Oxide Nanophysics

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

  • Surface Science of Ferroelectric Materials

  • Physical chemistry of ferroelectric surfaces

Scientific highlights

For a change, this year’s highlights have to do with two families of materials that are not ferroelectric.

In the antiferroelectric archetype, PbZrO3, we have finally solved a long-standing puzzle about the magnitude and origin of its anomalous negative electrocaloric effect. P. Vales-Castro et al., “Origin of large negative electrocaloric effect in antiferroelectric PbZrO3, Phys. Rev. B 103, 054112 (2021).

In VO2, an archetypal Mott material with a metal-insulator transition, we have discovered a new tweedy structure –to our knowledge, this is a first in such kinds of materials. F. Sandiumenge et al, “Metallic Diluted Dimerization in VO2 Tweeds”, Adv.Mater. 2021, 33, 2004374 (2021).

These discoveries are part of doctoral investigations by, respectively, Pablo Valés and Laura Rodriguez. Both scientists successfully defended their theses (with “cum laude” marks -congratulations!) against the odds during a pandemic year. We are very proud of their achievements, truly the top highlights of our group in 2021.


This year marked the start of our FET-Open Project (TSAR, ‘Topological Solitons in Antiferroics’) to study topological structures in antiferroelectrics. Meanwhile, we also continued to work on two national projects: one on functional oxide membranes (FOxMe) and the other, headed by Dr Neus Domingo, on the catalytical properties of ferroelectric surfaces (SurFer). In addition, the Swiss National Science Foundation has sponsored a postdocotoral research fellow, Dr Gabriele de Luca, to work on strain engineering of hafnia-zirconia (anti)ferroelectric thin films. Last but not least, a Marie Curie project was awarded to Dr David Pesquera to work on oxide membranes.

Group Leader

Prof. Gustau Catalán, leader of the ICN2 Oxide Nanophysics group

Gustau Catalán

ICREA Research Professor

Prof. Gustau Catalán earned his degree in physics at the Universitat de Barcelona in 1997 and his PhD, also in physics, at Queen’s University of Belfast in 2001. He held research positions at the Institut Mediterrani d’Estudis Avançats in Mallorca (2002-2004), the University of Groningen (2004-2005) and the University of Cambridge (2005-2009). In 2009, he was appointed ICREA Research Professor and joined the ICN2 as leader of the Oxide Nanophysics Group. At the ICN2, with the help of an ERC Grant, he set up one of the world’s first laboratories of flexoelectricity.

Prof. Catalan’s scientific interests cover a variety of physical properties of oxides, from ferroelelectricity to metal-insulator transitions, and from flexoelectricity to domain wall physics, with emphasis on how these properties are affected by reduced size.

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