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13 Nov 2011
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September 28, 2011 – The Journal of the American Chemical Society underscored the significance of a novel discovery in Professor Richard G. Weiss’s laboratory: the JACS cover featured graphics from the findings.
 The JACS cover for September 28, 2011 featured graphic representation of recent innovative findings in the laboratory of Prof. Richard G. Weiss.
Georgetown chemistry professors Weiss and Travis Holman, researchers in the Weiss laboratory, and Paul Butler of the National Institute of Standards and Technology discovered that molecular gel networks expel and integrate CCl4 solvent molecules causing gel-to-gel phase transitions.
V. Ajay Mallia, a postdoctoral fellow in Weiss’s laboratory, noted, “the gelators self-assemble to form fibrillar networks.” He emphasized, “the gelation process is a fine balance of self-assembly of molecules.”
JACS, a premier peer-reviewed journal for the chemical sciences, published the discovery online in July 2011 and in its September 28, 2011 print version. Weiss, Holman, Butler, Mallia, and Dr. Bijay Sarkar authored the article, “Reversible Phase Transitions within Self-Assembled Fibrillar Networks of (​R​)-18-(​n​-Alkylamino)octadecan-7-ols in Their Carbon Tetrachloride Gels.”
Researchers initially observed the gel-gel transition phenomenon in 2007. “Our investigation then became a fascinating puzzle that includes transformations within fibrillar networks of organogels,” explained Mallia.

“To the best of our knowledge, this form of gel-to-gel phase transition is unprecedented,” Weiss wrote. The transition, he continued, “opens the possibility to design molecular gels with a new dimension of versatility and potential applications.”
Mallia described the discovery process as challenging, because the volatility of carbon tetrachloride affected the design and performance of experimental studies.
The August 22 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, a weekly publication of the American Chemical Society, highlighted the development.
The authors revealed possible applications for the unique discovery. Since amines reduce metal salts to metal nanoparticles, the molecular gels could be used to prepare such nanoparticles.
Their breakthrough also has implications for drug delivery. “I believe,” Mallia asserted, “that if gel-gel transitions of this kind can be engineered into other molecular gels, they could be useful for controlling drug release.”
Richard Weiss faculty profile
Travis Holman faculty profile
V. Ajay Mallia profile
   page last updated: October 25, 2011
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