Call 1 · Available Positions

Organic photonic nanomaterials (Agustin Mihi & David Amabilino)

This project will combine the chemistry of new organic molecules with nanofabrication, using imprint lithography to develop unique functional materials. This new approach to preparing asymmetric materials promises to open a new field of research. There is a great scope to produce patterns with previously unseen behaviour when exposed to light.

Several natural structures exist in a single-handed form, they are chiral, and show a selective reflection of light, producing beautiful colours. The chirality of these materials is unique, but by using synthetic chemistry combined with nanoimprint lithography, we should be able to develop different optical structures from a single chiral molecule by making chiral patterns with the printing and controlling the assembly of the systems.

There is currently massive interest in the use of twisted materials for the generation and detection of chiral light, as well as in the exotic and still intriguing effects seen when electrons pass through them. The proposed research is at the very forefront of this field, offering a tremendous opportunity.
The two directors of this project have complementary expertise in stereoselective organic chemistry for making functional dye molecules and the use of nanoimprint lithography. They are part of a community working on chiral materials, frequently collaborating with groups outside Spain with complementary expertise. They also have a strong experience in training PhD Candidates. Their former coworkers are working in a wide range of roles in academia and industry.

Frustrated and non-collinear magnets with coupled orders investigated by quantum beams (Jose Luis García Muñoz & Martí Gich)

Within the field of correlated magnetic and quantum materials, this PhD project focuses on frustrated magnetic oxides with entangled structural and magnetic properties. Non-trivial states and properties appear depending on how the system resolves competing interactions (e.g. producing spin-induced multiferroics with inherent magnetoelectric coupling). The project concerns spiral (helicoidal) and non-collinear magnets, which are in the spotlight as excellent candidates for non-trivial multiferroic and magnetoelectric phases. Spiral spin structures (with spin chirality C=SixSi+1) are in general ferroelectric, enabling the coupling of electric and magnetic properties. In the presence of spin-orbit coupling, the antisymmetric magnetostriction favours spin-canted and spin-spirals.

Some promising materials include Fe ions (together with other 3d and 4f magnetic elements) in Ruddlesden-Popper structures (A3B2O7), layered and A-site ordered double perovskites and some more complex polar structures. High magnetic transition temperatures (even in strongly frustrated phases) are favoured in ferrites due to their exceptionally strong exchange energies.

Neutron and synchrotron X-ray scattering will be the main techniques used to characterize the structural, magnetic and electronic orders and correlations. We will also apply symmetry analysis methods to investigate the physical mechanisms producing the condensation of coupled structural and magnetic modes. Noncollinear magnetic states will be explored in equilibrium but also induced by external perturbations (magnetic, electric fields, light, pressure). The combination of noncollinear spin orders with orbital degeneracy introduces the possibility for unusual excitations. Given that the spin-orbit coupling scales as the atomic number squared (λsoc ∼ Z2) its energy is reduced for 3d ions (compared to 4d or 5d), making possible the mixing of spin and orbital degrees of freedom at energies accessible with neutron scattering.

C. elegans: a tool to understand toxicity and diseases (Anna Laromaine Sagué)

We use the 1 mm-long nematode Caenorhabditis elegans as an animal model to test the toxicity of the materials and drugs. This worm has transparency, a short life cycle, and minimal maintenance and growth requirements. Between 60-80% of the C. elegans genome has human homologous genes, and most metabolic pathways are also conserved. Using simple non-mammalian model organisms minimizes the cost associated with in vivo experiments in the early stages of discovery and yields highly informative results such as survival rate, growth effects, reproduction toxicity, and changes in metabolism.

We have studied how nanoparticles are uptaken by the worms and evaluated developmental parameters for nanoparticles, metal-organic frameworks, and even complex chemical clusters. (Ref below) We are currently evaluating different stimuli, drugs, and nanoparticles in collaboration with different research groups, which will impact our understanding of diseases or human health. Polymers synthesized by living organisms, biopolymers, are used for drug and food complementation without any evidence of being toxic; their size at the nanoscale can affect the toxicity and their properties. Additionally, it has been observed that the oral administration of biopolymers or oral treatment produced changes in the motility, absorption, and metabolism of the intestine, which is crucial for treating gastrointestinal diseases. Currently is also increasingly mentioned that metabolic health is intimately related to different diseases or drives the positive outcome of therapies.

This project will evaluate nutritional materials and drugs that are administered to drive specific effects on cardiac arrhythmias and would also affect metabolic health. We will challenge the C. elegans to answer complex and combined questions i.e. in the cardiotoxicity and metabolism fields.

Synthesis and in-depth characterization of novel colloidal nanoparticles with enhanced antimicrobial activity for infected wound treatment (Nora Ventosa & Mariana Köber)

The main goal of this PhD thesis will be the in-depth characterization of novel nanovesicle formulations, developed in the frame of the project “Antimicrobial Nanostructured Biomaterials for Complex Wound Healing” (NABIHEAL) funded under the Horizon Europe Research and Innovation programme. Within the NABIHEAL project, new nanoparticle formulations will be developed with enhanced antimicrobial properties, and an in-depth characterization is required to relate physico-chemical vesicle properties with functional effects, to guide the way for a rational design of more potent formulations.

The physicochemical characterization will comprise different experimental techniques, such as High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (chemical composition), Dynamic Light Scattering (vesicle size, surface charge and colloidal stability), AFM force spectroscopy (mechanical properties and membrane cohesion), small- and wide-angle X-ray scattering (structural features and membrane fluidity), and cryogenic electron microscopy techniques (morphological features). Additionally, Molecular Dynamics simulations will shed light on the molecular organization in the vesicle membrane. Some of these characterizations will be performed in collaboration, and extended research stays at Aarhus University (Denmark) and Technion (Israel) are foreseen. The Nanomol-Bio group of ICMAB ( is devoted to the synthesis, physicochemical characterization and development, up to pre-clinical regulatory phases, of molecular (nano)materials for biomedical applications, and forms part of the Spanish CIBER-BBN network (

Ultrafast growth for competitive high-temperature superconductors (Teresa Puig)

Superconductivity is a macroscopic quantum phenomenon with outstanding properties and impact. Since high-temperature superconductors (HTS) were discovered 37 years ago, they had to face unknown science and new materials engineering complexities. HTS are strongly correlated systems, showing unconventional superconductivity and their microscopic theory is still unidentified. In addition, they need to be doped to be superconductors and exhibit novel vortex phases. The disorder is a strong enemy for the superconducting state of HTS, but if properly designed, it is an outstanding source for vortex pinning, as we showed. Nowadays, the international community can fabricate HTS tapes for high current energy efficient applications (high power cables, wind generators, electrical aviation) and large-scale infrastructures (fusion, circular colliders, NMR beyond 1 GHz), one of the remaining issues being the need to reduce the cost/performance ratio of the fabrication process. We are developing a novel high throughput process, called the Transient Liquid Assisted Growth (TLAG) process, which can grow epitaxial superconducting films 100 times faster than standard methods with high performances, therefore overcoming the market obstacles.

SUMAN is an internationally recognized and interdisciplinary group with 30 years of experience in HTS materials, that focuses on their understanding to boost their integration into our society. Chemical solution synthesis, epitaxial growth, superconducting properties and applications are our interests. Presently we are investigating low-cost scalable processes and superconducting performance to make HTS competitive materials.

Bioactive materials for therapy and diagnosis (Anna Roig)

Biobased polymers for tissue engineering, life-saving devices, delivery agents, and cellular platforms are grounding the most innovative areas of biomaterials. Biobased composites are promising alternatives to allografts, autographs, synthetic polymers, and metals. Cellulose from microbial sources is a promising natural polymer of high purity, lack of toxins, and biocompatible with great processing versatility that has shown excellent results in the context of wound healing.

This PhD project will explore a novel use of bacterial cellulose patches in the healing process of breast skin injuries after intensive oncological radiation protocols which is a major side effect of radiation breast cancer treatments. Bacterial cellulose will be combined with essential oil, hyaluronic acid, and other bioactive components. At the later stage, we will seek collaborations with oncologists and oncological nurses.

Boron cluster-based luminescent materials for biological and optical applications (Rosario Nuñez)

Photosensitizers (PSs) are molecules that can be excited with visible light to produce singlet oxygen (1O2) that are cytotoxic for cells. Some of the most promising PSs used for photodynamic therapy (PDT) are porphyrinoids due to their excellent properties and 1O2 generation. However, they can aggregate through π-π stacking interactions, decreasing the production of 1O2. Such stacking interactions can be suppressed by introducing 3D boron clusters into their structures. On the other hand, light-emitting materials are important for optical and optoelectronic applications, however, they can undergo solid-state quenching. The o-carborane cluster can act as an excellent aggregation-induced emission agent (AIEgen) favouring the photoemission in a solid state. Our group has demonstrated that the introduction of boron clusters to different fluorophores allows the modulation of PL properties and the enhancement of luminescence in a solid state.

The main objective of the project is to develop different luminescent boron clusters-based systems that might act as photosensitizers, fluorescent probes for bioimaging or aggregation induce emission agents (AIEgens) for optical devices. The specific objectives are:
1) To engineer novel boron-rich biocompatible PSs through the functionalization of porphyrinoids and BODIPY with boron clusters with enhanced solubility and 1O2 production. Their PDT properties and high boron content make these compounds suitable as antimicrobial agents and antitumor agents in dual PDT-BNCT therapies. Their antimicrobial and anticancer activity will be evaluated with the collaboration of expert biologists.
2) To develop new luminescent materials having light emitting properties in different states (solution, solid-state, films and water-dispersible NPs). Their photophysical properties and applications will be studied.

To achieve those set of goals a multidisciplinary approach will be implemented via the synergistic collaboration with expert collaborators.

Highly Luminescent Organic Radical Nanoparticles (ONPs) for Bioimaging Applications (Imma Ratera)

The RU has wide expertise and recognized excellence in the synthesis, processing and study of molecular materials with electronic, magnetic and biomedical properties. We are actively involved in implementing nanotechnology and sustainable and economically efficient technologies for preparing advanced functional molecular materials with an interest in the fields of molecular electronics, molecular magnets and nanomedicine. The multidisciplinary research we carry out is aimed at the self-assembly, nanostructuring and processing of functional molecules as crystals, particles, vesicles, and structured as self-assembled monolayers on various substrates showing non-conventional chemical, physical and biological properties.

As one of the main Spanish research groups specialising in nanomedicine, we are members of the Biomedical Research Networking Centre in Bioengineering, Biomaterials and Nanomedicine (CIBER-BBN) and NANBIOSIS. During the last years, the RU has hosted 50 Doctoral Thesis under the supervision of the permanent members of the group and more than 25 Postdocs, from more than 10 different foreign countries. The project is framed in a collaborative European project (Micro4Nano). Specifically, the work will consist of the design, preparation and characterization of molecular multifunctional materials based on organic radicals for the preparation of organic nanoparticles (ONPs) for 2-Photon Absorption Microscopy (2PM) with good photostability to be used as nanothermometers for biological applications. The ability to process such organic molecules as ONPs is a good strategy to confer them the desiderate water stability, to work in biological environments, which is not attained in solution due to the high insolubility of organic molecules in water, thus, becoming promising materials with applications in the area of bioimaging and biomedicine (i.e. for anothermometry applications).

Development of novel magneto-thermoelectric nanocomposites for wireless energy transfer and harvesting (Pablo Guardia)

The final goal of the project is to develop novel multifunctional nanocomposites having magnetic and thermometric properties. These materials will be the cornerstone of a novel wireless power transfer technology for charging implantable medical devices. The research project will be carried out at the N&N group under the supervision of Dr Pablo Guardia and his team. The N&N Group’s research is mainly focused on the rational synthesis of nanoparticles and nanocomposites and the study of their structural-functional properties including those related to the nano/bio-interfaces. The group's vision is to design and develop materials for society impacting nanomedicine, information technologies, energy and the environment.

Bottom-up synthesis of graphene hybrid nanoribbons and assessment of their electronic performance into devices (Núria Aliaga & Arántzazu González)

Graphene nanoribbons (GNRs) have several key electronic characteristics for their application as components in field effect transistors (FETs), optoelectronic and photovoltaic devices, logic gates and spintronics. Structurally, GNRs are graphene-based stripes with well-defined side lengths and widths. It is well known that their topological characteristics have a dramatic effect on their electronic properties. For their implementation in nanoscale electronic devices, it is mandatory to obtain high-quality GNRs, with effective synthetic methodologies that provide high yields, using straightforward purification processes, being low cost, and environmentally friendliness. Furthermore, the preparation of hybrid GNRs, based on graphene blocks which contain additional molecular units that add functionality (coordination, chirality, magnetism, etc.) is still a subject under development, with a great impact on the aforementioned areas. Such molecular units should function as platforms that are easily integrated within the graphene building blocks. The need to improve graphene-based materials makes these hybrid GNRs highly desirable, where their preparation and manipulation still need to be widely explored.

In FunNanoSurf, we have extensive experience in curcuminoids (CCMoids), a family of linear and conjugated molecules of great chemical versatility, which have been used in biomedical issues, photovoltaic cells, the creation of gels, magnetic molecular systems (SMMs) and MOFs as well as nanowires in single-electron transport studies. In recent years we have specialized in the reactivity and extension of these CCMoids using polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and small graphene molecules.
Considering the information gathered on GNRs and our knowledge, the aim of this project is the creation of CCMoid-GNRs and the study of their performance in FET-type devices. This project combines synthesis and electronic measurements towards new materials and technological applicability.

Development of a new Atomic Force Microscopy technique to characterize polymorphs of thin organic layers and improve OFET performance (Daniel Martín & Carmen Ocal)

The use of semiconducting organic compounds for producing electronic devices has supposed a huge advance in electronics. They allow their fabrication to be lighter, more flexible, cheaper and more feasible to manufacture on a large scale than their inorganic counterparts. In an organic field-effect transistor (OFET), the organic compounds in the form of thin films are the active element. The efficiency of the OFET depends on the particular organic molecule, but also its organization within the film. Some semiconducting organic compounds have been found to possess polymorphism. Current fabrication processes can stabilize them on the substrate, sometimes at room temperature. Notably, the use of some polymorphs that behave like liquid-like crystals is predicted as a possible strategy to enhance the electronic properties of an OFET. The Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) can determine accurately lattice parameters and crystal orientation of crystalline structures. However, its use for molecular resolution is often limited to contact mode methods, which can be very invasive and cause thin-film deterioration. Therefore, the AFM methods for molecular resolution are often restricted to measure solely solid crystal phases.

This PhD project aims to use fabrication processes to generate solid and liquid-like crystal polymorphs of molecular compounds and develop AFM techniques able to detect, with high resolution, the molecular assembly for all thin film phases. AFM sensors with diverse resonance frequencies, spring constants and operating with different eigenmodes and amplitudes will be tested. The full optimization will allow the determination of AFM settings to achieve the highest resolution as a function of the crystal compactness. Once the crystal structures are resolved, OFETs will be fabricated to establish the correlation structure properties.

Flexible organic electronic devices: towards low-cost and high-performing transistors for sensing (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, to move towards applications, some fundamental aspects need to be further understood to be able to achieve high-performing devices with high reproducibility.
OFETs offer wide perspectives for the development of novel low-cost sensing platforms, such as radiation sensors or for the development of (bio)sensors.

In this project, we will fabricate OFETs using solution-based techniques and optimize the device performance by controlling the organic semiconductor properties such as the molecular design, formulation and crystallization of the material, among others. Further, to optimize the performance, novel doping methodologies will be implemented and the device interfaces will be modified.
In the second stage, the electrical response of the devices when they are exposed to different light sources will be explored to develop photodetectors. Following previous works in the group, we will validate the potential of the OFETs as X-ray detectors or UV light sensors. Depending on the organic semiconductor used, the devices will be also studied to detect Near Infrared light, of high interest in medical applications.

The candidate will have the opportunity to handle a variety of multidisciplinary techniques such as wet chemistry methods, organic materials processing, vacuum deposition techniques, laser lithography, electrical measurements, morphological and structural characterisation tools, etc. Further, the candidate will join a research team which has a long expertise in the field of organic electronics and that has actively participated in many European projects in this area.

New Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) contrast agents based on radical dendrimers and nanoparticles (José Vidal Gancedo)

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is one of the best non-invasive clinical imaging methods used in medicine that provides images of soft tissue anatomy in excellent detail, in particular with the use of contrast agents (CAs). Gadolinium (Gd)-based contrast agents are the most widely used in MRI. These CAs have historically been considered safe, but recent reports have emerged regarding the accumulation of residual toxic Gd(III) ions in the brain, bones, skin, liver and kidneys. Since the use of CAs in MRI is of vital importance to gain lifesaving clinical information, it is critical to find alternative imaging tests to the current Gd-based CAs.

Our goal is the development of metal-free contrast agents based on organic radicals. Our strategy consists of the incorporation of many organic radical units into a dendrimer scaffold or nanoparticles (NPs). Dendrimers are globular macromolecules and nearly perfect monodisperse nanosystems with tunable size and a precise number of peripheral groups. Thus, they are chemically versatile scaffolds, which can hold many radical units. On the other hand, we can prepare organic nanoparticles based on radical dendrimers or spin-labelled gold NPs.

NANOMOL is a research unit with wide expertise and recognized excellence in the synthesis, processing and study of molecular and polymeric materials with chemical, electronic, magnetic and biomedical properties. We continuously generate new knowledge in our basic and applied research projects regarding the micro and nano structuring of molecular materials. Our group has recognized expertise in R+D of molecular material for biomedical applications and we have more than 30 years of experience working with organic radicals. In the last few years, we have achieved excellent results in the areas of radical dendrimers for MRI. It is worth saying that we are one of the few groups in the world developing these types of macromolecules for MRI contrast agents’ applications. We also belong to CIBER‐BBN.

Developing patient-derived lung cancer organoids based on 3D hydrogels as new pre-clinical models (Judith Guasch)

The Max Planck Partner Group “Dynamic Biomimetics for Cancer Immunotherapy” led by Dr Judith Guasch (Molecular Nanoscience and Organic Materials department) is currently focused on the design, fabrication, and engineering of novel bionanomaterials to be used as artificial extracellular matrices (ECM) of cancer organoids. Our goal is to improve novel cancer immunotherapies and reduce animal experimentation in preclinical testing, thus lessening the implied ethical and economic burden, as well as decreasing the translation problems associated with variations among species.

Immunotherapies have shown very promising results, i.e. complete remissions in aggressive haematological cancers and melanoma, but still have some limitations that require more research, and therefore more accurate preclinical models. Organoids are micrometric 3D cell aggregates capable of physiologically resembling the structure and/or functions of the original tissues. Usually, they are formed by primary cells grown on a 3D scaffold consisting of a mouse sarcoma extract. However, these murine 3D scaffolds show limitations in recapitulating the physicochemical characteristics of human tissues. Additionally, they are expensive and may suffer from batch-to-batch variability due to their natural origin. Consequently, we are currently developing artificial ECMs of different tumours based on our recently described synthetic 3D hydrogels.

In this PhD thesis, we will fabricate patient-derived non-small cell lung cancer organoids that can properly recapitulate human biology in collaboration with different (pre)clinical groups, especially the Technical University of Valencia-Hospital General de Valencia and the National Centre for Cancer Research (CNIO, Spain). The fabrication of patient-derived lung cancer organoids will be tackled through a multidisciplinary approach, which will include the 3D printing of synthetic bionanomaterials or their incorporation into a microfluidic system to obtain an organoid-on-a-chip.

Light-matter interactions in quantum spin liquids (Gervasi Herranz Casabona)

The research is related to electromagnetic interactions with quantum spin liquids (QSLs), of interest for quantum computation. Over the last few years, there has been an intense race to detect signatures of QSL in several systems, but in most materials, this state is not realized because of competing exchange interactions that preclude its formation. Nonetheless, excitations detected by neutron scattering or Raman spectroscopies show promising signatures of QSL. Therefore, it is necessary to develop further methods to corroborate the emergence of QSLs.

Here we propose to study resonant photoexcitations as a tool to tune the QSL state by modulating exchange interactions with electromagnetic fields, which would provide an additional method to verify the presence of the QSL. For that purpose, we will take advantage of our recent developments in the study of spin-orbit entanglement in transition metal systems, using electromagnetic fields to probe and manipulate spin-orbit entangled states. In this context, we have studied photoexcitations by combining group-theoretic analysis with quantum field theory based on non-equilibrium Green functions. We intend to further develop this research along the following directions:

(a) Develop dynamic spin correlation functions in 4d/5d transition metal compounds under the condition of photo resonant excitations. These correlations will relate to inelastic neutron scattering and Raman spectroscopy.

(b) Use non-equilibrium Green function theory to study the dynamics of light-matter interactions in these systems. Theoretical calculations will be matched with experimental data from ultrafast optical spectroscopy. For that purpose, we have an ongoing collaboration with Dr Allan Johnson (IMDEA, formerly ICFO) to study the dynamics down to the femtosecond scale in transition metal compounds.

The present project aims at expanding the knowledge of quantum spin liquids, with an emphasis on the use of light to modulate and control their properties.

Multifunctional molecular materials for organic electronics (Núria Crivillers)

In the last decades, there has been a great effort in the fabrication of solid-state molecular electronic devices. Inexpensive, functional and atomically precise molecules could be the basis of future electronic devices. Their integration into real devices requires interfacing them with non-conventional electrodes, like the Eutectic Gallium–Indium (EGaIn). EGaIn is a liquid metal that has attracted extensive attention in different fields due to its excellent properties: fluidity, high conductivity, thermal conductivity, stretchability, self-healing capability, biocompatibility, and recyclability.

Thus, the goal of the project is to contribute to the field of molecular electronics reaching a more power-efficient technology and electronic devices miniaturization. To do so, the project will consist in two main parts that are, the processing of responsive multifunctional molecular materials from solution, as self-assembled monolayers or thin films, on electrodes (oxides or metals) and, on the other hand, the use of soft EGaIn electrodes to electrically characterize them. Additionally, external stimuli (light, gas, etc.) will be used to modulate the molecular or surface properties leading to smart devices. Furthermore, we expect that the integration of molecular materials into devices will arise novel molecular functionalities which could enlarge their applicability.

The group 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 the 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 has all the required equipment and facilities for successful project development.

Double perovskite oxide spintronic devices (Can Onur Avci & Gabriele De Luca)

Spintronics -the use of electrons’ spin information as an active component in electronic circuits- offers innovative solutions for developing energy-efficient data storage platforms. An essential challenge in spintronics is manipulating magnetization in devices efficiently with sustainable energy consumption. In the past decade, current-induced spin-orbit torques (SOTs) have emerged as an efficient method to control magnetization in spintronic devices. The mainstream SOTs devices rely on ferromagnetic/heavy metal combinations. However, there is a growing interest in using magnetic insulators as an alternative and tunable platform, with most efforts focusing on garnets so far.

In this project, we will explore a new family of magnetic insulators -ferromagnetic double perovskite oxides (DPOs)- as an alternative material platform in spintronics. We will investigate spin-dependent transport at DPO/heavy metal interfaces via state-or-the-art spintronic effects (SOTs, spin Hall magnetoresistance, spin Seebeck effect, etc.), and look for potential device applications. DPOs have been mainly set aside due to their low Curie temperature. However, the latest research shows that short-range magnetic correlations can be exploited to generate and detect spin currents at room temperature at the DPO/metal interface, which lies at the core of most spintronic devices. Paired with the possibility of controlling the magnetic and electric properties using external knobs (epitaxial strain, oxygen vacancies, etc.) and oxide epitaxy technology (piezoelectric substrate, freestanding membranes, exchange bias, etc.), DPOs open a new and unexplored playground for the development of insulating spintronic devices.

Overall, this project will blend two different research areas, complex oxides epitaxy and spin-orbit driven spintronics whose merger is expected to lead to novel physical phenomena and alternative memory/logic device architectures to be used in the next-generation data storage technologies.

Preparation of composite graphene/MOF aerogels for health and environmental applications (Ana María López & Concepción Domingo)

The candidate will carry out her/his thesis on a topic associated with the preparation of porous materials using green technology based on supercritical carbon dioxide. The main purpose is to create composite materials using graphene oxide aerogels (GOA) and/or metal-organic frames (MOF) combined with other nanoparticles, aiming for the creation of materials with multifunctional properties. To expand the scope of either GOA or MOFs, the porous matrices are also combined with either biomolecules or metal nanoparticles with catalytic properties, for reaching a synergic platform for the desired application. The final goal in the area of health includes exploring applications such as scaffolding, and controlled release of drugs or therapy. Energy and environmental applications include gas separation or catalytic procedures for light fuel preparation.

The Group of Supercritical Fluids and Functional Materials (SFFM), involves experts on the use of supercritical fluid technology applied to functional nanomaterials processing, preparation of sustained drug delivery systems, preparation of graphene oxide aerogels, MOFs surface functionalization, modification and/or synthesis of porous supports, and reactive precipitation of hybrid metal-organic compounds in scCO2.

The SFFM group is formed by Prof. Domingo & Dr Lopez-Periago, a support engineer specialist (Dr Fraile) and two Postdocs (A.Borrás, M Kubovics) and a PhD student (A. Rosado). Our expertise in the field of green technologies (more than 100 sci articles) applies to the preparation and characterization of porous nanostructured materials (from aerogels to metal-organic compounds and polymers) with applications in gas storage, biomaterials, catalysts etc. Since our research is widely multidisciplinary, we regularly collaborate with specialists in organometallic chemistry, drug release, and synchrotron experts.

Controlling the nanoarchitecture of aqueous zinc battery electrodes (Dino Tonti)

The transition to a carbon-free energy system requires a huge energy storage capacity to match renewable production with consumer demand. The current mature electrochemical storage technologies that are technically able to satisfy such operations, such as lithium-ion batteries and vanadium redox flow batteries, are based on too scarce elements to satisfy such capacity needs.
Zinc batteries have emerged in the past decade as a suitable candidate for this challenge. They show high power, decent energy density and long cycling using nearly-neutral aqueous electrolytes, MnO2 as a cathode and metallic zinc as an anode. They present attractive material prices and availability, as well as safe and environmentally benign components. On the other hand, also air can be used as a cathode. Zinc/air batteries could allow 3-5 times the specific energy of current Li-ion batteries at a lower cost, making them an ideal choice for electric vehicles. However, their durability is often limited, and the mechanisms that lead to their failure are generally poorly understood. For both cathodes, complex deposition and dissolution mechanisms are involved in the main and side reactions. Our research aims to contribute to the understanding of mechanisms and improve performance by combining new materials and advanced characterization.

Dr Dino Tonti is a chemist at ICMAB. He has worked on surface science and optical techniques, synthesis of colloidal nanoparticles, carbons and battery materials. He is currently involved in metal-air batteries within several topics: the development of novel electrode architectures, the study of electrolyte additives, and the characterization of electrochemical processes by analysis of discharge products and in situ monitoring. The present work will be supported by the collaboration with Dr Laura Simonelli and Dr Andrea Sorrentino, beamline scientists for x-ray absorption and microscopy at the ALBA Synchrotron, where part of the experiments will be designed and carried out.

Multiferroic nanocomposites for light and magnetic energy harvesting (Mariona Coll & Anna Palau)

MAGNETOLIGHT is an interdisciplinary and innovative project aiming to adopt a disruptive approach to revolutionize the field of multisource energy harvesting for IoT by uniquely combining the photovoltaic and magneto-electric effect in simple multifunctional nanocomposite structures able to harvest low-frequency magnetic fields and sunlight to sustainably provide enhanced power supply opening new areas of research. To tackle this challenge, new approaches are needed to identify compatible and efficient multifunctional materials to push the power of the multiferroic BiFeO3-based harvesting systems.

This project will simplify the integration of the materials in a compact device using stable and non-toxic all-oxide components prepared by chemical solution deposition and atomic layer deposition. MAGNETOLIGHT will build on the significant results of our team on the cost-efficient synthesis, oxide materials nano-engineering, device fabrication, and advanced characterization of multifunctional complex oxide thin films and strained nanocomposites and level it up aiming to develop a multisource energy harvesting system with nanoscale control based on multifunctional complex oxide nanocomposites for self-powered IoT devices. This project has a high-gain perspective in the area of Digital and Ecology Transition.

Dynamical tuning of the thermal conductivity for phononic applications (Riccardo Rurali)

The goal of this project is to provide a theoretical framework aimed at understanding and controlling the manipulation of heat flux within multiferroic perovskites. The successful candidate will perform state-of-the-art numerical simulations to devise realistic approaches for the engineering of a thermal transistor, the fundamental building block of phononics, where the thermal conductivity can be dynamically manipulated.

In electronics, information is transferred with charge carriers, whose motion can be easily controlled with external fields. This is not the case with phononics, where phonons —the basic particles that carry heat— have no mass or charge: this is why we live in a world of electronic devices and heat is normally regarded as a source of loss. The goal of this project is to reverse this viewpoint and move to a new paradigm where heat can be actively used to transfer energy, thus information, in a controllable way.

Multiferroic perovskites present multiple advantages over other materials, mostly due to their rich phase diagrams. This approach allows envisaging a truly zero-power analogue of electronics, as in our world heat is ubiquitous and phononics circuits will effectively need no power supply. Also, learning how to modulate the heat flow is important for heat dissipation at the nanoscale and to design efficient thermoelectric materials.

The activity of the group of Theory and Simulation of Materials is equally shared between the development of new algorithms and methods for the calculation of properties of materials and nanostructures and applications in various cutting-edge areas of materials science. We routinely work in close collaboration with various experimental groups and the candidate will be exposed to an international and dynamic environment, carrying out cutting-edge research in material science and condensed matter physics.

Smart wound dressing materials with biosensing capacity (Xavier Muñoz & Gonzalo Guirado)

Open and surgical wounds are generally protected with bandages made of gauze, lint, plasters, or cotton that protect the injury from contaminants. This protection against pollutants is not very effective, and wound dressings are regularly replaced to avoid infections. However, it is quite common that, during the replacement, part of the already healed tissue is injured again, extending the recovery time. Although a more rational replacement of the wound dressing would be very convenient, it is not possible since current materials cannot report the state of the injury.

Keeping this problem in mind, the project aims to develop smart wound dressing materials with the capacity to report on the state of the healing process, as well as on potential problems associated with that, e.g. infections. To this end, multiple molecular probes sensitive to key physic-chemical parameters related to healing, inflammation or infection will be selected and implemented in the wound dressing material. Each probe will respond with a chromic change, being able to report on the parameter of interest through a simple colour change in situ, and without the need for reagents or sample manipulation. The colour of the smart wound dressing will thus inform on the state of the injury, e.g. healing, non-healing, infection, etc.

For a successful implementation of the project, the student will join the Chemical Transducers Group (CTg) at the Institute of Microelectronics of Barcelona (IMB-CNM, CSIC), a group with more than 20 years of experience in the development of sensors, biosensors and transducers and their implementation in textiles, filter membranes and flexible supports for wearables, among others. This project will be executed in collaboration with the Electrochemistry and Green Chemistry Group (EGCg) at UAB, which will support the student in the production of the molecular probes and their implementation in wound dressing materials.

Advanced wide band gap semiconductor devices for particle detection in high-energy physics and space applications (Joan Marc Rafí)

Semiconductor radiation detectors are widely used in high-energy physics, nuclear, space, security, and medical applications, providing excellent performance in terms of position and energy resolution. Apart from mainstream silicon devices, there is a growing interest in wide band gap (WBG) semiconductors, like silicon carbide (SiC), gallium nitride (GaN) and diamond for different and multidisciplinary research fields, this is especially due to their low leakage current, high transparency and potential radiation hardness. They are currently the most attractive materials for radiation detectors to be operated in radiation harsh environments and high-temperature conditions, like in future nuclear fusion reactors or space applications. Moreover, they will help in the simplification and sustainability of some applications currently implementing silicon devices, like high energy physics experiments, where cooling is needed to keep the functional operation of the detectors after high irradiation fluences, or medical applications, where visible light conditions and temperature variations greatly affect the silicon devices functionality.

The objective of this research will cover the design, simulation, fabrication and characterization of new developments in radiation sensors and microelectronic devices based on WBG semiconductors. Electrical characterization, as well as detector operation assessment under different radiation sources (alpha, beta, gamma, Xrays) and laser beams (transient current technique), will be performed in LabRad laboratory at IMB. Other physical characterization techniques like AFM, SEM, FIB, etc... are also available at IMB-CNM-CSIC Micro-Nanofabrication Cleanroom large-scale facility. Gamma, proton, electron and neutron irradiations, as well as test beam experiments, will be performed within existing European and international projects and collaborations of RDG Group, including, for example, ALBA Synchrotron, close to IMB and UAB Campus, and CERN in Geneva.

Mussel-inspired thin films for neuronal regeneration (Daniel Ruiz Molina)

The Nanostructured Functional Materials group (Nanosfun) is a research group of the Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2) aimed to develop novel (supra)molecular and polymeric functional nanomaterials with applications in Health and Environment. Specifically, one of our main research lines is the design and fabrication of nanomaterials for tissue regeneration, which has become one of the main branches of medicine aiming to solve a multitude of pathologies caused by irreversible tissue degeneration. Nowadays, there is a blooming of interest with several international initiatives in the area as well as several scientific publications. However, in many cases, their transfer to the clinic is hampered (high cost of production, toxicity and low regenerative activity). For this reason, the development of new materials with outstanding features is a pressing concern. In this scenario, bioinspired materials have emerged as potential candidates. Precisely, materials based on catechol molecules, present in various living organisms (e.g., mussels), have demonstrated unprecedented adhesive properties under wet conditions, biocompatibility, low toxicity and low cost/scalable processes. These excellent features turn bioinspired catechol-based materials unique for their use in tissue regeneration.

The group is upfront in terms of publications in the area (being submitted nowadays) as well in nanomedicine, research facilities and collaborations with other national and international research groups. Moreover, we believe in the benefits of transversal research as well as to get our fundamental investigation as close as possible to market devices, the reason why we strongly collaborate with different hospitals and medical companies.

Solid-state fuel cells and batteries (Albert Tarancón)

The hosting group ( is formed by more than 30 researchers that address the challenge of developing highly efficient and clean solid-state energy conversion technologies for powering a sustainable society. We use our knowledge in ionic, electronic and thermal transport combined with our expertise in advanced manufacturing to develop new energy concepts from the microwatt to the kilowatt range.

In the microwatt range, we develop miniaturized energy sources for powering the Internet of Things (IoT). Using disruptive ideas from the emerging Nanoionics and Iontronics disciplines, which deal with the complex interplay between electrons and ions in the nanoscale, we develop new families of all-solid-state micro-energy sources able to harvest and store energy at the same time. Together with high-tech ambitious companies, we look for the viability of such a new paradigm of embedded energy.

In the kilowatt range, we develop advanced solid oxide fuel cells and electrolysers that will enable a hydrogen-based zero-emissions energy system. Innovative ceramic 3D printing of ionic conductors is employed to fabricate a new generation of enhanced solid oxide cells that makes real the dream of getting novel functionalities and improved performance by design. In our lab, we push for joint development of such original concepts and more conventional technologies with the current leading industry.

Development of a new generation of nanometric thin film-based photovoltaics for ubiquitous applications (Alejandro Pérez & Víctor Izquierdo)

Photovoltaics (PV) will play a key role in the EU’s ecologic and digital twin transition paving the way towards the decentralization and decarbonisation of energy production. In this respect, conventional PV technologies, such as those based on silicon are well-suited for high-energy production. However, they are limited to use in integrated applications, due to: i) poor performance under non-standard illumination (e.g. indoor and diffuse solar radiation); ii) visual intrusiveness with very rigid aesthetics; iii) low mechanical flexibility difficulty to integrate into different products with varying sizes and shapes; iv) based on scarce materials and/or production processes that are highly energy-intensive and with high material waste. Given these limitations, there is a clear need to develop novel PV technologies which are designed to better adapt to a wide range of applications (Indoor, IOT, building integration car integration, wearables, etc…) that utilise non-conventional solar light spectrum, that blend into their surroundings, which are easy to mechanically integrate and that can be produced with low energy and low material waste.

In this context, the development of a new generation of wide bandgap PV devices based on nanometric thin films technologies with tuneable material properties based on novel Sb(S,Se) and Zn(O,S) based compounds will allow the development of new PV technologies with high grade of integrability. All this paves the way to the ubiquitous integration of PV in countless scenarios and applications not possible for conventional PV such as the powering of small IoT devices, for building/vehicle/urban furniture integrated PV, agrivoltaics, tandem and bifacial PV.

Catalysts for advanced electrochemical processes (Joan Ramon Morante)

The Energy Storage and Catalysis group studies, establishes and assesses new processes, mechanisms and systems for storing renewable energy. Also, it develops high-performance materials to enhance the energy conversion processes, through electrochemical and chemical storage technologies. To build a decarbonized society, we are focused on the production of renewable fuels and chemical products through sustainable processes, such as CO2 valorization, H2 generation, Power-to-X technologies, and ammonia synthesis. Moreover, the group also has experience in the preparation and integration of photoactive materials, to drive solar-powered devices.

Therefore, the candidate will work on the development of novel technologies for the efficient production of synthetic fuels and chemicals, by combining electro- and/or plasma-catalytic routes, from H2O, CO2, N2 or other compounds. This involves the synthesis and implementation of new materials, and the optimization of cell components, reactors and processes, with an industrial orientation. In this sense, possible collaboration with industry is foreseen. At the same time, the project involves more fundamental studies and physicochemical characterization with the available infrastructure and with collaboration with other institutions.

The candidate will join an interdisciplinary team with experts in different fields from Chemistry, Physics, Material Science and Engineering areas, with significant international experience.

Self-healing batteries (Andreu Cabot)

The Healing-Bat European project involves 10 universities, research centres and industrial partners within the European Union aiming to develop and implement self-healing concepts and materials in the key battery components, used in conventional Li-S batteries and extrapolate the designs and concepts to develop a new class of self-healing structural battery based on Li-S. Furthermore, a toolbox, consisting of self-healing materials, relevant sensors and bespoke BMS (battery management system) to maximize the performance of the developed Li-S battery in terms of quality, reliability and lifetime (QRL) and avoid or timely heal occurring damages. Two parameters will be followed to characterize a battery system – namely the state of charge (SoC) and the state of health (SoH). SoC quantifies the present capacity of a cell while SoH is a particular measure of the performance characteristics, such as peak-current delivery, cycle time and capacity degradation. To manage, diagnose and predict a battery’s SoH and SoC, a BMS utilizes a small array of sensors, alongside computational algorithms. The integrated sensors with actuator capabilities can be a very promising solution to mitigating this issue. Moreover, the BMS monitors data from sensors, alongside computational algorithms to observe the events, indicating that degradation starts to occur, as well as trigger self-healing measures.

Within the Healing-Bat project, the Functional Nanomaterials Group (FNG) at IREC, will develop polymer-based self-healing electrolyte and cathode materials. The FNG group at IREC has a long experience in the synthesis of nanostructured materials and their application in different energy-related fields. In the last 5 years, the group has centred its activities on the field of energy storage and particularly on the development of new battery technologies, specifically Li-S batteries. The FNG and IREC are equipped with advanced synthesis labs and characterization tools for the development of the materials and all the tools necessary for the fabrication of batteries and their test.

Plant adaptation to climate change through the brassinosteroid pathway (Roeland Boer & Ana Caño)

The Center for Research in Agricultural Genomics (CRAG) is a CSIC, IRTA, UAB and UB Consortium. It brings together diverse plant and farm animal research groups and provides a unique ground to explore the genetic and genomic determinants in plants and animals. The research includes basic science, applied studies and Industry collaborations. CRAG is organized into four different Programs, in particular Plant Development and Signal Transduction. The Programs are supported by several state-of-the-art technological platforms, also open to the wider scientific community.

The supervisor/host (Dr D. Roeland Boer, ALBA – XALOC beamline responsible and MX group leader). The group of Roeland Boer has unravelled the design principles of the auxin response system in plants (Nature Plants, 2020) using MX and SAXS and is now expanding using cryo-EM. The group is also working on infectious diseases, and pharmaceutical targets, and collaborates with Industry. The group runs the XALOC beamline servicing both academia and pharma and is setting up a fragment screening platform for drug discovery.

The co-supervisor's work (Dr Ana Caño-Delgado, CRAG-UAB  CRAG Distinguished Researcher) has attracted much attention after her pioneering research on the role of plant brassinosteroid receptors to respond to climate stress. She has opened a new research line aiming at the genetic manipulation of agriculturally relevant plants to confer increased drought resistance without compromising growth. Her group of 10 people is rapidly growing and employs a combination of molecular, genetic, biochemical, and computational approaches using Arabidopsis thaliana, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii and Sorghum bicolour, among others.

The candidate will perform studies using biophysical techniques (Fluorescence anisotropy, SEC) at the ALBA bio lab and employ structural biology techniques (single particle EM, SAXS, crystallography) at XALOC, NCD and JEMCA-EM-01. The genetically modified plants will be prepared in the CRAG lab.

2D Van-der-Waals Artificial heterostructures for information technologies and their advanced synchrotron characterization (2D4IT) (Manuel Valvidares & Efrén Navarro)

We propose an experimental PhD in the area of emergent Van-der-Waals(vdW)2D atomically-thin layers and related heterointerfaces created by either the stacking of two-dissimilar materials (heterostructures) or of two similar materials with controlled twist angle (twisted structures, twistronics). PhD will include development of novel 2D materials and magnetic/ferroelectric heterostructures using combined facilities at ALBA synchrotron and ICMol/University of Valencia, which include capabilities under inert atmosphere for crystal growth, controlled exfoliation, deterministic transfer, and characterization.

These structures will be comprehensively characterized by a combination of synchrotron X- Ray spectroscopies (mainly XAS, XMCD but also ARPES),and as well by X-ray microscopy(X-ray coherent imaging, X-PEEM) completed with ancillary laboratory instrumentation,such as MOKE, Raman, AFM, which are available at ALBAfacilities (Materials Science Lab, BOREAS, LOREA and CIRCE beamlines,...) and at ICMol. Further lab characterization by XPS, XRD, SXRD, Lorentz TEM or other techniques at these or other facilities might be carried out as needed as well.

Both supervisors(M. Valvidares, ALBA synchrotron; E. Navarro, ICMOL/Univ. Valencia)and hosting groups have a large experience working with advanced 2D vdW materials, both at the level of growth and characterization, participate in national and European research projects and have ample trajectory with a large number of works on this type of materials published in high-profile scientific journals.

Merging magneto-ionics with nanocalorimetry for spin-electronic applications (Aitor Lopeandia, Jordi Sort & Enric Menéndez)

Voltage control of magnetism (VCM) holds the potential to revolutionize spin-electronics from an energy-efficiency standpoint. Among VCM mechanisms, magneto-ionics, which relies on voltage-driven ion transport, stands out for its capacity to modulate magnetic properties in a permanent way and to an extent not reached by any other VCM means. For instance, fully reversible transformations from a non-ferromagnetic (OFF) to a ferromagnetic (ON) state and vice versa have been achieved in Co 3 O 4 and CoN films by voltage-driven transport of oxygen and nitrogen ions, respectively. Magneto-ionics is a diffusion-controlled mechanism, in which microstructure plays a central role in determining ion motion and, hence, the magneto-ionic response. In low-dimensional systems, the use of magnetometry to monitor the phase change evolution is typically limited by the dominance in the measuring signature of loosely coupled magnetic moments from surface/interface atoms. To overcome that limitation, the project will consider nanocalorimetry as a complementary characterization tool, to monitor the magnetic entropy change from heat capacity. The research will tackle the correlation of magnetic-ionic effects with microstructure at the atomic level to unravel voltage-driven ion transport mechanisms. Either oxygen-based or nitrogen-based antiferromagnets (AFMs) will be the building blocks (e.g., CoNiO or CoMnN). The use of AFMs will favour stability and miniaturization. AFMs coupled to ferromagnets may give rise to exchange bias and its tuning with voltage will be beneficial for low-power spin-electronic devices, such as spin valves or MRAMs.

The research project will be led by Jordi Sort and Enric Menéndez (from the Materials Physics II unit), whose main research area tackles voltage control of magnetism, and Aitor Lopeandia (from the Materials Physics I unit), whose research spins around device instrumentation for the nano calorimetric analysis of low-dimensional systems.

Advanced detectors for gravitational wave studies with Virgo and Einstein Telescope (Mario Martínez)

The detection of gravitational waves (GWs) from a black hole binary merger by LIGO in 2015 started a new era in the exploration of the universe. The addition of the Virgo antenna into the network led in 2017 to the detection of a neutron star binary merger that could be followed in electromagnetic signals, representing the beginning of multi-messenger astronomy. IFAE has taken significant responsibilities related to the control of the stray light inside Virgo
and the Einstein Telescope (ET). The group plays an important role in the ongoing commissioning, operations and upgrade of the interferometer. For the latter, IFAE is leading the construction of new baffles instrumented with photo sensors around the test masses for Virgo. In addition, IFAE is deeply involved in the detector R&D and simulation activities of ET, and in the ETpathfinder. IFAE works with CERN in the design of the ET vacuum pipes and is leading the construction of a novel pre-alignment system inside the optical cavities.

In the physics analysis, the IFAE research program, using LIGO/Virgo data, includes topics related to: the search for compact binary coalescence events and their mass/spin spectrum determination; search for primordial black holes as candidates for dark matter; searches for axion-like signals in continuous GW signals; test of exotic models for Gravity beyond General Relativity; determination of the universe expansion rate using GWs; and using GWs as probes for inflation and phase transitions in the early universe. The PhD candidate will get involved in several of IFAE’s GW group activities including optical simulation studies, R&D on new material and coatings, and active monitoring of the stray light inside the cavity with new photo sensors at different wavelengths in an ultra-high vacuum and cryogenic environment. She/he will participate in the physics analysis of the LIGO-Virgo data, with special emphasis on the test of General Relativity and Cosmology using GWs.

Co-funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Research Executive Agency. Neither the European Union nor the European Research Executive Agency can be held responsible for them.

ICMAB acknowledges financial support from the Spanish Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness, through the “Severo Ochoa” Programme for Centres of Excellence in R&D (SEV- 2015-0496, CEX2019-000917-S)

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