Pushing forward the frontiers of materials research

Ben Zhong Tang
Department of Chemistry, Hong Kong Branch of Chinese National Engineering Research Center for Tissue Restoration and Reconstruction, The Hong Kong University of Science & Technology, Clear Water Bay, Kowloon, Hong Kong, China. E-mail: tangbenz@ust.hk

Materials are the cornerstones of culture and have played an essential role in civilization. The invention of a new kind of material can give birth to a new era. This is evidenced by the fact that history has often been dated or labeled by the materials of critical importance to society in particular periods of time, for example, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age in ancient times and the Plastic Age and the Silicon Age in modern times.1 The immense influence of materials on the course of societal evolution has driven people to work relentlessly on the development of new materials. Such efforts have resulted in the accumulation of a wealth of knowledge and brought about great advances in technological innovation.

To promote research activity in the area of materials science and engineering, we now launch a new journal named Materials Chemistry Frontiers (MCF). As its name implies, MCF aims to publish high-quality work with great impact at the frontiers of materials research. MCF encourages multidisciplinary research with a spirit of collaboration. Emphasis will be given to conceptually new studies that may change our way of thinking. We also welcome research on new morphology, topology and organization of materials, as well as structural transformation and device fabrication. Breakthroughs in the invention of new materials and exploration of their technological applications may change the world and affect our way of living, as history has proven.1

The launch of MCF is the result of a joint venture between the Chinese Chemical Society and the Royal Society of Chemistry, supported by the Institute of Chemistry of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Working with Dr Daping Zhang, Executive Editor of MCF, we have quickly built a strong editorial team. We now have three Associate Editors on board: Drs Shu Seki (Kyoto University, Japan), Dan Wang (Chinese Academy of Sciences, China) and Natalia B. Shustova (University of South Carolina, USA). Dr Seki is an expert in the area of functional organic materials and nanotechnology, Dr Wang is mainly working on the development of advanced inorganic materials, and Dr Shustova is interested in hybrid materials and biomimetic systems. While new Associate Editors will be added to the board in due course, the expertise of the current Associate Editors in the area of materials research enables MCF to offer professional service to a wide spectrum of audiences.

MCF has met with a warm welcome: an impressive number of manuscripts have flowed into its Editorial Office in a short period, thanks to the enthusiastic support of materials researchers. About 20% of the submitted manuscripts have been accepted for publication, some of which are included in this inaugural issue. We are happy to see the high quality of papers and the great diversity of subjects. Two-dimensional (2D) nanomaterials are a group of new ultrathin materials with a rich variety of structures and functionalities, and hold great promise for high-tech applications.2 Typical examples of 2D materials include graphene and transition-metal dichalcogenides (TMDs). In the review articles on 2D nanomaterials published in this issue, H. Wang, Q. Chi and colleagues offer an up-to-date account of recent studies on graphene papers, with emphasis on smart assembly and purpose-driven functionalization (DOI: 10.1039/C6QM00145A), while L. Wang, H. Zhang et al. summarize recent advances in the area of TMD-based biosensors for sensitive detection of biological analytes (DOI: http://10.10139/C6QM00195E).

The development of synthetic methodology is of fundamental importance to the creation of new materials. The Australian team led by C. Boyer explored the potential of utilizing linear copolymers for the preparation of gold nanoclusters (AuNCs) (DOI: 10.1039/C6QM00109B). The AuNCs stabilized by a random copolymer fluoresced more efficiently than those stabilized by a block copolymer. The emission intensity of the AuNCs showed a linear dependence on temperature, a property that may allow the AuNCs to work as an intracellular thermometer. T. R. Linderoth, K. Wu and their international collaborators developed an on-surface synthetic approach to one-dimensional poly(metallo-arylene)s and poly(p-phenylene)s (DOI: 10.1039/C6QM00142D). This strategy offers ready access to unentangled organometallic and organic polymer chains and permits the tuning of their morphologies and properties on the surface. The French team led by G. Gautier found an efficient electrochemical route to iron nanowires (FeNWs) and nanoparticles (FeNPs) (10.1039/C6QM00040A). The shape anisotropy of FeNPs was weaker than that of FeNWs, allowing ready tuning of the magnetic properties of the nanomaterials.

Technological advancements often rely on new materials with the desired functional properties. Z. Li et al. developed a strategy for transforming conventional luminophores into advanced luminogens with aggregation-induced emission (AIEgens).3 Through the introduction of substituents with controllable intramolecular conjugation and suppressed intermolecular π–π stacking, the researchers successfully generated pyrene-based AIEgens and fabricated non-doped organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) with efficient blue emission (DOI: 10.1039/C6QM00014B). Z. Zhao and colleagues prepared AIEgen-based OLEDs with high brightness and efficiency (DOI: 10.1039/C6QM00075D). X.-P. He, T. D. James et al. improved the detection limits of fluorescent chemosensors by facilitating conjugation between boronic acids and saccharides with low-dimensional materials such as carbon nanotubes (DOI: 10.1039/C6QM00158K). Difluoroboron β-diketonate luminogens responding to mechanical and thermal stimuli were generated by C. Fraser's group (DOI: 10.1039/C6QM00008H). Q. Meng, X. Zhan and coworkers prepared spiro[fluorene-9,9′-xanthene]-based hole transporting materials and made efficient photovoltaic cells with long-term stability (DOI: 10.1039/C6QM00097E).

In comparison to small molecules, large polymers enjoy advantages such as macroscopic processability and easy tractability. Supramolecular polymer gels were synthesized by a research team led by Z. L. Wu and F. Huang (DOI: 10.1039/C6QM00164E). The gels were readily processable and self-healable. Taking advantage of their white light emission, devices with quick-response codes were manufactured. Organic/inorganic hybrids have attracted much interest because composites may combine the advantages of their individual components.4 S. Bose, E. B. Gowd, A. M. Stephan et al. prepared nanocomposite polymer electrolytes comprising poly(ethylene oxide), barium titanate-grafted graphene oxide and a lithium complex using a hot-press process (DOI: 10.1039/C6QM00098C). The hybrid membranes exhibited greatly enhanced ionic conductivity, thermal stability, mechanical integrity and battery performance. Nanofiber-supported CuS nanoplatelets prepared by an international team led by H. G. Zhao, A. Vomiero and F. Rosei worked as an efficient counter electrode in the quantum dot-based photoelectrochemical process for hydrogen production (DOI: 10.1039/C6QM00144K).

Materials with biological activity for medical applications have been the subject of much effort in the area of materials research.5 In this inaugural issue, a number of groups reported biomaterials investigations. The Singaporean team led by P. Chen presented a new type of luminescent polymer dots made by a simple procedure (DOI: 10.1039/C6QM00065G). The polymer dots worked well as bioprobes for tracking endocytic pathways in live cells and as germicides to kill a broad spectrum of bacteria. The Hong Kong/Macau team led by D.-L. Ma built a switch-on detection platform for a luminescent bioassay of specific gene deletion (DOI: 10.1039/C6QM00068A). The Japanese group of T. Serizawa constructed drug delivery systems for antibody proteins (DOI: 10.1039/C6QM00140H). The sensible use of genetically engineered phages as matrices resulted in the controlled release of antibody proteins from liquid crystalline hydrogels. An international team composed of German, French, Italian and Spanish scientists and led by D. Díaz prepared biohydrogels based on dynamic covalent chemistry that can self-repair mechanical damage (DOI: 10.1039/C6QM00066E).

We are pleased to see the debut of MCF with the publication of top-notch papers. We thank the authors and reviewers for their contributions and services. We are grateful to our editorial staff, especially Drs Daping Zhang and Wenjun Liu, for their professional support. Working together with our authors and reviewers, we strive for fair evaluation and quick publication, in an effort to make MCF a platform for timely dissemination of cutting-edge research. With the promotion of creative science and innovative technology by MCF, we hope to make contributions to the field and community and to push the frontiers of materials research forward to new heights and territories.


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  4. M. Pagliaro and J.-M. Nedelec, Nanoscale, 2014, 6, 6219 RSC.
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