Oxide Nanophysics

Group Leader: Gustau Catalán


Condensed Matter: a universe in your hands

A new cycle of lectures on Condensed Matter Physics organised by GEFES will kick-off soon. The talks of the precious series are available on the GEFES Youtube channel. ICREA Prof. Gustau Catalan discusses the properties of metal oxides.

Tweed texture revealed in vanadium dioxide in metal-insulator transitions

The study of metal-insulator transitions in VO2 through atomic scale imaging has allowed to uncover a periodical tweed structure: a weaving of vanadium dimers acting like the threads of an actual tweed at the atomic level. This research, led by ICN2 group leader ICREA Prof. Gustau Catalan and ICMAB researcher Dr Felip Sandiumenge and published in Advanced Materials, provides relevant information for the understanding of transitional states in specific classes of materials.

New studies on ferroelectric domain walls reveal peculiar mechanical properties

A research on the mechanical properties of ferroelectric 180° domain walls, carried out by an international team of researchers led by the Oxide Nanophysics group and the Advanced AFM Laboratory of the ICN2, has revealed that domain walls are mechanically softer than the ferroelectric domains they separate, although the domains are identical. These results and a theoretical interpretation of them have been recently published in Physical Review X.

Prof. Gustau Catalán on flexoelectricity for biomedical applications

ICREA Prof. Gustau Catalán, leader of the ICN2 Oxide Nanophysics group, talks about his research on flexoelectricity and biocompatible materials in an article published in the magazine El País Retina. The reportage also includes interviews with other Spanish researchers working in related fields.

Light-enhanced flexoelectricity discovered in perovskites

A research recently published on Nature Materials, carried out jointly by the Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2), the Institute of Materials Science of Barcelona (ICMAB), Nanchang University (China) and Chongqing University (China), has demonstrated that light can increase by orders of magnitude the electricity produced by bending (flexoelectricity) in semiconductors. This phenomenon, called photoflexoelectricity, allows a single device to harvest energy from multiple environmental sources.

The ICN2 receives its second Severo Ochoa Excellence Award

The ceremony celebrated at the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities was hosted by Minister Pedro Duque. The ICN2 Severo Ochoa Programme is a four year research strategy to strengthen the tools and the research performed in areas as relevant as energy, health, ICT and environment. A delegation of the 5 Severo Ochoa Excellence Centers and the 7 Maria de Maeztu Excellence Units participated in the event. The ICN2 delegation was led by ICREA Prof. Jose Antonio Garrido, Vice-Director of the ICN2.

Photovoltaic technology to power synaptic- and neuronal-like devices

Recent advances of research on the application of photovoltaic technologies for self-powering of neuromorphic devices are reported in a detailed review by Dr Amador Pérez-Tomás, of the ICN2 Oxide Nanophysics group, which has been just published in Advanced Materials Interfaces and portrayed on its cover.

Crack propagation is asymmetric in polar materials

The ICN2 Oxide Nanophysics Group, led by ICREA Prof. Gustau Catalán, has published in Physical Review Letters how, due to flexoelectricity, cracks in ferroelectrics (switchable polar materials) propagate more easily in the polar direction than in the opposite.

Some piezoelectric materials may be ‘fakes’

A team of researchers has discovered that the most widespread technique for characterising piezoelectric properties –the ability of some materials to generate electricity when they are subjected to a mechanical stress– can yield ‘false positives’ due to flexoelectricity. The study, fruit of the collaboration between the Laboratory of Computational Methods and Numerical Analysis (LaCàN) at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya · BarcelonaTech (UPC) and the Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2), will facilitate the research of the application of these materials in pressure sensing devices or electric nanogenerators. It was published in Nature Communications.

Celebrating the International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2019

The ICN2 is involved in a series of initiatives to support this Day that is unfortunately still necessary. 100tífiques is one of the central actions involving the ICN2, the BIST centers and other Catalan research institutions to bring science and the role of women researchers closer to young students.


ICN2 research on flexoelectricity highlighted in the MRS Bulletin

The articles comment on a paper published in Applied Physics Letters with ICN2 PhD student Pablo Vales-Castro and ICREA Prof. Gustau Catalán, from the ICN2 Oxide Nanophysics Group, as first and last author, respectively. This work suggests that it is unlikely that flexoelectricity causes antiferroelectricity, as was previously hypothesised.

Dr. Jackeline Narvaez Morales receives the UAB PhD special prize

The thesis, defended by Dr Jackeline Narvaez Morales on February 29 2016, was entitled Flexoelectricity in Single Crystals. It was directed by ICREA Research Professor Gustau Catalán, head of the ICN2 Oxide Nanoelectronics Group, and Dr Neus Domingo, Senior Researcher from the same Group.

La Vanguardia explores the materials that are shaping the future

The Spanish newspaper devotes two full pages to explain how nanotechnology is shaping materials at the nanoscale for multiple applications. Among experts from other centers, four ICN2 Group Leaders share their research with an impact in fields such as energy, flexible circuits and biomedicine.

New transistor concept, solar cell included

ICN2 researchers have developed a novel concept in transistor technology: a two-in-one power source plus transistor device that runs on solar energy. Published in Advanced Functional Materials and currently trending in the Wiley-VCH “Hot Topics” list, lead author Amador Pérez-Tomás is calling it the “solaristor”.

Conclusions of the FLEXOFABRIC Project

Project FLEXOFABRIC has studied the viability of PVDF fabrics for flexoelectric smart textiles. A flexoelectric material is one that generates electricity when bent. Polivinilidene di-fluoride (PVDF) is a well-known flexoelectric and piezoelectric polymer; films of this material have been reported to have large piezoelectric and flexoelectric coefficients and therefore a large capacity to generate electricity under mechanical stress. Our purpose was to see whether such good electromechanical properties could be transferred to a textile form for smart wearables.

ICREA Prof. Gustau Catalán protests against travel bans in the U.S.

After one year of travel bans blocking entry to the U.S. for nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries, Prof. Gustau Catalán keeps declining invitations to participate in Conferences held in the U.S. to protest U.S. policies. He explains his position together with many other testimonials in an article published by Inside Higher Ed.

ICN2 in the Media: Flexoelectricity on TV

The finding that bone is flexoelectric and plays a role in the bone-repair process has garnered significant interest in regional and national media. Here we leave you with the video clip broadcast by TV3, Catalonia's public television channel.

ICN2 in the Media: On flexoelectricity and bone repair

Last month ICN2 researchers revealed how a physical phenomenon at the nanoscale, flexoelectricity, stimulates the biological process of bone self-repair. Their paper, "Flexoelectricity in Bones", was published in Advanced Materials on 19 January. Helped along by an ICN2 press conference held in Barcelona, it has since drawn considerable attention from the media.

A nanophenomenon that triggers the bone-repair process

Researchers of the ICN2 Oxide Nanophysics Group led by ICREA Prof. Gustau Catalan have resolved one of the great unknowns in bone remodelling: how the cells responsible for forming new bone tissue are called into action. Their work reveals the possible role of an electromechanical phenomenon at the nanoscale, flexoelectricity, not only in stimulating the cell response, but in precisely guiding it throughout the fracture repair process.

Strange but true: turning a material upside down can sometimes make it softer

There’s no way that turning a material upside down makes it any softer, right? Wrong! Through the combined effect of two properties inherent to certain types of crystal, flexoelectricity and piezoelectricity, researchers at the ICN2 led by ICREA Prof. Gustau Catalán have found that polar materials can be made more or less resistant to dents when they are turned upside down… or when a voltage is applied to switch their polarisation. Published this week in Advanced Materials, this research points to the future development of “smart mechanical materials” for use in smart coatings and ferroelectric memories.

Vanguardia de la Ciencia award: Vote for Flexoelectricity!

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 is candidate to win the Vanguardia de la Ciencia award

ICREA Research Prof. Gustau Catalán, Goup leader of the ICN2 Oxide Nanophysics Group, explains in this interview that flexoelectric-like effects are more ubiquitous and strong than previously thought. This research, which was part of Dr Jackeline Narvaez Doctoral Theses and was recently published by Nature, is now among the 7 candidates to win the Vanguardia de la Ciencia award. Readers can vote the winner in the newspaper webpage. Vote for flexoelectricity!

ICN2 at the focus of a new episode of LAB24

TVE offers through its 24h Channel the science dissemination program Lab24. In its latest episode this highly recognised program offers an extensive overview of the research performed at ICN2.

Mad for Science: Over 200 students start their first scientific adventure

Mad for Science is a consolidated Program organised by Fundació Catalunya-La Pedrera and devoted to bring High School sudents closer to research. ICN2, IFAE and UAB lead the second edition of Mad for Physics. It is a great opportunity for 25 brilliant young students to have a first contact with real research. The Program offers an overview of different research lines, including the participation of researchers from ICMAB, ICFO and Alba Synchrotron.

National Prize for Dr Jackeline Narvaez Morales’ Thesis

The winners of the 2016 GEFES Prize for the best thesis in Condensed Matter Physics developed in Spain have been recently announced. Dr Jackeline Narvaez Morales has won, ex aequo, the award for the best experimental thesis, for her investigation of flexoelectricity in single crystals. Her PhD was conducted at the ICN2 Oxide Nanoelectrics Group under the supervision of ICREA Research Professor Gustau Catalán and Dr Neus Domingo.

Bending semiconductors generates electricity

The discovery, published today in Nature, is a significant breakthrough in solid state physics and is also potentially relevant for technology. The phenomenon, called 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 is that semiconductors can also be flexoelectric, and moreover they can generate far more electricity than insulators.

TV Girona interviews Neus Domingo about the Fuerzas y Tunel Congress

Dr Neus Domingo, Dr Albert Verdaguer and ICREA Prof Aitor Mugarza co-led the organisation of Fuerzas y Tunel 2016. The Congress was held in the city of Girona (September 6-8, 2016) and included dissemination events at the Casa de Cultura de Girona. Prof Miquel Salmeron, also interviewed in the video, was the guest speaker of the event that opened the dissemination agenda. 

ICN2 combines science and art in Girona

Fuerzas y Tunel 2016 (September 5-7, 2016), a congress gathering every two years the Spanish community working on scanning probe techniques, and the exhibition Visions of the NanoWorld (until September 29), bring nanoscience and nanotechnology to Girona (Spain). Different dissemination events around the congress offer a didactic and attractive view of the research performed at ICN2 and the nanoscale.

Mad for Science 2016 was launched in a massive event

Over 200 students, together with their families and teachers, participated in the launch event of Mad for Science 2016 (Bojos per la Ciència), an initiative to bring High School students closer to real research. ICN2 co-coordinates the Mad for Physics Program, together with IFAE. Àlex Argemí, ICN2 Head of Marketing and Communication, presented the initiative.

ICN2 in the Media: Flexoelectricity is more than Moore

“Moore’s law” approaches its limit. The idea of producing the world’s first integrated flexoelectric microelectromechanical system (MEMS) on silicon was published week in Nature Nanotechnology and gained a big attention. The international work was led by researchers from the ICN2 Oxide Nanoelectronics Group.

Flexoelectricity is more than Moore

“Moore’s law”, according to which chip performance would double approximately every two years, approaches its limit: soon it would be impossible to produce smaller transistors. A new quest, nick-named “more than Moore”, aims to add new functionalities within each chip by integrating smart materials on top of their silicon base. Researchers from the ICN2 Oxide Nanoelectronics Group led an international collaboration which has produced the world’s first integrated flexoelectric microelectromechanical system (MEMS) on silicon. Their results have been published this week in Nature Nanotechnology.

High School students visit the UAB Campus to celebrate the Science Week

Students from the Institut Font del Ferro (Palafolls) visited the UAB Campus, including the ICN2, to learn about its research facilities and unexpected career opportunities. During the visit to ICN2 Dr. Ignasi Fina, from the Oxide Nanoelectronics Group, Josep Santiso, Nanomaterials Growth Division Leader, and Belén Ballesteros, Electron Microscopy Divison Leader, guided the students through the nanoworld together with the Marketing and Communication Department.

NanoEduca: Nanoscience enters the classroom

Six experimental Kits to introduce nanotechnology in the High School classrooms were presented on November 3 during the third session of the NanoEduca pilot program. This initiative sums the dissemination efforts of ICN2, UB, UAB and CESIRE in line with the outreach objectives of the ICN2 Severo Ochoa Program.

ICN2 in the Media: The science in James Bond movies, by La Vanguardia

La Vanguardia, the influential newspaper, published a list of gadgets, weapons and scientific breakthroughs featured in the James Bond movies. A weapon based on an electromagnetic pulse named Goldeneye was defeated by Pierce Brosnan in 1995. The effects of this weapon, intended to destroy all technology and digital memories, would have been minimised thanks to the antiferromagnets-based data storage system being developed at ICN2 (Dr. Ignasi Fina, from the Oxide Nanoelectronics Group) and IGS Research.

Horizontal magnetic tunneling in a field-effect device integrated on Silicon

The choice for energy-efficient technologies is not a matter of price choice but it is slowly turning into a matter of heat. A work recently published in Nature’s Scientific Reports suggests devices fabricated directly on Silicon with magnetic tunnel junctions governed by electric pulses, which means without current and minimizing the problem of overheating.

Prof. Alexei Gruverman offers an ICN2 Seminar

The talk held on September 4th, 2015, was entitled “Electromechanical Behavior and Electronic Properties of Complex Oxide Heterostructures and Hybrid 2D Ferroelectric Devices”. Prof. Alexei Gruverman, from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has played a key role in the field of ferroelectric and multiferroic oxides. Dr. Neus Domingo introduced the Seminar.

ICN2 in the media: Prof Gustau Catalan talks about nanoscience in the ‘Col·legi d’Enginyers de Telecomunicació’ magazine

ICREA Prof Gustau Catalan, Group Leader of the ICN2 group Oxide Nanoelectronics, together with Prof Xavi Marti, from the Institute of Physics of the Czech Republic, talks about what is nanoscience, why the nanoscale offers such interesting properties, flexoelectricity, piezoresistivity and the importance of nanoscience in the future of research, all this in Col·legi d’Enginyers de Telecomunicació magazine.

The future for antiferromagnetic memories

A review published in IEEE Transactions on Magnetics compiles the approaches that have been employed for reading and storing information in antiferromagnets and answers the question about how to write on antiferromagnetics successfully. Dr Xavi Marti and Dr Ignasi Fina, together with Tomas Jungwirth from the Institute of Physics ASCR in Prague, are the authors of the review.

Prof Konstantin Novoselov offered an ICN2 seminar at the UAB

After visiting the ICN2, Prof Konstantin Novoselov offered on May the 27th a talk at the UAB Science Faculty in the framework of the Manuel Cardona Conferences. Over 300 people attended the event and shared a very interesting presentation by the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics winner.

ICN2 hosts the last ESCOLAB of the season

Students from IES Can Puig (Sant Pere de Ribes) got in touch with nanotechnology visiting the ICN2 facilities in the last ESCOLAB visit of the season. They had the opportunity to enter the laboratories of the Supramolecular NanoChemistry and Materials Group and interacted with the nanoscale through a hands-on experimental session led by the Communication Department and Dr Ignasi Fina, from the ICN2 Oxide Nanoelectronics Group.

ICN2 in the Media: Smart Cities and “piezo” materials

The Spanish Newspaper El Mundo published recently in its "Innovadores" section an article about how Barcelona is becoming a reference for the “Smart Cties” movement. It was entitled: Las 'Smart Cities' mundiales miran hacia Barcelona. The work with piezoelectricity and piezoresistivity led by ICREA Prof. Gustau Catalan is useful to develop applications which will help drivers finding a free parking or the fastest route. Together with Xavi Marti, from IGS Research, they mention other applications to design smarter cities.

ICN2 in the Media: Record piezoresistivity

ICN2 Oxide Nanoelectronics Group published in Nanoscale a work presenting giant reversible nanoscale piezoresistance at room temperature in Sr2IrO4 thin films. The article was widely covered online.

A giant increase in conductivity measured when a semiconductor is submitted to high pressure

ICN2 Oxide Nanoelectronics Group obtains conductivity values for stroncium iridate 250 times higher than in normal conditions, just pressing with nanometric needles. The results, published in Nanoscale, were obtained thanks to the use of the atomic force microscope (AFM) showing that the material could become a good candidate for future applications in sensors and electronics.

Negative capacitance detected

Prof Gustau Catalan has published in Nature Materials a “News and Views” commenting the measurement of negative capacitance presented by the teams led by Prof Sayeef Salahuddin and Prof. Ramesh in the same magazine. The study detects the phenomenon in ferroelectrics, a field in which ICN2 treasures significant expertise.

ICN2 acquires a Cryostatic Atomic Force Microscope

Apart from surface topography, the new equipment can map electronic, electromechanical and magnetic properties of a material’s surface with nanoscopic lateral resolution, at temperatures as low as 4 K and under magnetic fields as high as 9T. It combines useful features for the Oxide Nanoelectronics Group that recently installed it at ICN2, as well as for other groups interested in fundamental properties of surfaces and 2-D materials.