The Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2) is a research centre dedicated to the study of physical and chemical properties of matter at the nanoscale. Its core activities include frontier basic and applied research in nanoscience and nanotechnology, technology transfer and public outreach. It is made up of 18 research groups and 3 specialist technical support units, hosting around 280 researchers, technicians and administration professionals from over 30 countries. Interdisciplinary activity between its researchers from diverse backgrounds in physics, chemistry, biology and engineering is strongly encouraged. ICN2 further seeks to train students and early-career researchers in nanotechnology, as well as create opportunities for dialogue and collaboration between researchers, industry, policy makers and society.
The Oxide Nanophysics (ON) group of ICN2, set up and led by Prof. Gustau Catalan, studies how the properties of oxide materials change at the nanoscale. Properties may be emergent –i.e. more notable at the nanoscale than at the macroscale, such as flexoelectricity or domain walls- or deteriorating –i.e. properties that get worse at the nanoscale due to the presence of size effects, strain or dead layers. The ON group is perhaps best known for its flexoelectric research, having set up Europe’s first specialized laboratory of this topic with the help of an ERC grant. The group is also noted for its work on domain wall properties. More recently, the group has diverted into antiferroelectricity, having discovered the bulk photovoltaic effect in antiferroelectrics and performed the first measurement of flexoelectricity in these materials. Newer research is underway to elucidate the origin of their anomalous (negative) electrocaloric effect. We believe the latter to be relevant for the problem of negative capacitance, a central theme of this research proposal. Besides its broad expertise on the physics of oxides, with emphasis on domain walls and antiferrolectricity, the ICN2 node also brings highly skilled expertise on piezoresponse force microscopy (AFM lab led by Dr Neus Domingo), as well as facilities for the fabrication of thin films and characterization of their structural and functional properties.
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