Staff member


Fausto Sanz Carrasco

Group Leader
Nanoprobes and Nanoswitches
fsanz@ibecbarcelona.eu
+34 934 021 240
CV Summary

Fausto Sanz obtained his PhD in Experimental Sciences from the University of Barcelona, where he has been Full Professor since 1988. He currently teaches in the Department of Physical Chemistry in the fields of Surface Science, Electrochemistry and SPM applications. As Visiting Investigator at the University of Utrecht (1985-86) in Prof. Sluyters’ laboratory, he acquired expertise in Impedance Spectroscopy and Chrono-electrochemical techniques. Elected Director of the Physical Chemistry Department (1986-1991), he successfully promoted a research agreement to improve research outputs under which, in ten years, the Department went to the top of University records. He was Sabbatical Visiting Scholar at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (1991-92) in Prof. Salmeron’s SPM group and within the Surface & Catalysis Program led by Prof. Somorjai. Now his research is mainly devoted to three subjects: Molecular functionalization of surfaces and particulate systems, Nanomechanics & Nanotribology linked with surface phenomena and including Molecular Force Spectroscopy, and Electrochemical Scanning Tunneling microscopy and Spectroscopy.
He is an active member of ISE since 1982, of the Electrochemical Society since 1989, of the Northern California Chapter of the AVS since 1992, and of The Biophysical Society since 2005. He has published more than 150 contributions in peer-reviewed journals and a few other publications. For the last twenty years he have conducted graduate Courses in Electrochemistry, Surface Electrochemistry, Surface Science, Scanning Probe Microscopies and Nanobiotechnology with more than the average number of students from several PhD programmes. He mentored 21 PhD Students, the majority of them integrated today as Staff in the University or Research Centers, and more than 30 Graduate Students with a (Master) Diploma in Experimental Chemistry. He is Member of the Executive Board of the “Sociedad de Microscopia Española” associated to the European Microscopy Society.

Staff member publications

Aragonès, A. C., Aravena, D., Valverde-Muñoz, F. J., Real, J. A., Sanz, F., Díez-Pérez, I., Ruiz, E., (2017). Metal-controlled magnetoresistance at room temperature in single-molecule devices Journal of the American Chemical Society 139, (16), 5768-5778

The appropriate choice of the transition metal complex and metal surface electronic structure opens the possibility to control the spin of the charge carriers through the resulting hybrid molecule/metal spinterface in a single-molecule electrical contact at room temperature. The single-molecule conductance of a Au/molecule/Ni junction can be switched by flipping the magnetization direction of the ferromagnetic electrode. The requirements of the molecule include not just the presence of unpaired electrons: the electronic configuration of the metal center has to provide occupied or empty orbitals that strongly interact with the junction metal electrodes and that are close in energy to their Fermi levels for one of the electronic spins only. The key ingredient for the metal surface is to provide an efficient spin texture induced by the spin-orbit coupling in the topological surface states that results in an efficient spin-dependent interaction with the orbitals of the molecule. The strong magnetoresistance effect found in this kind of single-molecule wire opens a new approach for the design of room-temperature nanoscale devices based on spin-polarized currents controlled at molecular level.


Aragonès, A. C., Darwish, N., Ciampi, S., Sanz, F., Gooding, J. J., Díez-Pérez, I., (2017). Single-molecule electrical contacts on silicon electrodes under ambient conditions Nature Communications 8, 15056

The ultimate goal in molecular electronics is to use individual molecules as the active electronic component of a real-world sturdy device. For this concept to become reality, it will require the field of single-molecule electronics to shift towards the semiconducting platform of the current microelectronics industry. Here, we report silicon-based single-molecule contacts that are mechanically and electrically stable under ambient conditions. The single-molecule contacts are prepared on silicon electrodes using the scanning tunnelling microscopy break-junction approach using a top metallic probe. The molecular wires show remarkable current-voltage reproducibility, as compared to an open silicon/nano-gap/metal junction, with current rectification ratios exceeding 4,000 when a low-doped silicon is used. The extension of the single-molecule junction approach to a silicon substrate contributes to the next level of miniaturization of electronic components and it is anticipated it will pave the way to a new class of robust single-molecule circuits.


López-Martínez, Montserrat, Artés, Juan Manuel, Sarasso, Veronica, Carminati, Marco, Díez-Pérez, Ismael, Sanz, Fausto, Gorostiza, Pau, (2017). Differential Electrochemical Conductance Imaging at the Nanoscale Small Early View (Online Version of Record published before inclusion in an issue)

Electron transfer in proteins is essential in crucial biological processes. Although the fundamental aspects of biological electron transfer are well characterized, currently there are no experimental tools to determine the atomic-scale electronic pathways in redox proteins, and thus to fully understand their outstanding efficiency and environmental adaptability. This knowledge is also required to design and optimize biomolecular electronic devices. In order to measure the local conductance of an electrode surface immersed in an electrolyte, this study builds upon the current–potential spectroscopic capacity of electrochemical scanning tunneling microscopy, by adding an alternating current modulation technique. With this setup, spatially resolved, differential electrochemical conductance images under bipotentiostatic control are recorded. Differential electrochemical conductance imaging allows visualizing the reversible oxidation of an iron electrode in borate buffer and individual azurin proteins immobilized on atomically flat gold surfaces. In particular, this method reveals submolecular regions with high conductance within the protein. The direct observation of nanoscale conduction pathways in redox proteins and complexes enables important advances in biochemistry and bionanotechnology.

Keywords: Differential electrochemical conductance, ECSTM, Electron transport pathway, Iron passivation, Redox metalloproteins


Obiols-Rabasa, M., Oncins, G., Sanz, F., Tadros, T. F., Solans, C., Levecke, B., Booten, K., Esquena, J., (2017). Investigation of the elastic and adhesion properties of adsorbed hydrophobically modified inulin films on latex particles using Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) Colloids and Surfaces A: Physicochemical and Engineering Aspects 524, 185-192

Graft polymer surfactants provide very good colloidal stability because of strong steric repulsions between adsorbed surfactant films. The elastic and adhesion properties of adsorbed hydrophobically modified inulin polymer surfactant (INUTEC NRA) have been directly measured using Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) measurements. For this purpose, poly(methyl methacrylate/butyl acrylate), P(MMA/BuA), latexes prepared in the presence of the hydrophobically modified inulin (INUTEC NRA) were used. These latexes (diameter 118 nm and polydispersity index of 1.05) showed a very high colloidal stability in water and in the presence of electrolyte (up to 0.2 mol dm−3 KBr). The latexes were deposited on mica, which was silanated to enhance the adhesion of the latex particles to the surface. A silicon nitride tip with approximately 10 nm diameter that also contained an adsorbed layer of surfactant was used in the AFM apparatus. The tip was allowed to approach, contact thereafter the particles with an applied force of 12.5 nN, and finally detach from the film. Both elastic (Young’s) modulus of the film and adhesion force were studied. The results showed that the adsorbed surfactant films are highly elastic and their elastic modulus and adhesion force did not change significantly with the presence of Na2SO4 up to 0.05 mol dm−3. The high elastic contribution to the steric interaction ensures strong repulsion between the latex particles both in water and at high electrolyte concentrations. In addition, the lack of dependence of adhesion force on electrolyte concentration ensures uniform deposition of the latex particles on a flat substrate as for example in coating applications. These results show the advantages of using a graft polymer surfactant for enhancing the stability of particle suspensions, as illustrated in previous investigations.

Keywords: AFM, Colloidal stability, Interaction forces, Steric repulsion


Gumí-Audenis, Berta, Costa, Luca, Carlá, Francesco, Comin, Fabio, Sanz, Fausto, Giannotti, Marina, (2016). Structure and nanomechanics of model membranes by atomic force microscopy and spectroscopy: Insights into the role of cholesterol and sphingolipids Membranes 6, (4), 58

Biological membranes mediate several biological processes that are directly associated with their physical properties but sometimes difficult to evaluate. Supported lipid bilayers (SLBs) are model systems widely used to characterize the structure of biological membranes. Cholesterol (Chol) plays an essential role in the modulation of membrane physical properties. It directly influences the order and mechanical stability of the lipid bilayers, and it is known to laterally segregate in rafts in the outer leaflet of the membrane together with sphingolipids (SLs). Atomic force microscope (AFM) is a powerful tool as it is capable to sense and apply forces with high accuracy, with distance and force resolution at the nanoscale, and in a controlled environment. AFM-based force spectroscopy (AFM-FS) has become a crucial technique to study the nanomechanical stability of SLBs by controlling the liquid media and the temperature variations. In this contribution, we review recent AFM and AFM-FS studies on the effect of Chol on the morphology and mechanical properties of model SLBs, including complex bilayers containing SLs. We also introduce a promising combination of AFM and X-ray (XR) techniques that allows for in situ characterization of dynamic processes, providing structural, morphological, and nanomechanical information

Keywords: Atomic force microscopy, Force spectroscopy, Lipid membranes, Supported lipid bilayers, Nanomechanics, Cholesterol, Sphingolipids, Membrane structure, XR-AFM combination


Aragonès, A. C., Aravena, D., Cerdá, J. I., Acís-Castillo, Z., Li, H., Real, J. A., Sanz, F., Hihath, J., Ruiz, E., Díez-Pérez, I., (2016). Large conductance switching in a single-molecule device through room temperature spin-dependent transport Nano Letters 16, (1), 218-226

Controlling the spin of electrons in nanoscale electronic devices is one of the most promising topics aiming at developing devices with rapid and high density information storage capabilities. The interface magnetism or spinterface resulting from the interaction between a magnetic molecule and a metal surface, or vice versa, has become a key ingredient in creating nanoscale molecular devices with novel functionalities. Here, we present a single-molecule wire that displays large (>10000%) conductance switching by controlling the spin-dependent transport under ambient conditions (room temperature in a liquid cell). The molecular wire is built by trapping individual spin crossover FeII complexes between one Au electrode and one ferromagnetic Ni electrode in an organic liquid medium. Large changes in the single-molecule conductance (>100-fold) are measured when the electrons flow from the Au electrode to either an α-up or a β-down spin-polarized Ni electrode. Our calculations show that the current flowing through such an interface appears to be strongly spin-polarized, thus resulting in the observed switching of the single-molecule wire conductance. The observation of such a high spin-dependent conductance switching in a single-molecule wire opens up a new door for the design and control of spin-polarized transport in nanoscale molecular devices at room temperature.

Keywords: Density functional calculations, Magnetoresistance, Single-molecule junctions, Spin orbit coupling, Spin-crossover complexes, Spinterface, STM break-junction


Giannotti, Marina I., Abasolo, Ibane, Oliva, Mireia, Andrade, Fernanda, García-Aranda, Natalia, Melgarejo, Marta, Pulido, Daniel, Corchero, José Luis, Fernández, Yolanda, Villaverde, Antonio, Royo, Miriam, Garcia-Parajo, Maria F., Sanz, Fausto, Schwartz Jr, Simó, (2016). Highly versatile polyelectrolyte complexes for improving the enzyme replacement therapy of lysosomal storage disorders ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces 8, (39), 25741–25752

Lysosomal storage disorders are currently treated by enzyme replacement therapy (ERT) through the direct administration of the unprotected recombinant protein to the patients. Herein we present an ionically cross-linked polyelectrolyte complex (PEC) composed of trimethyl chitosan (TMC) and

Keywords: Enzyme replacement therapy, Fabry disease, Lysosomal delivery, Nanomedicine, Polyelectrolyte complexes, Trimethyl chitosan, α-galactosidase A


Ponce, I., Aragonès, A. C., Darwish, Nadrim, Pla-Vilanova, P., Oñate, R., Rezende, M. C., Zagal, J. H., Sanz, F., Pavez, J., Díez-Pérez, I., (2015). Building nanoscale molecular wires exploiting electrocatalytic interactions Electrochimica Acta 179, 611-167

Herein, we present a novel method to design nanoscale molecular wires by exploiting well-established electrocatalytic molecular platforms based on metallophthalocyanine blocks. Metallophthalocyanines exhibit high catalytic activity for a wide variety of electrochemical reactions of practical interests. To this aim, metallophthalocyanine molecules can be attached to an electrode surface via a conjugated mercaptopyridine axial ligand that provides (i) stable chemical binding to the metal surface through the thiol-anchoring group, and (ii) a good electrical communication between the metallophthalocyanine ring and the electrode surface. Our previous work demonstrates that long mercaptopyridinium blocks act as excellent linkers in such electrocatalytic platform, resulting in an optimal electrocatalytic activity of the metallophthalocyanine unit. Here we profit from this optimized electrocatalytic molecular platform to design new molecular wires that connect a metal nanoscale junction in a highly efficient and tunable way. To this aim, we use an STM break-junction approach to control the formation of a nanometric gap between two Au electrodes, both functionalized with mercaptopyridinium (bottom) and mercaptopyridine (top). When metallophthalocyanine is introduced into the functionalized metal nanojunction, stable molecular connections between the two electrodes are formed through axial coordination to the top and bottom pyridine moieties. We show that the highest conductance of the resulting nanoscale molecular wire corresponds to an Fe-phthalocyanine as compare to a Cu-phthalocyanine, which follows the electrocatalytic trend for such molecular systems. These results not only demonstrate a new strategy to design new families of highly conductive and tunable nanoscale molecular wires, but it also brings a new nanoscale electrical platform to help understanding some fundamental mechanistic aspects of molecular electrocatalysis.

Keywords: Single-molecule wires, Metallophthalocyanine, Electrocatalytic molecular platform, Molecular Electronics, STM break-junction


Gumi-Audenis, B., Sanz, F., Giannotti, M. I., (2015). Impact of galactosylceramides on the nanomechanical properties of lipid bilayer models: an AFM-force spectroscopy study Soft Matter 11, (27), 5447-5454

Galactosylceramides (GalCer) are glycosphingolipids bound to a monosaccharide group, responsible for inducing extensive hydrogen bonds that yield their alignment and accumulation in the outer leaflet of the biological membrane together with cholesterol (Chol) in rafts. In this work, the influence of GalCer on the nanomechanical properties of supported lipid bilayers (SLBs) based on DPPC (1,2-dipalmitoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine) and DLPC (1,2-didodecanoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocoline) as model systems was assessed. Phosphatidylcholine (PC):GalCer SLBs were characterized by means of differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) and atomic force microscopy (AFM), in both imaging and force spectroscopy (AFM-FS) modes. Comparing both PC systems, we determined that the behaviour of SLB mixtures is governed by the PC phase-like state at the working temperature. While a phase segregated system is observed for DLPC:GalCer SLBs, GalCer are found to be dissolved in DPPC SLBs for GalCer contents up to 20 mol%. In both systems, the incorporation of GalCer intensifies the nanomechanical properties of SLBs. Interestingly, segregated domains of exceptionally high mechanical stability are formed in DLPC:GalCer SLBs. Finally, the role of 20 mol% Chol in GalCer organization and function in the membranes was assessed. Both PC model systems displayed phase segregation and remarkable nanomechanical stability when GalCer and Chol coexist in SLBs.


Hoyo, J., Guaus, E., Torrent-Burgués, J., Sanz, F., (2015). Biomimetic monolayer films of digalactosyldiacylglycerol incorporating plastoquinone Biochimica et Biophysica Acta - Biomembranes 1848, (6), 1341-1351

The photosynthesis is the process used by plants and bacteria cells to convert inorganic matter in organic thanks to the light energy. This process consist on several steps, being one of them the electronic transport from the photosystem II to the cytochrome thanks to plastoquinone-9 (PQ). Here we prepare membranes that mimic the characteristics and composition of natural photosynthetic cell membranes and we characterize them in order to obtain the PQ molecules position in the membrane and their electrochemical behaviour. The selected galactolipid is digalactosyldiacylglycerol (DGDG) that represents the 30% of the thylakoid membrane lipid content. The results obtained are worthful for several science fields due to the relevance of galactolipids as anti-algal, anti-viral, anti-tumor and anti-inflammatory agents and the antioxidant and free radical scavenger properties of prenylquinones. Both pure components (DGDG and PQ) and the DGDG:PQ mixtures have been studied using surface pressure-area isotherms. These isotherms give information about the film stability and indicate the thermodynamic behaviour of the mixture and their physical state. The Langmuir-Blodgett (LB) film has been transferred forming a monolayer that mimics the bottom layer of the biological membranes. This monolayer on mica has been topographically characterized using AFM and both the height and the physical state that they present have been obtained. Moreover, these monolayers have been transferred onto ITO that is a hydrophilic substrate with good optical and electrical features, so that, it is suitable for studying the electrochemical behaviour of these systems and it is a good candidate for energy producing devices.

Keywords: Biomimetic membrane, Digalactosyldiacylglycerol, Electron transfer, LangmuirBlodgett film, Modified ITO electrode, Plastoquinone


Pla-Vilanova, P., Aragonès, A. C., Ciampi, S., Sanz, F., Darwish, N., Diez-Perez, I., (2015). The spontaneous formation of single-molecule junctions via terminal alkynes Nanotechnology 26, 381001

Herein, we report the spontaneous formation of single-molecule junctions via terminal alkyne contact groups. Self-assembled monolayers that form spontaneously from diluted solutions of 1, 4-diethynylbenzene (DEB) were used to build single-molecule contacts and assessed using the scanning tunneling microscopy-break junction technique (STM-BJ). The STM-BJ technique in both its dynamic and static approaches was used to characterize the lifetime (stability) and the conductivity of a single-DEB wire. It is demonstrated that single-molecule junctions form spontaneously with terminal alkynes and require no electrochemical control or chemical deprotonation. The alkyne anchoring group was compared against typical contact groups exploited in single-molecule studies, i.e. amine (benzenediamine) and thiol (benzendithiol) contact groups. The alkyne contact showed a conductance magnitude comparable to that observed with amine and thiol groups. The lifetime of the junctions formed from alkynes were only slightly less than that of thiols and greater than that observed for amines. These findings are important as (a) they extend the repertoire of chemical contacts used in single-molecule measurements to 1-alkynes, which are synthetically accessible and stable and (b) alkynes have a remarkable affinity toward silicon surfaces, hence opening the door for the study of single-molecule transport on a semiconducting electronic platform.

Keywords: Ferrocene, Molecular electronics, Single-molecule electronics, Single-molecule junctions, Singlemolecule contacts, STM-break junction, Terminal alkyne


Hoyo, J., Guaus, E., Torrent-Burgués, J., Sanz, F., (2015). Electrochemistry of LB films of mixed MGDG: UQ on ITO Bioelectrochemistry 104, 26-34

The electrochemical behaviour of biomimetic monolayers of monogalactosyldiacylglycerol (MGDG) incorporating ubiquinone-10 (UQ) has been investigated. MGDG is the principal component in the thylakoid membrane and UQ seems a good substitute for plastoquinone-9, involved in photosynthesis chain. The monolayers have been performed using the Langmuir and Langmuir-Blodgett (LB) techniques and the redox behaviour of the LB films, transferred at several surface pressures on a glass covered with indium-tin oxide (ITO), has been characterized by cyclic voltammetry. The cyclic voltammograms show that UQ molecules present two redox processes (I and II) at high UQ content and high surface pressures, and only one redox process (I) at low UQ content and low surface pressures. The apparent rate constants calculated for processes I and II indicate a different kinetic control for the reduction and the oxidation of UQ/UQH2 redox couple, being kRapp(I)=2.2·10-5s-1, kRapp(II)=5.1·10-14 kOapp(I)=3.3·10-3s-1 and kOapp(II)=6.1·10-6s-1, respectively. The correlation of the redox response with the physical states of the LB films allows determining the positions of the UQ molecules in the biomimetic monolayer, which change with the surface pressure and the UQ content. These positions are known as diving and swimming.

Keywords: Cyclic voltammetry, Electron transfer, Langmuir-Blodgett film, Modified ITO electrode, Monogalactosyldiacylglycerol, Ubiquinone


Hoyo, J., Guaus, E., Torrent-Burgués, J., Sanz, F., (2015). Biomimetic monolayer films of monogalactosyldiacylglycerol incorporating plastoquinone Journal of Physical Chemistry B 119, (20), 6170-6178

Photosynthetic organisms use light to convert the inorganic matter in organic one. Photosynthetic process consists on several steps, and one of them involves plastoquinone (PQ) that acts as electron and proton shuttle between photosystem II and cytochrome. We prepared membranes that mimic the characteristics and composition of natural photosynthetic membranes and we characterized them using several techniques in order to obtain both the PQ molecules disposition in the membrane and their electrochemical behavior. The selected lipid was monogalactosyldiacylglycerol (MGDG) that represents the 50% of the lipid content of the thylakoid membrane. Both MGDG and PQ, and the MGDG:PQ mixtures have been studied using surface pressure-area isotherms and the presence of PQ alters the physical state and compactness of the MGDG matrix. Langmuir-Blodgett (LB) films have been obtained by transferring a monolayer that mimics half of the bilayer of a biological membrane. The AFM topographical characterization of the monolayers on mica indicates the presence of differentiated domains, corresponding to different physical states linked to the influence of the PQ content. Moreover, the electrochemical behavior of the monolayers has been studied when transferred on ITO, observing one main electrochemical process that is due to the diving position of PQ molecules in the lipid matrix.


Giannotti, Marina I., Cabeza de Vaca, Israel, Artés, Juan Manuel, Sanz, Fausto, Guallar, Victor, Gorostiza, Pau, (2015). Direct measurement of the nanomechanical stability of a redox protein active site and its dependence upon metal binding Journal of Physical Chemistry B 119, (36), 12050-12058

The structural basis of the low reorganization energy of cupredoxins has long been debated. These proteins reconcile a conformationally heterogeneous and exposed metal-chelating site with the highly rigid copper center required for efficient electron transfer. Here we combine single-molecule mechanical unfolding experiments with statistical analysis and computer simulations to show that the metal-binding region of apo-azurin is mechanically flexible and that high mechanical stability is imparted by copper binding. The unfolding pathway of the metal site depends on the pulling residue and suggests that partial unfolding of the metal binding site could be facilitated by the physical interaction with certain regions of the redox protein. The structural basis of the low reorganization energy of cupredoxins has long been debated. These proteins reconcile a conformationally heterogeneous and exposed metal-chelating site with the highly rigid copper center required for efficient electron transfer. Here we combine single-molecule mechanical unfolding experiments with statistical analysis and computer simulations to show that the metal-binding region of apo-azurin is mechanically flexible and that high mechanical stability is imparted by copper binding. The unfolding pathway of the metal site depends on the pulling residue and suggests that partial unfolding of the metal binding site could be facilitated by the physical interaction with certain regions of the redox protein.


Gumí-Audenis, B., Carlà, F., Vitorino, M. V., Panzarella, A., Porcar, L., Boilot, M., Guerber, S., Bernard, P., Rodrigues, M. S., Sanz, F., Giannotti, M. I., Costa, L., (2015). Custom AFM for X-ray beamlines: in situ biological investigations under physiological conditions Journal of Synchrotron Radiation 22, 1364-1371

A fast atomic force microscope (AFM) has been developed that can be installed as a sample holder for grazing-incidence X-ray experiments at solid/gas or solid/liquid interfaces. It allows a wide range of possible investigations, including soft and biological samples under physiological conditions (hydrated specimens). The structural information obtained using the X-rays is combined with the data gathered with the AFM (morphology and mechanical properties), providing a unique characterization of the specimen and its dynamics in situ during an experiment. In this work, lipid monolayers and bilayers in air or liquid environment have been investigated by means of AFM, both with imaging and force spectroscopy, and X-ray reflectivity. In addition, this combination allows the radiation damage induced by the beam on the sample to be studied, as has been observed on DOPC and DPPC supported lipid bilayers under physiological conditions.

Keywords: In situ atomic force microscopy, Grazing-incidence scattering and reflectivity, Radiation damage, Model lipid membranes


Arvizu-Rodríguez, L. E., Palacios-Padrós, A., Chalé-Lara, F., Fernández-Muñoz, J. L., Díez-Pérez, I., Sanz, F., Espinosa-Faller, F. J., Sandoval, J., Caballero-Briones, F., (2015). Phase and surface modification by electrochemical post deposition treatments in ultrasonic-assisted CuInSe2/Cu electrodeposited films Chalcogenide Letters 12, (10), 537-545

CuInSe2 films were prepared onto Cu-cladded substrates by ultrasonic-assisted electrodeposition using different bath compositions and a fixed deposition potential of E=-1500 mV vs Ag/AgCl. In situ electrochemical treatments named selenization and electrocrystallization, in a Se4+ electrolyte were applied to modify the morphology, film structure and the phase composition. Films were characterized by scanning electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction, Raman spectroscopy and photocurrent response. A Cu2-xSe layer develops as the electrode is introduced into the electrolyte. The presence of Cu-In, In-Se, Cu-Se, cubic, hexagonal and tetragonal CuInSe2 phases as well as elemental In and Se was observed. After selenization, partial phase dissolution and Se deposition is observed and after the electrocrystallization treatment the secondary phases such as Cu-Se, Cu-In, In and Se reduce substantially and the grain sizes increase, as well as the photocurrent response. Phase diagrams are constructed for each set of films and reaction mechanisms are proposed to explain the phase evolution.

Keywords: CuInSe2, Electrodeposition, In situ electrochemical treatments, Phase composition, Surface modification


Aragonès, Albert C., Darwish, Nadim, Saletra, Wojciech J., Pérez-García, Ll., Sanz, Fausto, Puigmartí-Luis, Josep, Amabilino, David B., Díez-Pérez, Ismael, (2014). Highly conductive single-molecule wires with controlled orientation by coordination of metalloporphyrins Nano Letters 14, (8), 4751-4756

Porphyrin-based molecular wires are promising candidates for nanoelectronic and photovoltaic devices due to the porphyrin chemical stability and unique optoelectronic properties. An important aim toward exploiting single porphyrin molecules in nanoscale devices is to possess the ability to control the electrical pathways across them. Herein, we demonstrate a method to build single-molecule wires with metalloporphyrins via their central metal ion by chemically modifying both an STM tip and surface electrodes with pyridin-4-yl-methanethiol, a molecule that has strong affinity for coordination with the metal ion of the porphyrin. The new flat configuration resulted in single-molecule junctions of exceedingly high lifetime and of conductance 3 orders of magnitude larger than that obtained previously for similar porphyrin molecules but wired from either end of the porphyrin ring. This work presents a new concept of building highly efficient single-molecule electrical contacts by exploiting metal coordination chemistry. Porphyrin-based molecular wires are promising candidates for nanoelectronic and photovoltaic devices due to the porphyrin chemical stability and unique optoelectronic properties. An important aim toward exploiting single porphyrin molecules in nanoscale devices is to possess the ability to control the electrical pathways across them. Herein, we demonstrate a method to build single-molecule wires with metalloporphyrins via their central metal ion by chemically modifying both an STM tip and surface electrodes with pyridin-4-yl-methanethiol, a molecule that has strong affinity for coordination with the metal ion of the porphyrin. The new flat configuration resulted in single-molecule junctions of exceedingly high lifetime and of conductance 3 orders of magnitude larger than that obtained previously for similar porphyrin molecules but wired from either end of the porphyrin ring. This work presents a new concept of building highly efficient single-molecule electrical contacts by exploiting metal coordination chemistry.


Artés, Juan M., López-Martínez, Montserrat, Díez-Pérez, Ismael, Sanz, Fausto, Gorostiza, Pau, (2014). Conductance switching in single wired redox proteins Small 10, (13), 2537-2541

Switching events in the current flowing through individual redox proteins, (azurin) spontaneously wired between two electrodes, are studied using an electrochemical scanning tunneling microscope (ECSTM). These switching events in the current–time trace are characterized using conductance histograms, and reflect the intrinsic redox thermodynamic dispersion in the azurin population. This conductance switching may pose limitations to miniaturizing redox protein-based devices.

Keywords: Bioelectronics, Protein transistors, Molecular junctions, Switches, STM


Palacios-Padrós, A., Altomare, M., Tighineanu, A., Kirchgeorg, R., Shrestha, N. K., Díez-Pérez, I., Caballero-Briones, F., Sanz, F., Schmuki, P., (2014). Growth of ordered anodic SnO2 nanochannel layers and their use for H2 gas sensing Journal of Materials Chemistry A 2, (4), 915-920

In the current work, we present a new self-organizing anodization approach of metallic Sn layers to obtain vertically aligned tin oxide nanochannel structures. For this, we use a sulphide-containing electrolyte and a set of optimized anodizing parameters. The resulting high aspect ratio nanochannel morphologies can be converted into crystalline SnO2 by high temperature annealing and show highly promising H2 sensing properties. We show that these anodic layers can operate at relatively low temperatures (∼80 °C), detecting concentrations as low as 9 ppm, and with extremely fast response and recovery times. This excellent gas-sensing performance is ascribed to the advanced structure, characterized by a crack-free, straight and top-open nanochannel geometry.


Pérez-Madrigal, M. M., Giannotti, M. I., Del Valle, L. J., Franco, L., Armelin, E., Puiggalí, J., Sanz, F., Alemán, C., (2014). Thermoplastic polyurethane:polythiophene nanomembranes for biomedical and biotechnological applications ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces 6, (12), 9719-9732

Nanomembranes have been prepared by spin-coating mixtures of a polythiophene (P3TMA) derivative and thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) using 20:80, 40:60, and 60:40 TPU:P3TMA weight ratios. After structural, topographical, electrochemical, and thermal characterization, properties typically related with biomedical applications have been investigated: swelling, resistance to both hydrolytic and enzymatic degradation, biocompatibility, and adsorption of type I collagen, which is an extra cellular matrix protein that binds fibronectin favoring cell adhesion processes. The swelling ability and the hydrolytic and enzymatic degradability of TPU:P3TMA membranes increases with the concentration of P3TMA. Moreover, the degradation of the blends is considerably promoted by the presence of enzymes in the hydrolytic medium, TPU:P3TMA blends behaving as biodegradable materials. On the other hand, TPU:P3TMA nanomembranes behave as bioactive platforms stimulating cell adhesion and, especially, cell viability. Type I collagen adsorption largely depends on the substrate employed to support the nanomembrane, whereas it is practically independent of the chemical nature of the polymeric material used to fabricate the nanomembrane. However, detailed microscopy study of the morphology and topography of adsorbed collagen evidence the formation of different organizations, which range from fibrils to pseudoregular honeycomb networks depending on the composition of the nanomembrane that is in contact with the protein. Scaffolds made of electroactive TPU:P3TMA nanomembranes are potential candidates for tissue engineering biomedical applications.

Keywords: Bioactive platform, Biodegradable blend, Collaged adsorption, Scaffolds, Tissue engineering, Ultrathin films


Pérez-Madrigal, M. M., Giannotti, M. I., Armelin, E., Sanz, F., Alemán, C., (2014). Electronic, electric and electrochemical properties of bioactive nanomembranes made of polythiophene:thermoplastic polyurethane Polymer Chemistry 5, (4), 1248-1257

The electronic, electric and electrochemical response of nanomembranes prepared by using spin-coating mixtures of a semiconducting polythiophene derivative (P3TMA) and thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) has been exhaustively examined by UV-vis spectroscopy, conductive AFM, current/voltage measurements and cyclic voltammetry. TPU:P3TMA nanomembranes were reported to be good substrates for applications related to tissue engineering, acting as a cellular matrix for cell adhesion and proliferation. Both TPU:P3TMA and P3TMA nanomembranes show semiconductor behavior with very similar band gap energy (2.35 and 2.32 eV, respectively), which has been attributed to the influence of the fabrication process on the π-conjugation length and packing interactions of P3TMA chains. This behavior is in opposition to the observations in THF solution, which indicates that the band gap energy of P3TMA is clearly lower than that of the mixture, independently of the concentration. The current and conductivity values determined for the nanomembranes, which range from 0.43 to 1.85 pA and from 2.23 × 10-5 to 5.19 × 10-6 S cm-1, respectively, evidence inhomogeneity in the P3TMA-rich domains. This has been associated with the irregular distribution of the doped chains and the presence of insulating TPU chains. The voltammetric response of TPU:P3TMA and P3TMA nanomembranes is similar in terms of ability to store charge and electrochemical stability. Overall results indicate that TPU:P3TMA nanomembranes are potential candidates for the fabrication of bioactive substrates able to promote cell regeneration through electrical or electrochemical stimulation.


Artés, J. M., López-Martínez, M., Díez-Pérez, I., Sanz, F., Gorostiza, P., (2014). Nanoscale charge transfer in redox proteins and DNA: Towards biomolecular electronics Electrochimica Acta 140, 83-95

Understanding how charges move through and between biomolecules is a fundamental question that constitutes the basis for many biological processes. On the other hand, it has potential applications in the design of sensors based on biomolecules and single molecule devices. In this review we introduce the study of the electron transfer (ET) process in biomolecules, providing an overview of the fundamental theory behind it and the different experimental approaches. The ET in proteins is introduced by reviewing a complete electronic characterization of a redox protein (azurin) using electrochemical scanning tunnelling microscopy (ECSTM). The ET process in DNA is overviewed and results from different experimental approaches are discussed. Finally, future directions in the study of the ET process in biomolecules are introduced as well as examples of possible technological applications.

Keywords: Bioelectrochemistry, Biomolecular electronics, Charge transfer, Nanobiodevice, Single-molecule junction


Redondo-Morata, L., Giannotti, M. I., Sanz, F., (2014). Structural impact of cations on lipid bilayer models: Nanomechanical properties by AFM-force spectroscopy Molecular Membrane Biology 31, (1), 17-28

Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) has become an invaluable tool for studying the micro-and nanoworlds. As a stand-alone, high-resolution imaging technique and force transducer, it defies most other surface instrumentation in ease of use, sensitivity and versatility. The main strength of AFM relies on the possibility to operate in an aqueous environment on a wide variety of biological samples, from single molecules-DNA or proteins-to macromolecular assemblies like biological membranes. Understanding the effect of mechanical stress on membranes is of primary importance in biophysics, since cells are known to perform their function under a complex combination of forces. In the later years, AFM-based Force-Spectroscopy (AFM-FS) has provided a new vista on membrane mechanics in a confined area within the nanometer realm, where most of the specific molecular interactions take place. Lipid membranes are electrostatically charged entities that physiologically coexist with electrolyte solutions. Thus, specific interactions with ions are a matter of considerable interest. The distribution of ions in the solution and their interaction with the membranes are factors that substantially modify the structure and dynamics of the cell membranes. Furthermore, signaling processes are modified by the membrane capability of retaining ions. Supported Lipid Bilayers (SLBs) are a versatile tool to investigate phospholipid membranes mimicking biological surfaces. In the present contribution, we review selected experiments on the mechanical stability of SLBs as models of lipid membranes by means of AFM-FS, with special focus on the effect of cations and ionic strength in the overall nanomechanical stability.

Keywords: Atomic force microscopy, Cations, Force spectroscopy, Lipid bilayer, Mechanical stability


Redondo-Morata, L., Giannotti, M. I., Sanz, F., (2013). AFM-based force-clamp indentation: Force-clamp monitors the lipid bilayer failure kinetics Imaging & Microscopy 15, (4), 25-27

The lipid bilayer rupture was here explored by means of AFM-based force clamp. For the first time to our knowledge, this technique has been used to evaluate how lipid membranes respond when compressed under an external constant force in the range of nN. We were able to directly quantify the kinetics of the membrane rupture event and the associated energy barriers, in distinction to the classic studies performed at constant velocity.


Punet, X., Mauchauffé, R., Giannotti, M. I., Rodríguez-Cabello, J. C., Sanz, F., Engel, E., Mateos-Timoneda, M. A., Planell, J. A., (2013). Enhanced cell-material interactions through the biofunctionalization of polymeric surfaces with engineered peptides Biomacromolecules 14, (8), 2690-2702

Research on surface modification of polymeric materials to guide the cellular activity in biomaterials designed for tissue engineering applications has mostly focused on the use of natural extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins and short peptides, such as RGD. However, the use of engineered proteins can gather the advantages of these strategies and avoid the main drawbacks. In this study, recombinant engineered proteins called elastin-like recombinamers (ELRs) have been used to functionalize poly(lactic) acid (PLA) model surfaces. The structure of the ELRs has been designed to include the integrin ligand RGDS and the cross-linking module VPGKG. Surface functionalization has been characterized and optimized by means of ELISA and atomic force microscopy (AFM). The results suggest that ELR functionalization creates a nonfouling canvas able to restrict unspecific adsorption of proteins. Moreover, AFM analysis reveals the conformation and disposition of ELRs on the surface. Biological performance of PLA surfaces functionalized with ELRs has been studied and compared with the use of short peptides. Cell response has been assessed for different functionalization conditions in the presence and absence of the bovine serum albumin (BSA) protein, which could interfere with the surface?cell interaction by adsorbing on the interface. Studies have shown that ELRs are able to elicit higher rates of cell attachment, stronger cell anchorages and faster levels of proliferation than peptides. This work has demonstrated that the use of engineered proteins is a more efficient strategy to guide the cellular activity than the use of short peptides, because they not only allow for better cell attachment and proliferation, but also can provide more complex properties such as the creation of nonfouling surfaces. Research on surface modification of polymeric materials to guide the cellular activity in biomaterials designed for tissue engineering applications has mostly focused on the use of natural extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins and short peptides, such as RGD. However, the use of engineered proteins can gather the advantages of these strategies and avoid the main drawbacks. In this study, recombinant engineered proteins called elastin-like recombinamers (ELRs) have been used to functionalize poly(lactic) acid (PLA) model surfaces. The structure of the ELRs has been designed to include the integrin ligand RGDS and the cross-linking module VPGKG. Surface functionalization has been characterized and optimized by means of ELISA and atomic force microscopy (AFM). The results suggest that ELR functionalization creates a nonfouling canvas able to restrict unspecific adsorption of proteins. Moreover, AFM analysis reveals the conformation and disposition of ELRs on the surface. Biological performance of PLA surfaces functionalized with ELRs has been studied and compared with the use of short peptides. Cell response has been assessed for different functionalization conditions in the presence and absence of the bovine serum albumin (BSA) protein, which could interfere with the surface?cell interaction by adsorbing on the interface. Studies have shown that ELRs are able to elicit higher rates of cell attachment, stronger cell anchorages and faster levels of proliferation than peptides. This work has demonstrated that the use of engineered proteins is a more efficient strategy to guide the cellular activity than the use of short peptides, because they not only allow for better cell attachment and proliferation, but also can provide more complex properties such as the creation of nonfouling surfaces.


Perez Madrigal, M. M., Giannotti, M. I., Oncins, G., Franco, L., Armelin, E., Puiggali, J., Sanz, F., del Valle, L. J., Aleman, C., (2013). Bioactive nanomembranes of semiconductor polythiophene and thermoplastic polyurethane: thermal, nanostructural and nanomechanical properties Polymer Chemistry 4, (3), 568-583

Free-standing and supported nanomembranes have been prepared by spin-coating mixtures of a semiconducting polythiophene (P3TMA) derivative and thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). Thermal studies of TPU:P3TMA blends with 60 : 40, 50 : 50, 40 : 60 and 20 : 80 weight ratios indicate a partial miscibility of the two components. Analysis of the glass transition temperatures allowed us to identify the highest miscibility for the blend with a 40 : 60 weight ratio, this composition being used to prepare both self-standing and supported nanomembranes. The thickness of ultra-thin films made with the 40 : 60 blend ranged from 11 to 93 nm, while the average roughness was 16.3 +/- 0.8 nm. In these films the P3TMA-rich phase forms granules, which are dispersed throughout the rest of the film. Quantitative nanomechanical mapping has been used to determine the Young's modulus value by applying the Derjanguin-Muller-Toporov (DMT) contact mechanics model and the adhesion force of ultra-thin films. The modulus depends on the thickness of the films, values determined for the thicker (80-140 nm)/thinner (10-40 nm) regions of TPU, P3TMA and blend samples being 25/35 MPa, 3.5/12 GPa and 0.9/1.7 GPa, respectively. In contrast the adhesion force is homogeneous through the whole surface of the TPU and P3TMA films (average values: 7.2 and 5.0 nN, respectively), whereas for the blend it depends on the phase distribution. Thus, the adhesion force is higher for the TPU-rich domains than for the P3TMA-rich domains. Finally, the utility of the nanomembranes for tissue engineering applications has been proved by cellular proliferation assays. Results show that the blend is more active as a cellular matrix than each of the two individual polymers.


Lima, Lia M. C., Giannotti, M. I., Redondo-Morata, L., Vale, M. L. C., Marques, E. F., Sanz, F., (2013). Morphological and nanomechanical behavior of supported lipid bilayers on addition of cationic surfactants Langmuir 29, (30), 9352-9361

The addition of surfactants to lipid bilayers is important for the modulation of lipid bilayer properties (e.g., in protein reconstitution and development of nonviral gene delivery vehicles) and to provide insight on the properties of natural biomembranes. In this work, the thermal behavior, organization, and nanomechanical stability of model cationic lipid?surfactant bilayers have been investigated. Two different cationic surfactants, hexadecyltrimethylammonium bromide (CTAB) and a novel derivative of the amino acid serine (Ser16TFAc), have been added (up to 50 mol %) to both liposomes and supported lipid bilayers (SLBs) composed by the zwitterionic phospholipid DPPC. The thermal phase behavior of mixed liposomes has been probed by differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), and the morphology and nanomechanical properties of mixed SLBs by atomic force microscopy-based force spectroscopy (AFM-FS). Although DSC thermograms show different results for the two mixed liposomes, when both are deposited on mica substrates similar trends on the morphology and the mechanical response of the lipid?surfactant bilayers are observed. DSC thermograms indicate microdomain formation in both systems, but while CTAB decreases the degree of organization on the liposome bilayer, Ser16TFAc ultimately induces the opposite effect. Regarding the AFM-FS studies, they show that microphase segregation occurs for these systems and that the effect is dependent on the surfactant content. In both SLB systems, different microdomains characterized by their height and breakthrough force Fb are formed. The molecular organization and composition is critically discussed in the light of our experimental results and literature data on similar lipid?surfactant systems. The addition of surfactants to lipid bilayers is important for the modulation of lipid bilayer properties (e.g., in protein reconstitution and development of nonviral gene delivery vehicles) and to provide insight on the properties of natural biomembranes. In this work, the thermal behavior, organization, and nanomechanical stability of model cationic lipid?surfactant bilayers have been investigated. Two different cationic surfactants, hexadecyltrimethylammonium bromide (CTAB) and a novel derivative of the amino acid serine (Ser16TFAc), have been added (up to 50 mol %) to both liposomes and supported lipid bilayers (SLBs) composed by the zwitterionic phospholipid DPPC. The thermal phase behavior of mixed liposomes has been probed by differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), and the morphology and nanomechanical properties of mixed SLBs by atomic force microscopy-based force spectroscopy (AFM-FS). Although DSC thermograms show different results for the two mixed liposomes, when both are deposited on mica substrates similar trends on the morphology and the mechanical response of the lipid?surfactant bilayers are observed. DSC thermograms indicate microdomain formation in both systems, but while CTAB decreases the degree of organization on the liposome bilayer, Ser16TFAc ultimately induces the opposite effect. Regarding the AFM-FS studies, they show that microphase segregation occurs for these systems and that the effect is dependent on the surfactant content. In both SLB systems, different microdomains characterized by their height and breakthrough force Fb are formed. The molecular organization and composition is critically discussed in the light of our experimental results and literature data on similar lipid?surfactant systems.


Aragonès, A. C., Palacios-Padrós, A., Caballero-Briones, F., Sanz, F., (2013). Study and improvement of aluminium doped ZnO thin films: Limits and advantages Electrochimica Acta 109, 117-124

ZnO:Al films were deposited at 70°C at a fixed -1.1V potential onto ITO substrates from a 0.01M Zn(NO3)2+x Al(NO3)3·9H2O electrochemical bath, with Al3+ concentrations between 0 and 2mM. Electrodeposition conditions were optimized to remove bubbles, increase grain size homogeneity and ensure adherence. Films were characterized by field emission scanning electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, UV-vis transmittance, electrochemical impedance spectroscopy and photocurrent spectroscopy. Films were crystalline with the wurtzite structure and present a morphology made of hexagonal nano-pillars. It was found that Al incorporation increases gradually up to ~11at% for samples prepared within the concentration range 0.0-0.3mM Al3+ in the bath. For higher Al3+ contents (>0.4mM) an amorphous Al2O3-like compound develops on top of the films. In the grown films with Al contents up to 11at%, changes in the optical band gap from 2.88eV to 3.45eV and in the carrier densities from 1019 to 1020cm-3 were observed. The blue shift in the band gap energy was attributed to the Burstein-Moss effect. Changes in the photocurrent response and the electronic disorder were also discussed in the light of Al doping. Optical transmittances up to 60% at 550nm were obtained, thus making these films suitable as transparent and conductive oxide films.


Palacios-Padrós, A., Caballero-Briones, F., Díez-Pérez, I., Sanz, F., (2013). Tin passivation in alkaline media: Formation of SnO microcrystals as hydroxyl etching product Electrochimica Acta 111, 837-845

The mechanism of the electrochemical passivation on Tin electrodes in 0.1 M NaOH is studied at low scan rates in a wide potential range. To this aim, tin oxide layers were grown on a polycrystalline tin surface under potentiostatic conditions in both the active and passive electrochemical potential ranges, and characterized by field emission scanning electron microscopy (FESEM), X-ray diffraction (XRD), Raman spectroscopy and electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS). The results show that the first anodic process in the active region corresponds to the formation of a SnO·nH2O prepassive layer that is removed upon increasing the applied potential due to surface etching occurring at the metal/oxide interface. During the etching process, Sn 2+ ions supersaturate at the electrode vicinity thus forming a SnO crystalline phase on top of the electrode surface in the presence of the alkaline medium. At higher anodic potentials, near the passive plateau, the etching process ceases and the current drops due to the formation of a n-type Sn(IV)-based oxide at the metal/SnO interface that provides an efficient electronic passivation of the electrode.


Hoyo, J., Guaus, E., Oncins, G., Torrent-Burgués, J., Sanz, F., (2013). Incorporation of Ubiquinone in supported lipid bilayers on ITO Journal of Physical Chemistry B 117, (25), 7498-7506

Ubiquinone (UQ) is one of the main electron and proton shuttle molecules in biological systems, and dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine (DPPC) is one of the most used model lipids. Supported planar bilayers (SPBs) are extensively accepted as biological model membranes. In this study, SPBs have been deposited on ITO, which is a semiconductor with good electrical and optical features. Specifically, topographic atomic force microscopy (AFM) images and force curves have been performed on SPBs with several DPPC:UQ ratios to study the location and the interaction of UQ in the SPB. Additionally, cyclic voltammetry has been used to understand the electrochemical behavior of DPPC:UQ SPBs. Obtained results show that, in our case, UQ is placed in two main different positions in SPBs. First, between the DPPC hydrophobic chains, fact that originates a decrease in the breakthrough force of the bilayer, and the second between the two leaflets that form the SPBs. This second position occurs when increasing the UQ content, fact that eventually forms UQ aggregates at high concentrations. The formation of aggregates produces an expansion of the SPB average height and a bimodal distribution of the breakthrough force. The voltammetric response of UQ depends on its position on the bilayer.

Keywords: Bimodal distribution, Biological models, Dipalmitoyl phosphatidylcholine, Electrochemical behaviors, Hydrophobic chains, Supported lipid bilayers, Supported planar bilayers, Voltammetric response


Oncins, G., Roa, J. J., Rayón, E., Díaz, J., Morales, M., Segarra, M., Sanz, F., (2013). Friction, hardness and elastic modulus determined by AFM-FS and nanoindentation techniques for advanced ceramics materials Recent Advances in Ceramic Materials Research (ed. Roa, J. J., Semino, C. E.), Nova Science Publishers Materials Science and Technologies, 215-249

In the last years, nanoindentation by means of Atomic Force Microscopy-Force Spectroscopy (AFM-FS) or Nanoindenters has become a powerful tool to study the nanomechanics of all type of materials at micro-, nano- and also picometric scale, from soft metals, like copper, to brittle materials, as ceramics. The experimental basis of these techniques is the evaluation of the response of a material to an applied vertical load (in order to obtain the hardness, H, and the elastic modulus, E) or to a shear force (Lateral Force Microscopy, LFM) so as to obtain the friction coefficient, μ. In this work, the different methods to analyze friction, hardness and elastic modulus by means of AFM are explained for several examples as diamond single crystals, SiC single crystals, titanium dioxide coatings, mica and silicon oxide. Besides, examples of elastic deformation using nanoindentation are included. Moreover, several examples of results obtained by means of a Nanoindenter are also described in detail. A particular emphasis on ceramic coatings and advanced ceramic materials, such as YBaCuO superconductors, Yttria-stabilized zirconia, doped ceria electrolytes for fuel cells and yttria stabilized polycrystalline tetragonal zirconia, are reported and commented. The interest of these techniques is evidenced by the increasing quantity of nanomechanics-related papers published in the last decades, near a thousand of which appeared during the last five years. Unfortunately, a lot of practical information about nanomechanics of hard materials is still scarce in the literature (only one percent of the above mentioned publications are related to ceramic materials). This chapter aims to present the basic principles and methods applied to extract the different mechanical properties and also to review and comment real examples related to the cited techniques.


Artés, Juan M., López-Martínez, Montserrat, Giraudet, Arnaud, Díez-Pérez, Ismael, Sanz, Fausto, Gorostiza, Pau, (2012). Current–Voltage characteristics and transition voltage spectroscopy of individual redox proteins Journal of the American Chemical Society 134, (50), 20218-20221

Understanding how molecular conductance depends on voltage is essential for characterizing molecular electronics devices. We reproducibly measured current?voltage characteristics of individual redox-active proteins by scanning tunneling microscopy under potentiostatic control in both tunneling and wired configurations. From these results, transition voltage spectroscopy (TVS) data for individual redox molecules can be calculated and analyzed statistically, adding a new dimension to conductance measurements. The transition voltage (TV) is discussed in terms of the two-step electron transfer (ET) mechanism. Azurin displays the lowest TV measured to date (0.4 V), consistent with the previously reported distance decay factor. This low TV may be advantageous for fabricating and operating molecular electronic devices for different applications. Our measurements show that TVS is a helpful tool for single-molecule ET measurements and suggest a mechanism for gating of ET between partner redox proteins. Understanding how molecular conductance depends on voltage is essential for characterizing molecular electronics devices. We reproducibly measured current?voltage characteristics of individual redox-active proteins by scanning tunneling microscopy under potentiostatic control in both tunneling and wired configurations. From these results, transition voltage spectroscopy (TVS) data for individual redox molecules can be calculated and analyzed statistically, adding a new dimension to conductance measurements. The transition voltage (TV) is discussed in terms of the two-step electron transfer (ET) mechanism. Azurin displays the lowest TV measured to date (0.4 V), consistent with the previously reported distance decay factor. This low TV may be advantageous for fabricating and operating molecular electronic devices for different applications. Our measurements show that TVS is a helpful tool for single-molecule ET measurements and suggest a mechanism for gating of ET between partner redox proteins.


Caballero-Briones, F., Palacios-Padrós, A., Calzadilla, O., Moreira, I. D. P. R., Sanz, F., (2012). Disruption of the chemical environment and electronic structure in p-type Cu2O films by alkaline doping Journal of Physical Chemistry C 116, (25), 13524-13535

In this work we present an experimental and theoretical study of Cu 2O films doped with alkaline ions (Li +, Na +, K +, and Cs +) prepared by Cu anodization. By X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy we determined dopant incorporation as high as 1% for Na +. Three oxygen species were found: O 2- ions in the bulk cuprite structure, adsorbed OH - and oxygen in hydroxylated dopant sites. The main effects of the alkaline doping on the optical properties were a reduction in the direct band gap and an approach of the acceptor level edge to the maximum of the valence band. Electrochemical tunneling microscopy experiments confirmed that the valence band maximum energy position is almost invariant. Additional electrochemical impedance, photoelectrochemical activity, and current sensing atomic force microscopy measurements showed an increase of the carrier density and electrical conductivity and a reduction in the photocurrent response with the dopant ion size. Urbach tail parameter analysis suggested additional interaction between copper vacancy derived states and dopant states. From first-principles calculations with the B3LYP hybrid functional on models for the alkaline-doped Cu 2O systems we determined that the main effect of the alkaline substitution of copper atoms consists of polarizing the O states, which causes a reduction in the insulating gap and splitting of the density of states just below the Fermi level. The nature of the oxygen-dopant interaction was also calculated: there is a net attractive interaction for Li-O, a slightly repulsive interaction for Na-O, and a net repulsive interaction for K-O and Cs-O. The repulsive interactions between K + or Cs + and O cause an accumulation of the dopant at the surface of the crystallites, whereas for Na + and Li + the doping ions are more uniformly distributed in the film bulk. It was found that the surface accumulation of K + and Cs + hinders vacancy diffusion and therefore blocks film growth, leading to a reduction of roughness and thickness as the ion size increases.


Arimon, M., Sanz, F., Giralt, E., Carulla, N., (2012). Template-assisted lateral growth of amyloid- Bioconjugate Chemistry 23, (1), 27-32

Redondo-Morata, L., Giannotti, M. I., Sanz, F., (2012). AFM-based force-clamp monitors lipid bilayer failure kinetics Langmuir 28, (15), 6403-6410

The lipid bilayer rupture phenomenon is here explored by means of atomic force microscopy (AFM)-based force clamp, for the first time to our knowledge, to evaluate how lipid membranes respond when compressed under an external constant force, in the range of nanonewtons. Using this method, we were able to directly quantify the kinetics of the membrane rupture event and the associated energy barriers, for both single supported bilayers and multibilayers, in contradistinction to the classic studies performed at constant velocity. Moreover, the affected area of the membrane during the rupture process was calculated using an elastic deformation model. The elucidated information not only contributes to a better understanding of such relevant process, but also proves the suitability of AFM-based force clamp to study model structures as lipid bilayers. These findings on the kinetics of lipid bilayers rupture could be extended and applied to the study of other molecular thin films. Furthermore, systems of higher complexity such as models mimicking cell membranes could be studied by means of AFM-based force-clamp technique.

Keywords: Chain-Length, Spectroscopy, Nanomechanics, Microscopy, Elasticity, Stability, Membranes, Reveals, Fusion, Ions


Redondo-Morata, L., Giannotti, M. I., Sanz, F., (2012). Influence of cholesterol on the phase transition of lipid bilayers: A temperature-controlled force spectroscopy study Langmuir 28, (35), 12851-12860

Cholesterol (Chol) plays the essential function of regulating the physical properties of the cell membrane by controlling the lipid organization and phase behavior and, thus, managing the membrane fluidity and its mechanical strength. Here, we explore the model system DPPC:Chol by means of temperature-controlled atomic force microscopy (AFM) imaging and AFM-based force spectroscopy (AFM-FS) to assess the influence of Chol on the membrane ordering and stability. We analyze the system in a representative range of compositions up to 50 mol % Chol studying the phase evolution upon temperature increase (from room temperature to temperatures high above the T m of the DPPC bilayer) and the corresponding (nano)mechanical stability. By this means, we correlate the mechanical behavior and composition with the lateral order of each phase present in the bilayers. We prove that low Chol contents lead to a phase-segregated system, whereas high contents of Chol can give a homogeneous bilayer. In both cases, Chol enhances the mechanical stability of the membrane, and an extraordinarily stable system is observed for equimolar fractions (50 mol % Chol). In addition, even when no thermal transition is detected by the traditional bulk analysis techniques for liposomes with high Chol content (40 and 50 mol %), we demonstrate that temperature-controlled AFM-FS is capable of identifying a thermal transition for the supported lipid bilayers. Finally, our results validate the AFM-FS technique as an ideal platform to differentiate phase coexistence and transitions in lipid bilayers and bridge the gap between the results obtained by traditional methods for bulk analysis, the theoretical predictions, and the behavior of these systems at the nanoscale.


Redondo-Morata, Lorena, Oncins, Gerard, Sanz, Fausto, (2012). Force spectroscopy reveals the effect of different ions in the nanomechanical behavior of phospholipid model membranes: The case of potassium cation Biophysical Journal 102, (1), 66-74

How do metal cations affect the stability and structure of phospholipid bilayers? What role does ion binding play in the insertion of proteins and the overall mechanical stability of biological membranes? Investigators have used different theoretical and microscopic approaches to study the mechanical properties of lipid bilayers. Although they are crucial for such studies, molecular-dynamics simulations cannot yet span the complexity of biological membranes. In addition, there are still some experimental difficulties when it comes to testing the ion binding to lipid bilayers in an accurate way. Hence, there is a need to establish a new approach from the perspective of the nanometric scale, where most of the specific molecular phenomena take place. Atomic force microscopy has become an essential tool for examining the structure and behavior of lipid bilayers. In this work, we used force spectroscopy to quantitatively characterize nanomechanical resistance as a function of the electrolyte composition by means of a reliable molecular fingerprint that reveals itself as a repetitive jump in the approaching force curve. By systematically probing a set of bilayers of different composition immersed in electrolytes composed of a variety of monovalent and divalent metal cations, we were able to obtain a wealth of information showing that each ion makes an independent and important contribution to the gross mechanical resistance and its plastic properties. This work addresses the need to assess the effects of different ions on the structure of phospholipid membranes, and opens new avenues for characterizing the (nano)mechanical stability of membranes.

Keywords: Molecular-dynamics simulation, Liquid expanded monolayers, Lipid-bilayers, Hofmeister series, Monovalent salt, Phosphatidylcholine, Microscopy, Binding, Surfaces, NaCl


Hoyo, J., Guaus, E., Torrent-Burgués, J., Sanz, F., (2012). Electrochemical behaviour of mixed LB films of ubiquinone - DPPC Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry 669, 6-13

The structure and the electrochemical behaviour of Langmuir and Langmuir-Blodgett (LB) films of the biological ubiquinone-10 (UQ) and a mixture of dipalmytoilphosphatidylcholine (DPPC) and UQ at the molar ratios DPPC:UQ 5:1 and 10:1 have been investigated. The surface pressure-area isotherms of the Langmuir films and the AFM images of the LB films show the formation of a monolayer in the DPPC:UQ mixture till a certain surface pressure is attained, and then at higher surface pressures the UQ is progressively expelled. The cyclic voltammograms of DPPC:UQ LB films formed on indium tin oxide, ITO, at different surface pressures show one reduction and one oxidation peak at low surface pressures, but two or even more reduction and oxidations peaks at medium and high surface pressures. The electrochemical behaviour is correlated with the film structure.

Keywords: Cyclic voltammetry, Electron transfer, Langmuir-Blodgett, Lipid monolayer, Modified ITO electrode, Ubiquinone


Redondo, L., Giannotti, M. I., Sanz, F., (2012). Stability of lipid bilayers as model membranes: Atomic force microscopy and spectroscopy approach Atomic force microscopy in liquid (ed. Baró, A. M., Reifenberger, R. G.), Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co.KGaA (Weinheim, Germany) Part I: General Atomic Force Microscopy, 259-284

Artés, Juan M., Díez-Pérez, Ismael, Sanz, Fausto, Gorostiza, Pau, (2011). Direct measurement of electron transfer distance decay constants of single redox proteins by electrochemical tunneling spectroscopy ACS Nano 5, (3), 2060-2066

We present a method to measure directly and at the single-molecule level the distance decay constant that characterizes the rate of electron transfer (ET) in redox proteins. Using an electrochemical tunneling microscope under bipotentiostatic control, we obtained current-distance spectroscopic recordings of individual redox proteins confined within a nanometric tunneling gap at a well-defined molecular orientation. The tunneling current decays exponentially, and the corresponding decay constant (

Keywords: Long-range electron transfer (LRET), Distance decay constant, Single-molecule electrochemistry, Redox enzyme, Metalloprotein, Blue copper protein, Azurin, Electrochemical scanning tunneling microscopy and spectroscopy, Nanoelectrodes, Debye length, Electrochemical charge screening


Giannotti, M. I., Esteban, O., Oliva, M., Garcia-Parajo, M. F., Sanz, F., (2011). pH-Responsive polysaccharide-based polyelectrolyte complexes as nanocarriers for lysosomal delivery of therapeutic proteins Biomacromolecules American Chemical Society 12, (7), 2524-2533

Nanopharmaceutics composed of a carrier and a protein have the potential to improve the activity of therapeutical proteins. Therapy for lysosomal diseases is limited by the lack of effective protein delivery systems that allow the controlled release of specific proteins to the lysosomes. Here we address this problem by developing functional polyelectrolyte-based nanoparticles able to promote acidic pH-triggered release of the loaded protein. Trimethyl chitosan (TMC) was synthesized and allowed to form polyelectrolyte complexes (PECs) with the lysosomal enzyme

Keywords: -----


Caballero-Briones, F., Palacios-Padrós, A., Sanz, Fausto, (2011). CuInSe2 films prepared by three step pulsed electrodeposition. Deposition mechanisms, optical and photoelectrochemical studies Electrochimica Acta 56, (26), 9556-9567

p-Type semiconducting copper indium diselenide thin films have been prepared onto In2O3:Sn substrates by a recently developed pulse electrodeposition method that consists in repeated cycles of three potential application steps. The Cu–In–Se electrochemical system and the related single component electrolytes were studied by cyclic voltammetry to identify the electrode processes and study the deposition processes. In situ atomic force microscopy measurements during the first 100 deposition cycles denote a continuous nucleation and growth mechanism. Particles removed by film sonication from some of the films were characterized by transmission electron microscopy and determined to consist in nanoscopic and crystalline CuInSe2. The remaining film is still crystalline CuInSe2, as assessed by X-ray diffraction. The chemical characterization by combined X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, X-ray fluorescence and inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy, showed that films were Cu-poor and Se-poor. Raman characterization of the as-grown films showed that film composition varies with film thickness; thinner films are Se-rich, while thicker ones have an increased Cu–Se content. Different optical absorption bands were identified by the analysis of the UV–NIR transmittance spectra that were related with the presence of CuInSe2, ordered vacancy compounds, Se, Cu2−xSe and In2Se3. The photoelectrochemical activity confirmed the p-type character and showed a better response for the films prepared with the pulse method.

Keywords: CuInSe2, Solar cells, Electrodeposition, Optical properties, As-deposited films, ITO substrate


Roa, J. J., Oncins, G., Diaz, J., Capdevila, X. G., Sanz, F., Segarra, M., (2011). Study of the friction, adhesion and mechanical properties of single crystals, ceramics and ceramic coatings by AFM Journal of the European Ceramic Society 31, (4), 429-449

This paper reviews commonly used methods of analyzing and interpreting friction, adhesion and nanoindentation with an AFM tip test data, with a particular emphasis of the testing of single crystals, metals, ceramics and ceramic coatings. Experimental results are reported on the friction, mechanical and adhesion properties of these materials. The popularity of AFM testing is evidenced by the large quantity of papers that report such measurements in the last decade. Unfortunately, a lot of information about these topics is scare in the literature. The present paper is aimed to present the basic physical modelling employed and also some examples using each technique.

Keywords: Mechanical properties, Plasticity, Biomedical applications, Engine components


Roa, J. J., Oncins, G., Diaz, J., Sanz, F., Segarra, M., (2011). Calculation of young's modulus value by means of AFM Recent Patents on Nanotechnology 5, (1), 27-36

In the last years, Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) has become a powerful tool not only to study the surface morphology but also the nanomechanics of all kind of samples. In this paper, the applicability of this technique is reviewed and its basic aspects of operation, advantages and drawbacks of using the AFM probe as a picoindenter (Force Spectroscopy mode, FS-AFM) are discussed. The patents concerning picoindentation measurements are discussed in the text and special attention is paid to measurements performed on hard materials as ceramics, as they have not been as thoroughly reviewed in the literature as in the case of soft matter. The possibilities of AFM in the nanomechanics field include the quantitative determination of the Young's modulus (E) and the transition force from elastic to plastic deformation regimes, the measurement of adhesion forces and deformation mechanisms while applying vertical forces in the range from tens of pN to mu N.

Keywords: Hard materials, Young's modulus, AFM-FS, Picoindentation technique


Garcia-Manyes, S., Redondo-Morata, L., Oncins, G., Sanz, F., (2010). Nanomechanics of lipid bilayers: Heads or tails? Journal of the American Chemical Society American Chemical Society 132, (37), 12874-12886

Understanding the effect of mechanical stress on membranes is of primary importance in biophysics. Here we use force spectroscopy AFM to quantitatively characterize the nanomechanical stability of supported lipid bilayers as a function of their chemical composition. The onset of plastic deformation reveals itself as a repetitive jump in the approaching force curve, which represents a molecular fingerprint for the bilayer mechanical stability. By systematically probing a set of chemically distinct supported lipid bilayers (SLBs), we first show that both the headgroup and tail have a decisive effect on their mechanical properties. While the mechanical stability of the probed SLBs linearly increases by 3.3 nN upon the introduction of each additional -CH2- in the chain, it exhibits a significant dependence on the phospholipid headgroup, ranging from 3 nN for DPPA to 66 nN for DPPG. Furthermore, we also quantify the reduction of the membrane mechanical stability as a function of the number of unsaturations and molecular branching in the chemical structure of the apolar tails. Finally, we demonstrate that, upon introduction of cholesterol and ergosterol, contrary to previous belief the mechanical stability of membranes not only increases linearly in the liquid phase (DLPC) but also for phospholipids present in the gel phase (DPPC). Our results are discussed in the framework of the continuum nucleation model. This work highlights the compelling effect of subtle variations in the chemical structure of phospholipid molecules on the membrane response when exposed to mechanical forces, a mechanism of common occurrence in nature.

Keywords: Atomic-force microscopy, Molecular-dynamics simulation, Aqueous-electrolyte solutions, Supported planar membranes, Phospholipid-bilayers, Biological-membranes, Physical-properties, Fluid membranes, Model membranes, Chain-length


Sisquella, X., de Pourcq, K., Alguacil, J., Robles, J., Sanz, F., Anselmetti, D., Imperial, S., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., (2010). A single-molecule force spectroscopy nanosensor for the identification of new antibiotics and antimalarials FASEB Journal 24, (11), 4203-4217

An important goal of nanotechnology is the application of individual molecule handling techniques to the discovery of potential new therapeutic agents. Of particular interest is the search for new inhibitors of metabolic routes exclusive of human pathogens, such as the 2-C-methyl-D-erythritol-4-phosphate (MEP) pathway essential for the viability of most human pathogenic bacteria and of the malaria parasite. Using atomic force microscopy single-molecule force spectroscopy (SMFS), we have probed at the single-molecule level the interaction of 1-deoxy-D-xylulose 5-phosphate synthase (DXS), which catalyzes the first step of the MEP pathway, with its two substrates, pyruvate and glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate. The data obtained in this pioneering SMFS analysis of a bisubstrate enzymatic reaction illustrate the substrate sequentiality in DXS activity and allow for the calculation of catalytic parameters with single-molecule resolution. The DXS inhibitor fluoropyruvate has been detected in our SMFS competition experiments at a concentration of 10 mu M, improving by 2 orders of magnitude the sensitivity of conventional enzyme activity assays. The binding of DXS to pyruvate is a 2-step process with dissociation constants of k(off) = 6.1 x 10(-4) +/- 7.5 x 10(-3) and 1.3 x 10(-2) +/- 1.0 x 10(-2) s(-1), and reaction lengths of x(beta) = 3.98 +/- 0.33 and 0.52 +/- 0.23 angstrom. These results constitute the first quantitative report on the use of nanotechnology for the biodiscovery of new antimalarial enzyme inhibitors and open the field for the identification of compounds represented only by a few dozens of molecules in the sensor chamber.

Keywords: Malaria, 2-C-methyl-D-erythritol-4-phosphate pathway, 1-deoxy-D-xylulose 5-phosphate synthase, Pyruvate, Glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate, Drug discovery


Garcia-Manyes, S., Sanz, F., (2010). Nanomechanics of lipid bilayers by force spectroscopy with AFM: A perspective Biochimica et Biophysica Acta - Biomembranes 1798, (4), 741-749

Lipid bilayers determine the architecture of cell membranes and regulate a myriad of distinct processes that are highly dependent on the lateral organization of the phospholipid molecules that compose the membrane. Indeed, the mechanochemical properties of the membrane are strongly correlated with the function of several membrane proteins, which demand a very specific, highly localized physicochemical environment to perform their function. Several mesoscopic techniques have been used in the past to investigate the mechanical properties of lipid membranes. However, they were restricted to the study of the ensemble properties of giant bilayers. Force spectroscopy with AFM has emerged as a powerful technique able to provide valuable insights into the nanomechanical properties of supported lipid membranes at the nanometer/nanonewton scale in a wide variety of systems. In particular, these measurements have allowed direct measurement of the molecular interactions arising between neighboring phospholipid molecules and between the lipid molecules and the surrounding solvent environment. The goal of this review is to illustrate how these novel experiments have provided a new vista on membrane mechanics in a confined area within the nanometer realm, where most of the specific molecular interactions take place. Here we report in detail the main discoveries achieved by force spectroscopy with AFM on supported lipid bilayers, and we also discuss on the exciting future perspectives offered by this growing research field.

Keywords: Force spectroscopy, Atomic force microscopy, Lipid bilayer, Nanomechanics


Palacios-Padros, A., Caballero-Briones, F., Sanz, F., (2010). Enhancement in as-grown CuInSe2 film microstructure by a three potential pulsed electrodeposition method Electrochemistry Communications 12, (8), 1025-1029

P-type copper indium diselenide (CuInSe2) films have been prepared onto ITO substrates by an electrodeposition method, that sequentially applies potential pulses at the deposition potential of each element Cu, Se and In, and then step it back in cyclically to induce the solid state reaction between the elements. Two electrolyte concentrations as well as three different pulse durations were assessed. The resulting films were compared with those deposited at fixed electrode potentials. As-grown films are nanocrystalline and have an E-g similar to 0.95 eV. Raman spectroscopy shows that Se and Cu-Se contents decrease while pulse duration increases and electrolyte concentration decreases. Cu-Se phases are even absent for films grown at the low electrolyte concentration. These results represent a great improvement in the film phase purity reducing the need of post-deposition treatments.

Keywords: CIS, Pulsed electrodeposition, Raman, Solar cells


Caballero-Briones, F., Palacios-Padros, A., Calzadilla, O., Sanz, F., (2010). Evidence and analysis of parallel growth mechanisms in Cu2O films prepared by Cu anodization Electrochimica Acta 55, (14), 4353-4358

We have studied the preparation of Cu2O films by copper anodization in a 0.1 M NaOH electrolyte. We identified the potential range at which Cu dissolution takes place then we prepared films with different times of exposure to this potential. The morphology, crystalline structure, band gap. Urbach energy and thickness of the films were studied. Films prepared with the electrode unexposed to the dissolution potential have a pyramidal growth typical of potential driven processes, while samples prepared at increasing exposure times to dissolution potential present continuous nucleation, growth and grain coalescence. We observed a discrepancy in the respective film thicknesses calculated by coulometry, atomic force microscopy and optical reflectance. We propose that anodic Cu2O film formation involves three parallel mechanisms (i) Cu2O nucleation at the surface, (ii) Cu+ dissolution followed by heterogeneous nucleation and (iii) Cu+ and OH- diffusion through the forming oxide and subsequent reaction in the solid state.

Keywords: Cuprous oxide, Anodic films, Reflectance, Thickness, Band gap, Urbach tail parameter, Dissolution, Growth mechanism


Caballero-Briones, F., Artes, J. M., Diez-Perez, I., Gorostiza, P., Sanz, F., (2009). Direct observation of the valence band edge by in situ ECSTM-ECTS in p-type Cu2O layers prepared by copper anodization Journal of Physical Chemistry C 113, (3), 1028-1036

Polycrystalline Cu2O layers have been selectively grown by electrochemical anodization of polycrystalline Cu electrodes in an alkaline medium (pH 12.85). Uniform layers with thicknesses around 100 nm have been obtained. Using electrochemical impedance spectroscopy, it was concluded that the Cu2O films behave as a p-type semiconductor. The Mott-Schottky plot gives a value for the flat band potential of U-FB = -255 mV vs silver/silver chloride electrode (SSC), an estimated carrier density N-A = 6.1 x 10(17) cm(-3), and the space charge layer width was calculated to be W-SCL = 9 nm at a band bending of 120 mV. The electronic structure of the Cu vertical bar Cu2O vertical bar electrolyte interface was for the first time probed by in situ electrochemical tunneling spectroscopy. The use of in situ electrochemical scanning tunneling microscopy allows us to directly observed the valence band edge and determine its position against the absolute energy scale to be E-VB = -4.9 eV. Finally, we constructed a quantitative electronic diagram of the Cu vertical bar Cu2O vertical bar electrolyte interface, where the positions of the valence and conduction band edges are depicted, as well as the edge of the previously reported electronic subband.

Keywords: 0.1 m NaOH, Electrochemical tunneling spectroscopy, Cuprous-oxide films, Anodic-oxidation, Electronic-structure, Alkaline-solution, Aqueous-solution, Initial-stages, Passive film, Thin-films


Nussio, M. R., Oncins, G., Ridelis, I., Szili, E., Shapter, J. G., Sanz, F., Voelcker, N. H., (2009). Nanomechanical characterization of phospholipid bilayer islands on flat and porous substrates: A force spectroscopy study Journal of Physical Chemistry B 113, (30), 10339-10347

In this study, we compare for the first time the nanomechanical properties of lipid bilayer islands on flat and porous surfaces. 1,2-Dimyzistoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphatidylcholine (DMPC) and 1,2-dipalmitoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphatidylcholine (DPPC) bilayers were deposited on flat (silicon and mica) and porous silicon (pSi) substrate surfaces and examined using atomic force spectroscopy and force volume imaging. Force spectroscopy measurements revealed the effects of the underlying substrate and of the lipid phase on the nanomechanical properties of bilayers islands. For mica and silicon, significant differences in breakthrough force between the center and the edges of bilayer islands were observed for both phospolipids. These differences were more pronounced for DMPC than for DPPC, presumably due to melting effects at the edges of DMPC bilayers. In contrast, bilayer islands deposited on pSi yielded similar breakthrough forces in the central region and along the perimeter of the islands, and those values in turn were similar to those measured along the perimeter of bilayer islands deposited on the flat substrates. The study also demonstrates that pSi is suitable solid support for the formation of pore-spanning phospholipid bilayers with potential applications in transmembrane protein studies, drug delivery, and biosensing.

Keywords: Black lipid-membranes, Gold surfaces, Supported bilayers, Channel activity, Micro-BLMS, Silicon, Proteins, Vesicles, AFM, Temperature measurement


Olmedo, Ivonne, Araya, Eyleen, Sanz, Fausto, Medina, Elias, Arbiol, Jordi, Toledo, Pedro, Àlvarez-Lueje, Alejandro, Giralt, Ernest, Kogan, Marcelo J., (2008). How changes in the sequence of the peptide CLPFFD-NH2 can modify the conjugation and stability of gold nanoparticles and their affinity for beta-amyloid fibrils Bioconjugate Chemistry 19, (6), 1154-1163

In a previous work, we studied the interaction of

Keywords: Self-assembled monolayers, Aggregation, Dispersions, Adsorption, Particles, Design, Size


Caballero-Briones, F., Palacios-Padros, A., Pena, J. L., Sanz, F., (2008). Phase tailored, potentiodynamically grown P-Cu2-xTe/Cu layers Electrochemistry Communications 10, (11), 1684-1687

In this work we successfully prepared p-type semiconducting Cu2-xTe layers on Cu substrates by applying a potential multistep signal. Spontaneously deposited tellurium layers were reduced in a single cathodic sweep. The X-ray diffraction characterization showed the presence of single-phased, crystalline Cu2-xTe in the weissite form. A further anodization step allows crystallization of several phases such as CU1.75Te, Cu0.664Te0.336 and CU7Te4. This type of sample was found to be photoactive. The prepared films are p-type and have carrier concentrations in the order of 10(21) CM-3, suitable for CdTe-CU2-xTe contacts.

Keywords: Copper telluride, Electrochemical signal, XRD, Morphology, EIS, Photocurrent, Telluride thin-films, Solar cells, Deposition, Cu


Arimon, M., Grimminger, V., Sanz, F., Lashuel, H. A., (2008). Hsp104 targets multiple intermediates on the amyloid pathway and suppresses the seeding capacity of A beta fibrils and protofibrils Journal of Molecular Biology 384, (5), 1157-1173

The heat shock protein Hsp104 has been reported to possess the ability to. modulate protein aggregation and toxicity and to "catalyze" the disaggregation and recovery of protein aggregates, including amyloid fibrils, in yeast, Escherichia coli, mammalian cell cultures, and animal models of Huntington's disease and Parkinson's disease. To provide mechanistic insight into the molecular mechanisms by which Hsp104 modulates aggregation and fibrillogenesis, the effect of Hsp104 on the fibrillogenesis of amyloid beta (A(3) was investigated by characterizing its ability to interfere with oligomerization and fibrillogenesis of different species along the amyloid-formation pathway of A beta. To probe the disaggregation activity of Hsp104, its ability to dissociate preformed protofibrillar and fibrillar aggregates of A beta was assessed in the presence and in the absence of ATP. Our results show that Hsp104 inhibits the fibrillization of monomeric and protofibrillar forms of A beta in a concentration-dependent but ATP-independent manner. Inhibition of A beta fibrillization by Hsp104 is observable up to Hsp104/A beta stoichiometric ratios of 1:1000, suggesting a preferential interaction of Hsp104 with aggregation intermediates (e.g., oligomers, protofibrils, small fibrils) on the pathway of A beta amyloid formation. This hypothesis is consistent with our observations that Hsp104 (i) interacts with A beta protofibrils, (ii) inhibits conversion of protofibrils into amyloid fibrils, (iii) arrests fibril elongation and reassembly, and (iv) abolishes the capacity of protofibrils and sonicated fibrils to seed the fibrillization of monomeric A beta. Together, these findings suggest that the strong inhibition of A beta fibrillization by Hsp104 is mediated by its ability to act at different stages and target multiple intermediates on the pathway to amyloid formation.

Keywords: Amyloid formation A beta, Hsp104, Disaggregation, Alzheimer's diseases


Oncins, G., Torrent-Burgues, J., Sanz, F., (2008). Nanomechanical properties of arachidic acid Langmuir-Blodgett films Journal of Physical Chemistry C 112, (6), 1967-1974

The nanomechanical properties of Langmuir-Blodgett monolayers of arachidic acid extracted at surface pressures of 1, 15, and 35 mN/m and deposited on mica were investigated by atomic force microscopy, force spectroscopy, and lateral force microscopy. It was experimentally demonstrated that the arachidic acid molecular orientation depends on the extraction pressure. According to this, tilting angles of 50, 34, and 22 degrees with respect to the surface perpendicular were detected and identified as conformations that maximize van der Waals interactions between the arachidic acid alkyl chains. The vertical force needed to puncture the monolayers with the AFM tip strongly depends on the molecular tilting angles attained at different monolayer extraction surface pressures, obtaining values that range from 13.07 +/- 3.24 nN for 50 degrees to 22.94 +/- 5.49 nN for 22 degrees tilting angles. The different molecular interactions involved in the monolayer cohesion are discussed and quantitatively related to the experimental monolayer breakthrough forces. The friction measurements performed from low vertical forces up to monolayer disruption reveal the existence of three well-defined regimes: first, a low friction response due to the elastic deformation of the monolayer, which is followed by a sharp increase in the friction force due to the onset of a sudden plastic deformation. The last regime corresponds to the monolayer rupture and the contact between tip and substrate. The friction coefficient of the substrate is seen to depend on the monolayer extraction pressure, a fact that is discussed in terms of the relationship between the sample compactness and its rupture mechanism.

Keywords: AFM, SAM, Reflection-absortion spectroscopy, Lipid-bilayers, Frictional-properies, Molecular-structure, Thermal behavior, Nanometer-scale, Chain-length, LB films


Oncins, Gerard, Vericat, Carolina, Sanz, Fausto, (2008). Mechanical properties of alkanethiol monolayers studied by force spectroscopy Journal of Chemical Physics 128, (4), 044701

The mechanical properties of alkanethiol monolayers on Au(111) in KOH solution have been studied by force spectroscopy. The analysis of the vertical force versus penetration curves showed that monolayer penetration is a stepped process that combines elastic regions with sudden penetration events. The structural meaning of these events can be explained both by the creation of gauche defects on the hydrocarbon chains and by a cooperative molecular tilting model proposed by Barrena et al. [J. Chem. Phys. 113, 2413 (2000)]. The validity of these models for alkanethiol monolayers of different compactness and chain length has been discussed. The Young's modulus (E) of the monolayers has been calculated by using a recently developed model which considers the thickness of the monolayer as a parameter, thus allowing a decoupling of the mechanical properties of the thiol layer from those of the Au(111) substrate. As a result, the calculated E values are in the range of 50-150 Pa, which are remarkably lower than those previously reported in the literature.

Keywords: Adsorbed layers, AFM, Gold, Monolayers, Organic compounds, Self-assemblyYoung's modulus


Torrent-Burgues, J., Oncins, G., Sanz, F., (2008). Study of mixed Langmuir and Langmuir-Blodgett films of dissimilar components by AFM and force spectroscopy Colloids and Surfaces a-Physicochemical and Engineering Aspects 12th International Conference on Organized Molecular Films , Elsevier Science (Krakow, Poland) 321, (1-3), 70-75

In this study the structure of mixed Langmuir-Blodgett (LB) monolayers has been investigated using atomic force microscopy, lateral force microscopy and force spectroscopy, as well as the characteristics of the Langmuir monolayers by surface pressure-area isotherms and Brewster angle microscopy. Mixed films were of dissimilar compounds, a fatty acid such as arachidic acid and a macrocyclic compound. The mixture forms separated phases, but some degree of partial miscibility occurs, with domains at the micro-scale that have different nanomechanical and nanotribological properties. LB films transferred at the same surface pressure show different characteristics depending on the composition. The higher domains correspond to arachidic acid and some of these domains show the presence of two phases, which have been identified as phases with discrete molecular tilting angles.

Keywords: Mixed monolayers, Pressure-area isotherm, Langmuir-Blodgett, AFM, Force spectroscopy


Díez-Pérez, Ismael, Guell, Aleix Garcia, Sanz, Fausto, Gorostiza, Pau, (2006). Conductance maps by electrochemical tunneling spectroscopy to fingerprint the electrode electronic structure Analytical Chemistry 78, (20), 7325-7329

We describe a methodology to perform reliable tunneling spectroscopy in electrochemical media. Sequential in situ tunneling spectra are recorded while the electrochemical potential of the electrode is scanned. Spectroscopic data are presented as conductance maps or conductograms that show the in situ electronic structure of an electrode surface while it undergoes an electrochemical reaction. The conductance map or conductogram represents the redox fingerprint of an electrode/liquid interface in a specific medium and can serve to predict its electrochemical behavior in a quantitative energy scale. The methodology is validated studying the reversible oxidation and passivity of an iron electrode in borate buffer, and we describe the main quantitative information that can be extracted concerning the semiconducting properties of the Fe passive film. This methodology is useful to study heterogeneous catalysis, electrochemical sensing and bioelectronic systems.

Keywords: Passive film, Oxide-film, Stainless-steel, Iron, Microscope, Surfaces, STM, Probes


Díez-Pérez, Ismael, Sanz, Fausto, Gorostiza, Pau, (2006). Electronic barriers in the iron oxide film govern its passivity and redox behavior: Effect of electrode potential and solution pH Electrochemistry Communications 8, (10), 1595-1602

We have measured in situ the electronic conductance spectra of the passive film formed on an Fe electrode immersed in a borate buffer solution using electrochemical tunneling spectroscopy (ECTS) and electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS) techniques, and we have followed their changes as the electrode is electrochemically oxidized and reduced. We demonstrate that pre-passive Fe(II) oxide and the passive Fe(II)/Fe(III) film, behave as p- and n-type semiconductors, respectively and that their reversible inter-conversion is mediated by the availability of free charge carriers on the electrode surface. ECTS spectra have been also modeled to obtain the main electrochemical kinetic parameters of the electron transfer through both p-Fe(II) and n-Fe(III) oxides at different sample potentials and pHs values. We find that the electronic energy barrier in the oxide and its dependence with electrode potential and solution pH, determine the reactivity and passivity of iron.

Keywords: Electrochemical tunneling spectroscopy, Fe passivity Electronic energy barriers, pH effect on passivity


Díez-Pérez, Ismael, Vericat, Carolina, Gorostiza, Pau, Sanz, Fausto, (2006). The iron passive film breakdown in chloride media may be mediated by transient chloride-induced surface states located within the band gap Electrochemistry Communications 8, (4), 627-632

Despite its tremendous scientific and economic impact, the mechanism that triggers metal passive film breakdown in the presence of aggressive ions remains under discussion. We have studied the iron passive film in chloride media using X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), electrochemical impedance spectroscopy and electrochemical tunneling spectroscopy (ECTS). Ex situ XPS reveal that the film consists exclusively of an Fe(III) oxide without chloride content. In situ ECTS has been used to build up conductance maps of the Fe electrode during its electrochemical oxidation in a borate buffer solution and its breakdown when the film is grown in the presence of chloride. This conductograms provide direct and in situ experimental evidence of chloride-induced surface states within the band gap of the oxide film (~3.3eV). These states enable new charge exchange pathways that allow hole capture at the surface of the n-type Fe(III) oxide. The blocking of VB processes that occurs in the iron passive film is no longer present in chloride media, and electrode corrosion can proceed through these new states. We propose a simple 3-step mechanism for the process, in which chloride anions form an oxidizing Fe(II) surface intermediate but do not participate directly in the reaction.

Keywords: Electrochemical tunneling spectroscopy, Electronic band structure, Fe passive film, Aqueous chloride corrosion, Semiconductor decomposition, Interface states


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