The doctoral programme

Description

DOC-FAM builds up on the recent award obtained by ICMAB-CSIC as one of the 22 “Severo Ochoa Centres of Excellence”, an award given by the Spanish Government that recognizes institutions from all areas of knowledge that perform cutting-edge research at world standards. The award as “Severo Ochoa Centre of Excellence” to develop “Smart Functional Materials for Social Grand Challenges” (FUNMAT, 2016-2019) demonstrates the outstanding international scientific leadership of ICMAB in the field of Advanced Functional Materials and Nanomaterials. FUNMAT is implemented through several Strategic Priority Actions, designed to invigorate and enhance research, training, exploitation and communication activities of the Institute amongst other things.

The aim of the research programme offered in DOC-FAM is to complement the training aspects of FUNMAT by offering the recruited fellows an excellence training programme in the bourgeoning field of Functional Advanced Materials through an interdisciplinary, intersectorial and international approach with the participation of several partner organisations.
DOC-FAM Leaflet
(click on the image to download)
DOC-FAM Poster 
(click on the image to download)

Host Institutions

The Institute of Materials Science of Barcelona (ICMAB-CSIC) is a “Severo Ochoa Center of Excellence" for the development of “Smart Functional Materials for Social Grand Challenges” (FUNMAT, 2016-2019). ICMAB is located in the Bellaterra Campus of the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), the best University in Spain according to several international rankings (ARWU, CWUR), providing an excellent environment for the development of the doctoral programme. From 2009, the UAB Campus has been also recognised as a Campus of International Excellence (Sphere UAB-CIE). In addition, four additional partner organisations will be involved in the programme to offer the fellows the perfect interdisciplinary, intersectorial and international environment to carry out their projects. The Catalan Institute of Nanoscience & Nanotechnology (ICN2), the Catalonia Institute for Energy Research (IREC), the Barcelona Microelectronics Institute of the National Microelectronics Centre (IMB-CNM-CSIC) and ALBA Synchrotron (ALBA-CELLS) will contribute to the programme through the funding of several doctoral fellowships.
All the participating organisations in the programme have an outstanding track-record in terms of recruitment and training of doctoral researchers, and they are all endorsed to the European Charter for Researchers and the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers, ensuring the best possible conditions to enhance the potential and future career perspectives for the recruited researchers.

DOC-FAM Calls


2nd Call (2018)
Opening date: 8th October 2018
Deadline: 30th November 2018
12 ESR positions offered:
4  @ ICMAB-CSIC
2 @ ALBA CELLS
2 @ IREC
2 @ ICN2
2 @ IMB-CNM-CSIC
1st Call (2017) - CLOSED -
10 ESR fellowships offered 

Available research projects 2nd Call (2018)
Deadline 30th November 2018

-Ca and Mg plating and insertion mechanisms: towards Ca and Mg metal anode based batteries. (Dr. Alexandre Ponrouch)-

Li-ion battery is ubiquitous and has emerged as the major contender to power electric vehicles, yet Li-ion is slowly but surely reaching its limits and controversial debates on lithium supply cannot be ignored. New sustainable battery chemistries must be developed and the most appealing alternatives are to use Ca or Mg metal anodes which would bring a breakthrough in terms of energy density (specific capacity of Mg and Ca, respectively, 2200 and 1340 mAh/g, as compared to 372 mAh/g for graphite in Li-ion) relying on much more abundant elements (Ca and Mg being the 5th and 8th most abundant elements on the Earth’s crust, respectively, whereas Li is the 25th). Currently, the main bottleneck for the development of Ca or Mg based technologies is the lack of electrolyte allowing for reversible Ca or Mg electrodeposition and having a large electrochemical stability window enabling the use of high voltage cathode.

The overall objective of the work is to assemble safe Ca and Mg metal anode based batteries with optimum power performances and high energy density. This will imply the assembly and balancing of full cells at the laboratory scale (Swagelok and coin cells) but also larger pouch cells in collaboration with CIDETEC (Basque country, Spain) with whom nail penetration tests will be performed. Post mortem analyses (SEM-EDX, FTIR, XPS …) will also be undertake in order to clarify the fading mechanism of the first generation cells. The PhD student will investigate the plating/stripping and the insertion/deinsertion mechanisms, respectively, on the anode and the cathode sides by means of several electrochemical methods (Electrochemical quartz crystal microbalance, rotating disk electrode and electrochemical impedance spectroscopy). In situ X-ray diffraction (XRD) and infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) will also be implemented and proposals will be prepared to access synchrotron facilities. The influence of the electrolyte formulation (developed by other team members) on these mechanisms will also be studied.

-Preparation of Graphene Oxide composite nanoporous materials using supercritical CO2 technology. (Dr. Ana M. López Periago)-
The candidate will carry out her/his thesis in a topic related to the preparation of new porous materials using green technology based on the use of supercritical carbon dioxide (scCO2). The objective involves mainly the preparation of graphene oxide aerogel-metal organic frameworks (MOFs) composite structures. In order to expand the scope of its usage, graphene oxide hybrids combine the synergetic properties of graphene along with MOFS, other nanostructured materials and bioactive molecules. The final goal is the use of these materials obtained with green technology, in the area of biomaterials exploring applications, such as the use of scaffolding, controlled release of drugs and imaging. Since these materials present a broad range of applications, they will be tested for energy applications, such as gas storage and separation.
As PhD student the fellow will work in the development of new materials based on hybrid porous graphene oxide/metal-organic frameworks envisaged for biomaterials and energy applications. You will be directly involved in the rational design, preparation and characterization of the materials, as well as a depth understanding of the parameters that control the preparation processes. The project includes mostly the use of supercritical fluid technology as processing media (no experience needed as training will be provided), for the preparation of the graphene oxide aerogels and MOF materials, but the use of convectional chemistry techniques is also part of the plan. Product samples will be analysed by standard solid-state procedures, as well as crystallographic sophisticated techniques (x-ray single crystal, Alba-synchrotron). Throughout this PhD you will develop strong skills in the fields engineering, chemistry and materials science.

-Controllable curcuminoid-based smart supramolecular organic frameworks. (Dr. Arántzazu González-Campo )-

Preparation of new porous materials with high selectivity to bind guest molecules has attracted intensive research due to their potential applications in so important fields such as separation, sensing and drug delivery. Porous organic frameworks have attracted tremendous attention thanks to their low toxicity and high control of their assembly using organic synthesis. Concretly, metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) have emerged as the most important family of organic porous. While the preparation of MOFs in solution is wide explored, the preparation of porous films or their epitaxial growth on substrates to construct 3D organic materials and their integration in devices is still necessary. The goal of this project is the development of organic frameworks growth on substrates with a remote control of their structures and properties introducing stimuli responsive building blocks or nanovalves. The objectives proposed are: the design and preparation of new bi-functional organic building blocks based on curcuminoids (CCMoids), the epitaxial growth of the responsive organic frameworks and finally to control the structure and their loading nanovalves in the structures.

The fellow in charge will i) design and synthesis of new curcuminoid-based building blocks and the nanovalves; ii) Controlled growth of the organic frameworks on surface (Au, SiO2); iii) Study of the properties of the organic frameworks in solution and on surfaces; iv) Studies of encapsulation and release of guest molecules; v) characterization of the new systems in solution by NMR, fluorescence, XRD among others; vi) characterization of the immobilized systems by different techniques such as XRD, SEM, AFM; vii) Study the activity of the frameworks before/after loading different guest molecules. The optimized and well characterized CCMoids-based responsive organic frameworks will be tested as chemical/biological sensors and electronic molecular devices with the collaboration of other groups. 

The results will provide new immobilized CCMoids-based organic frameworks with a remote control of their structures and porous to be applied for chemical/biological sensing and electronic molecular devices.

-Synthesis and processing of a novel generation of electro- and magnetically-active organic materials. (Dr. Núria Crivillers, Dr. Marta Mas-Torrent)-

The project will mainly consist in the design and synthesis of novel organic stable radicals for their implementation as active components in molecular electronic devices. Organic radicals have awakened much interest for its wide applicability such as magnetic materials, imaging agents, catalyst, electrochemical active materials, among others. For this, the aim of the project is to develop novel redox and magnetically-active materials based on organic radicals to be applied in the field of electrochemical energy storage, sensors and/or organic memories. Different approaches, such as the blending of the organic radical with carbon-based materials, will be explored. The candidate will be involved in the synthesis, material processing and characterization. The department is actively involved in implementing nanotechnology and sustainable and economically efficient technologies for preparing advanced functional molecular materials. The candidate will join a group that is actively focused on the development of novel Molecular Electronic Materials and Devices. Particularly, our areas of interest include synthesis of novel functional molecules, surface self-assembly, molecular switches, organic field-effect transistors, charge and spin transport and organic-based (bio)-sensors among others. The group counts with all the required equipment and installations for a successful project development.  

The candidate will be able to join a pioneer, dynamic and active group from the Department of Nanoscience and Organic Materials (NANOMOL) from the Institute of Materials Science of Barcelona (ICMAB-CSIC). The candidate will perform the PhD in a very interdisciplinary environment and will be part of a research group composed of chemists, physicists and engineers. For this, the candidate should have the ability to work in a team formed by researchers with different backgrounds and from different nationalities. In addition, the successful candidate might travel to other European countries to develop the project in the framework of established scientific collaborations or to present the results of his/her research in conferences and schools.

-Synthesis and characterization of molecular junctions based on stimuli-responsive organic layers (Dr. Núria Crivillers)-

In the last decades there has been a great effort on the fabrication of solid-state molecular electronic devices. Inexpensive, functional and atomically precise molecules could be the basis of future electronic devices, but integrating them into real devices will require the development of new ways to characterize them and to control the interface between molecules and electrodes. The goal of the project is the design and preparation of molecular memory elements based on hybrid materials formed by molecular switches, redox-active and/or photochromic, adsorbed onto conductive substrates. The preparation of self-assembled monolayers (SAMs) or thin films will be a key step of the fabrication. The charge transport measurements across the layers will be performed to investigate the conduction mechanism as well as using the electrical response as the output of the switch upon external modulation of the film. For the electrical characterization of these molecular junctions we will work with a novel technique that basically consists in using a liquid metal as the gallium indium euthectic (EGaIn) to top contacting the molecular active layer. This technique is easy and very versatile and allows forming a soft contact with the layer which is highly desired to avoid molecular damaging or short circuit by the penetration of metal atoms.

The candidate will be able to join a pioneer, dynamic and active group from the Department of Nanoscience and Organic Materials (NANOMOL) from the Institute of Materials Science of Barcelona (ICMAB-CSIC).The candidate will perform the PhD in a very interdisciplinary environment and will be part of a research group composed of chemists, physicists and engineers. For this, the candidate should have the ability to work in a team formed by researchers with different backgrounds and from different nationalities.

-On-surface synthesis and characterization of functional nanostructures obtained by micro-droplet injection (Dr. Esther Barrena, Dr. Núria Aliaga)-

On-surface synthesis has provided an unprecedented route toward the formation of atomically precise surface nanostructures and  functional architectures with highly chemical stability and novel physical properties. As a versatile bottom-up strategy for the construction of covalent bonds between molecular building blocks, on-surface synthesis has gained strongly increasing research attention during the past years [1]. This project aims at the bottom-up synthesis and investigation of novel one- and two-dimensional (1d, 2D) carbon-based networks on surfaces that could not be synthesized in solutions, by exploitation of the surface reactivity and the intermolecular interaction of organic molecules.  The organic molecules used as molecular building blocks and precursors will be deposited on the surface in ultra-high vacuum (UHV) by an innovative method consisting of a novel atomic layer injection system, allowing us to select new organic molecules which cannot be sublimated. One of the major challenges consists in the selection of the appropriate solvent and conditions which permits the production of micro-drops of the molecular solution and is evaporated during the travel through vacuum to the surface so that a pure molecular layer can be formed. The influence of the underlying surface to the on-surface reactions will be exploited. One important part of this project is the in situ characterization of the layer in UHV by surface sensitive techniques, e.g., scanning tunneling microscopy (STM), noncontact atomic force microscopy (nc-AFM), and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), which allows us to get both the structural and chemical information with high resolution. The project will use novel organic molecules synthetized in the group of Prof. Nuria Aliga susceptible of being use as responsive materials. 

The ESR will be trained in standard surface sensitive techniques, advanced scanning probe microscopy methods (STM, nc-AFM) in UHV and photoelectron spectroscopy and will work in a collaborative project of physicists and chemists.

-Magnetic Nanodevices Inspired in Neuroscience (Dr. Ferran Macià)-

Electronic devices based on digital processing have completely changed our lives. We have witnessed miniaturization and improving performances since the invention of the electronic transistor in the mid past century. However, this wonderful progress has physical restrictions in energy dissipation and emerging quantum phenomena. A suggestion for a paradigm change is the use of spintronics—that considers the intrinsic spin of electrons and the corresponding magnetic moment—as an alternative to conventional electronics. Recent developments in spintronics have shown that spin excitations (spin waves) such as skyrmions or vortices have topological properties that might lead to new applications.Digital systems simplify the complexity of physical quantities in discrete levels and thus avoid unwanted changes caused by noise or fabrication defects. On the other hand, nature taught us that powerful machines that embrace complexity are possible: the brain. Biology has inspired many researchers to study new post-digital systems based on neural networks and proposed functionalities for devices.

This thesis project proposes to study spin excitations in materials and the implementation of computing strategies using nanostructures and metamaterials (materials that have been structures artificially). The aim is to develop functional magnetic nanodevices that work at low power by using electric fields (or strain) and light instead of currents and magnetic fields. Examples of the proposed functionalities include computing with waves and delays, pattern recognition based on synchronization, or memories based on phase differences among oscillators (phase coding). The project has an important part that relies on device nanofabrication and thus the candidate will take part in the design and fabrication of nanodevices using state-of-the art techniques for lithography and materials’ growth; the candidate will have access to the clean room facilities and also to the advance materials’ characterization setups available in our institute (ICMAB).

-Imaging the dynamics of heat propagation in low dimensional nanoscale systems. (Dr. M. Isabel Alonso, Dr. J. Sebastián Reparaz)-

Nanoscale heat transport has emerged in the last 10 years as a field of increasing interest towards efficient energy regeneration.  Thermoelectricity is possibly one of the fields that has captured largest attention from the science and technology perspectives due to its possible applications to waste heat recovery and improvement in renewable energy generation. Clearly, any breakthrough will come from the use of nanostructured materials.  However, our understanding of heat transport at the nanoscale is still in development, e.g., few is known on the wave nature of heat. The specific tasks to be conducted within this project are:

  • Development of a pump and probe imaging technique in the time- and frequency-domains simultaneously. Development of the measurement and analysis numerical tools.
  • Fabrication of the samples through molecular beam epitaxy, spin casting, and blade coating. General structural and chemical characterization of the samples (SEM, Raman, Optical spectroscopy, etc)
  • Measuring the fabricated samples 

We aim to pave the way towards efficient heat manipulation. We will study heat propagation in ultraslow motion in quasi 2-dimensional (2D) hybrid systems based on suspended silicon nanomembranes and polymer thin films. We aim to investigate the development of heat waves (second sound) as well as the influence of inorganic/organic thermal boundary resistance in the resulting thermal distribution. For this purpose we will develop a full novel approach based on optical interferometry and frequency- and time-domain thermoreflectance. The samples will be imaged through this technique with high spatial resolution (about 200 nm), high temporal resolution (about 30 ps), and high temperature resolution (about 100 μK), and through reconstruction of the data we will produce a live video of the evolution of a single heat pulse. All experiments will be carried out in a pump-and-probe configuration and as a function of temperature between 5K and 600 K. The obtained thermal videos will not only be a fully new experimental development, but will be the key to understand heat propagation in these quasi 2D systems. The samples will be fabricated by combining molecular beam epitaxy for the inorganic material component, and combined with blade and spin coating to deposit diverse polymers. We expect that the successful output of this project will have impact on establishing the wave-like thermal propagation regime, as well as establishing a new optical technique to study nanoscale heat transport.

-All-oxide photovoltaics by cost-efficient chemical routes. (Dr. Mariona Coll)-

Solar photovoltaics (PV) is a key technology for the global energy transition; solar power could provide 15% of Europe’s electricity by 2030. Despite commercial Silicon PV modules have been remarkably successful they present some concerns to meet the energy demands: efficiency, life and performance with time. An all-oxide PV approach is very attractive due to the chemical, mechanical and thermal stability, nontoxicity and abundance of many metal oxides that allow preparation by cost-effective and scalable techniques. The use of ferroelectric perovskite oxides (FEPO) as a stable photoactive layer has opened up a ground-breaking new arena of research. They present an alternative mechanism for solar energy conversion that could surpass the fundamental efficiency limits of conventional semiconductors. Unfortunately, most FEPO are wide-band gap materials (use only 8-20% of the solar spectrum) and  present poor charge transport properties.

The main goal of this project is to develop an all-oxide device based on FEPO with improved light absorption and carrier extraction using abundant and lead-free materials by low cost and scalable chemical methodologies. This project will build on recent results where it has been observed that cobalt substitution in ferroelectric BiFeO3 allows band gap tunability and remarkable improvement in photocurrent. In order to unlock the full potential of the BiFe1-xCoxO3 (BFCO) system and gain new insight on its PV mechanism, improved and simplified innovative architectures based on compositional tuning of BFCO and interface engineering will be developed. 

The student will be trained on cost-effective chemical deposition techniques (combining solution processing and atomic layer deposition) to prepare complex oxide thin films with atomic control. The student will also be trained on characterizing the structure, morphology and chemical composition of the developed films by means of x-ray diffraction, scanning electron microscopy, atomic force microscopy and x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, respectively. Optical characterization and PV evaluation will also be carried out in optimized films.

-Multiredox nanoclusters and nanoparticles as mediators for enhanced oxygen redox reactions in metal-air flow batteries .(Dr. Dino Tonti)-

Metal/air batteries are among the most promising novel battery chemistries. They could allow up to 3-5 times the specific energy of current Li-ion batteries while significantly lowering their cost. In spite of intense investigation efforts in the past few years still their performance and durability are not satisfactory to establish as a technology. This is mostly attributed to the lack of an optimal control of the complex reduction processes of oxygen that need to take place quickly and reversibly. Remarkable improvements can be achieved by alternative paths involving soluble catalysts (redox mediators, RM) in the electrolytes. The use of RM also facilitates operation in flow cell architecture, by which also higher power can be achieved.

This work aims to the development of efficient and stable RM for metal/air flow batteries. We have recently shown that multiredox nanosized oxides, such as polyoxometalate clusters are promising RM [1]. In particular their stability seems superior to that of more common organic molecules. We propose to extend the study to other oxide nanoparticles and to elucidate in more detail electrode and interparticle charge transfer mechanisms, and strategies for improving kinetics and stability. Many oxides are already known by their reversible redox activity in oxidation and reduction processes and in many cases by their catalytic activity, which would add a second advantage in O2 redox process.

The ESR will participate to the development of more efficient, price effective metal/air batteries in the group. In particular he/she will:

  • Develop oxide clusters and hybrids by wet chemistry.
  • Investigate these materials and their behavior in the electrochemical systems using microscopic, spectroscopic and electrochemical techniques.
  • Develop, model and test flow cells based on the electrochemistry of these materials.
-Spin Current, Next Memory Generation (Dr. Lluis Balcells, Benjamín Martínez)-
The fast development of information technologies (IT) implies handling huge amounts of data that requires substantial improvement of the energetic efficiency and data processing speed of integrated circuits and memories requires the introduction of new control variables. The electronics based on electron spin handling, i.e. spintronics, is a potential alternative to develop a multifunctional electronics that combines logic operations, data storage and transmission with an improved energetic efficiency, therefor the next step is the use of pure spin currents. This development requires the generation, control and handling of spin currents. Spin currents can be generated in different ways, one of them is spin pumping (SP) from a precessing magnetization in a ferromagnetic material. The pure spin current detection can be realized through the inverse spin Hall effect (ISHE) that transforms a pure spin current into a charge current. The interconversion spin-charge is completed by the spin Hall effect (SHE). We will do an exploration of all these phenomena, now possible reached by thin film growth techniques, allowing preparing complex oxide heterostructures with atomic-sharp interfaces with very versatile physical properties that can be tuned by using different mechanism, such as oxygen content, structural strain, doping rate, etc. 

The candidate will work in a rich and multidisciplinary environment at the “Advanced Characterization and Nanostructured Materials” (ACNM) group at the Materials Science Institute of Barcelona (ICMAB). The group has a long-standing record of high quality publications in the field of functional oxide materials for novel technologies. Our research is both of basic and applied character since it is aimed not only to investigate the relation between the microstructure and properties but also its potential application for the design and fabrication of novel magnetoelectronic devices. The student will be responsible for the preparation of thin films and heterostructures, their structural characterization and to perform and analyze their spin transport properties.

-Nanocellulose conductive composites for thermoelectric applications (Prof. Anna Roig, Dr. Mariano Campoy)-

About two thirds of the energy generated is lost in the form of heat. Low quality, distributed sources of heat are ubiquitous, yet go unused because they are unsuited for conventional heat engines. Solid state thermoelectric devices, able to convert heat gradients in electrical current, do not depend on any moving parts and can be scaled nearly arbitrarily, both for heat micro-generation as well as to the large scale. However, the main reason that thermoelectric generators have not seen general adoption is because they are so far based on inorganic materials. This makes them prohibitively expensive for large surface applications.  Low cost, flexible and non-toxic sustainable materials on the other hand could make thermoelectricity widespread, if their efficiency is sufficiently raised.Cellulose constitutes an almost inexhaustible biopolymer, being the most abundant renewable polysaccharide produced in the biosphere. Cellulose can also be synthesized by bacteria, produced by microbial fermentation. Bacterial nanocellulose (BC) has the same molecular formula as plant-derived cellulose but it also permits the  possibility to interfere on its micro(nano) structuration and composition both during and after the bacterial biosynthesis.  This offers to  materials scientists a model biopolymer to fabricate electrically conductive and thermally insulating composites with tuned characteristics in terms of large surface, thickness, porosity, (p and n) doping or biodegradation.

The main objective of this PhD project is to develop efficient, thermally stable, flexible and biodegradable thermoelectric devices. For that, we propose the growth of bacterial nanocellulose as sustainable biopolymer matrix in combination with semiconducting CNTs and other conductive phases. By using judiciously optimized electronic doping and porosity, we expect to obtain thermally stable thermoelectric paper that can be easily integrate in devices. The interdisciplinary nature of the current project, bridge expertise in device physics, materials preparation, and bacterial cellulose growth.

-Nitride materials for photocatalysis and solid state lighting (Prof. Amparo Fuertes)-

Perovskite oxynitrides will be developed to produce new visible light photocatalysts for water splitting and organic reactions. Silicate oxynitrides will be investigated as hosts for Eu2+ and Ce3+ luminescent materials which show large colour tuneability, low toxicity and high thermal stability. The research group hosting the student has a long experience in the development of new nitrided materials with a diversity of properties including superconductivity, photocatalytic water splitting, colossal magnetoresistance and luminescence.

The project of this doctoral thesis aims at the development of metal oxynitrides as new materials for two applications in energy: 1) photocatalysis under visible light for water splitting and for the decomposition of organic molecules, and 2) red luminescence for application in white LED’s. Perovskite oxynitrides will be developed to produce new visible light photocatalysts for water splitting and organic reactions. Silicate oxynitrides will be investigated as hosts for Eu2+ and Ce3+ luminescent materials which show large colour tuneability, low toxicity and high thermal stability. The student will be trained in non conventional synthetic methods at high temperatures with strict control of atmosphere and other parameters in order to produce the targeted oxynitrides. She/He will perform the preparation of powder samples at high temperatures in nitriding atmospheres as well as the characterization of the chemical composition, crystal structure and physical and photocatalytic properties. The investigation of the crystal structure will be performed by using X-ray diffraction, transmission electron microscopy and electron diffraction at ICMAB, and also at international facilities like the ALBA synchrotron and neutron diffraction (Institut Laue Langevin in France or ISIS in UK). The optical properties of the oxynitrides will be studied by luminescence measurements. The photocatalytic properties will be investigated in oxidation and reduction of water as well as in the decomposition of organic molecules.

 

-Learning from neuromorphic vision systems using time causality of optical stimuli (Dr. Gervasi Herranz)-

Over the recent years, we have investigated the properties of quantum wells (QWs) at the LaAlO3/SrTiO3 interface, including 2D superconductivity, Rashba spin-orbit fields and lattice vibrational modes [1-3]. More recently we uncovered persistent photoconductance (PPC), whereby the system changes its conductance in a plastic way, retaining memory from its past history, as in the case of memristors, but using light instead of electric pulses. Our most astounding discovery (yet unpublished [4]) is that light pulses can be used to replicate spike timing-dependent plasticity (STDP). STDP was proposed to emulate time causality of electro-chemical signals in biological neurons: pre-synaptic neurons spiking after post-synaptic neurons are “anti-causal” and learning is weakened; pre-synaptic neurons spiking before post-synaptic neurons are causal, reinforcing learning. STDP enables unsupervised learning, without need of labelling training data. Our discovery is particularly relevant, as it extends the STDP concept beyond electrical stimuli to the realm optical stimuli, opening up whole new perspectives on neuromorphic engineering and in artificial vision. More specifically, our project aims at generating neuronal spikes in our physical system –e.g., using, among other approaches, RC differentiators, where R and C are defined in the QWs–. The candidate will be trained in Python-based algorithms that will help to understand how artificial networks can be designed to learn from visual inputs, with the ultimate objective of building a first design that may learn from simple visual patterns.

The student will be acquainted with state-of-the art techniques that allow real-space imaging with diffraction limitation [see our References below]. This is relevant for the full characterization of synaptic-like devices excited by short optical stimuli. Artificial neuron networks will be defined so that electric transport can be done with in-situ excitation of the small synapses by optical stimuli controlled to timescales down the microsecond. The candidate will be responsible with defining the required devices in the clean room facilities using optical and electron-beam lithography to define small optical devices with length scales from around 100 nm up to around 100 microns.

-Nanophotonic metasurfaces with enhanced functionality and topological properties (Dr. Gervasi Herranz)-

Over the last years our investigation on photonic and plasmonic crystals has revealed photonic / plasmon effects that increase the magneto-optic response [1-4]. Additionally, we have demonstrated the nonreciprocal propagation of plasmons in the presence of magnetic fields [4]. All this research is relevant to achieving unidirectional propagation of spatially confined electromagnetic waves, indispensable for the development of on-chip optical communications in photonic circuitry. To further push the boundaries of the field of nanophotonics, we will pursue two distinct approaches that aim towards creating actively controllable nanophotonic devices: (i) integration of electro- and magneto-optic materials into nanophotonic metasurfaces to enable using electric (magnetic) fields to control confined electromagnetic waves; (ii) special topologies designed in the wavevector space that enable helical edge propagation of modes that flow unimpeded by imperfections or back-reflections. The latter are akin to quantum spin Hall in fermionic systems, which have been demonstrated in honeycomb photonic dielectric lattices. The candidate will use primarily these tools: (i) Finite-difference time-domain simulations to design metasurfaces and topological photonic crystals; (ii) Angle-resolved reflectance/transmission spectroscopy, which can resolve reciprocal space maps from near-IR to violet, with scanning beam sizes down to few microns. Particularly, beyond the more common real space imaging, this methodology will enable the direct visualization of helical edge states and Dirac cones in the photonic crystal band structure. 

The candidate will be tasked with defining nanophotonic devices with appropriate geometry with submicron length-scales using electron beam lithography and characterizing them in the ICMAB optical laboratory. He/she will carry out finite-difference time-domain (FDTD) simulations to further elucidate the light propagation in the nanophotonic devices.
-Pushing the limits of X-ray diffraction techniques in epitaxial thin films: structure and strain distribution analysis (Dr. Carlos Frontera)-

Diffraction techniques have had a crucial role in the study of the structure of new materials as they have allowed understanding the key relation between structure and properties, especially in transition metal oxides. In epitaxial thin films (~10-100 nm in thickness), exploiting the overall information that X-ray diffraction can offer has been elusive due to the small amount of sample they contain. The research project proposed here consists in developing two different methods to push forward present capabilities in this field.

-The first consists on obtaining information on the field of deformations inside the film (strain). This strain field makes diffraction peaks to deform in a way that contains information about the deformation field. Recovering this information is a difficult task as it requires iterative approaches involving complex calculations. Our objective is to adapt different algorithms already develop for similar problems, developing specific computer software able to make these calculations in a reasonable amount of time. As a second step, the objective will be to interpret the obtained results in terms of a strain field. This objective will require the use of data collected at synchrotron sources.

-The second is centered at the use of X-ray diffraction data (collected at laboratory sources) to study the structural details of the thin films (basically the atomic positions). This task is routinely done in bulk (massive) materials, but has not been properly developed for thin films. This information is crucial to understand the physical properties of the films and their changes with respect to bulk form of the materials. The main idea behind has been already used for synchrotron based data, and it must be adapted to laboratory data.
-Flexible organic electronic devices: towards low cost and high performing transistors for sensing (Dr. Marta Mas Torrent)-

Due to technological limitations associated with the use of silicon, substantial efforts are currently devoted to developing organic electronics and, in particular, organic field-effect transistors (OFETs). Indeed, the processing characteristics of organic semiconductors make them potentially useful for electronic applications where low-cost, large area coverage and structural flexibility are required. However, in order to move towards applications, there are some fundamental aspects that need to be further understood to be able to achieve high performing devices with high reproducibility. One important and attractive niche of applications of OFETs is the development of novel low-cost sensing platforms. OFETs can be applied to transmit information about our environment, such as light/radiation sensors, pressure or deformation sensors or for the development of (bio)sensors.

In this project, we will optimize the device performance by controlling the organic semiconductor properties such as the molecular design, formulation and crystallization of the material, among others. Further, the electrical response of the devices when they are exposed to different external stimuli will be explored in order to develop novel promising sensors.

The candidate will have the opportunity to handle a variety of multidisciplinary techniques such as wet chemistry methods, organic materials processing and characterisation, vacuum deposition techniques, laser lithography for electrode fabrication, electrical measurements, morphological and structural characterisation tools, etc. Further, the candidate will join a research team which has a long expertise in the field or organic electronics and has actively participated in many European projects in this area.
-Superconducting properties and vortex pinning mechanism of layers prepared by ink jet printing combinatorial chemistry (Prof. Teresa Puig)-

This project is part of the ERC Advanced Grant ULTRASUPERTAPE which aims to demonstrate an unprecedented approach for fabrication of low cost / high throughput / high performance High Temperature Superconducting (HTS) tapes, or Coated Conductors, to push the emerging HTS industry to market. The breakthrough idea is the use of Transient Liquid Assisted Growth (TLAG) from low cost Chemical Solution Deposition of Y, Ba, Cu metalorganic precursors by ink jet printing to reach ultrafast growth rates. We have just demonstrated growth velocities of 100 nm/s which are 100 times larger than standard film growth methods. ULTRASUPERTAPE aims to boost Coated Conductor performances up to outstanding limits at high and ultrahigh fields, by smartly designing and engineering the local strain and electronic state properties of nanocomposite superconducting films prepared from nanoparticle colloids. This PhD grant will contribute to the project with the study of the superconducting properties to find the optimal growth conditions and optimal compositions for increased performances by analysing samples produced by ink jet printing combinatorial chemistry apaches. Special attention will be devoted to study the vortex pinning mechanism and correlation with the microstructure of superconducting nanocomposites films and tapes to achieve exceptional performances.

The fellow will study the physical properties of high temperature superconducting films and tapes prepared by chemical solution deposition and ink jet printing combinatorial chemistry approaches, with the following focus directions:

  • Study of basic superconducting properties of films prepared by ink jet combinatorial chemistry approaches using adequate techniques.
  • Correlate the physical properties with deposition and growth parameters
  • Study the vortex pinning mechanisms of the superconducting films and tape and correlate them to the nano-microsturcture defect landscape of the films.
  • Investigate the doping effect in the superconducting nanocomposites films to boost superconducting performances at ultrahigh magnetic fields
-Architectured nanoparticles for medical and environmentally friendly technologies (Prof. Francesc Teixidor)-

The research aims at producing magnetic nanoparticles coated either with SiO2 or with a thin layer of gold and, additionally, gold and CdSe nanoparticles. The coating layers are chosen as to link on them hollow spheres so as to produce tetragonal or hexagonal arrangements. These, by their disposition, will produce holes through which ions can penetrate that can reside in the voids between the surface of the bulk material and the spheres.  These ions can be of different nature and their charge can be totally or partly compensated by the charge of the core, e.g. the gold nanoparticle can be negative and this charge is compensated by a layer of ions. This leads to a charge separation in a inspiring way as what happens in a cell or in a capacitor. The nature of the hollow spheres can be distinct, e.g. a photoredox catalyst will be added as a hollow sphere. In these cases light harvesting catalysts will be produced. These materials are produced for a purpose, either as a drug delivery agent, molecular electronics, photoredox catalysis, or electrical energy storage. 

The research group is internationally reputed in the area of boron cluster chemistry synthesis, theory and the characterization of these compounds, and their applications, particularly in charge transfer, selective chemical sensors, photoluminescence, conducting organic polymers, light harvesting, catalysis, energy storage, gas storage, environmentally friendly procedures and bio interactions.
The fellow will perform synthesis, characterization, materials preparation, materials’ characterization and material’s incorporation in devices. Collaboration with researchers in complementary areas will be needed to achieve the goals sought.
-First-principles theory of emergent materials properties at ferroic domain walls and related low-dimensional structures (Dr. Massimiliano Stengel)-
Ferroic materials are characterized by a phase transition to an ordered (e.g. ferromagnetic, or ferroelectric) low-temperature phase. Such a phase is seldom homogeneous, and almost always forms "domains" (e.g., half of the sample may have the dipoles oriented upwards, the rest downwards); neighboring domains, in turn, are separated by a boundary that is called "domain wall" (DW). In  recent years DW's have become a "hot topic" in condensed-matter physics: They can be regarded as a special kind of "topologically protected two-dimensional material", and have their own properties that markedly differ from those of the bulk crystal. Example of applications can be in nanoelectronics (e.g. they can be in principle used to realize mobile, tunable atomic-scale transistors). The big question is in what material and/or circumstances do we expect certain property to occur, why, and what can we do to predict new, unusual and potentially useful physics in structures that haven't been measured yet. Being able to answer, at least partially, this question by performing cleverly thought numerical experiments on the computer is the reason why first-principles electronic-structure theory has had such an enormous success in recent years. It's a powerful "theoretical microscope" that can complement, guide and often lead the experimental research.  
 
The fellow will carry out theoretical research by calculating novel properties of materials via advanced computational techniques. The tools we use in our group usually lie at the frontier between well-established techniques (e.g. first-principles density functional theory, linear response, etc.) and unexplored grounds, so typically some degree of analytical and/or coding work is required. There is an emphasis on the development of new methods and algorithms, parallel to their application to addressing technologically outstanding problems.
 
-Challenging a Nobel’s prediction. Data storage with antiferromagnetic materials (Prof. Josep Fontcuberta)
We aim to discover and develop more energetically efficient ways to store data information using antiferromagnetic materials and we are seeking for a PhD candidate aiming to join this frontier research project and be the principal actor of it. Someone who wants to discover a frontier of knowledge and contribute to break it.
Ferromagnetic magnetic materials are extensively used in technology. A characteristic feature of them is that they have a net magnetization that can be detected and modified by external means and can be mapped by external probes. Therefore, ferromagnetic materials are: active, responsive and “visible”. In contrast, antiferromagnetic materials, have a net zero magnetization and thus they cannot be easily controlled and are invisible to an external inspector. Probably for these reasons, antiferromagnetic materials have been largely ignored. Indeed, in 1970, in his Nobel Prize Lecture, L. Néel stated: “Antiferromagnetic materials do not seem to have any application”.
Now, a new life is being received by antiferromagnets. Indeed, in spite that having zero magnetization, it has been shown that they can be used to store and retrieve magnetic information, and for these findings, antiferromagnets are receiving a renewed attention.
Still, writing information in them is far from simple as either large magnetic fields or complex temperature cycling are required to change their magnetic state.
On the other hand, during the last few years it has been shown that the intimate coupling between charge and spin, can be broken and pure spin currents can be generated in some materials, with the additional benefit that spin do not suffer the energy costly Joule effect.As a result of spin currents, spins can be accumulated at sample edges and the resulting magnetization can exert a magnetic torque in neighboring magnetic layers. It has been recently shown that this mechanism lead to more efficient magnetic information writing schemes.
Here again, antiferromagnetics may find a new opportunity. Indeed, it has been shown that spin currents can be transmitted through antiferromagnets and nothing precludes that their magnetic state can be modified by a spin current and magnetic information written in them.
-A hybrid battery-supercapacitor redox flow cells (Dr. Nieves Casañ-Pastor)-

The energy density and cost limitations of lithium batteries still imply a severe hurdle to large scale storage. Metal-oxygen batteries by combining pure and inexpensive elements with strong electronegativity difference offer high energy density, but suffer from short cyclelife and low power capability. Supercapacitors are able to provide high power and cycle-life but poor energy. The coupling of low-rate battery with capacitive half-cells parts provides battery-supercapacitor hybrid devices, with high power and energy. On the other hand, redox flow cells offer limited energy density, but can be designed with independently specified power and energy.

This project targets a hybrid battery-supercapacitor device based on redox flow cells in an appropriate design, which is expected to provide a favorable blend of energy and power density, cost and durability. This strongly relies also on the development of a multifunctional electrolyte, containing several components including active material, redox mediators, conducting agents, surfactants able to efficiently connect the active material with the electrode collectors. It may involve nanoparticles, graphenes and hybrids.

The ESR will participate to the development of more efficient, price effective metal/air batteries in the group. In particular he/she will:

  • Develop electrolytes with low viscosity, high redox density and fast kinetics. .
  • Investigate transport and charge transfer phenomena in the electrochemical systems using microscopic, spectroscopic and electrochemical techniques.
  • Develop and test flow cells based on the electrochemistry of these materials.
-Influence of FerroElectric polarization on the performance of catalyst TiO2/FE-heterostructures (Dr. Felip Sandiumenge, Dr. Xavier Torrelles)-
Sunlight induced photocatalytic water splitting is receiving nowadays a lot of interest as a clean energy production technology. However, fast recombination velocities of the electron-hole pairs produced during illumination largely reduce the efficiency of one of the most promising catalysts as TiO2. In this context, epitaxial ferroelectric (FE) films, with spontaneous polarization (SP) oriented along the film normal direction, exhibiting an open-circuit photovoltage under illumination, can drive charge carriers to opposite surfaces (bulk photovoltaic effect). Thus, the FE-field can be used to create spatially separated sites for the reduction and oxidation water reactions yielding H2 and O2, respectively. The FE’s dipolar field can then be exploited by covering the FE film with TiO2. Assuming that the FE-field is not completely screened by charges at the interface, the internal polarization will reduce recombination of the photogenerated carriers thus enhancing the photocatalytic efficiency. This efficiency while be optimized as function of the TiO2-film thickness and monitored with soft X-ray absorption experiments with controlled pressure ambient.
TiO2/BaTiO3(001) [/BiFeO3(111)] film heterostructures will be grown on SrTiO3 substrates.
The main objective of this proposal is the analysis of the influence of the FE-polarization in the enhancement on the photo-catalytic efficiency of the catalyst. Therefore, the impact of the interface on the strength and polarization distribution of the polarization as well as lattice mismatch able to generate lattice distortions, cation inter-diffusion or oxygen vacancies will be exhaustively studied. State of the art of TEM, spectroscopic and PEEM (synchrotron) techniques will be used mainly to evaluate these effects.
The fellow will, in a first stage, the growth of BaTiO3 and BiFeO3 FE epitaxial films by Pulsed Laser Deposition, as substrates for the subsequent growth of the TiO2 catalyst. In a second stage, he/she will focus on the characterization of the heterostructures.
-Theoretical modeling of surface mediated fabrication of low-dimensional molecular architectures (Dr. Jordi Faraudo, Dr.Carmen Ocal)-

The continuous increase in computational power has fueled the development of methodologies that allow the simulation of materials with atomistic resolution from fundamental physics and chemistry. We use them at ICMAB as a kind of “theoretical microscope” to understand all sorts of properties of organic and inorganic systems from an atomistic perspective, looking at the organization and motion of atoms and molecules. Using advanced methodologies such as ab initio molecular dynamics or reactive force fields molecular dynamics we can now even follow chemical reactions taking place over specific substrates.

We propose to employ these cutting-edge simulation methodologies in a combined theoretical-experimental work to design new low-dimensional molecular architectures by polymerization over inorganic substrates. The well-defined bottom-up creation of such polymeric systems out of small individual units (oligomers) has attracted enormous interest in multidisciplinary fields such as sensing and molecular electronics.

The motivation for the project is the current difficulties in preparing the desired tailored hierarchical structures in solution and the fact that many relevant oligomers cannot be sublimated. To overcome these difficulties, we propose to follow a novel approach in which selected inorganic surfaces are employed for confining polymerization, exploiting surface reactivity and intermolecular interactions. The use of computational methods, combined with experimental scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) data, providing the structural and chemical information at submolecular level, will be employed for rationally designing and preparing the appropriate hierarchical growth of the desired molecular structures.

-Unveiling novel coupling mechanisms for functional improper multiferroics (Prof. José Luis García)-

This PhD project is focused on the fabrication and advanced characterization of novel multiferroic frustrated oxides with strong magnetoelectric coupling. Frustration, or the inability to satisfy all interactions, leads to new fascinating phenomena and properties (quantum magnets, spin liquids, chiral spin orders, magnetoresistance, etc.). The discovery of new classes of frustrated materials in which the charge, orbital, magnetic or elastic orders and the (ferro-)electric properties are strongly coupled (improper multiferroics) is generating a flurry of activity in the fundamental and applied field. The list of potential applications is still incomplete: spintronic devices, multi-state memory units with reduced energy consumption, smart sensors, switches, etc. New physical mechanisms generating coupling between coexisting internal orders will be explored and investigated in materials in different forms (from polycrystal to single crystal and thin film). Their understanding will help to foster them in order to obtain coupled improper multiferroics for room temperature operation.   

The activities of the CMEOS group at the ICMAB center on strongly correlated materials of interest in Condensed Matter research and for Information Technologies. Our group has long-standing expertise and international recognition on advanced structural, magnetic and electronic characterization using neutron and synchrotron techniques. We combine experimental and theoretical crystallographic approaches to tackle the structure-properties relationships. The research will involve material fabrication and advanced characterization using state-of-the-art techniques. Selected 3d and 4d magnetic oxides with topological, magnetic or electronic frustration and spin-orbit coupling will be investigated as the richness of possible magnetoelectric mechanisms greatly exceeds our expectations. A key component of the project will be neutron and X-ray scattering experiments at international facilities to uncover magnetic, charge and structural correlations and confront theory.

Ferroelectric oxides nanoengineering for enhanced photovoltaic performance(Dr. Ignasi Fina)-

The science behind Photovoltaics (PV) in semiconductors has been understood for decades. In the present project it is proposed to overcome the PV efficiency limits present in PV technology based on semiconductor materials exploring a peculiar kind of materials, called ferroelectric materials, that may offer a powerful new mechanism for converting light into electricity.

Ferroelectric materials are those materials that demonstrate switchable spontaneous surface charge upon application of electric field. If surface charge is not properly screened ferroelectric materials can hold a giant electric field (overpassing those appearing in semiconductor), which can potentially lead to large efficiencies, in principle forbidden for semiconductors technology. The drawback of ferroelectric materials is their large bandgap and low carrier mobility. The most commonly followed strategy by the scientific community to overcome these issues is to investigate on new materials that can show larger absorption and larger carrier mobilities, usually at expenses of good ferroelectric properties. Another possible route is the combination of ferroelectric materials with other materials showing larger absorption. This route presents the main disadvantage of that the place where the photocarrier is generated is not the same where the electric field generated by the ferroelectric material is present. Recent theoretical works have shown that appropriate combination of some unit cells thick layers of appropriate materials; can combine good ferroelectric properties with high absorption. These properties would be present all across the material resulting in a new uniform band diagram, meaning a new material.

Pulsed laser deposition (PLD) will be used to growth the proposed materials. The selected material constituents will be based on BaTiO3 which is a ferroelectric material with large polarization at room temperature and free of any toxic element that can hinder applications.

-Closing the C-cycle: electrochemical carbon capture and conversion (Dr. Teresa Andreu)-

Electrokinetics and catalysis play a determinant role on the energy efficiency of electrochemical devices for CO2 capture and reduction. The PhD candidate will work on the following objectives: (1) development of electrolyte formulation (2) synthesis and characterization of electrocatalysts (3) evaluation of the reversibility of the electrodes towards the nucleophilic attack (4) proof-of-concept of a full cell prototype to produce concentrated CO2 stream (5) coupling to CO2 electroreduction device to demonstrate the feasibility of a CCU concept.

CO2 capture from industrial emissions or air and its subsequent conversion into useful products (CCU, carbon capture and utilization) is one of the current challenges in chemistry to achieve negative emissions. Most CO2 capture methods are energy intensive, involving thermal cycles or differential pressure. The project will deal with the use of electrochemical cycles to capture CO2 and release it in pure form. These cycles typically rely on electrochemical generation of nucleophiles that attack CO2 at the electrophilic carbon atom, forming a CO2 adduct. Then, CO2 is released in pure form via a subsequent electrochemical step. Once purified, CO2 will be reduced to useful C2 products such as ethanol or ethylene. The fellow will develop novel electrocatalysts to avoid the use of platinum group materials. Simulation tools will be employed to optimize the electrochemical cell configuration, and several prototypes will be fabricated by 3D printing for its validation.

The candidate will gain fundamental knowledge on CO2 reduction processes and mechanisms. The candidate will also acquire experience on the design and development of new functional nanostructured materials and on the use of advanced structural, chemical and electronic characterization techniques as well as system development.

-Advanced catalyst materials and systems for electroconversion of CO2 (Prof. J. Ramón Morante)-

The circular economy of CO2 is nowadays a hot issue for our society. Nevertheless its successful implementation still requires a lot of new knowledge and its implementation in reliable systems. Therefore, the suitability of nano catalyst that enhance the reduction process of CO2 toward wanted subproducts as well as the complementary oxidation reaction taking place in the anode constitute basic key points. The combination of 3D nano skeleton with advanced design of nanocatalyst particles become one of the challenges for implementing high efficiency systems. The control of the charge transfer mechanisms at the nano scale level is required to develop advanced cathode and anodes increasing the appropriate electrochemical activity, reducing overpotentials and increasing the current density in order to have feasible energy balance with a high productivity. Different nanoparticles compositions with the presence of different additives will be explored in order to estimulate the charge transition processes for contributing to descrease the required overpotential as well as the increase of the active sites. Compositional, morphological and structural features will be explored.

Nano catalyst materials play a determinant role in the electroreduction of CO2. In this field, the PhD candidate will work on five main directions: i) development of catalyst materials for reduction of CO2; ii) development of catalyst materials for the complementary anodes; iii) characterize the nano catalyst functional properties, iv) development of a prototype system improving also electrolytes and membrane. v) scale up of the system to validate feasible industrial application of the developed electroconversion system. Aside of the standard CO2 subproducts, special attention will be paid in the production of carbon double bonds.

The candidate will gain fundamental knowledge on CO2 reduction processes and mechanisms. The candidate will also acquire experience on the design and development of new functional nanostructured materials and on the use of advanced structural, chemical and electronic characterization techniques as well as system development.

-Catalyst for improved metal air batteries. (Prof. J. Ramón Morante, Dr. Jordi Jacas)-

Metal air batteries constitute a challenge issue for achieving a high capabilitiy of electrical energy storage. It defines a clear alternative to Li-ion based batteries offering high energy density and avoiding the mandatory electrical recharge as metal air allows also mechanical research replacing exhaust electrolyte for a fresh one. Likewise, it gives rise to the posterior treatment of exhaust electrolytes to recovery materials and, thus, closing a loop for the circular economy of the battery function. Therefore, attention will be also devoted to the battery performance specially considering the scale up of the system for achieving high efficiencies.

Nano catalyst materials play a determinant role in the anode functionality of metal air batteries. In this field, the PhD candidate will work on the following main directions: i) development of catalyst materials for improved anodes; ii) characterize the nano catalyst functional properties, iii) development of battery prototypes iv) scale up of the system to validate feasible commercial applications v) recycle the exhaust electrolyte..

The candidate will gain fundamental knowledge on oxidation processes and mechanisms as well as the conception design and implementation of metal air batteries. The candidate will also acquire experience on the design and development of new functional nanostructured materials and on the use of advanced structural, chemical and electronic characterization techniques as well as system development.

-Ceramic 3D-printing of multimaterial energy devices (Dr. Albert Tarancón)-
Three-dimensional printing technologies are playing a revolution in manufacturing customized structural parts. However, less attention is being paid to 3D printing of functional parts and multimaterials devices. Extending 3D printing to this field will open new avenues for advanced materials extremely difficult to process such as ceramics. In particular, free-form multilayer and multimaterial 3D printing capabilities will represent a step change when employed for developing energy devices, e.g. batteries, solar cells, catalytic reactors or fuel cells.
This research project will be devoted to develop 3D printing of functional ceramics for the fabrication of energy devices. In particular, it will cover materials aspects related to the fabrication of complex multilayer devices based on advanced pure ionic and mixed ionic-electronic conductors. Dedicated multi-material stereolithography and inkjet printers will be employed for the fabrication of such devices. Apart from developing the manufacturing process, these revolutionary printed devices will be functionally characterized in order to evaluate their future commercialization. The fellow will be in charge of carrying out the experimental work related to the printing process, the design of the system, the materials structural characterization and the relevant tests of the final devices. The group will offer full technical and conceptual support for covering this cutting edge project as well as access to multiple facilities required to achieve the final goals. 
-CO2 reuse for chemical energy storage of surplus electricity from renewables (Dr. Albert Tarancón)-
Capturing and reusing CO2 is one of the major challenges of the current society. Among other solutions, using it as a carbon source for fabricating synthetic green fuels mimicking the nature is receiving increasing attention. The combination of captured CO2 with hydrogen produced from the electrolysis of water (using surplus electricity from renewable sources) opens the door to the synthesis of green fuels to neutralize the CO2 balance (eventually generating negative CO2 emissions). Developing efficient water and water/CO2 high temperature electrolysers is therefore crucial for the future CO2 economy.
The research project will be devoted to develop high temperature (co-)electrolysers (SOECs) based on pure ionic and mixed ionic conductors. In particular, the project will cover materials aspects related to the synthesis of complex oxides for the electrodes and electrolyte as well as the fabrication of the complete device. The focus will be on the optimization of the performance of this new family of devices in order to control the output gas composition. This output gas is crucial since it is the precursor for the subsequent catalytic step, which results in the final synthetic fuel, typically methane. The fellow will be in charge of carrying out the experimental work related to the synthesis of oxide materials, the fabrication of the multilayer system, the materials structural characterization and the relevant tests of the final devices. The group will offer full technical and conceptual support for covering this relevant and innovative project as well as access to multiple facilities required to achieve the final goals. 
-Nanoionics for advanced energy devices (Dr. Albert Tarancón)-
Advanced solid state devices are becoming key players in the fields of energy, internet of things or information technologies. The fruitful marriage of micro and nanotechnologies (MNT) allows the miniaturization of such devices based on functional nanomaterials, which radically change their properties at the nanoscale. Nanoionics is a new field of study focused on these new features occurring in pure ionic and mixed ionic/electronic conductors (MIECs) and how they can be implemented to generate novel applications. Based on Nanoionics effects, emerging power sources such as micro solid oxide fuel cells or novel RAM memories based on redox resistive switching are promising candidates to substitute current existing technologies in the next future. The research project will be devoted to explore new Nanoionics concepts and their implementation in relevant solid state devices. In particular, it will cover fundamental aspects of mass transport at surface and interface levels for pure ionic and MIECs. Deposition of thin film layers of this type of materials will be carried out on substrate-free or strained configurations. Integration of these nanostructures in real devices for power generation or energy storage will be carried out by using micro and nanofabrication technologies. Finally, these revolutionary nano-enabled microdevices will be functionally characterized in order to evaluate their future commercialization.
The fellow will be in charge of carrying out the experimental work related to the nanofabrication, structural characterization and testing of the microdevices. The group will offer full technical and conceptual support for covering this cutting edge project as well as access to multiple facilities required to achieve the final goals.
-Thermoelectric nanocomposites using bottom-up assembled nanocrystal building blocks (Prof. Andreu Cabot)-
Thermoelectric devices offer numerous advantages over competing technologies in the fields of temperature control and thermal energy harvesting. Accordingly, a plethora of applications have been proposed for this technology. Beyond temperature sensing, the heat flow generated in a thermoelectric module when an electric potential is applied is used in portable fridges, car seat climate control systems and to actively cool optoelectronic and electronic devices. Besides, the capacity of thermoelectric modules to generate electricity from temperature gradients can be used to power autonomous electronic systems by harvesting energy from ubiquitous temperature gradients, to improve energy efficiency of domestic and industrial processes and vehicles by recovering wasted heat, and to generate electric power in deep-space missions. While proposed applications are countless, what currently limits thermoelectric devices is its cost-effectiveness. To overcome present challenges, at IREC we are developing materials with significantly improved performance through nanostructuration. The very particular group of properties required to achieve high thermoelectric performances can only be achieved when engineering a complex type of material, nanocomposites, with exquisite control over structural and chemical parameters at multiple length scales. Within the appealing field of thermoelectricity, the direct and solid state conversion between thermal energy and electricity, the fellow will work on three main directions:
-Design of nanocomposites with optimized functional properties for thermoelectric energy conversion;
-Produce the designed nanocomposites with precisely controlled parameters through the directed assembly of blends of colloidal nanocrystals having narrow size, shape and composition distributions;
-Characterize the nanocomposite functional properties, particularly charge and heat transport, as a function of their composition and composition distribution.
The developed materials will be successively used to produce thermoelectric devices for highly accurate temperature control or for energy harvesting from ubiquitous temperature gradients.
-Ultrafast and ultrahigh resolution 3D printing through electrohydrodynamic material jetting (Prof. Andreu Cabot)-
Over current additive manufacturing (AM) technologies, the EHD material jetting technology has the following advantages: 1) Higher resolution, up to the 50 nm; 2) multi-mode material deposition, i.e. jetting, drop by drop, spraying; 3) relatively simple multi-material printing from multi-needle printheads; 4) possibility of simultaneous multi-material printing at high resolution and therefore of formation of graded materials and smooth material transitions; 5) high material versatility based on the use of inks; 6) potential for ultra-fast high resolution AM thanks to very high jetting speeds (1-100 m/s) and the electrostatic control of the jet positioning. In IREC, we have developed the first worldwide EHDP with an electrostatic control of the jet that allows an ultrafast fabrication of 3D nanostructures through material jetting with a current resolution of 100 nm. The candidate will integrate in the team working in this project, being responsible of the ink formulation and the optimization of the printed material processing or of the automation of the system to complete a real EHDP prototype.
With this project, the fellow will gain fundamental knowledge on fluid EHD, on the formulation or use of functional inks, and the preparation or manipulation of colloidal nanoparticles. The candidate will also acquire experience on the design and development of nanostructured devices and components and on the use of advanced structural, chemical and electronic characterization techniques. To demonstrate the advantages and versatility of the EHDP, we will apply this technology to two truly revolutionary application areas that challenge conventional 3D printing methodologies: Bio-printing of vascularized tissues, and structural electronics including chipless radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags in 3D objects, THz metamaterials and 3D printed circuit boards (PCBs).
-Nanowire-based triboloelectric generators (Prof. Andreu Cabot)-
Within this challenging project, the candidate will develop triboelectric generators starting from the material synthesis and arriving to the prototype device test in real working conditions. The goal of the project is to develop a new generation of triboelectric generators based on nanowires, able to harvest mechanical energy at the nanometer scale. Our high efficiency and high sensitivity system will be based on the incorporation of nanowires to maximize contact surface area to accumulate electrostatic charge. The group has a strong experience on the synthesis of nanostructured materials and on their use of energy conversion devices. The development of triboelectric generators is an extremely exciting new research line within the group.

Within this project, the PhD candidate will develop macroscopic triboelectric generators based on nanowires. Triboelectric generators take advantage of the electrostatic charges created on the surface of two dissimilar materials when they are brought into physical contact. In particular, the candidate will develop generators able to convert mechanical work in the form of a lateral displacement to develop the generators that will include arrays of nanowires.

To carry out this project, the candidate will be integrated in a highly multidisciplinary group of researchers with a strong experience in the related field. Within the research group, he/she will produce the materials, fabricate the device and test their properties. Additionally, the candidate will take an important role in the relevant IP protection and in the dissemination of his/her most exciting results through presentations in international conferences and writing scientific articles in high impact publications. During his/her PhD, the candidate will carry out one stay per year in main research laboratories worldwide.
-GHz magnetization dynamics in XPEEM (Dr. Michael Joachim Ulrich Foerster)-

The investigation of nanomagnetism on a fast time scale is crucial for the development of novel, improved devices like sensors and memory, logic or neuromorphic elements for advanced information technology. 

The PhD projects comprises the development, commissioning and use of new instrumental equipment which will increase the bandwidth of electrical signals that can be applied to samples in the X-ray Photoemission Electon microscope (XPEEM). This new capability will be exploited to perform experiments on magnetization dynamics inaccessible with current techniques, making use of the high spatial resolution of the XPEEM (down to 20 nm lateral resolution). To this end, the candidate will be involved in sample preparation by lithographical methods, basic sample characterization by laboratory techniques and will plan and perform measurements during beamtimes at the PEEM using X-ray magnetic circular and linear dichroism (XMCD/XMLD) contrast, and data analysis. She/he is expected to obtain measurement beamtime in regular competitive calls for proposals (with the help of the advisors).

The candidate will join a running research project on nanoscale magnetization dynamics driven by surface acoustic waves (SAW) [1], a collaboration between the ALBA PEEM group and Dr. Ferran Macia with coworkers. New experiments enabled by the expected higher (low GHz) bandwidth will target the interaction of SAW with spin waves (magnons) and the investigation of spin waves excited by a more conventional induction method, but in epitaxial materials which are not compatible with measurements in transmission. Additionally, the established SAW excitation technique (in the 100s of MHz range) will be applied to selected new magnetic systems of interest.

-Particle Beam Size Measurements in Accelerators Using Colloidal Suspensions / Electron Beam Diagnostics Researcher (Dr. Ubaldo Iriso Ariz)-

This project aims to develop a technique to measure the transverse beam size of a particle beam in a circular accelerator. Circular accelerators produce Synchrotron Radiation (SR) when the particle beam is bended at magnetic structures. The technique will consist on using the x-ray part of the synchrotron radiation to illuminate a material based on a suspension of Brownian nanoparticles and studying their interference pattern. The transverse coherence of the source and therefore, under the conditions of validity of the Van Cittert-Zernike theorem, the transverse electron beam size are retrieved from the pattern between the synchrotron radiation and the spherical waves scattered by the material. In classical optics, this kind of interference pattern is known as Heterodyne Near Field Speckles (HNFS) pattern.  

 While HNFS is a well-known particle sizing technique in optics, it has never been used for beam size monitoring in particle accelerators. One of the main fields of research involved in this project involves the required characteristics of the Brownian suspension of nanoparticles: diameter of nanoparticles, material, concentration, etc.  These characteristics need to maximize the contrast of the speckles produced by the interference pattern, which are captured using scintillator screens and imaging system downstream the Brownian suspension.

 First tests have been carried out in a beamline at ALBA using Silica colloids and using the synchrotron radiation produced by an undulator, so that monochromatic x-rays of 10 keV can be easily produced. Nevertheless, the project includes the possibility to perform such experiments using bending dipoles and wideband monochromators, so that this technique can be easily applied to other synchrotrons (like the Future Circular Collider at CERN).

-Innovative technology solutions to explore effects of the microbiome in inflammatory disease: Microbiome-Gut on Chip (Dr. Rosa Villa)-

The goal of the proposal is to develop a gut microbiota testing chip based on cutting-edge organ-on-chip technologies for personalized therapy and to demonstrate its translational potential for clinical.

 The human gut is host to over 100 trillion bacteria that are known to be essential for human health. Intestinal microbes can affect the function of the gastrointestinal tract, via immunity, nutrient absorption, energy metabolism and intestinal barrier function. In vitro models have developed at an accelerated pace in the past decade, benefitting from advances in cell culture (in particular 3D cell culture and use of human cell types), increasing the viability of these systems as alternatives to traditional cell culture methods. This in turn will allow refinement and replacement of animal use. In particular in basic science, or high throughput approaches where animal models are under significant pressure to be replaced, in vitro human models can be singularly appropriate.

To that end, we intent to develop a 3D microfluidic system with integrated multiparametric sensors to study the effect of the microbiome on the inflammation found in patients with inflammatory disease (ej: HIV infected subjects).

Open PhD position for the study and development of novel Organ-on-Chip microfluidic devices. Specifically, the candidate will be responsible of the following tasks:

  • Design and fabrication of microfluidic devices by rapid prototyping techniques for the growth of Gut-on-Chip cell co-culture.
  • Development of 3D cell culture scaffolds by electrospinning technique to be integrated in the Gut barrier-on-chip system previously developed.
  • Design and fabrication of electrochemical microsensors and immunosensors. The fabrication will be done by standard microfabrication techniques in the clean room facilities of the IMB-CNM, CSIC.
  • Characterization and integration of these sensors in the final microfluidic device that will allow the multiparametric monitoring of the Gut-on-Chip.
  • Analysis and treatment of the recorded data during the experimental.
  • Analyse the possibility to patent the protocols or/and procedures or/and prototypes result of the work; to be later transferred to the industry.
  • Finally, the validated research results will be communicated at conferences and in journal publications.
-Study of MOSFET interface optimization on Gallium Oxide for power and energy applications (Dr. Philippe Godignon)-

The proposed work is in the framework of a Spanish national project named DiamMOS which main objective is to develop high voltage devices with ultra wide band gap semiconductors (Diamond, Ga2O3, AlN). The project is leaded by the University of Cadiz.

The CNM Power Group involved in this project has a large experience in the design, modelling, fabrication and characterization of Si, SiC, GaN and Diamond devices. The processing capabilities of CNM have been used to develop specific process steps for WBG semiconductors, and more specifically for SiC device fabrication (Schottky and PiN diodes, power MOSFET, JFETs, BJTs) and GaN HEMTs and MOSFETs transistors. SiC and GaN based sensors (MEMS, high temperature gas sensors, Hall Effect sensors, biosensors, MEAs) are also under investigation. The involved team has international recognition in the field of power devices and especially WBG semiconductor devices, with more than 200 published articles related this field for more than 25 years of research. Most of these publications have been done commonly with other groups, EU labs or industry labs, thanks to a long tradition of international collaborations. The team has been involved in several European projects on WBG materials & devices, i.e. ESCAPEE, FLASIC, MANSiC, SPEED, GreenDiamond. The team also extensively work with the European Space Agency (ESA) on Space applications as well as with industries in the framework of direct contracts.

The fellow will be in charge of the theoretical and experimental study of interface properties of MOS structures on a novel wide band gap semiconductor, the Gallium Oxide (Ga2O3). The tasks related with the study will include a modelling study using 2D numerical simulation tools, ii) photolithographic mask set design, iii) structural devices characterization with SEM, AFM, FIB among other, iv) electrical characterization (C-V, I-V) with wafer probers or on packaged devices, v) data treatment and interface models generation based on the experimental results.

The student will be trained to modelling tools, design tools and characterizations (structural and electrical) tools. The candidate will have to integrate the Wide Band Gap Semiconductor team which has a long experience in modelling processing and characterization of SiC, GaN, Diamond and more recently Ga2O3 semiconductor devices.

-Nanoscience/Nanodevices for the Environment (Dr. M. José Esplandiu)-

The work towards a PhD Thesis will be part of the scientific plan of the Severo Ochoa Research Program of ICN2, within the line of “Nanoscience and Nanodevices for the Environment”.

Possible topics of research within this line are:

  • Pollution detection and monitoring: the development of e.g. electrochemical/optical sensing platforms based on graphene or other nanomaterials, multiplexed nanophotonic sensors, etc.; as well as innovative sample-taking (paper/plastic microfluidics) and readout (smartphone) systems.
  • Pollutant removal and degradation: the development of functional materials and composites (based on MOFs, coordination polymeric particles, inorganic nanoparticles, graphene and other 2D based materials) for photocatalytic, (photo)electrochemical and thermal degradation, and contaminant scavenging.
  • Nano-safety assessment and life-cycle assessment: this is a new open line to explore these issues and the ICN2s socio-environmental responsibility in their regard. It will begin with first ecotoxicity and human risk assessments in relation to the nanomaterials developed in-house.

The name of the Group Leader provided below refers to the Coordinator of the research line in the Severo Ochoa programme. Work will be done under the supervision of one of the following Group Leaders, which participate in the ICT activities of ICN2:

-Nanoscience/Nanodevices for Health (Prof. José Antonio Garrido)-

The work towards a PhD Thesis will be part of the scientific plan of the Severo Ochoa Research Program of ICN2, within the line of “Nanoscience and Nanodevices for Health”.

Health-related research at the ICN2 covers the development of Smart nanomaterials and devices to make the diagnostic process simpler, faster, less invasive and less costly, and/or allow therapeutic approaches to be targeted and monitored more precisely.

Possible topics of research are:

  • Targeted nanodiagnostics: in particular, the design and application of electrochemical and photonic nanobiosensor devices and imaging tools based on nanoparticles and nanostructured materials for the early detection of e.g. cancer, infectious diseases, antibiotic-resistance, pathogens, toxins and genomic anomalies.
  • Devices for therapeutic approaches.
  • Bioelectronics and biomedical technologies: cell bioelectronics, flexible implants, neuroprosthetics
  • Photonic, electronic and electrochemical biosensors
  • Targeted therapies, such as multifunctional platforms and/or smart implants for cancer, antibiotic resistance and neurodegenerative diseases, etc.
  • Nanotheranostics, as the combination of targeted nanodiagnostics and therapies.

The name of the Group Leader provided below refers to the Coordinator of the research line in the Severo Ochoa programme. Work will be done under the supervision of one of the following Group Leaders, which participate in the ICT activities of ICN2:

-Nanoscience/Nanodevices for Information and Communication Technologies (Prof. Sergio Valenzuela)-

The work towards a PhD Thesis will be part of the scientific plan of the Severo Ochoa Research Program of ICN2, within the line of “Nanoscience/Nanodevices for Information and Communication Technologies (ICT)”.

ICT research in ICN2 pushes at the boundaries of understanding of single state variables (spin, electric polarisation, phonons, strain) and hybrid states (e.g. coupled electric-mechanic variables or photon-phonon states) with the aim of taking information processing beyond the use of the electron charge alone.

Current research lines on this topic focus on laying the foundations of components for future information processing through the exploration of new nanomaterials down to the atomic scale, and of newly-discovered physical phenomena that enable alternative input fields or state variables.

The research should follow these research priorities: spintronics, quantum technologies, topological insulators, 2D materials, surfaces and adsorbates.

The name of the Group Leader provided below refers to the Coordinator of the research line in the Severo Ochoa programme. Work will be done under the supervision of one of the following Group Leaders, which participate in the ICT activities of ICN2:

-Nanocharacterization (Prof.Jordi Arbiol)-

The work towards a PhD Thesis will be part of the scientific plan of the Severo Ochoa Research Program of ICN2, within the line of “Nanocharacterization”.

Currently the ICN2 has leading scientific expertise and strong technical competence in research areas such as imaging, spectroscopy and manipulation at the nanoscale, all of which require advanced characterisation techniques (e.g. advanced (S)TEM and related spectroscopies, photoelectron and Xray absorption spectroscopies, probe microscopies, XRD), making use of its own in-house equipment and of multiple national and international large-scale facilities.

Work towards the PhD should be in one of these lines:

  • Advanced nanocharacterisation at ultra-high resolution (chemical, spatial, temporal, elemental, thermal and frequency domain) and the exploration of new scopes, e.g. nanoscale measurements of new physico-chemical phenomena.
  • Correlative microscopy, as an emerging topic in which techniques from standard solid-state physics, analytical chemistry, and molecular biology are combined with other advanced techniques such as probe microscopies, (S)TEM and related spectroscopies and, eventually, with in-situ and inoperando synchrotron experiments.
  • Scanning Tunneling Microscopy and Spectroscopy, to explore the structure and physical properties of surfaces at the atomic level.

The name of the Group Leader provided below refers to the Coordinator of the research line in the Severo Ochoa programme. Work will be done under the supervision of one of the following Group Leaders, which participate in the ICT activities of ICN2:

-Nanomaterials and Nanofabrication (Prof. Daniel Maspoch)-

The work towards a PhD Thesis will be part of the scientific plan of the Severo Ochoa Research Program of ICN2, within the line of “Nanomaterials and Nanofabrication”.

Research in nanoscience and nanodevices is critically linked to the creation and manipulation of functional materials, devices and systems with novel properties and applications at the nanoscale. Work in this PhD project will be focused towards the realisation of the bottom-up and top-down approaches to the synthesis of novel nanostructures/nanomaterials (incl. 2D materials, multifunctional oxides, metal-organic frameworks, 2D/3D halide perovskites and nanocatalysts) and the fabrication of devices using state-of-the-art nanofabrication tools and cleanroom facilities. The work will include innovative manufacturing processes (incl. self-assembly, nanopatterning, nanotexturing, nano 3D printing, roll-to-roll) and prototype production.

The name of the Group Leader provided below refers to the Coordinator of the research line in the Severo Ochoa programme. Work will be done under the supervision of one of the following Group Leaders, which participate in the ICT activities of ICN2:


If you are an eligible candidate interested in applying to one of the 22 early-stage researcher positions available at DOC-FAM, please visit the online application system.
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.