Oxide Nanophysics

Group Leader: Gustau Catalán

ICN2 Oxide Nanophysics Group 2019

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

This was the last financial year of our ERC project on flexoelectricity. This year’s flexoelectric highlight has been the discovery that, thanks to flexoelectricity, the mechanical response of piezoelectric crystals to indentation changes when they are turned upside-down. In the case of ferroelectrics, which are switchable piezoelectrics, this means that their mechanical response can also be switched simply by applying a voltage. Interestingly, this implies that a ferroelectric memory “bit” can be read voltage-free, by touch alone. This work, led by Kumara Cordero-Edwards (now Dr Cordero-Edwards!), was published in Advanced Materials.

Meanwhile, we continue to look for practical applications for our discoveries, this time with the help of a project from the Government of Catalonia (Indústria del Coneixement-Llavor) to investigate the flexoelectric properties of textile materials. We have also continued our outreach and education activities, actively participating in the Escolab and Bojos per la Física programmes.

Finally, and to finish on a self-congratulatory note, our discovery of semiconductor flexoelectricity (published in Nature in 2016) was shortlisted among the top eight scientific highlights in the 2017 edition of the “La Vanguardia de la Ciencia” awards. We came fourth (first of the non-life sciences!) in the final popular vote.

Departures: Best wishes to James Zapata, who is now working at the Université de Toulouse (France).

Arrivals: Plenty of ‘firsts’ among our new arrivals: Dr Raquel Nuñez, the first-ever biologist in our group, who has worked on bioflexoelectricity; Irene Sanchez, our first-ever nanotechnologist, who is working on the flexoelectricity of fabrics; and Dr Elzbieta Pach, the first-ever chemist in our group, who has been working on surface adsorbates on ferroelectrics. We also welcome two new PhD candidates: Christina Stefani and Irena Spasojevic.

Just to note that all the new arrivals are women. This has not been a deliberate policy, but it is great that it is happening. We must be doing something right!

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 in physics at Queen’s University of Belfast in 2001. He then took research positions at the Institut Mediterrani d’Estudis Avançats (2002-2004), the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen (University of Groningen, 2004-2005) and the University of Cambridge (2005-2009).

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