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  1. In situ electrochemical cells were assembled with an amorphous germanium (a-Ge) film as working electrode and sodium foil as reference and counter electrode. The stresses generated in a-Ge electrodes due to electrochemical reaction with sodium were measured in real-time during the galvanostatic cycling. A specially designed patterned a-Ge electrode was cycled against sodium and the corresponding volume changes were measured using an AFM; it was observed that sodiation/desodiation of a-Ge results in more than 300% volume change, consistent with literature. The potential and stress response showed that the a-Ge film undergoes irreversible changes during the first sodiation process, but themore »subsequent desodiation/sodiation cycles are reversible. The stress response of the film reached steady-state after the initial sodiation and is qualitatively similar to the response of Ge during lithiation, i.e., initial linear elastic response followed by extensive plastic deformation of the film to accommodate large volume changes. However, despite being bigger ion, sodiation of Ge generated lower stress levels compared to lithiation. Consequently, the mechanical dissipation losses associated with plastic deformation are lower during sodiation process than it is for lithiation.

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  2. Tuning the electronic properties of oxide surfaces is of pivotal importance, because they find applicability in a variety of industrial processes, including catalysis. Currently, the industrial protocols for synthesizing oxide surfaces are limited to only partial control of the oxide's properties. This is because the ceramic processes result in complex morphologies and a priori unpredictable behavior of the products. While the bulk doping of alumina surfaces has been demonstrated to enhance their catalytic applications ( i.e. hydrodesulphurization (HDS)), the fundamental understanding of this phenomenon and its effect at an atomic level remain unexplored. In our joint experimental and computational study,more »simulations based on Density Functional Theory (DFT), synthesis, and a variety of surface characterization techniques are exploited for the specific goal of understanding the structure–function relationship of phosphorus-doped γ-Al 2 O 3 surfaces. Our theoretical calculations and experimental results agree in finding that P doping of γ-Al 2 O 3 leads to a significant decrease in its work function. Our computational models show that this decrease is due to the formation of a new surface dipole, providing a clear picture of the effect of P doping at the surface of γ-Al 2 O 3 . In this study, we uncover a general paradigm for tuning support–catalyst interactions that involves electrostatic properties of doped γ-Al 2 O 3 surface, specifically the surface dipole. Our findings open a new pathway for engineering the electronic properties of metal oxides’ surfaces.« less
  3. Although the palladium-catalyzed Suzuki-Miyaura cross-coupling of aryl esters has received significant attention, there is a lack of methods that utilize cheap and readily accessible Pd-phosphane catalysts, and can be routinely carried out with high cross-coupling selectivity. Herein, we report the first general method for the cross-coupling of pentafluorophenyl esters (pentafluorophenyl = pfp) by selective C–O acyl cleavage. The reaction proceeds efficiently using Pd(0)/phosphane catalyst systems. The unique characteristics of pentafluorophenyl esters are reflected in the fully selective cross-coupling vs. phenolic esters. Of broad synthetic interest, this report establishes pentafluorophenyl esters as new, highly reactive, bench-stable, economical, ester-based, electrophilic acylative reagentsmore »via acyl-metal intermediates. Mechanistic studies strongly support a unified reactivity scale of acyl electrophiles by C(O)–X (X = N, O) activation. The reactivity of pfp esters can be correlated with barriers to isomerization around the C(acyl)–O bond.« less
  4. Direct α-alkylation of carbonyl compounds represents a fundamental bond forming transformation in organic synthesis. We report the first ketone-alkylation using olefins and alcohols as simple alkylating agents catalyzed by graphene oxide. Extensive studies of the graphene surface suggest a pathway involving dual activation of both coupling partners. Notably, we show that polar functional groups have a stabilizing effect on the GO surface, which results in a net enhancement of the catalytic activity. The method represents the first alkylation of carbonyl compounds using graphenes, which opens the door for the development of an array of protocols for ketone functionalization employing commonmore »carbonyl building blocks and readily available graphenes.« less