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  1. Abstract

    In recent years, mechanical metamaterials have been developed that support the propagation of an intriguing variety of nonlinear waves, including transition waves and vector solitons (solitons with coupling between multiple degrees of freedom). Here we report observations of phase transitions in 2D multistable mechanical metamaterials that are initiated by collisions of soliton-like pulses in the metamaterial. Analogous to first-order phase transitions in crystalline solids, we observe that the multistable metamaterials support phase transitions if the new phase meets or exceeds a critical nucleus size. If this criterion is met, the new phase subsequently propagates in the form of transition waves, converting the rest of the metamaterial to the new phase. More interestingly, we numerically show, using an experimentally validated model, that the critical nucleus can be formed via collisions of soliton-like pulses. Moreover, the rich direction-dependent behavior of the nonlinear pulses enables control of the location of nucleation and the spatio-temporal shape of the growing phase.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2025
  2. Abstract

    In interacting dynamical systems, specific local interaction rules for system components give rise to diverse and complex global dynamics. Long dynamical cycles are a key feature of many natural interacting systems, especially in biology. Examples of dynamical cycles range from circadian rhythms regulating sleep to cell cycles regulating reproductive behavior. Despite the crucial role of cycles in nature, the properties of network structure that give rise to cycles still need to be better understood. Here, we use a Boolean interaction network model to study the relationships between network structure and cyclic dynamics. We identify particular structural motifs that support cycles, and other motifs that suppress them. More generally, we show that the presence ofdynamical reflection symmetryin the interaction network enhances cyclic behavior. In simulating an artificial evolutionary process, we find that motifs that break reflection symmetry are discarded. We further show that dynamical reflection symmetries are over-represented in Boolean models of natural biological systems. Altogether, our results demonstrate a link between symmetry and functionality for interacting dynamical systems, and they provide evidence for symmetry’s causal role in evolving dynamical functionality.

     
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  3. Abstract

    Immune cells, such as macrophages and dendritic cells, can utilize podosomes, mechanosensitive actin-rich protrusions, to generate forces, migrate, and patrol for foreign antigens. Individual podosomes probe their microenvironment through periodic protrusion and retraction cycles (height oscillations), while oscillations of multiple podosomes in a cluster are coordinated in a wave-like fashion. However, the mechanisms governing both the individual oscillations and the collective wave-like dynamics remain unclear. Here, by integrating actin polymerization, myosin contractility, actin diffusion, and mechanosensitive signaling, we develop a chemo-mechanical model for podosome dynamics in clusters. Our model reveals that podosomes show oscillatory growth when actin polymerization-driven protrusion and signaling-associated myosin contraction occur at similar rates, while the diffusion of actin monomers drives wave-like coordination of podosome oscillations. Our theoretical predictions are validated by different pharmacological treatments and the impact of microenvironment stiffness on chemo-mechanical waves. Our proposed framework can shed light on the role of podosomes in immune cell mechanosensing within the context of wound healing and cancer immunotherapy.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2024
  4. Abstract

    Strong light-matter interactions in localized nano-emitters placed near metallic mirrors have been widely reported via spectroscopic studies in the optical far-field. Here, we report a near-field nano-spectroscopic study of localized nanoscale emitters on a flat Au substrate. Using quasi 2-dimensional CdSe/CdxZn1-xS nanoplatelets, we observe directional propagation on the Au substrate of surface plasmon polaritons launched from the excitons of the nanoplatelets as wave-like fringe patterns in the near-field photoluminescence maps. These fringe patterns were confirmed via extensive electromagnetic wave simulations to be standing-waves formed between the tip and the edge-up assembled nano-emitters on the substrate plane. We further report that both light confinement and in-plane emission can be engineered by tuning the surrounding dielectric environment of the nanoplatelets. Our results lead to renewed understanding of in-plane, near-field electromagnetic signal transduction from the localized nano-emitters with profound implications in nano and quantum photonics as well as resonant optoelectronics.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2024
  5. Abstract

    Polymer nanocomposites with high loadings of nanoparticles (NPs) exhibit exceptional mechanical and transport properties. Separation of polymers and NPs from such nanocomposites is a critical step in enabling the recycling of these components and reducing the potential environmental hazards that can be caused by the accumulation of nanocomposite wastes in landfills. However, the separation typically requires the use of organic solvents or energy‐intensive processes. Using polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS)‐infiltrated SiO2NP films, we demonstrate that the polymers can be separated from the SiO2NP packings when these nanocomposites are exposed to high humidity and water. The findings indicate that the charge state of the NPs plays a significant role in the propensity of water to undergo capillary condensation within the PDMS‐filled interstitial pores. We also show that the size of NPs has a crucial impact on the kinetics and extent of PDMS expulsion, illustrating the importance of capillary forces in inducing PDMS expulsion. We demonstrate that the separated polymer can be collected and reused to produce a new nanocomposite film. The work provides insightful guidelines on how to design and fabricate end‐of‐life recyclable high‐performance nanocomposites.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 1, 2024
  6. Abstract

    Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors are approved for many dermatologic disorders, but their use is limited by systemic toxicities including serious cardiovascular events and malignancy. To overcome these limitations, injectable hydrogels are engineered for the local and sustained delivery of baricitinib, a representative JAK inhibitor. Hydrogels are formed via disulfide crosslinking of thiolated hyaluronic acid macromers. Dynamic thioimidate bonds are introduced between the thiolated hyaluronic acid and nitrile‐containing baricitinib for drug tethering, which is confirmed with1H and13C nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). Release of baricitinib is tunable over six weeks in vitro and active in inhibiting JAK signaling in a cell line containing a luciferase reporter reflecting interferon signaling. For in vivo activity, baricitinib hydrogels or controls are injected intradermally into an imiquimod‐induced mouse model of psoriasis. Imiquimod increases epidermal thickness in mice, which is unaffected when treated with baricitinib or hydrogel alone. Treatment with baricitinib hydrogels suppresses the increased epidermal thickness in mice treated with imiquimod, suggesting that the sustained and local release of baricitinib is important for a therapeutic outcome. This study is the first to utilize a thioimidate chemistry to deliver JAK inhibitors to the skin through injectable hydrogels, which has translational potential for treating inflammatory disorders.

     
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  7. Abstract

    A top‐down lithographic patterning and deposition process is reported for producing nanoparticles (NPs) with well‐defined sizes, shapes, and compositions that are often not accessible by wet‐chemical synthetic methods. These NPs are ligated and harvested from the substrate surface to prepare colloidal NP dispersions. Using a template‐assisted assembly technique, fabricated NPs are driven by capillary forces to assemble into size‐ and shape‐engineered templates and organize into open or close‐packed multi‐NP structures or NP metamolecules. The sizes and shapes of the NPs and of the templates control the NP number, coordination, interparticle gap size, disorder, and location of defects such as voids in the NP metamolecules. The plasmonic resonances of polygonal‐shaped Au NPs are exploited to correlate the structure and optical properties of assembled NP metamolecules. Comparing open and close‐packed architectures highlights that introduction of a center NP to form close‐packed assemblies supports collective interactions, altering magnetic optical modes and multipolar interactions in Fano resonances. Decreasing the distance between NPs strengthens the plasmonic coupling, and the structural symmetries of the NP metamolecules determine the orientation‐dependent scattering response.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2024
  8. Abstract

    Detailed studies of interfacial gas-phase chemical reactions are important for understanding factors that control materials synthesis and environmental conditions that govern materials performance and degradation. Out of the many materials characterization methods that are available for interpreting gas–solid reaction processes,in situandoperandotransmission electron microscopy (TEM) is perhaps the most versatile, multimodal materials characterization technique. It has successfully been utilized to study interfacial gas–solid interactions under a wide range of environmental conditions, such as gas composition, humidity, pressure, and temperature. This stems from decades of R&D that permit controlled gas delivery and the ability to maintain a gaseous environment directly within the TEM column itself or through specialized side-entry gas-cell holders. Combined with capabilities for real-time, high spatial resolution imaging, electron diffraction and spectroscopy, dynamic structural and chemical changes can be investigated to determine fundamental reaction mechanisms and kinetics that occur at site-specific interfaces. This issue ofMRS Bulletincovers research in this field ranging from technique development to the utilization of gas-phase microscopy methods that have been used to develop an improved understanding of multilength-scaled processes incurred during materials synthesis, catalytic reactions, and environmental exposure effects on materials properties.

    Graphical abstract

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2024
  9. Abstract

    It is essential to understand the nanoscale structure and chemistry of energy storage materials due to their profound impact on battery performance. However, it is often challenging to characterize them at high resolution, as they are often fundamentally altered by sample preparation methods. Here, we use the cryogenic lift-out technique in a plasma-focused ion beam (PFIB)/scanning electron microscope (SEM) to prepare air-sensitive lithium metal to understand ion-beam damage during sample preparation. Through the use of cryogenic transmission electron microscopy, we find that lithium was not damaged by ion-beam milling although lithium oxide shells form in the PFIB/SEM chamber, as evidenced by diffraction information from cryogenic lift-out lithium lamellae prepared at two different thicknesses (130 and 225 nm). Cryogenic energy loss spectroscopy further confirms that lithium was oxidized during the process of sample preparation. The Ellingham diagram suggests that lithium can react with trace oxygen gas in the FIB/SEM chamber at cryogenic temperatures, and we show that liquid oxygen does not contribute to the oxidation of lithium process. Our results suggest the importance of understanding how cryogenic lift-out sample preparation has an impact on the high-resolution characterization of reactive battery materials.

     
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  10. Abstract

    Photothermal CO2reduction is one of the most promising routes to efficiently utilize solar energy for fuel production at high rates. However, this reaction is currently limited by underdeveloped catalysts with low photothermal conversion efficiency, insufficient exposure of active sites, low active material loading, and high material cost. Herein, we report a potassium‐modified carbon‐supported cobalt (K+−Co−C) catalyst mimicking the structure of a lotus pod that addresses these challenges. As a result of the designed lotus‐pod structure which features an efficient photothermal C substrate with hierarchical pores, an intimate Co/C interface with covalent bonding, and exposed Co catalytic sites with optimized CO binding strength, the K+−Co−C catalyst shows a record‐high photothermal CO2hydrogenation rate of 758 mmol gcat−1 h−1(2871 mmol gCo−1 h−1) with a 99.8 % selectivity for CO, three orders of magnitude higher than typical photochemical CO2reduction reactions. We further demonstrate with this catalyst effective CO2conversion under natural sunlight one hour before sunset during the winter season, putting forward an important step towards practical solar fuel production.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 24, 2024