• 2D Hexagonal Boron Nitride (2D-hBN) Explored for the Electrochemical Sensing of Dopamine

      Khan, Aamar F.; Brownson, Dale A. C.; Randviir, Edward P.; Smith, Graham C.; Banks, Craig E.; Manchester Metropolitan University (Khan, Brownson, Randviir, Banks); University of Chester (Smith) (American Chemical Society, 2016-09-23)
      Crystalline 2D hexagonal boron nitride (2D-hBN) nanosheets are explored as a potential electrocatalyst toward the electroanalytical sensing of dopamine (DA). The 2D-hBN nanosheets are electrically wired via a drop-casting modi fication process onto a range of commercially available carbon supporting electrodes, including glassy carbon (GC), boron-doped diamond (BDD), and screen-printed graphitic electrodes (SPEs). 2D-hBN has not previously been explored toward the electrochemical detection/electrochemical sensing of DA. We critically evaluate the potential electrocatalytic performance of 2D-hBN modified electrodes, the effect of supporting carbon electrode platforms, and the effect of “mass coverage” (which is commonly neglected in the 2D material literature) toward the detection of DA. The response of 2D-hBN modified electrodes is found to be largely dependent upon the interaction between 2D-hBN and the underlying supporting electrode material. For example, in the case of SPEs, modification with 2D-hBN (324 ng) improves the electrochemical response, decreasing the electrochemical oxidation potential of DA by ∼ 90 mV compared to an unmodified SPE. Conversely, modification of a GC electrode with 2D-hBN (324 ng) resulted in an increased oxidation potential of DA by ∼ 80 mV when compared to the unmodified electrode. We explore the underlying mechanisms of the aforementioned examples and infer that electrode surface interactions and roughness factors are critical considerations. 2D-hBN is utilized toward the sensing of DA in the presence of the common interferents ascorbic acid (AA) and uric acid (UA). 2D-hBN is found to be an effective electrocatalyst in the simultaneous detection of DA and UA at both pH 5.0 and 7.4. The peak separations/resolution between DA and UA increases by ∼ 70 and 50 mV (at pH 5.0 and 7.4, respectively, when utilizing 108 ng of 2D-hBN) compared to unmodified SPEs, with a particularly favorable response evident in pH 5.0, giving rise to a significant increase in the peak current of DA. The limit of detection (3σ) is found to correspond to 0.65 μM for DA in the presence of UA. However, it is not possible to deconvolute the simultaneous detection of DA and AA. The observed electrocatalytic effect at 2D-hBN has not previously been reported in the literature when supported upon carbon or any other electrode. We provide valuable insights into the modifier −substrate interactions of this material, essential for those designing, fabricating, and consequently performing electrochemical experiments utilizing 2D-hBN and related 2D materials.
    • Aerosol Chemistry Resolved by Mass Spectrometry: Linking Field Measurements of Cloud Condensation Nuclei Activity to Organic Aerosol Composition

      Vogel, Alexander; Schneider, Johannes; Mueller-Tautges, Christina; Phillips, Gavin J.; Poehlker, Mira L.; Rose, Diana; Zuth, Christoph; Makkonen, Ulla; Hakola, Hannele; Crowley, John N.; et al. (American Chemical Society, 2016-10-06)
      Aerosol hygroscopic properties were linked to its chemical composition by using complementary online mass spectrometric techniques in a comprehensive chemical characterization study at a rural mountaintop station in central Germany in August 2012. In particular, atmospheric pressure chemical ionization mass spectrometry ((−)APCI-MS) provided measurements of organic acids, organosulfates, and nitrooxy-organosulfates in the particle phase at 1 min time resolution. Offline analysis of filter samples enabled us to determine the molecular composition of signals appearing in the online (−)APCI-MS spectra. Aerosol mass spectrometry (AMS) provided quantitative measurements of total submicrometer organics, nitrate, sulfate, and ammonium. Inorganic sulfate measurements were achieved by semionline ion chromatography and were compared to the AMS total sulfate mass. We found that up to 40% of the total sulfate mass fraction can be covalently bonded to organic molecules. This finding is supported by both on- and offline soft ionization techniques, which confirmed the presence of several organosulfates and nitrooxy-organosulfates in the particle phase. The chemical composition analysis was compared to hygroscopicity measurements derived from a cloud condensation nuclei counter. We observed that the hygroscopicity parameter (κ) that is derived from organic mass fractions determined by AMS measurements may overestimate the observed κ up to 0.2 if a high fraction of sulfate is bonded to organic molecules and little photochemical aging is exhibited.
    • Computational benchmarking for ultrafast electron dynamics: wavefunction methods vs density functional theory

      Oliveira, Micael J. T.; Mignolet, Benoit; Kus, Tomasz; Papadopoulos, Theodoros A.; Remacle, Francoise; Verstraete, Matthieu J.; University of Chester (American Chemical Society, 2015-05-12)
      Attosecond electron dynamics in small- and medium-sized molecules, induced by an ultrashort strong optical pulse, is studied computationally for a frozen nuclear geometry. The importance of exchange and correlation effects on the nonequilibrium electron dynamics induced by the interaction of the molecule with the strong optical pulse is analyzed by comparing the solution of the time-dependent Schrodinger equation based on the correlated field-free stationary electronic states computed with the equation-of-motion coupled cluster singles and doubles and the complete active space multi-configurational self-consistent field methodologies on one hand, and various functionals in real-time time-dependent density functional theory (TD-DFT) on the other. We aim to evaluate the performance of the latter approach, which is very widely used for nonlinear absorption processes and whose computational cost has a more favorable scaling with the system size. We focus on LiH as a toy model for a nontrivial molecule and show that our conclusions carry over to larger molecules, exemplified by ABCU (C10H19N). The molecules are probed with IR and UV pulses whose intensities are not strong enough to significantly ionize the system. By comparing the evolution of the time-dependent field-free electronic dipole moment, as well as its Fourier power spectrum, we show that TD-DFT performs qualitatively well in most cases. Contrary to previous studies, we find almost no changes in the TD-DFT excitation energies when excited states are populated. Transitions between states of different symmetries are induced using pulses polarized in different directions. We observe that the performance of TD-DFT does not depend on the symmetry of the states involved in the transition.
    • Evidence of Lipid Exchange in Styrene Maleic Acid Lipid Particle (SMALP) Nanodisc Systems

      Hazell, Gavin; Arnold, Thomas; Tognoloni, Cecilia; Barker, Robert; Clifton, Luke; Steinke, Nina-Juliane; Edler, Karen; University of Chester, University of Bath, University of Dundee, ISIS, Diamond Light Source (American Chemical Society, 2016-10-14)
      Styrene-alt-maleic Acid lipid particles (SMALPs) are self-assembled discoidal structures composed of a polymer belt and a segment of lipid bilayer, which are capable of encapsulating membrane proteins directly from the cell membrane. Here we present evidence of the exchange of lipids between such “nanodiscs” and lipid monolayers adsorbed at either solid-liquid or air-liquid interfaces. This behavior has important implications for the potential uses of nanodiscs, including the potential to control lipid composition within nanodiscs containing membrane proteins
    • Graphite Screen-Printed Electrodes Applied for the Accurate and Reagentless Sensing of pH

      Galdino, Flávia E.; Smith, Jamie P.; Kwamou, Sophie I.; Kampouris, Dimitrios K.; Iniesta, Jesus; Smith, Graham C.; Bonacin, Juliano A.; Banks, Craig E.; University of Campinas, Brazil (Galdino, Bonacin), Manchester Metropolitain University (JP Smith, Kampouris, Banks), Universite Paris Est Creteil, France (Kwamou), University of Alicante, Spain (Inestia), University of Chester (GC Smith) (American Chemical Society, 2015-11-12)
      A reagentless pH sensor based upon disposable and economical graphite screen-printed electrodes (GSPEs) is demonstrated for the first time. The voltammetric pH sensor utilises GSPEs which are chemically pre-treated to form surface immobilised oxygenated species that when their redox behaviour is monitored, give a Nernstian response over a large pH range (1-13). An excellent experimental correlation is observed between the voltammetric potential and pH over the entire pH range of 1-13, such a response is not usually expected but rather deviation from linearity is encountered at alkaline pH values; absence of this has previously been attributed to a change in pKa value of surface immobilised groups. This non-deviation, which is observed here in the case of our facile produced reagentless pH sensor and also reported in the literature for pH sensitive compounds immobilized upon carbon electrodes/surfaces,where a linear response is observed over the entire pH range, is explained alternatively for the first time. The performance of the GSPE pH sensor is directly compared with a glass pH probe and applied to the measurement of pH in real samples where an excellent correlation between the two protocols is observed validating the proposed GSPE pH sensor.
    • Low Work Function Lacunary Polyoxometalates as Electron Transport Interlayers for Inverted Polymer Solar Cells of Improved Efficiency and Stability

      Tountas, Marinos; Topal, Yasemin; Polydorou, Ermioni; Soultati, Anastasia; Verykios, Apostolos; Kaltzoglou, Andreas; Papadopoulos, Theodoros A.; Auras, Florian; Seintis, Konstantinos; Fakis, Mihalis; et al. (American Chemical Society, 2017-06-06)
      Effective interface engineering has been shown to play a vital role in facilitating efficient charge-carrier transport, thus boosting the performance of organic photovoltaic devices. Herein, we employ water-soluble lacunary polyoxometalates (POMs) as multifunctional interlayers between the titanium dioxide (TiO2) electron extraction/transport layer and the organic photoactive film to simultaneously enhance the efficiency, lifetime, and photostability of polymer solar cells (PSCs). A significant reduction in the work function (WF) of TiO2 upon POM utilization was observed, with the magnitude being controlled by the negative charge of the anion and the selection of the addenda atom (W or Mo). By inserting a POM interlayer with ∼10 nm thickness into the device structure, a significant improvement in the power conversion efficiency was obtained; the optimized POM-modified poly[[4,8-bis[(2-ethylhexyl)oxy]benzo[1,2-b:4,5-b′]dithiophene-2,6-diyl][3-fluoro-2-[(2- 33 ethylhexyl)carbonyl]thieno[3,4-b]thiophenediyl]]:[6,6]-phenyl-C70 butyric acid methyl ester (PTB7:PC70BM)-based PSCs exhibited an efficiency of 8.07%, which represents a 21% efficiency enhancement compared to the reference TiO2 cell. Similar results were obtained in POM-modified devices based on poly(3-hexylthiophene) (P3HT) with electron acceptors of different energy levels, such as PC70BM or indene-C60 bisadduct (IC60BA), which enhanced their efficiency up to 4.34 and 6.21%, respectively, when using POM interlayers; this represents a 25–33% improvement as compared to the reference cells. Moreover, increased lifetime under ambient air and improved photostability under constant illumination were observed in POM-modified devices. Detailed analysis shows that the improvements in efficiency and stability synergistically stem from the reduced work function of TiO2 upon POM coverage, the improved nanomorphology of the photoactive blend, the reduced interfacial recombination losses, the superior electron transfer, and the more effective exciton dissociation at the photoactive layer/POM/TiO2 interfaces.
    • Magnetron Sputter-Coated Nanoparticle MoS2 Supported on Nanocarbon: A Highly Efficient Electrocatalyst toward the Hydrogen Evolution Reaction

      Rowley-Neale, Samuel J.; Ratova, Marina; Fugita, Lucas; Smith, Graham C.; Gaffar, Amer; Kulczyk-Malecka, Justyna; Kelly, Peter J.; Banks, Craig E.; Manchester Metropolitan niversity (Rowley-Neale, Ratova, Gaffar, Kulczyk-Malecka, Kelly, Banks), University of Chester (Smith), University Soa Paula (Fugita) (American Chemical Society, 2018-07-03)
      The design and fabrication of inexpensive highly efficient electrocatalysts for the production of hydrogen via the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) underpin a plethora of emerging clean energy technologies. Herein, we report the fabrication of highly efficient electrocatalysts for the HER based on magnetron-sputtered MoS2 onto a nanocarbon support, termed MoS2/C. Magnetron sputtering time is explored as a function of its physiochemical composition and HER performance; increased sputtering times give rise to materials with differing compositions, i.e., Mo4+ to Mo6+ and associated S anions (sulfide, elemental, and sulfate), and improved HER outputs. An optimized sputtering time of 45 min was used to fabricate the MoS2/C material. This gave rise to an optimal HER performance with regard to its HER onset potential, achievable current, and Tafel value, which were −0.44 (vs saturated calomel electrode (SCE)), −1.45 mV s−1, and 43 mV dec−1, respectively, which has the highest composition of Mo4+ and sulfide (MoS2). Electrochemical testing toward the HER via drop casting MoS2/C upon screen-printed electrodes (SPEs) to electrically wire the nanomaterial is found to be mass coverage dependent, where the current density increases up to a critical mass (ca. 50 μg cm−2), after which a plateau is observed. To allow for a translation of the bespoke fabricated MoS2/C from laboratory to new industrial applications, MoS2/C was incorporated into the bulk ink utilized in the fabrication of SPEs (denoted as MoS2/C-SPE), thus allowing for improved electrical wiring to the MoS2/C and resulting in the production of scalable and reproducible electrocatalytic platforms. The MoS2/C-SPEs displayed far greater HER catalysis with a 450 mV reduction in the HER onset potential and a 1.70 mA cm−2 increase in the achievable current density (recorded at −0.75 V (vs SCE)), compared to a bare/unmodified graphitic SPE. The approach of using magnetron sputtering to modify carbon with MoS2 facilitates the production of mass-producible, stable, and effective electrode materials for possible use in electrolyzers, which are cost competitive to Pt and mitigate the need to use time-consuming and low-yield exfoliation techniques typically used to fabricate pristine MoS2.
    • Mass-Producible 2D-MoS2‑Impregnated Screen-Printed Electrodes

      Rowley-Neale, Samuel J.; Smith, Graham C.; Banks, Craig E.; Manchester Metropolitan University; University of Chester; (American Chemical Society, 2017-06-02)
      Two-dimensional molybdenum disulfide (2D-MoS2) screen-printed electrodes (2D-MoS2-SPEs) have been designed, fabricated, and evaluated toward the electrochemical oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) within acidic aqueous media. A screen-printable ink has been developed that allows for the tailoring of the 2D-MoS2 content/mass used in the fabrication of the 2D-MoS2-SPEs, which critically affects the observed ORR performance. In comparison to the graphite SPEs (G-SPEs), the 2D-MoS2-SPEs are shown to exhibit an electrocatalytic behavior toward the ORR which is found, critically, to be reliant upon the percentage mass incorporation of 2D-MoS2 in the 2D-MoS2-SPEs; a greater percentage mass of 2D-MoS2 incorporated into the 2D-MoS2-SPEs results in a significantly less electronegative ORR onset potential and a greater signal output (current density). Using optimally fabricated 2D-MoS2-SPEs, an ORR onset and a peak current of approximately +0.16 V [vs saturated calomel electrode (SCE)] and −1.62 mA cm–2, respectively, are observed, which exceeds the −0.53 V (vs SCE) and −635 μA cm–2 performance of unmodified G-SPEs, indicating an electrocatalytic response toward the ORR utilizing the 2D-MoS2-SPEs. An investigation of the underlying electrochemical reaction mechanism of the ORR within acidic aqueous solutions reveals that the reaction proceeds via a direct four-electron process for all of the 2D-MoS2-SPE variants studied herein, where oxygen is electrochemically favorably reduced to water. The fabricated 2D-MoS2-SPEs are found to exhibit no degradation in the observed achievable current over the course of 1000 repeat scans. The production of such inks and the resultant mass-producible 2D-MoS2-SPEs mitigates the need to modify post hoc an electrode via the drop-casting technique that has been previously shown to result in a loss of achievable current over the course of 1000 repeat scans. The 2D-MoS2-SPEs designed, fabricated, and tested herein could have commercial viability as electrocatalytic fuel cell electrodes because of being economical as a result of their scales of economy and inherent tailorability. The technique utilized herein to produce the 2D-MoS2-SPEs could be adapted for the incorporation of different 2D nanomaterials, resulting in SPEs with the inherent advantages identified above.
    • Surfactants at the design limit

      Hazell, Gavin; Czajka, Adam; Eastoe, Julian; University of Chester, University of Bristol (American Chemical Society, 2015-08-04)
      This article analyzes how the individual structural elements of surfactant molecules affect surface properties, in particular, the point of reference defined by the limiting surface tension at the aqueous cmc, γcmc. Particular emphasis is given to how the chemical nature and structure of the hydrophobic tails influence γcmc. By comparing the three different classes of surfactants, fluorocarbon, silicone, and hydrocarbon, a generalized surface packing index is introduced which is independent of the chemical nature of the surfactants. This parameter ϕcmc represents the volume fraction of surfactant chain fragments in a surface film at the aqueous cmc. It is shown that ϕcmc is a useful index for understanding the limiting surface tension of surfactants and can be useful for designing new superefficient surfactants.
    • Terahertz reading of ferroelectric domain wall dielectric switching

      Zhang, Man; Chen, Zhe; Yue, Yajun; Chen, Tao; Yan, Zhongna; Jiang, Qinghui; Yang, Bin; Eriksson, Mirva; Tang, Jianhua; Zhang, Dou; et al.
      Ferroelectric domain walls (DWs) are important nano scale interfaces between two domains. It is widely accepted that ferroelectric domain walls work idly at terahertz (THz) frequencies, consequently discouraging efforts to engineer the domain walls to create new applications that utilise THz radiation. However, the present work clearly demonstrates the activity of domain walls at THz frequencies in a lead free Aurivillius phase ferroelectric ceramic, Ca0.99Rb0.005Ce0.005Bi2Nb2O9, examined using THz time domain spectroscopy (THz-TDS). The dynamics of domain walls are different at kHz and THz frequencies. At low frequencies, domain walls work as a group to increase dielectric permittivity. At THz frequencies, the defective nature of domain walls serves to lower the overall dielectric permittivity. This is evidenced by higher dielectric permittivity in the THz band after poling, reflecting decreased domain wall density. An elastic vibrational model has also been used to verify that a single frustrated dipole in a domain wall represents a weaker contribution to the permittivity than its counterpart within a domain. The work represents a fundamental breakthrough in understanding dielectric contributions of domain walls at THz frequencies. It also demonstrates that THz probing can be used to read domain wall dielectric switching.
    • Ultrafast Electric Field-induced Phase Transition in Bulk Bi0.5Na0.5TiO3 under High Intensity Terahertz Irradiation

      Yang, Bin; Zhang, Man; McKinnon, Ruth A.; Viola, Giuseppe; Zhang, Dou; Reece, Michael J.; Abrahams, Isaac; Yan, Haixue; University of Chester; Queen Mary University of London; Central South University
      Ultrafast polarization switching is being considered for the next generation of ferroelectric based devices. Recently, the dynamics of the field-induced transitions associated with this switching have been difficult to explore, due to technological limitations. The advent of terahertz (THz) technology has now allowed for the study of these dynamic processes on the picosecond (ps) scale. In this paper, intense terahertz (THz) pulses were used as a high-frequency electric field to investigate ultrafast switching in the relaxor ferroelectric, Bi0.5Na0.5TiO3. Transient atomic-scale responses, which were evident as changes in reflectivity, were captured by THz probing. The high energy THz pulses induce an increase in reflectivity, associated with an ultrafast field-induced phase transition from a weakly polar phase (Cc) to a strongly polar phase (R3c) within 20 ps at 200 K. This phase transition was confirmed using X-ray powder diffraction and by electrical measurements which showed a decrease in the frequency dispersion of relative permittivity at low frequencies.