazingly important and the picture is really beautiful (idea of Jaime Martín-Benito, corresponding author of the paper). And it deserves to be shown! So here it is for your enjoyment.

Red light

A new small molecule, a hexabenzoovalene derivative, also called nanographene due to its similarities with the ubiquitous molecule, has been discovered to be a stable, bright, and efficient red emitter. This molecule has a highly distorted structure. This avoids aggregation, an important enemy of efficiency, thus leading to the possibility of fabricating highly emissive thin films. At the same time, it is electrochemically stable resulting in extrapolated high stabilities (~13.000 hours).

This work is the product of a collaboration between IMDEA Materials, IMDEA Nanociencia, both in Madrid and Ruprecht-Karls-Universität in Heidelberg.

This findings have been published in Nanoscale Horizons and this picture, designed under the supervision of Elisa Fresta (IMDEA Materials), first author of the paper, has been awarded with the cover of the journal.

 

Listen to your heart!

Topological insulators (TIs) are way beyond my understanding but at the same time I cant help but appreciate its beauty. TIs are usually associated with photonics but are showing to be useful also in the fields of acoustics and mechanics. Dr. Johan Christensen in a collaborative research between Spain and China (Universidad Carlos III de Madrid and Nanjing University) has “experimentally explored topologically robust corner states across three different frequency bands,  measured sound intensity concentration in the long wavelength regime comprising highly confined corner states of diameter 50 times smaller than the sound wavelength”.

As a proof of concept, they’ve designed a physical pattern that produces an intensity sound pattern in a beautiful heart shape: art and science at its best! Their research has been published in Advanced Materials. The hallmark and key manifestation of topological states is the robustness against defects. In this context, the authors additionally demonstrate that the proposed deep‐subwavelength TI displays remarkable resilience against bulk disorder over the said frequency area, making this concept remarkably robust for real world applications.

Drug Transport in 3D Tumor Model

We’ve already work for Prof. Calderon and his group in the past. They seem the kind of people that work directly to enlarge our life expectancy. Their main research is focused in the delivery of drugs through physiological barriers. They’ve made an important advance recently by studying how nanogels can help in the transport of drugs inside tumor tissue.

Their research, reported in Theranostics, has been awarded with the cover of the journal.