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  1. Stable glasses (SGs) are formed through surface-mediated equilibration (SME) during physical vapor deposition (PVD). Unlike intermolecular interactions, the role of intramolecular degrees of freedom in this process remains unexplored. Here, using experiments and coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations, we demonstrate that varying dihedral rotation barriers of even a single bond, in otherwise isomeric molecules, can strongly influence the structure and stability of PVD glasses. These effects arise from variations in the degree of surface mobility, mobility gradients, and mobility anisotropy, at a given deposition temperature ( T dep ). At high T dep , flexible molecules have access to more configurations, which enhances the rate of SME, forming isotropic SGs. At low T dep , stability is achieved by out of equilibrium aging of the surface layer. Here, the poor packing of rigid molecules enhances the rate of surface-mediated aging, producing stable glasses with layered structures in a broad range of T dep . In contrast, the dynamics of flexible molecules couple more efficiently to the glass layers underneath, resulting in reduced mobility and weaker mobility gradients, producing unstable glasses. Independent of stability, the flattened shape of flexible molecules can also promote in-plane orientational order at low T dep . These results indicate that small changes in intramolecular relaxation barriers can be used as an approach to independently tune the structure and mobility profiles of the surface layer and, thus, the stability and structure of PVD glasses. 
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  2. null (Ed.)
  3. Abstract

    MXenes, a family of 2D transition‐metal carbides and nitrides, have excellent electrical conductivity and unique optical properties. However, MXenes oxidize in ambient conditions, which is accelerated upon heating. Intercalation of water also causes hydrolysis accelerating oxidation. Developing new tools to readily characterize MXenes’ thermal stability can enable deeper insights into their structure–property relationships. Here, in situ spectroscopic ellipsometry (SE) is employed to characterize the optical properties of three types of MXenes (Ti3C2Tx, Mo2TiC2Tx, and Ti2CTx) with varied composition and atomistic structures to investigate their thermal degradation upon heating under ambient environment. It is demonstrated that changes in MXene extinction and optical conductivity in the visible and near‐IR regions correlate well with the amount of intercalated water and hydroxyl termination groups and the degree of oxidation, measured using thermogravimetric analysis. Among the three MXenes, Ti3C2Txand Ti2CTx, respectively, have the highest and lowest thermal stability, indicating the role of transition‐metal type, synthesis route, and the number of atomic layers in MXene flakes. These findings demonstrate the utility of SE as a powerful in situ technique for rapid structure–property relationship studies paving the way for the further design, fabrication, and property optimization of novel MXene materials.

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  4. When aged below the glass transition temperature,Tg, the density of a glass cannot exceed that of the metastable supercooled liquid (SCL) state, unless crystals are nucleated. The only exception is when another polyamorphic SCL state exists, with a density higher than that of the ordinary SCL. Experimentally, such polyamorphic states and their corresponding liquid–liquid phase transitions have only been observed in network-forming systems or those with polymorphic crystalline states. In otherwise simple liquids, such phase transitions have not been observed, either in aged or vapor-deposited stable glasses, even near the Kauzmann temperature. Here, we report that the density of thin vapor-deposited films ofN,N′-bis(3-methylphenyl)-N,N′-diphenylbenzidine (TPD) can exceed their corresponding SCL density by as much as 3.5% and can even exceed the crystal density under certain deposition conditions. We identify a previously unidentified high-density supercooled liquid (HD-SCL) phase with a liquid–liquid phase transition temperature (TLL) ∼35 K below the nominal glass transition temperature of the ordinary SCL. The HD-SCL state is observed in glasses deposited in the thickness range of 25 to 55 nm, where thin films of the ordinary SCL have exceptionally enhanced surface mobility with large mobility gradients. The enhanced mobility enables vapor-deposited thin films to overcome kinetic barriers for relaxation and access the HD-SCL state. The HD-SCL state is only thermodynamically favored in thin films and transforms rapidly to the ordinary SCL when the vapor deposition is continued to form films with thicknesses more than 60 nm.

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  5. null (Ed.)
    Polymer-infiltrated nanoparticle films (PINFs) are a new class of nanocomposites that offer synergistic properties and functionality derived from unusually high fractions of nanomaterials. Recently, two versatile techniques,capillary rise infiltration (CaRI) and solvent-driven infiltration of polymer (SIP), have been introduced that exploit capillary forces in films of densely packed nanoparticles. In CaRI, a highly loaded PINF is produced by thermally induced wicking of polymer melt into the nanoparticle packing pores. In SIP, exposure of a polymer–nanoparticle bilayer to solvent vapor atmosphere induces capillary condensation of solvent in the pores of nanoparticle packing, leading to infiltration of polymer into the solvent-filled pores. CaRI/SIP PINFs show superior properties compared with polymer nanocomposite films made using traditional methods, including superb mechanical properties, thermal stability, heat transfer, and optical properties. This review discusses fundamental aspects of the infiltration process and highlights potential applications in separations, structural coatings, and polymer upcycling—a process to convert polymer wastes into useful chemicals. 
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  6. Enhanced surface mobility is critical in producing stable glasses during physical vapor deposition. In amorphous selenium (a-Se) both the structure and dynamics of the surface can be altered when exposed to above-bandgap light. Here we investigate the effect of light on the properties of vapor-deposited a-Se glasses at a range of substrate temperatures and deposition rates. We demonstrate that deposition both under white light illumination and in the dark results in thermally and kinetically stable glasses. Compared to glasses deposited in the dark, stable a-Se glasses formed under white light have reduced thermal stability, as measured by lower density change, but show significantly improved kinetic stability, measured as higher onset temperature for transformation. While light induces enhanced mobility that penetrates deep into the surface, resulting in lower density during vapor deposition, it also acts to form more networked structures at the surface, which results in a state that is kinetically more stable with larger optical birefringence. We demonstrate that the structure formed during deposition with light is a state that is not accessible through liquid quenching, aging, or vapor deposition in the dark, indicating the formation of a unique amorphous solid state.

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