La Vanguardia has selected recent advances on flexoelectricity among the candidates to win its prestigious award Vanguardia de la Ciencia. The research was published in Nature by the ICN2 Group led by the ICREA Prof. Gustau Catalán and is part of the Doctoral Theses successfully defended by Dr. Jackeline Narvaez. The winner will be one of the 8 candidates that will be selected through popular vote. The project, labelled as “Nueva técnica para obtener electricidad”, is the only one related to Physics and Nanotechnology.
Flexoelectricity arises from the redistribution of atoms and electrons in a material when it is bent. This redistribution of charges can be used to generate an electrical current. It was already known that insulating materials can be flexoelectric. The surprise discovery published in Nature by ICN2 researchers, and now candidate to win the Vanguardia de la Ciencia Award, is that semiconductors can also be flexoelectric, and moreover they can generate far more electricity than insulators.
The discovery is a significant breakthrough. Semiconductors are a common family of materials that is already widely used in such important devices as transistors (the heart of integrated circuits) or photo-voltaic cells. The new results show that, from now on, it is in principle possible to use them also as pressure sensors and electrical micro-generators.
The Vanguardia de la Ciencia prize is a joint initiative of the Godó Group and the Fundació Catalunya-La Pedrera. Candidates to win the prize are chosen based on research excellence and affiliation with a Spanish institution. It was established in 2011 to give more visibility to scientists in Spain and seeks to make scientific breakthroughs as popular as those achieved by athletes and musicians.
To this end, the newspaper readers are who will vote for their favourite candidate through the La Vanguardia website. Among the candidates are issues related with economics, ageing, diseases and cell biology. All researches are excellent, including two from IRB and CRG which are together with ICN2 founding members of the Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology (BIST). Nevertheless, the basic research on flexoelectricity, with a huge potential impact in technology and materials science, deserves a chance to win. The award could be a good way to underline that Physics and nanoscience have an important role in modern research.