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
Discovery of the photoflexoelectric effect and report of its large magnitude in halide perovskites, one of the most important families of photovoltaic materials at the moment. The research is the result of a large collaboration involving ICN2, ICMAB and several institutions in China. This work, first-authored by Longlong Shu (Nanchang University) and last-authored by G. Catalan, was published in Nature Materials.

First quantitative measurement of the internal mechanical properties of purely ferroelectric (non ferroelastic) domain walls, showing that they are always softer than the domains they separate. We think this work may mark the start of a new area of research, namely “domain wall nanomechanics”. The paper, first-authored by Christina Stefani (PhD Student at ICN2) and last-authored by G. Catalan, was published in Physical Review X.

We have obtained two national projects from the “Programa Estatal de I+D+i” (250k€+120k€), supported by two PhD Student grants from the FPI programme, to study the physics of oxide membranes and physical chemistry of ferroelectric surfaces. Watch this space for future progress in this area.

Remarkably, we have obtained a FET-Open Project ranked in the first place of its call, in collaboration with several other leading research institutes in Europe, in order to study topological structures (domain walls etc.) in antiferroic materials, including antiferroelectric and antiferromagnetic systems. The project, called TSAR (Topological Solitons in Antiferroics) has been awarded and will start in May 2021.

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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