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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Open Access Policy Deposits

This series is automatically populated with publications deposited by UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering researchers in accordance with the University of California’s open access policies. For more information see Open Access Policy Deposits and the UC Publication Management System.

Cover page of Atomic-scale identification of the active sites of nanocatalysts

Atomic-scale identification of the active sites of nanocatalysts


Alloy nanocatalysts have found broad applications ranging from fuel cells to catalytic converters and hydrogenation reactions. Despite extensive studies, identifying the active sites of nanocatalysts remains a major challenge due to the heterogeneity of the local atomic environment. Here, we advance atomic electron tomography to determine the 3D local atomic structure, surface morphology and chemical composition of PtNi and Mo-doped PtNi nanocatalysts. Using machine learning trained by density functional theory calculations, we identify the catalytic active sites for the oxygen reduction reaction from experimental 3D atomic coordinates, which are corroborated by electrochemical measurements. By quantifying the structure-activity relationship, we discover a local environment descriptor to explain and predict the catalytic active sites at the atomic level. The ability to determine the 3D atomic structure and chemical species coupled with machine learning is expected to expand our fundamental understanding of a wide range of nanocatalysts.

Cover page of Decoding reactive structures in dilute alloy catalysts.

Decoding reactive structures in dilute alloy catalysts.


Rational catalyst design is crucial toward achieving more energy-efficient and sustainable catalytic processes. Understanding and modeling catalytic reaction pathways and kinetics require atomic level knowledge of the active sites. These structures often change dynamically during reactions and are difficult to decipher. A prototypical example is the hydrogen-deuterium exchange reaction catalyzed by dilute Pd-in-Au alloy nanoparticles. From a combination of catalytic activity measurements, machine learning-enabled spectroscopic analysis, and first-principles based kinetic modeling, we demonstrate that the active species are surface Pd ensembles containing only a few (from 1 to 3) Pd atoms. These species simultaneously explain the observed X-ray spectra and equate the experimental and theoretical values of the apparent activation energy. Remarkably, we find that the catalytic activity can be tuned on demand by controlling the size of the Pd ensembles through catalyst pretreatment. Our data-driven multimodal approach enables decoding of reactive structures in complex and dynamic alloy catalysts.

Cover page of Droplet-based microfluidics in biomedical applications.

Droplet-based microfluidics in biomedical applications.


Droplet-based microfluidic systems have been employed to manipulate discrete fluid volumes with immiscible phases. Creating the fluid droplets at microscale has led to a paradigm shift in mixing, sorting, encapsulation, sensing, and designing high throughput devices for biomedical applications. Droplet microfluidics has opened many opportunities in microparticle synthesis, molecular detection, diagnostics, drug delivery, and cell biology. In the present review, we first introduce standard methods for droplet generation (i.e. passive and active methods) and discuss the latest examples of emulsification and particle synthesis approaches enabled by microfluidic platforms. Then, the applications of droplet-based microfluidics in different biomedical applications are detailed. Finally, a general overview of the latest trends along with the perspectives and future potentials in the field are provided.

Cover page of Effect of gelatin methacryloyl hydrogel on healing of the guinea pig vaginal wall with or without mesh augmentation.

Effect of gelatin methacryloyl hydrogel on healing of the guinea pig vaginal wall with or without mesh augmentation.


The aims of this study were to evaluate the effectiveness of gelatin methacryloyl as an adjunct to anterior vaginal wall injury with or without vaginal mesh compared with traditional repair with suture. Virginal cycling Hartley strain guinea pigs (n = 60) were randomized to undergo surgical injury and repair using either polyglactin 910 suture or gelatin methacryloyl for epithelium re-approximation or anterior colporrhaphy with mesh augmentation using either polyglactin 910 suture or gelatin methacryloyl for mesh fixation and epithelium re-approximation. Noninjured controls (n = 5) were also evaluated. After 4 days, 4 weeks, or 3 months, tissues were analyzed by hematoxylin & eosin in addition to immunolabeling for macrophages, leukocytes, smooth muscle, and fibroblasts. Surgical injury repaired with suture was associated with increased inflammation and vessel density compared with gelatin methacryloyl. Vimentin and α-smooth muscle actin expression were increased with gelatin methacryloyl at 4 days (p = 0.0026, p = 0.0272). There were no differences in changes in smooth muscle or overall histomorphology after 3 months between the two closure techniques. Mesh repair with suture was also associated with increased inflammation and vessel density relative to gelatin methacryloyl. Quantification of collagen content by picrosirius red staining revealed increased thick collagen fibers throughout the implanted mesh with gelatin methacryloyl compared with suture at 4 weeks (0.62 ± 0.01 μm2 vs 0.55 ± 0.01, p = 0.018). Even at the long-term time point of 3 months, mesh repair with suture resulted in a profibrotic encapsulation of the mesh fibers, which was minimal with gelatin methacryloyl. Smooth muscle density was suppressed after mesh implantation returning to baseline levels at 3 months regardless of fixation with suture or gelatin methacryloyl. These results suggest that gelatin methacryloyl might be a safe alternative to suture for epithelium re-approximation and anchoring of prolapse meshes to the vagina and may improve chronic inflammation in the vaginal wall associated with mesh complications.

Cover page of Revisiting the link between magnetic properties and chemisorption at graphene nanoribbon zigzag edge.

Revisiting the link between magnetic properties and chemisorption at graphene nanoribbon zigzag edge.


Graphene has received tremendous interest in both chemical and physical fields. Among different edges of the graphene system, the zigzag edge terminated graphene nanoribbons (ZGNRs) show unique magnetic properties in the antiferromagnetic (AFM) state. However, to date, the understanding of ZGNR chemical properties is mainly based on the partial radical concept, and in previous studies, the energy differences between the ferromagnetic (FM) and AFM states are smaller than experimental evidence. Here, we report that the strongly constrained and appropriately normed functional gives a significantly larger energy difference, which matches the experimental observation. Furthermore, utilizing the energetics in the large difference case, we propose a conceptual supplement to the previous partial radical concept: the overall stabilization of the AFM state compared to the nonmagnetic (NM) state consists of two parts that affect the adsorption energy conversely. The NM-FM energy differences will strengthen the adsorption, being in line with the previous partial radical concept. The FM-AFM energy differences will instead weaken the adsorption. We perform calculations of H, OH, and LiS radical adsorption energies on ZGNRs to show that this weakening effect is numerically non-negligible: at least a ∼0.2 eV difference in the adsorption energies is found. We expect that this refinement of the partial radical concept can provide a more comprehensive understanding of the chemical properties of ZGNRs. The differences in adsorption energies for the H, OH, and LiS radicals found here lead to significant changes in the predicted reactivity of the ZGNR models.

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Engineering a naturally derived hemostatic sealant for sealing internal organs.


Controlling bleeding from a raptured tissue, especially during the surgeries, is essentially important. Particularly for soft and dynamic internal organs where use of sutures, staples, or wires is limited, treatments with hemostatic adhesives have proven to be beneficial. However, major drawbacks with clinically used hemostats include lack of adhesion to wet tissue and poor mechanics. In view of these, herein, we engineered a double-crosslinked sealant which showed excellent hemostasis (comparable to existing commercial hemostat) without compromising its wet tissue adhesion. Mechanistically, the engineered hydrogel controlled the bleeding through its wound-sealing capability and inherent chemical activity. This mussel-inspired hemostatic adhesive hydrogel, named gelatin methacryloyl-catechol (GelMAC), contained covalently functionalized catechol and methacrylate moieties and showed excellent biocompatibility both in vitro and in vivo. Hemostatic property of GelMAC hydrogel was initially demonstrated with an in vitro blood clotting assay, which showed significantly reduced clotting time compared to the clinically used hemostat, Surgicel®. This was further assessed with an in vivo liver bleeding test in rats where GelMAC hydrogel closed the incision rapidly and initiated blood coagulation even faster than Surgicel®. The engineered GelMAC hydrogel-based seaalant with excellent hemostatic property and tissue adhesion can be utilized for controlling bleeding and sealing of soft internal organs.

Cover page of Toward benchmarking theoretical computations of elementary rate constants on catalytic surfaces: formate decomposition on Au and Cu.

Toward benchmarking theoretical computations of elementary rate constants on catalytic surfaces: formate decomposition on Au and Cu.


With the emergence of methods for computing rate constants for elementary reaction steps of catalytic reactions, benchmarking their accuracy becomes important. The unimolecular dehydrogenation of adsorbed formate on metal surfaces serves as a prototype for comparing experiment and theory. Previously measured pre-exponential factors for CO2 formation from formate on metal surfaces, including Cu(110), are substantially higher than expected from the often used value of k B T/h, or ∼6 × 1012 s-1, suggesting that the entropy of the transition state is higher than that of the adsorbed formate. Herein, the rate constant parameters for formate decomposition on Au(110) and Cu(110) are addressed quantitatively by both experiment and theory and compared. A pre-exponential factor of 2.3 × 1014 s-1 was obtained experimentally on Au(110). DFT calculations revealed the most stable configuration of formate on both surfaces to be bidentate and the transition states to be less rigidly bound to the surface compared to the reactant state, resulting in a higher entropy of activation and a pre-exponential factor exceeding k B T/h. Though reasonable agreement is obtained between experiment and theory for the pre-exponential factors, the activation energies determined experimentally remain consistently higher than those computed by DFT using the GGA-PBE functional. This difference was largely erased when the metaGGA-SCAN functional was applied. This study provides insight into the underlying factors that result in the relatively high pre-exponential factors for unimolecular decomposition on metal surfaces generally, highlights the importance of mobility for the transition state, and offers vital information related to the direct use of DFT to predict rate constants for elementary reaction steps on metal surfaces.