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Researchers from Jožef Stefan Institute (Electronic Ceramics Department), National Institute of Chemistry, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Materials Center Leoben and Tokyo Institute of Technology published a study in Nature Communications entitled Atomic scale symmetry and polar nanoclusters in the paraelectric phase of ferroelectric materials.The study provides structural details of polar nanoscale clusters whose hypothetical presence in the paraelectric phase of perovskite ferroelectrics has been discussed for decades. Using an atomic-resolution study by scanning transmission electron microscopy complemented by Raman spectroscopy, they directly reveal, visualize, and quantitatively describe static 2-4 nm large polar nanoclusters in the nominally nonpolar cubic phases of barium titanate based ceramics. The probable reason for the stabilization is the presence of local strains, which originate from the size difference between additives, vacancies and host ions. These results have implications for understanding the atomic-scale structure of disordered materials and may help clarify ambiguities about the dynamic-versus- static nature of nano-sized clusters.

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Horacio V. Guzman from the Department of Theoretical Physics and his collaborators published an article in Nanoscale with the title "Quantitative determination of mechanical stability in the novel coronavirus spike protein". The spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 (CoV2) is required for cell entry and is the primary target for vaccine and therapy development. Unveiling molecular-scale mechanisms relevant to the diffusion of viral-particles and their encounter with the cell membrane receptor (ACE2) is a daunting task. They report on the gain in nanomechanical stability of the CoV2 spike protein in comparison with SARS-CoV from 2002. This result confirms that the receptor-binding domain (RBD only ∼200 amino acids) makes a significant contribution to the mechanical stability of the full spike homotrimer. The RBD plays a fundamental role as a damping element of the massive virus particle’s motion prior to cell recognition while also facilitating viral attachment, fusion, and entry. Their findings add a novel way to address the development of therapies aimed at destabilizing specific key contacts of the protein spike, which are responsible for the increased nanomechanical stability.

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On the 16 of April 2021, the SRIP FoF Center started the implementation of a new Go-DIP project with the aim of developing new knowledge in companies in the field of digital intellectual property management, use, sharing and protection of digital data. Questions addressed will be which digital data is the subject of contracts, which digital data can be commercialized, how digital data is valued in due diligence of companies and simmilar. The project will involve 60 small and medium-sized enterprises from three countries. Guidelines will be produced with examples of company practices, expert opinions, examples of B2B solutions and templates for improved management of digital data as SME’s underutilized capital. The project partners are Hub Inovazione Trentino from Italy and Innosquare from Frieburg in Switzerland. The total value of the project is EUR 50,000, co-financing is 100%. The project lasts one year.

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The World Corrosion Organization has declared April 24 as Corrosion Awareness Day. The growing population with the need for modern and high-tech technologies is increasing the consumption of basic technological metals such as iron and steel, copper, aluminium, zinc and nickel. The use of metals is necessarily related to corrosion protection, as metals are subject to corrosion in all environments. The cost of corrosion and related measures is huge globally, reaching $ 2.5 trillion per year (3.4% of GDP). The largest share goes to infrastructure and transport. It is generally accepted that 15-35% of the cost of corrosion ($ 370-870 billion) per year could be avoided through appropriate corrosion mitigation approaches. It further worries that access to metals in the future is also limited by the depletion of natural ores, as forecasts show a 2-6-fold increase in demand by 2100. Strategies to promote sustainable material cycles such as the circular economy and the 3R concept must become our guiding principles. At the Department of Physical and Organic Chemistry, we actively focus on strategies for extending the life cycle of metals with contemporary corrosion protection, thus contributing to reducing the gap between high demand and resource availability.

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