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Special Issue "Functional Nanomaterials and Polymer Nanocomposites: Current Uses and Potential Applications"

A special issue of International Journal of Molecular Sciences (ISSN 1422-0067). This special issue belongs to the section "Materials Science".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 May 2022) | Viewed by 19574

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Special Issue Editor

Centre of Polymer Systems, Tomas Bata University in Zlin, Trida Tomase Bati 5678, 76001 Zlin, Czech Republic
Interests: magnetic materials; dielectric materials; electrical properties; luminescent nanomaterials; microwave absorbing materials; ceramics; materials chemistry; soft matter; nanostructured materials; materials for energy
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Recently, smart nanoparticles have received a great deal of attention among researchers and academicians due to their unique physical properties and wide applications, including drug delivery, biomimetic devices, contrast agents in magnetic resonance imaging, hyperthermia, cell manipulation, security systems, information storage devices, quantum computing, magnetic sensors and actuators, energy harvesting, catalysis and magnetic separation, spintronic-based devices, electronic devices, lasers, Li-ion batteries, solar cells, bio-imaging, thermal therapy, etc. Prompt technological improvement and miniaturization require immediate developments in materials science to achieve increased performance demands. Polymer nanocomposites have received a great deal of attention regarding the design of a new generation of high-performance composite materials based on smart nanoparticles due to their extraordinarily high synergetic and complementary characteristics between two or more component materials. The characteristics of polymer nanocomposites can be modified by selectively introducing smart nanoparticles with unique physical properties for the desired application. Additionally, the reduced size of smart nanoparticles increases the aspect ratio, which can play a fundamental role in enhancing the interfacial properties in the overall performance of innovative polymer nanocomposite materials for emerging technology.

We invite authors to contribute original research articles or comprehensive review articles covering the most recent progress and new developments in the synthesis of smart nanoparticles; the preparation of polymer nanocomposites; the characterization and application of smart nanoparticles; the physical properties of polymer nanocomposites; and the utilization of smart nanoparticles in the design of advanced polymer nanocomposites for emerging technologies including biomedical, optoelectronics, sensing, diagnostics, food packaging, organic photovoltaics, bioelectronics, electronics, energy storage, automobiles, aerospace engineering, biomedicine, supercapacitors, batteries, water and air purification, microwave absorbers, etc.

This Special Issue aims to cover a broad range of subjects, from smart nanoparticles and polymer nanocomposite synthesis and the study of their fundamental properties to the fabrication and characterization of devices and emerging technologies with smart nanoparticles and polymer integration.

Manuscripts can be submitted in the following formats: full research papers, communications, and reviews.

Dr. Raghvendra Singh Yadav
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. International Journal of Molecular Sciences is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

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Keywords

  • smart nanoparticles
  • synthesis and characterization
  • polymer nanocomposites
  • energy applications
  • biomedical applications
  • environmental applications

Published Papers (12 papers)

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Editorial

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Editorial
Functional Nanomaterials and Polymer Nanocomposites: Current Uses and Potential Applications
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2022, 23(21), 12713; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms232112713 - 22 Oct 2022
Viewed by 376
Abstract
In the present Special Issue “Functional Nanomaterials and Polymer Nanocomposites: Current Uses and Potential Applications”, two review articles and nine original research articles are published [...] Full article

Research

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Article
Effects of Hexagonal Boron Nitride Insulating Layers on the Driving Performance of Ionic Electroactive Polymer Actuators for Light-Weight Artificial Muscles
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2022, 23(9), 4981; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms23094981 - 29 Apr 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 878
Abstract
To improve the energy efficiency and driving performance of ionic electroactive polymer actuators, we propose inserting insulating layers of 170 nm hexagonal boron nitride (h-BN) particles between the ionic polymer membrane and electrodes. In experiments, actuators exhibited better capacitance (4.020 × 10−1 [...] Read more.
To improve the energy efficiency and driving performance of ionic electroactive polymer actuators, we propose inserting insulating layers of 170 nm hexagonal boron nitride (h-BN) particles between the ionic polymer membrane and electrodes. In experiments, actuators exhibited better capacitance (4.020 × 10−1 F), displacement (6.01 mm), and curvature (35.59 m−1) with such layers than without them. The excellent insulating properties and uniform morphology of the layers reduced the interfacial resistance, and the ion conductivity (0.071 S m−1) within the ionic polymer improved significantly. Durability was enhanced because the h-BN layer is chemically and thermally stable and efficiently blocks heat diffusion and ion hydrate evaporation during operation. The results demonstrate a close relationship between the capacitance and driving performance of actuators. A gripper prepared from the proposed ionic electroactive polymer actuator can stably hold an object even under strong external vibration and fast or slow movement. Full article
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Article
Mono-Sized Anion-Exchange Magnetic Microspheres for Protein Adsorption
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2022, 23(9), 4963; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms23094963 - 29 Apr 2022
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 826
Abstract
In this study, mono-sized anion-exchange microspheres with polyglycidylmethacrylate were engineered and processed to introduce magnetic granules by penetration–deposition approaches. The obtained magnetic microspheres showed a uniform particle diameter of 1.235 μm in average and a good spherical shape with a saturation magnetic intensity [...] Read more.
In this study, mono-sized anion-exchange microspheres with polyglycidylmethacrylate were engineered and processed to introduce magnetic granules by penetration–deposition approaches. The obtained magnetic microspheres showed a uniform particle diameter of 1.235 μm in average and a good spherical shape with a saturation magnetic intensity of 12.48 emu/g by VSM and 12% magnetite content by TGA. The magnetic microspheres showed no cytotoxicity when the concentration was below 10 μg/mg. The magnetic microspheres possess respective adsorption capacity for three proteins including Bovine albumin, Hemoglobin from bovine blood, and Cytochrome C. These magnetic microspheres are also potential biomaterials as targeting medicine carriers or protein separation carriers at low concentration. Full article
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Article
Chelating Polymers for Targeted Decontamination of Actinides: Application of PEI-MP to Hydroxyapatite-Th(IV)
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2022, 23(9), 4732; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms23094732 - 25 Apr 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1497
Abstract
In case of an incident in the nuclear industry or an act of war or terrorism, the dissemination of plutonium could contaminate the environment and, hence, humans. Human contamination mainly occurs via inhalation and/or wounding (and, less likely, ingestion). In such cases, plutonium, [...] Read more.
In case of an incident in the nuclear industry or an act of war or terrorism, the dissemination of plutonium could contaminate the environment and, hence, humans. Human contamination mainly occurs via inhalation and/or wounding (and, less likely, ingestion). In such cases, plutonium, if soluble, reaches circulation, whereas the poorly soluble fraction (such as small colloids) is trapped in alveolar macrophages or remains at the site of wounding. Once in the blood, the plutonium is delivered to the liver and/or to the bone, particularly into its mineral part, mostly composed of hydroxyapatite. Countermeasures against plutonium exist and consist of intravenous injections or inhalation of diethylenetetraminepentaacetate salts. Their effectiveness is, however, mainly confined to the circulating soluble forms of plutonium. Furthermore, the short bioavailability of diethylenetetraminepentaacetate results in its rapid elimination. To overcome these limitations and to provide a complementary approach to this common therapy, we developed polymeric analogs to indirectly target the problematic retention sites. We present herein a first study regarding the decontamination abilities of polyethyleneimine methylcarboxylate (structural diethylenetetraminepentaacetate polymer analog) and polyethyleneimine methylphosphonate (phosphonate polymeric analog) directed against Th(IV), used here as a Pu(IV) surrogate, which was incorporated into hydroxyapatite used as a bone model. Our results suggest that polyethylenimine methylphosphonate could be a good candidate for powerful bone decontamination action. Full article
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Communication
Conductive Supramolecular Polymer Nanocomposites with Tunable Properties to Manipulate Cell Growth and Functions
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2022, 23(8), 4332; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms23084332 - 14 Apr 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1159
Abstract
Synthetic bioactive nanocomposites show great promise in biomedicine for use in tissue growth, wound healing and the potential for bioengineered skin substitutes. Hydrogen-bonded supramolecular polymers (3A-PCL) can be combined with graphite crystals to form graphite/3A-PCL composites with tunable physical properties. When used as [...] Read more.
Synthetic bioactive nanocomposites show great promise in biomedicine for use in tissue growth, wound healing and the potential for bioengineered skin substitutes. Hydrogen-bonded supramolecular polymers (3A-PCL) can be combined with graphite crystals to form graphite/3A-PCL composites with tunable physical properties. When used as a bioactive substrate for cell culture, graphite/3A-PCL composites have an extremely low cytotoxic activity on normal cells and a high structural stability in a medium with red blood cells. A series of in vitro studies demonstrated that the resulting composite substrates can efficiently interact with cell surfaces to promote the adhesion, migration, and proliferation of adherent cells, as well as rapid wound healing ability at the damaged cellular surface. Importantly, placing these substrates under an indirect current electric field at only 0.1 V leads to a marked acceleration in cell growth, a significant increase in total cell numbers, and a remarkable alteration in cell morphology. These results reveal a newly created system with great potential to provide an efficient route for the development of multifunctional bioactive substrates with unique electro-responsiveness to manipulate cell growth and functions. Full article
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Article
CuxCo1-xFe2O4 (x = 0.33, 0.67, 1) Spinel Ferrite Nanoparticles Based Thermoplastic Polyurethane Nanocomposites with Reduced Graphene Oxide for Highly Efficient Electromagnetic Interference Shielding
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2022, 23(5), 2610; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms23052610 - 26 Feb 2022
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 1713
Abstract
CuxCo1-xFe2O4 (x = 0.33, 0.67, 1)-reduced graphene oxide (rGO)-thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) nanocomposites exhibiting highly efficient electromagnetic interference (EMI) shielding were prepared by a melt-mixing approach using a microcompounder. Spinel ferrite Cu0.33Co0.67Fe2 [...] Read more.
CuxCo1-xFe2O4 (x = 0.33, 0.67, 1)-reduced graphene oxide (rGO)-thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) nanocomposites exhibiting highly efficient electromagnetic interference (EMI) shielding were prepared by a melt-mixing approach using a microcompounder. Spinel ferrite Cu0.33Co0.67Fe2O4 (CuCoF1), Cu0.67Co0.33Fe2O4 (CuCoF2) and CuFe2O4 (CuF3) nanoparticles were synthesized using the sonochemical method. The CuCoF1 and CuCoF2 exhibited typical ferromagnetic features, whereas CuF3 displayed superparamagnetic characteristics. The maximum value of EMI total shielding effectiveness (SET) was noticed to be 42.9 dB, 46.2 dB, and 58.8 dB for CuCoF1-rGO-TPU, CuCoF2-rGO-TPU, and CuF3-rGO-TPU nanocomposites, respectively, at a thickness of 1 mm. The highly efficient EMI shielding performance was attributed to the good impedance matching, conductive, dielectric, and magnetic loss. The demonstrated nanocomposites are promising candidates for a lightweight, flexible, and highly efficient EMI shielding material. Full article
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Article
Mucoadhesive Electrospun Nanofiber-Based Hybrid System with Controlled and Unidirectional Release of Desmopressin
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2022, 23(3), 1458; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms23031458 - 27 Jan 2022
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1221
Abstract
The sublingual mucosa is an attractive route for drug delivery, although challenged by a continuous flow of saliva that leads to a loss of drug by swallowing. It is of great benefit that drugs absorbed across the sublingual mucosa avoid exposure to the [...] Read more.
The sublingual mucosa is an attractive route for drug delivery, although challenged by a continuous flow of saliva that leads to a loss of drug by swallowing. It is of great benefit that drugs absorbed across the sublingual mucosa avoid exposure to the harsh environment of the gastro-intestinal lumen; this is especially beneficial for drugs of low physicochemical stability such as therapeutic peptides. In this study, a two-layered hybrid drug delivery system was developed for the sublingual delivery of the therapeutic peptide desmopressin. It consisted of peptide-loaded mucoadhesive electrospun chitosan/polyethylene oxide-based nanofibers (mean diameter of 183 ± 20 nm) and a saliva-repelling backing film to promote unidirectional release towards the mucosa. Desmopressin was released from the nanofiber-based hybrid system (approximately 80% of the loaded peptide was released within 45 min) in a unidirectional manner in vitro. Importantly, the nanofiber–film hybrid system protected the peptide from wash-out, as demonstrated in an ex vivo flow retention model with porcine sublingual mucosal tissue. Approximately 90% of the loaded desmopressin was retained at the surface of the ex vivo porcine sublingual mucosa after 15 min of exposure to flow rates representing salivary flow. Full article
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Article
Fabrication of CaCO3-Coated Vesicles by Biomineralization and Their Application as Carriers of Drug Delivery Systems
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2022, 23(2), 789; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms23020789 - 12 Jan 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1066
Abstract
We fabricated CaCO3-coated vesicles as drug carriers that release their cargo under a weakly acidic condition. We designed and synthesized a peptide lipid containing the Val-His-Val-Glu-Val-Ser sequence as the hydrophilic part, and with two palmitoyl groups at the N-terminal as [...] Read more.
We fabricated CaCO3-coated vesicles as drug carriers that release their cargo under a weakly acidic condition. We designed and synthesized a peptide lipid containing the Val-His-Val-Glu-Val-Ser sequence as the hydrophilic part, and with two palmitoyl groups at the N-terminal as the anchor groups of the lipid bilayer membrane. Vesicles embedded with the peptide lipids were prepared. The CaCO3 coating of the vesicle surface was performed by the mineralization induced by the embedded peptide lipid. The peptide lipid produced the mineral source, CO32−, for CaCO3 mineralization through the hydrolysis of urea. We investigated the structure of the obtained CaCO3-coated vesicles using transmission electron microscopy (TEM). The vesicles retained the spherical shapes, even in vacuo. Furthermore, the vesicles had inner spaces that acted as the drug cargo, as observed by the TEM tomographic analysis. The thickness of the CaCO3 shell was estimated as ca. 20 nm. CaCO3-coated vesicles containing hydrophobic or hydrophilic drugs were prepared, and the drug release properties were examined under various pH conditions. The mineralized CaCO3 shell of the vesicle surface was dissolved under a weakly acidic condition, pH 6.0, such as in the neighborhood of cancer tissues. The degradation of the CaCO3 shell induced an effective release of the drugs. Such behavior suggests potential of the CaCO3-coated vesicles as carriers for cancer therapies. Full article
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Article
Engineering of Vaginal Lactobacilli to Express Fluorescent Proteins Enables the Analysis of Their Mixture in Nanofibers
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2021, 22(24), 13631; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms222413631 - 20 Dec 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1673
Abstract
Lactobacilli are a promising natural tool against vaginal dysbiosis and infections. However, new local delivery systems and additional knowledge about their distribution and mechanism of action would contribute to the development of effective medicine. This will be facilitated by the introduction of the [...] Read more.
Lactobacilli are a promising natural tool against vaginal dysbiosis and infections. However, new local delivery systems and additional knowledge about their distribution and mechanism of action would contribute to the development of effective medicine. This will be facilitated by the introduction of the techniques for effective, inexpensive, and real-time tracking of these probiotics following their release. Here, we engineered three model vaginal lactobacilli (Lactobacillus crispatus ATCC 33820, Lactobacillus gasseri ATCC 33323, and Lactobacillus jensenii ATCC 25258) and a control Lactobacillus plantarum ATCC 8014 to express fluorescent proteins with different spectral properties, including infrared fluorescent protein (IRFP), green fluorescent protein (GFP), red fluorescent protein (mCherry), and blue fluorescent protein (mTagBFP2). The expression of these fluorescent proteins differed between the Lactobacillus species and enabled quantification and discrimination between lactobacilli, with the longer wavelength fluorescent proteins showing superior resolving power. Each Lactobacillus strain was labeled with an individual fluorescent protein and incorporated into poly (ethylene oxide) nanofibers using electrospinning, as confirmed by fluorescence and scanning electron microscopy. The lactobacilli retained their fluorescence in nanofibers, as well as after nanofiber dissolution. To summarize, vaginal lactobacilli were incorporated into electrospun nanofibers to provide a potential solid vaginal delivery system, and the fluorescent proteins were introduced to distinguish between them and allow their tracking in the future probiotic-delivery studies. Full article
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Article
Modification of a Single Atom Affects the Physical Properties of Double Fluorinated Fmoc-Phe Derivatives
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2021, 22(17), 9634; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms22179634 - 06 Sep 2021
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 1903
Abstract
Supramolecular hydrogels formed by the self-assembly of amino-acid based gelators are receiving increasing attention from the fields of biomedicine and material science. Self-assembled systems exhibit well-ordered functional architectures and unique physicochemical properties. However, the control over the kinetics and mechanical properties of the [...] Read more.
Supramolecular hydrogels formed by the self-assembly of amino-acid based gelators are receiving increasing attention from the fields of biomedicine and material science. Self-assembled systems exhibit well-ordered functional architectures and unique physicochemical properties. However, the control over the kinetics and mechanical properties of the end-products remains puzzling. A minimal alteration of the chemical environment could cause a significant impact. In this context, we report the effects of modifying the position of a single atom on the properties and kinetics of the self-assembly process. A combination of experimental and computational methods, used to investigate double-fluorinated Fmoc-Phe derivatives, Fmoc-3,4F-Phe and Fmoc-3,5F-Phe, reveals the unique effects of modifying the position of a single fluorine on the self-assembly process, and the physical properties of the product. The presence of significant physical and morphological differences between the two derivatives was verified by molecular-dynamics simulations. Analysis of the spontaneous phase-transition of both building blocks, as well as crystal X-ray diffraction to determine the molecular structure of Fmoc-3,4F-Phe, are in good agreement with known changes in the Phe fluorination pattern and highlight the effect of a single atom position on the self-assembly process. These findings prove that fluorination is an effective strategy to influence supramolecular organization on the nanoscale. Moreover, we believe that a deep understanding of the self-assembly process may provide fundamental insights that will facilitate the development of optimal amino-acid-based low-molecular-weight hydrogelators for a wide range of applications. Full article
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Review

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Review
PLGA-Based Composites for Various Biomedical Applications
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2022, 23(4), 2034; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms23042034 - 12 Feb 2022
Cited by 32 | Viewed by 3177
Abstract
Polymeric materials have been extensively explored in the field of nanomedicine; within them, poly lactic-co-glycolic acid (PLGA) holds a prominent position in micro- and nanotechnology due to its biocompatibility and controllable biodegradability. In this review we focus on the combination of PLGA with [...] Read more.
Polymeric materials have been extensively explored in the field of nanomedicine; within them, poly lactic-co-glycolic acid (PLGA) holds a prominent position in micro- and nanotechnology due to its biocompatibility and controllable biodegradability. In this review we focus on the combination of PLGA with different inorganic nanomaterials in the form of nanocomposites to overcome the polymer’s limitations and extend its field of applications. We discuss their physicochemical properties and a variety of well-established synthesis methods for the preparation of different PLGA-based materials. Recent progress in the design and biomedical applications of PLGA-based materials are thoroughly discussed to provide a framework for future research. Full article
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Review
Polymeric Nanocomposites for Environmental and Industrial Applications
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2022, 23(3), 1023; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms23031023 - 18 Jan 2022
Cited by 20 | Viewed by 2513
Abstract
Polymeric nanocomposites (PNC) have an outstanding potential for various applications as the integrated structure of the PNCs exhibits properties that none of its component materials individually possess. Moreover, it is possible to fabricate PNCs into desired shapes and sizes, which would enable controlling [...] Read more.
Polymeric nanocomposites (PNC) have an outstanding potential for various applications as the integrated structure of the PNCs exhibits properties that none of its component materials individually possess. Moreover, it is possible to fabricate PNCs into desired shapes and sizes, which would enable controlling their properties, such as their surface area, magnetic behavior, optical properties, and catalytic activity. The low cost and light weight of PNCs have further contributed to their potential in various environmental and industrial applications. Stimuli-responsive nanocomposites are a subgroup of PNCs having a minimum of one promising chemical and physical property that may be controlled by or follow a stimulus response. Such outstanding properties and behaviors have extended the scope of application of these nanocomposites. The present review discusses the various methods of preparation available for PNCs, including in situ synthesis, solution mixing, melt blending, and electrospinning. In addition, various environmental and industrial applications of PNCs, including those in the fields of water treatment, electromagnetic shielding in aerospace applications, sensor devices, and food packaging, are outlined. Full article
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