Oxide Nanophysics Group

Group Leader: Gustau Catalán

Main Research Lines

  • Flexoelectricity and piezoelectricity: fundamentals and devices
  • Electronic and electromechanical properties of oxide thin films
  • Domain wall nanoelectronics
  • Ferroelectrics, multiferroics, metal-insulator transitions

Most of 2016's milestones were related to flexoelectricity, since our ERC project on this subject is approaching its end and bearing its fruits. 

Umesh Bhaskar delivered the first-ever flexoelectric MEMS actuator, publishing the work in Nature Nanotechnology. He followed that work with the first proof of concept of a new type of device, namely a “strain diode”, where flexoelectricity and ferroelectricity are combined in order to achieve an asymmetric strain response. This work was published in Nanoscale. 

Meanwhile, Jackeline Narvaez completed the first PhD thesis to come out of our group. Her thesis won a national prize as the best thesis in experimental condensed matter physics in Spain. A highlight of Jackeline’s research was the discovery that flexoelectricity is not only a property of dielectric insulators, as previously thought, but also of semiconductors, with the added bonus that, in semiconductors, the effect is much bigger. This result has been published in Nature, and we have also patented the concept of transducers based on semiconductor flexoelectricity.

Besides flexoelectricity, we worked on other subjects, such as adsorbates ferroelectrics (a line of research led by Neus Domingo) and antiferroelectric photovoltaics (led by Amador Perez). A notable achievement of this line of work has been the discovery, published in Advanced Materials, of above-bandgap photovoltages in antiferroelectrics. The antiferroelectric photovoltaic cells, made in close collaboration with the group of Monica Lira-Cantu, displayed an eye-catching (and record-breaking) photoelectric field of 6 million volts per centimetre, an order of magnitude bigger than the previous world record. This work has been our first dip in the waters of antiferroelectricity, where we plan to invest more research time in the near future thanks to the funding earned from this year’s round of Spanish National Plan grants for a project titled PHABADA (PHase and Antiphase Boundaries And Domains in Antiferroelectrics).

Group Leader

Gustau Catalán


Prof. Gustau Catalán earned his degree in Physics at the Universitat de Barcelona (1997) and his PhD in Physics at Queen’s University of Belfast (2001). He then took research positions at the Institut Mediterrani d'Estudis Avançats (2002-2004, Mallorca), the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen (University of Groningen, 2004-2005) and the University of Cambridge (UK, 2005-2009).

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Highlighted Publication

Enhanced flexoelectric-like response in oxide semiconductors
Narvaez J., Vasquez-Sancho F., Catalan G. Nature (2016)

All publications