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Research Projects

Nanostructured multilayered architectures for the development of optofluidic responsive devices, smart labels, and advanced surface functionalization (NANOFLOW)

Research head: Angel Barranco Quero y Francisco Yubero Valencia
Period: 31-12-2016 / 31-12-2019
Financial source: Agencia Estatal de Investigación (AEI) y Fondo Europeo de Desarrollo Regional (FEDRE)
Code: MAT2016-79866-R
Research group: Agustín R. González-Elipe, José Cotrino Bautista, Juan Pedro Espinós Manzorro, Fabián Frutos (US), Ana I. Borrás Martos, Alberto Palmero Acebedo, Victor Rico Gavira, Ricardo Molina (IQAC-CSIC), Fernando Lahoz (ULL), Xerman de la Fuente (ICMA-CSIC), Jesús Cuevas (US), M. Fe Laguna (UPM), Antonio Rodero (UCO), M. Carmen García (UCO)


NANOFlow is a multidisciplinary Project that aims the development of novel optofluidics sensing devices integrating advanced multifunctional nanostructured materials. The project is solidly grounded in the research group experience in the synthesis of nanoestructured functional thin films, advance surface treatments and development of planar photonic structures The main objective of the project is to combine and integrate the available synthetic and processing methodologies in the fabrication of optofluidic components capable of modifying their physical behavior when they are exposed to liquids. The integration of these optofluidic components together with accessory technologies based on new principles of photonic detection, large surface area microplasmas discharge as light sources or flexible substrates for the fabrication of sensing tags define an ambitious landscape of applications that will be explored in the project. Besides, the modeling of thin film growth in combination with advanced deposition diagnosis methodologies will be combined to adjust the thin film deposition processes to the desired functionalities.Therefore, NANOFlow aims to cover all the scientific-technological chain from the materials development to the final applications including advanced characterization, flexible synthetic routes, alternative low-cost and high throughput process (e.g. atmospheric plasma synthesis), device integration and testing of devices in real conditions.

The NANOFlow research activities will culminate in the development of three innovative devices, namely smart labels for sensing, traceability and anticounterfeiting applications (e.g. smart labels incorporated in food-packaging), a versatile optofluidic multisensing device and an optofluidic photocatalytic cleaning system that will integrate a large area microplasma source, liquid actuated UV/Visible optical switches and a photocatalytic nanostructured surface. All of these devices will operate under the basis of an optofluidic actuation and/or response and are designed to present clear potentialities for direct application in liquid sensing, manipulation and monitoring.

The NANOFlow research activities in the different work-packages and, particularly, the final devices are intended to have a direct impact in the Theme 2 (Seguridad and Calidad Alimentaria) of the “RETOS” defined in the call covering this project proposal.. Besides, some of the activities proposed, in particular the third device are also connected with the Theme 3 (Energía segura eficiente y limpia) of the call. It is very interesting to stress that these activities are of particular relevance in the geographical context of Andalucia where Agriculture,  Food production and Energy are three of the most relevant strategic sectors. 

Bioceramic Materials for New Biomass Domestic Bolier Concept based on Porous Combustion for a Wide Biomass/Residues Feedstock

Research head: Joaquín Ramírez Rico
Period: 30-12-2016 / 29-12-2019
Financial source: Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad
Code: MAT2016-76526-R
Research group: Julián Martínez Fernández, Manuel Jiménez Melendo


EU generates more than five tons of waste per person every year and about 60 % is organic waste. Current biomass domestic boiler technology does not allow the use of these residues with high efficiency, ultra-low emissions and high reliability operation. The main objective of this proposal is the development of a new concept of biomass domestic boiler technology able to combine these characteristics for operation with multiple biomass/residues blends. It is based on the integration of novel bioceramic porous materials matrices in combustion chamber and gases pathflow with functions as microporous combustors, particles filters and heat accumulators. These functions are simultaneous depending on the region of the boiler. Matrices of bioceramic materials are developed from wood precursors to obtain SiC elements through a process patented by the University of Seville. It uses local raw material, and produces parts with tailor made microstructure/properties, adequate for high temperature and reactive operation. Products with complex geometries can be obtained at relatively low cost compared with other materials of similar chemical and mechanical properties. The integration of components based on these materials allows new designs of biomass boilers with high control of combustion, temperature and particle emission. It avoids ash sintering and melting, acting on the formation and evolution mechanisms of ash and dioxins and activating the complete oxidation of CO and soots. The new concept allows the operation to a wider biomass/residues feedstock with low emissions and low maintenance even with fuels with high ash content, produced from many residues, solving main challenges for their extended use and increasing the European fuel resources for domestic heating. Domestic heating in Europe consumes 30% of the total energy. The proposal includes prototypes development, fuel supply characteristics and preparation (geometry, compactness, composition, etc.) and combustion products management. Biomass/residues blends from agriculture, forestry, olive oil industry among others will be tested both in laboratory . 

Nanophosphor-based photonic materials for next generation light-emitting devices NANOPHOM

Research head: Gabriel S. Lozano Barbero
Period: 12-12-2016 / 31-03-2022
Financial source: European Commission STARTING GRANT
Code: H2020-ERC-STG/0259
Research group:


Energy-efficient and environmentally friendly light sources are an essential part of the global strategy to reduce the worldwide electricity consumption. Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) emerge as a key alternative to conventional lighting, due to their high power-conversion efficiency, long lifetime, fast switching, robustness, and compact size. Nonetheless, their implementation in the consumer electronic industry is hampered by the limited control over brightness, colour quality and directionality of LED emission that conventional optical elements relying on geometrical optics provide.

This project exploits new ways of controlling the emission characteristics of nanophosphors, surpassing the limits imposed by conventional optics, through the use of nanophotonic concepts. The development of reliable and scalable nanophosphor-based photonic materials will allow ultimate spectral and angular control over the light emission properties, addressing the critical shortcomings of current LEDs. The new optical design of these devices will be based on multilayers, surface textures and nano-scatterers of controlled composition, size and shape, to attain large-area materials possessing photonic properties that will enable a precise management of the visible radiation.

Nanophom will significantly advance our comprehension of fundamental phenomena like the formation of photonic modes in complex optical media to which light can couple, as well as advancing the state of the art of high-efficiency solid-state lighting devices.

Super-IcePhobic Surfaces to Prevent Ice Formation on Aircraft

Research head: Agustín R. González-Elipe
Period: 01-02-2016 / 31-01-2019
Financial source: Union Europea
Code: H2020-TRANSPORT/0149
Research group:


The accretion of ice represents a severe problem for aircraft, as the presence of even a scarcely visible layer can severely limit the function of wings, propellers, windshields, antennas, vents, intakes and cowlings. The PHOBIC2ICE Project aims at developing technologies and predictive simulation tools for avoiding or mitigating this phenomenon.
The PHOBIC2ICE project, by applying an innovative approach to simulation and modelling, will enable the design and fabrication of icephobic surfaces with improved functionalities. Several types of polymeric, metallic and hybrid coatings using different deposition methods will be developed. Laser treated and anodized surfaces will be prepared. Consequently, the Project focuses on collecting fundamental knowledge of phenomena associated with icephobicity issues. This knowledge will give better understanding of the ice accretion process on different coatings and modified surfaces. Certified research infrastructure (ice wind tunnel) and flight tests planned will aid in developing comprehensive solutions to address ice formation issue and will raise the Project’s innovation level.
The proposed solution will be environment-friendly, will contribute to the reduction of energy consumption, and will help eliminate the need for frequent on-ground de-icing procedures. This in turn will contribute to the reduction of cost, pollution and flight delay.

Boron carbide and titanium nitride-based nanostructured ceramics for structural applications

Research head: Diego Gómez García / Arturo Domínguez Rodríguez
Period: 01-01-2016 / 31-12-2019
Financial source: Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad
Code: MAT2015-71411-R
Research group: Francisco L. Cumbreras Hernández, Felipe Gutíerrez Mora, Ana Morales Rodríguez


Boron carbide and titanium nitride are among the most promising ceramic materials nowadays. In the first case, this is due to the outstandng mechanical properties (it is the third hardest material in nature) and its high resistance to chemical attack. In the case of Titanium nitride, its remarkable optical properties and electrical conductivity makes this a potential material for electronic devices. In both cases, sintering is a challenging issue due to the low diffusitivity. In this project, sintering of these materials by spark plasma sintering will be studied and the conditions for nanostructuration will be determined. Preliminary results show that average grain sizes as low as 100 nm can be achieved. In a second stage, plasticity will be studied. A previous model developed by the authors show that twinning is a key ingredient as a driving force of plasticity of boron carbide. The case of titanium nitride is mostly exciting because the stacking fault energy is the lowest ever known and it can make twinnin very favoured. The comparison between these two systems can be a clue about the basic mechanism for hardening in these ceramic materials.

Development of photo-functional materials for environmental applications

Research head: José Antonio Navío Santos
Period: 01-01-2016 / 31-12-2018
Financial source: Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad
Code: CTQ2015-64664-C2-2-P
Research group: María del Carmen Hidalgo López, Manuel Macías Azaña


Heterogeneous photocatalysis is an advanced oxidation process which has been the subject of a huge amount of studies related to gas and water purification. Most of these studies have been performed for the treatment of water mainly by using the TiO2-based materials and more recently, although in a clear minority, by using other inorganic oxides binary, ternary and quaternary, predominating in all cases, the studies of the latter materials for water treatment. In terms of the photocatalyst, which is responsible of the efficiency of the photocatalytic processse, in the last decade have been developed numerous and varied methods of synthesis that have mainly been tested on processes of degradation in aqueous phase. However, few studies have been conducted with mixed oxides (binary, binary-coupled, ternary or quaternary) and less in gas phase.

Based on the above considerations and given the long and recognized experience that members of this Subproject# 2 have in the field of synthesis and characterization of photo-functional materials ( UV and UV/Vis), an due also due to the small number of photocatalytic studies in the gas phase , most of them by studying a single component, the work arises in this Subproject # 2 is the development of photo-functional materials that lead to materials based, not only on TiO2 with improved properties but other materials based on this oxide and other binary inorganic oxides, those obtained by coupling of binary oxides and ternary, which are obtained by processes of different synthesis to those already reported in the literature, and whose photoactivity will be evaluated by the group of Subproject # 1, without discarding a prior testing photocatalytic activity in water by the group of Sub-group # 2.

Among the materials that are to be synthesized in the Subproject # 2 ( by using non-hydrothermal, hydrothermal and sol-gel methods) are contemplated: binary oxides (TiO2, ZnO, WO3, Fe2O3, Bi2O3, Ta2O5, La2O3), coupled binary oxides (TiO2-WO3, TiO2-ZnO, TiO2-ZnO2, TiO2-Ta2O5, TiO2-La2O3, ZnO-Fe2O3 y ZnO2-Fe2O3), ternary oxides (Bi2WO6, Bi2WO6-ZnO, Bi2WO6-ZnO2, Bi2WO6-Fe2O3, Bi2Ti2O7, ZnWO4,La2Ti2O7) studying the photo-deposition of single metals (Pt, Ag, Au) on those prepared systems that exhibit significant photocatalytic activity (Semiconductor /Metal). Best evaluated systems will be forwarded to the Subprojet 1 for the feasibility study on the photocatalytic removal of NOx, VOCs, CO, CO2 and SO2 present in gaseous emissions..

Development of supported catalysts on porous structures for hydrogen generation and catalytic combustion applications in the framework of renewable energies

Research head: Asunción Fernández Camacho
Period: 01-01-2016 / 31-12-2018
Financial source: Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad
Code: CTQ2015-65918-R
Research group: Asunción Fernández, Mª Carmen Jiménez de Haro, Vanda Godinho, Gisela Arzac, Dirk Hufschmidt, Rocio García


The depletion of fossil fuels (in a short and long term) and the global warming derived from greenhouse effect are consequences of the extensive use of these fuels. In this context, hydrogen appears as an attractive, clean and abundant energy carrier in the context of a wider use of clean and removable energies. For the implementation of the “hydrogen economy” many technological challenges regarding hydrogen production (free from CO2), transport, storage (in a safe manner) and combustion (to produce heat or electricity) should be met first. New research will be conducted in this project on the basis of our previous results regarding the study of complex hydrides for hydrogen storage and the development of catalysts and processes for hydrogen generation and use in portable applications. In particular, new catalysts will be developed on porous structures such as polymeric, metallic and ceramic membranes and/or foams with high actual interest.  Catalysts will we developed and studied for hydrogen generation and combustion reactions according to the following research lines:

1) Development of new materials (catalysts and supports) with a high added value of the complete system catalyst + support. Porous Ni and SiC foams together with PTFE membranes will be selected as supports for the studies. The main objective is to design new catalysts on technologically interesting supports such as separating membranes, electrolytes, electrodes and/or hydrogen combustors. These new catalysts will be developed following the objective of reducing the amount of noble metals by combining or replacing with another non-noble metals (e.g. Pt-Cu and Ni-Fe) and/or with metalloids (e.g carbides, borides, etc). Wet impregnation methods will be used and special emphasis will be put on the use of the PVD methodology (magnetron sputtering) recently employed in our laboratory for the fabrication of Co thin films with very good results. The latter methodology opens a highly interesting research field because permits to tune microstructure and composition (i.e. Co, Co-B, Co-C) on demand.

2) Characterization of the prepared materials from a microstructural and chemical point of view. Modern nanoscopies will play a key role in the characterization, comprehension and further improvement of these highly nanostructured catalysts.

3) Catalytic studies on the prepared materials will be carried out in three catalytic tests: i) the hydrogen generation through hydrolysis reactions, ii) the photocatalytic water splitting, and iii) the catalytic hydrogen combustion. These reactions are of high interest in the context of the hydrogen economy.

--The interaction of these three research lines as proposed in this project will permit to achieve basic knowledge on the rational design of nanocatalysts supported on porous materials. Structure-composition-activity relationships will be established through catalytic and photo-catalytic studies in combination with characterization techniques based on high resolution analytical TEM and additional spectroscopic techniques.

Genetic basis of the composition and biophysical properties of tomato fruit cuticle: exploiting natural variability

Research head: Fafael Fernández Muñoz (IHSM)
Period: 01-01-2016 / 31-12-2018
Financial source: Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad
Code: AGL2015-65246-R
Research group: José Jesús Benítez, Fernando Gallardo Alba (UMA), Antonio Heredia Bayona (IHSM)


Production of fruits with high quality and added value is currently an important challenge in agriculture. The cuticle that covers the outer epidermal cell walls plays a significant role in tomato fruit quality mainly in its external appearance (color, glossiness, texture, uniformity), in the occurrence of disorders of great economical importance such as fruit cracking, and also in the maintanance of fruit water status during postharvest. In previous projects (AGL2006-12494, AGL2009-12134 and AGL2012-32613) of which this can be considered a continuation, the important role of cuticle on fruit cracking and how changes in cuticle biomechanical properties affect cracking were highlighted. Moreover, it was shown that cuticle flavonoids, which are involved in the color of ripen fruits, play an important role in the regulation of cuticle synthesis and water permeability. Both a recombinant inbred (RIL) and an introgression line (IL) S. lycopersicum x S. pimpinellifolium populations will be used for validation and identification of QTLs and candidate genes involved in the deposition of different cuticle components (waxes, cutin, flavonoids, polysaccharides) and also for identification of QTL/genomic regions associated to unstudied cuticle traits such as thickness and density. This multidisciplinary approach, that includes cuticle biophysical analyses, will allow designing tomato cultivars with adequate biomechanical and hydrodinamical properties to reduce cracking, maintaining fruit water status during postharvest and avoiding skin traits undesirable for consumers. A collection of wild tomato species accessions will be studied and will provide insights in cuticle evolution within the Lycopersicon taxon. This evolutionary study could reveal different combinations of components and structures that will be useful to increase the current cuticle variability for future breeding programs.

High temperature energy application coatings

Research head: Juan Carlos Sánchez López
Period: 01-01-2016 / 31-12-2018
Financial source: Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad
Code: MAT2015-65539-P
Research group: Iñigo Braceras Izaguirre (INASMET), Teresa Cristina Rojas Ruiz, Maria Belinda Sigüenza Carballo


The protection of surfaces from thermal, wear and oxidation phenomena has reached a substantial progress by developing new materials and coatings with improved properties as extreme hardness, low friction and wear rates, increased thermal and oxidation resistance. These improvements suppose a huge energy-saving and cost reduction due to the increased life-time of mechanical components without needs of replacement as well as a reduction in the environmental impact. This field of research has a deep impact in a large variety of industrial sectors (energy, machining tools, automotive, aeronautic, metallurgy, etc.). The challenge for most of these surface functionalization procedures is to get a strict control of the micro and nanostructure of the surface and interfaces that make possible the advent of new properties and applications that nanotechnology concept offers.

In this project, tailored nanostructured coatings for protection of components submitted to high temperature and aggressive environments are prepared seeking for an improved performance. This goal will be explored for three different applications that would contribute to an energy efficiency, renewable energies and solutions to decrease environmental impact. Based on the Cr-Al-N system, different coatings will be prepared by reactive magnetron sputtering technology changing chemical composition (metal content, incorporation of dopants like Y or Si); microstructure; phase distribution; architecture (multilayer/ nanocomposite) or more complex structures (tandem, multilayer gradient) on appropriated substrates depending on the foreseen application: a) oxidation resistance at high temperature (up to 1000ºC) for tool components; b) thermal stable solar selective absorber coating for mid (300-500ºC) and high temperature (>600ºC); c) corrosion resistant coating for supercritical turbine components (650ºC and 100% steam atmosphere).

The investigation of the oxidation mechanisms, phase transformations, structural modifications, etc. will be object of a careful study directly over the defined substrates for these applications to get fundamental knowledge on the degradation phenomena and protective effects. The establishment of the relationships between the initial properties and observed functional performance will enable the better understanding of the protection mechanisms and the optimization of such nanostructured coating systems for the selected application.


Keywords: Coating, high-temperature, oxidation-resistant, corrosion, nanostructured, energy, solar absorber, multilayer

Structured Catalytic Systems for Biofuel Production

Research head: José Antonio Odriozola Gordón
Period: 01-01-2016 / 31-12-2018
Financial source: inisterio de Economía y Competitividad
Code: ENE2015-66975-C3-2-R
Research group: María Isabel Domínguez Leal, Anna Dimitrova Penkova, Francisca Romero Sarria


The dependence of our current energy system on fossil fuels and their harmful effects on the environment are strengthen the development of renewable energy sources. This is the case of the second generation biofuels. The production of fuels from lignocellulosic biomass and wastes very often involve catalytic processes that are characterized by strong heat exchange requirements due to the high thermal effect of the chemical reactions involved, as well as by the difficulty for simultaneously minimizing transport limitations and pressure drop in conventional fixed-bed reactors. Sometimes, extremely short contact times are also required. As a result, the conventional catalytic technologies operate under non-optimal conditions. The structured catalytic systems, structured catalysts and microchannel reactors offer excellent opportunities for overcoming those limitations because they efficiently allow to minimize simultaneously both the transport limitations and pressure drop while improving the radial fluxes of mass and heat and allowing very short contact times. The monoliths with parallel channels, open cell foams and stacked wire meshes can be made of a variety of metallic alloys and cells or pore densities. They can be also coated with any convenient catalyst thus becoming appropriate for the process of interest. On the other hand, the microchannel reactors are capable of providing an incomparable intensification of the process with an excellent temperature control, and improved product quality and process safety. The objective of this project is the investigation of the application of structured catalytic systems for the production of renewable fuels. The reactions investigated will be the Fischer-Tropsch synthesis, the direct dimethyl ether synthesis and the production of the syngas that will be fed to these processes through the reforming of biogas and producer gas. The water-gas shift reaction will be investigated as well due to its important role for adjusting the H2/CO ratio of the syngas. Special attention will be paid to the study of the effect of the thermal properties of the structured systems on their catalytic performance. To this end, the effects of the cells density of monoliths, pore density of foams, mesh of metallic wire meshes, type of metal alloy, thickness of the catalytic coating and substrate geometry (including in some cases microchannel reactors) will be investigated. Catalyst close to the state-of-the-art will be considered as the active phases. The development of these investigations will be supported by three transversal tasks led by each of the three participating research groups but in which all the groups will be involved: preparation of the structured catalytic systems, characterization using advanced techniques and modeling and simulation studies. This proposal aims at generating knowledge that helps to expand the current range of applications of the structured catalytic systems towards the field of sustainable energy applications that will benefit from the advantages of these systems in line with the challenge Safe, efficient and clean energy

Key words: Structured catalysts; Monoliths; Foams; Wire meshes; Microreactors; Second generation biofuels


Susteinable industrial waste treatment: designed adsorbent materials and bionanocomposites for inmobilizing heavy metals and fision products

Research head: Maria Dolores Alba Carranza
Period: 01-01-2016 / 31-12-2018
Financial source: Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad
Code: MAT2015-63929-R
Research group: Miguel Angel Castro Arroyo, Ana Carmen Perdigón Aller, María del Mar Orta Cuevas


The focus of the project addresses the requirement of advanced environmental technology methodologies for removing pollutants. Recently, the interest and efforts to develop new technologies for more efficient treatments for the immobilization and the revaluation of hazardous waste are increasing in  R & D plans. The overall object of the project is based on the design of a strategy of functionalization of highly charged swelling phyllosilicates and their later transformation on bionanocomposite for the effective retention and immobilization of hazardous waste, both cationic and anionic. This object represents a qualitative change in the work that is being nowdays developed in the field of model adsorbents systems with environmental applications that will improve the quality life of the population and the environmental conservation, because the designed functionalization of the synthetic silicates will allow the adsorption of a wide range of adsorbents in different oxidation states, cationic or anionic. The objectives are conformed to the Focus Area WASTE of the H2020 program and it is developed on the 2nd and 5th challenge of the H2020 program and on the 5th and 3rd challenge of the national research program.

The project has attracted interest from various observers companies, EPOs, (ENRESA and the Water and Local Energy Agency and Sustainability of the City of Seville), the public-private collaboration being promoted. Therefore, the research combines the basic principles of the National Strategy of Science and Technology: Putting the R&D&I at the service of citizens, social welfare and sustainable development, making the R&D&I a factor of improving business competitiveness (transfer of results to the private sector, see interest of EPOs) and recognize and promote R&D&I as an essential element for the generation of new excellence knowledge.

The viability of the proposal is ensured, first, because the research team, RT, has accomplished the synthesis of hydratable high charged phyllosilicates, with a novel and original method that allows setting the material desired charge, and, later, has successfully achieved their organofunctionalization (patent ES 2 362 597 B1). Second, the RT has developed the required methodology for the development of this project in closed scientific collaboration with other well recognized international groups (i.e. CNRS-University of Lille, University of Cambridge...). The RT enhances the clustering of their capabilities and scientific-technical skills which are essential to address this proposal with a remarkable transverse character.

A full plasma and vacuum integrated process for the synthesis of high efficiency planar and 1D conformal perovskite solar cells

Research head: Angel Barranco Quero
Period: 01-01-2016 / 31-12-2017
Financial source: Union Europea
Code: EU144338_01 Marie Curie Actions
Research group: Juan Ramón Sánchez Valencia


Photovoltaic or solar cells (SC) devices –that transform light into electricity- have been extensively studied in the last decades since they represent a promising way to exploit the sun energy. Currently, perovskite-based solar cells(SC) are receiving increasing attention due to their low cost and high efficiency. They are very promising as an alternative for the existing ones, but still need to advance to reach higher efficiency and durability and require synthesis methods compatible with the industrial production of CMOS devices at wafer scale. These recent SC are mostly fabricated via wet methods in planar architecture. Inherent to the nature of the wet approaches, usually appear several drawbacks as contaminations and chemical reactions on the interfaces that might result deterioration of the SC performance.
PlasmaPerovSol main objective is the fabrication of a complete perovskite solar cell device by a full plasma and vacuum integrated process carried out under the premises of the “one reactor concept”. Thus, the different components of the solar cell will be deposited sequentially within a vacuum reactor avoiding exposition of the materials and interfaces to air or solvents. The technology developed by the hosting group combine vacuum deposition assisted by plasma that permits the fabrication of conformal layers over a large variety of templates. This approach is also proposed here to fabricate conformal multilayers over 1D scaffold that will demonstrate the advantages of 1D-SC. Plasma and vacuum processes present as advantage the high purity and stoichiometric control on the deposition within an ample range of materials compositions. The synthesis approach is compatible with large scale industrial production and allows the fabrication of SC on processable and flexible substrates. At the same time, the low temperatures used make the approach compatible with current CMOS technology and by using masks permits their integration on preformed devices.


Processing and microsctructural, mechanical and electrical characterization of ceramic-graphene composites

Research head: Angela Gallardo López (UEI) / Rosalía Poyato Galán
Period: 01-01-2016 / 31-12-2018
Financial source: Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad
Code: MAT2015-67889-P
Research group: Antonio Muñoz Bernabé, Felipe Gutiérrez Mora, Ana Morales Rodríguez


Nowadays, interesting prospects are proposed for ceramic-graphene composites, in application fields such as catalysis, energy storage and conversion, environment protection and biotechnology. A great effort is still required to answer open questions. Issues such as shear resistance of the ceramic-graphene interface essential to obtain an effective load transfer to the graphene sheets-, distribution of graphene in the ceramic matrix -to maximize the reinforcement mechanisms and electrical conductivity- and the high temperature mechanical
properties in these composites need special attention.
A systematic study of ceramic matrix graphene composites, including processing and microstructural, mechanical and electrical characterization is proposed in this project, with the aim of improving the comprehension of mechanisms controlling these properties when adding graphene nanostructures to a ceramic matrix.
Both alumina and yttria tetragonal zirconia (3YTZP) graphene composites will be processed by means of colloidal techniques. Special attention will be devoted to the dispersion of graphene in the ceramic matrix which is not a straightforward aspect, but is key to improve mechanical and functional properties. Sintering will be carried out by spark plasma sintering, SPS. Conditions will be optimized in order to obtain fully dense composites with nanometric grain size. Microstructural analysis will be performed by X ray diffraction, Raman spectroscopy, scanning and transmission electronmicroscopy (SEM and TEM). The present crystallographic phases, grain size and distribution of graphene nanostructures will be evaluated. In order to design advanced materials, it is necessary to study the relationship between microstructure and mechanical or electrical properties. Room temperature mechanical properties (hardness, fracture toughness and flexural resistance) will be characterized by indentation and bending tests at macro and microscopic scales. At high temperature, the plastic behavior of these ceramic-graphene composites will be assessed by creep tests under controlled atmosphere. Tribological behavior of the composites will also be studied to evaluate their resistance to wear. The electrical response will be assessed in a wide range of temperatures by means of complex impedance spectroscopy or by direct current conductivity measurements in the composites with lower resistivity. This is a most interesting property since it can be strongly increased when incorporating graphene to these ceramic systems. 

PhoLED – Photonic Nanostructures for Light-Emitting Devices

Research head: Hernán Míguez García
Period: 1-09-2015 / 31-08-2017
Financial source: Unión Europea
Code: EU144490_01 Marie Curie Actions
Research group: Dongling Geng


This project has received funding from the European Union’s H2020 Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 657434.
The PhoLED project seeks to largely surpass the optical performance of state-of-the-art light emitters devised for illumination applications and contribute to solve some of the main technical limitations that the current technology presents. This project aims at integrating novel optical nanostructures and emitters, such as colloidal quantum dots or nanophosphors, to yield the next generation of light-emitting devices in which full spectral and angular control over the emission properties will be possible. The approach focuses on the development of: i) new synthetic routes to achieve efficient nanophosphors, and ii) preparation and processing strategies, based on surface textures and colloidal scatterers, to attain large area optical nanostructures possessing photonic properties that will allow a precise control on the intensity, angular distribution and color quality of light emission. Results achieved within this project will provide significant advance both in the comprehension of fundamental phenomena as well as in the development of versatile solid-state lighting devices of optimized efficiency, aiming to overcome technical barriers and maximize performance. The project’s outcome is twofold: a substantial expansion of the preparation of optical nanostructures to control light-mater interaction, and the practical realization of nanostructured lightemitting devices with unprecedented properties.

Application of advanced electron microscopy techniques to the characterization of nanostructured coatings for clean energy applications

Research head: Ana María Beltrán Custodio
Period: 01-03-2015 / 28-02-2017
Financial source: Junta de Andalucía
Code: TAHUB-050. Programa Talent HUB
Research group:


This project is focus on the hydrogen generation and storage with the aim of producing hydrogen for clean and sustainable energies. It happens due to an exothermic reaction where a catalyst is required to do so safety. Catalysts based on noble metals are good candidates for this purpose such as, cobalt, cupper… Here, the complete catalysts systems and different supports are studied. They have been grown by magnetron sputtering technology. The structure and composition are studied, up to nano-scale, by advanced scanning-transmission electron microscopy techniques, (S)TEM, such as high-resolution (HRTEM), high-angle annular dark field (HAADF), energy dispersive X‑Ray (EDX), electron energy loss spectroscopy (EELS), for chemical analysis. Furthermore, the use of the three-dimensional characterization technique electron-tomography provides a full understanding of the analysed material. The combination of structural and compositional analytical microscope techniques, in both STEM and TEM mode, allows a full nano-characterization of the systems. The (S)TEM analyses are the essential tool to determine the relationship among the microstructure, the growth conditions and the final behaviour and properties of the systems which will help to improve them and, therefore, to contribute to the production of clean energy.

This project has four main strategic objectives:

1. Nano-materials for sustainable energy applications. Materials for the production, use and storage of Hydrogen.
2. Development of sputtering technology for the fabrication of nanostructures (thin films, coatings and controlled microstructure multilayers).
3. Development of the potential capabilities of the Laboratory for Nanoscopies and Spectroscopies (LANE).
4. Use of advanced structural and analytical techniques for the nano-analysis of new nanomaterials.