INPhINIT 2020 Open Call! Predoctoral Positions at ICMAB within “la Caixa” Doctoral Fellowships INPhINIT

INPhINIT, ”la Caixa” Doctoral Fellowship Programme is devoted to attracting international Early-Stage Researchers to the top Spanish research centres in the areas of Bio and Health Sciences, Physics, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Take a look here at the projects offered by the ICMAB to carry out your PhD with us, in the fields of Physics, Chemistry, Materials and Nanotechnology and Energy! Deadline: February 2020.

Two modalities are open, with two deadlines:
  • Doctorate INPhINIT Incoming: Candidates must have resided or carried out their main activity in Spain for less than 12 months in the last 3 yearsDeadline for application: February 4, 2020.
  • Doctorate INPhINIT Retaining: Candidates must have resided or carried out their main activity in Spain more than 12 months in the last 3 yearsDeadline for application: February 26, 2020.
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ICMAB-CSIC is one of the “Severo Ochoa” centers selected, and offers in this year's call 10 PhD open positons under the INPhINIT programme in excellent research groups to perform challenging and stimulating PhD projects. 

The doctoral fellowship programme INPhINIT “la Caixa” is devoted to attracting talented Early-Stage Researchers—of any nationality—who wish to pursue doctoral studies in Spanish or Portuguese territory. Sponsored by ”la Caixa” Foundation, it is aimed at supporting the best scientific talent and fostering innovative and high-quality research in Spain and Portugal by recruiting outstanding international students and offering them an attractive and competitive environment for conducting research of excellence.

This programme is divided into two different frames:
  • Doctorate INPhINIT Incoming: 35 PhD fellowships for researchers willing to carry out their PhD project in research centres accredited with the Spanish Seal of Excellence Severo Ochoa, María de Maeztu or Health Institute Carlos III and Portuguese units accredited as “excellent” or “exceptional” according to the evaluation of the Fundação de Ciência e Tecnologia. This frame is addressed exclusively to STEM disciplines: life sciences and health, experimental sciences, physics, chemistry and mathematics.For doing their research in Spanish institutions, candidates must have resided or carried out their main activity in Spain for less than 12 months in the last 3 years while for Portuguese institutions, candidates must have resided in Portugal for less than 12 months in the last 3 years.
  • Doctorate INPhINIT Retaining: 30 PhD fellowships for researchers willing to carry out their PhD project in any research domain and any university or research center in Spain or Portugal.Candidates must have resided or carried out their main activity in the same country, either Spain, or Portugal, more than 12 months in the last 3 years.

The doctoral INPhINIT fellowships offer a highly competitive salary and complementary opportunities for training on transferrable skills (through the collaboration of leading entities such as Vitae and Oxentia), temporary stays in industry, incentives upon completion of the thesis, among other elements that make these fellowships some of the most attractive and complete in Europe.


Open projects

Please see here the 10 PhD open positions offered by ICMAB. Feel free to contact our researchers for more information about the project.


High-index photonic architectures for enhanced light-matter interaction (Agustín Mihi)

The unique optical properties of metals brought new opportunities for managing light at the nanoscale. Metallic nanostructures are investigated for their capacity to enhance light-matter interactions, a property exploited in photodetection, photocatalysis, enhanced photovoltaics, surface enhanced Raman scattering (SERS), photothermal therapy and optical tweezers. However, the excitation of plasmonic resonances in metals is inherently associated to optical losses, provoking the quenching of light emitters and often undesired heating, detrimental for many applications since it can affect the molecules under study. Alternatively, the photonic community has turned towards high-index dielectric nanostructures with great interest. These architectures sustain strong optical resonances in the visible and near infrared region with low or inexistent optical losses but with the capacity to exhibit the same properties as their metallic counterparts such as negative refractive index, energy conversion, enhanced light-matter interaction, SERS and more.

Another fundamental difference from the field enhancement seen in plasmonic structures is the possibility to excite magnetic resonances in simple geometries, a unique opportunity to generate and interact with magnetic hot spots in the visible and NIR region. In this project, we intend to develop different strategies to exploit these optical properties in emerging devices.

More information: amihi@icmab.es, https://projects.icmab.es/enlightment/index.php 

Interfaces control in organic field-effect transistors for achieving an optimized device performance (Esther Barrena / Marta Mas-Torrent)

The flexibility and versatility of organic semiconductors has opened up a wide range of new applications, such as in the field of wearable systems, bioelectronics, or as driving elements for individual pixels in a flat panel display. Organic semiconductors have certainly reached a remarkable level of maturity in terms of available material systems and processing technologies. However, there are still key issues that limit their performance related with inefficient contacts and stability problems. This research project explores different strategies to control and optimize the interface properties in correlation with the electrical characterization of devices. The work will be carried out at the Materials Science Institute of Barcelona (ICMAB-CSIC), a research center located at the UAB campus with a stimulating and international environment.

The thesis work will benefit from the large experience of two groups (Physical Chemistry of Surfaces and Interfaces and Nanomol) in nanoscale characterization methods, surface engineering and solution-processing. The applicants should have strong background in physics or materials science. 

More information: ebarrena@icmab.es, mmas@icmab.es, https://departments.icmab.es/surfaces/, https://projects.icmab.es/nanomol/

 Exploring coupling mechanisms and properties of improper multiferroic oxides (José Luis García Muñoz)

Frustration, or the inability to satisfy all interactions, leads to new fascinating phenomena and properties (quantum magnets, spin liquids, chiral spin orders, magnetoresistance, etc.). The discovery of new classes of frustrated materials in which the charge, orbital, magnetic or elastic orders and the (ferro-)electric properties are strongly coupled (improper multiferroics) is generating a flurry of activity in the fundamental and applied fields. The list of potential applications is still incomplete: spintronic devices, multi-state memory units with reduced energy consumption, sensors, switches, etc. New physical mechanisms generating coupling between coexisting internal orders will be explored and investigated in materials in different forms (single crystals and thin films). Their understanding will help to foster them in order to obtain coupled improper multiferroics for room temperature operation.

The activities of the CMEOS group (ICMAB-CSIC) is directed to strongly correlated materials of interest in Condensed Matter research and for Information Technologies. Our group has long-standing expertise and international leadership on advanced characterization combining neutron and synchrotron techniques. We apply experimental and theoretical crystallographic approaches to tackle the structure-properties relationships. The research will involve material fabrication and advanced characterization using state-of-the-art techniques. Selected 3d/4d magnetic oxides with topological, magnetic or electronic frustration will be investigated as the richness of possible magnetoelectric mechanisms greatly exceeds our expectations. A key component of the project will be neutron and X-ray scattering experiments at international facilities to uncover magnetic, charge and structural correlations and confront theory. 

More information: garcia.munoz@icmab.es, http://departments.icmab.es/cmeos/  


Bacterial Cellulose Scaffolds for Emerging Applications (Anna Roig)

Cellulose constitutes the most abundant renewable natural polysaccharide produced in the biosphere. Cellulose, with a complex hierarchical structure, and nanocelluloseis being actively revisited when designing new functional (bio)nanocomposites. Although cellulose is predominantly obtained from plants, bacteria can also synthesize it. Bacterial cellulose (BC) produced by microbes has the same molecular formula as vegetal cellulose but in contrast is a purer chiral biopolymer exhibiting a higher degree of polymerization and crystallinity. BC also has high porosity, transparency and water holding capacity. Moreover, BC micro(nano)structuration and shape can be controlledduring its production.

This thesis will provide new synthetic and processing strategies of bacterial cellulose composites as well as fundamental understanding of their structure/property relationship in order to engineer its properties for specific applications in the fields of biomedicine, energy and environment. Bacterial cellulose has a high biological compatibility in serum, with proteins and cells, which allows evaluating its use for biomedical applications. The tissue engineering possibilities are described in our recent mini-review.The PhD thesis will produce novel and precise bacterial cellulose scaffolds adapted to the emerging fields. The candidate according to their background would be able to focus to an emergent field. Additionally the candidate will work closely with a team to face all the current challenges.

More information: roig@icmab.es, www.icmab.es/nn 

Challenging a Nobel’s prediction. Data storage with antiferromagnetic materials (Josep Fontcuberta)

Ferromagnetic magnetic materials are extensively used in technology. A characteristic feature of them is that they have a net magnetization that can be detected and modified by external means and can be mapped by external probes. Therefore, ferromagnetic materials are responsive and visible. In contrast, antiferromagnetic materials, although also constituted by magnetic atoms, have a net zero magnetization and thus they cannot easily be controlled and are invisible to an external inspector. Probably for these reasons, antiferromagnetic materials have been largely ignored. Indeed, in the 1970 Nobel Prize Lecture for his discoveries on Magnetism, L. Néel stated: “Antiferromagnetic materials do not seem to have any application”.

Now, a new life is being received by antiferromagnets. Indeed, in spite that having zero magnetization, it has been shown that they can be used to store and retrieve magnetic information. Still, writing information in them is far from simple as either large magnetic fields or complex temperature cycling are required to change their magnetic state.On the other hand, during the last few years it has been shown that the intimate coupling between charge and spin, can be broken and pure spin currents can be generated in some materials, with the additional benefit that spin do not suffer the energy costly Joule effect. As a result of spin currents, spins can be accumulated at sample edges and the resulting magnetization can exert a magnetic torque in neighboring magnetic layers and eventually induce the switching of its magnetization direction. Indeed, it has been recently shown that this mechanism lead to efficient switching of magnetization, and thus magnetic information writing is more energy-efficient. Here again, antiferromagnetics may find a new opportunity. Spin currents can be transmitted in antiferromagnets and nothing precludes that their magnetic state can be modified (information written) by a spin current. We know how to measure spin currents and we have expertise growing antiferromagnetic films. Therefore, we are in an excellent position to explore spin currents in antiferromagnets with the view on new concepts of more energy efficient and robust memory devices for data storage. This is the ultimate goal of this project.  

More information: fontcuberta@icmab.cat, http://www.icmab.es/mulfox/

Understanding vortex physics in high temperature superconducting films (Teresa Puig)

Superconductivity is a macroscopic quantum phenomenon that enables some materials to carry large currents without dissipation below a certain critical temperature and magnetic field. Since high temperature superconducting (HTS) materials were discovered 30 years ago, many potential applications emerged, however they had to face the need to generate new knowledge on this new class of cuprates material. They are unconventional superconductors with a d-wave pairing symmetry, their microscopic theory was (and it is still) unknown, novel vortex physics arose associated to the high thermal fluctuations and the nanoscale nature of the superconducting parameters, their structure anisotropy imposed the need to grow them with crystalline order and their brittleness needed innovative technologies to ensure flexible wires. Nowadays, the international community is able to fabricate HTS materials for high current energy efficient applications (high power cables, wind generators, electrical aviation) and large scale infrastructures (fusion, circular colliders, NMR beyond 1 GHz).

However, the cost/performance ratio is still too high, so ideas have to emerge to enable low cost high growth rate preparation methods that permit a nanoscale control of the microstructure and the doping state to strongly pin vortices. Also, new functionalities have raised from the unique strongly correlated nature of HTS specially because in the low doping state they are Mott insulators. Finally, new materials and physics understanding is needed to customize HTS for each specific application.We are a group of researchers with interests in the full value chain, going from the fundamental understanding of materials preparation and physical properties to the integration of HTS in devices. This PhD project will explore the vortex physics behaviour of HTS films prepared by low cost methods, with special interest in the high magnetic field range (up to 16 T) for the above mentioned emergent technologies. 

More information: teresa.puig@icmab.es, www.icmab.es/suman 

Optimizing Ti-oxide surfaces grown on switchable polarization ferroelectric films for water photocatalysis (Xavier Torrelles Albareda / Felip Sandiumenge)

Sunlight induced photocatalytic water splitting is receiving nowadays a lot of interest as a clean energy production technology. However, the efficiency of one of the most promising catalysts, TiO2, is largely reduced by fast recombination velocities of the electron-hole pairs produced during illumination. In this context, ferroelectric (FE) BaTiO3 and BiFeO3 films with spontaneous polarization perpendicular to the film, exhibiting an open-circuit photovoltage under illumination, can drive charge carriers to opposite surfaces (bulk photovoltaic effect). The direction of the spontaneous polarization component can be modified depending on the lattice mismatch between the substrate and the film, so, in-plane, out-of-plane or a combination of both components are achievable. The FE-field can thus be used in TiO2/FE heterostructures to create spatially separated sites for the reduction and oxidation water reactions yielding H2 and O2, respectively. In this way, the recombination of the photogenerated carriers can be reduced, thus enhancing the photocatalytic efficiency. 

The main objective of this proposal is the analysis of the influence of the FE-polarization on the enhancement of the photo-catalytic efficiency and correlate catalytic effects with structural and electronic surface/interface cross-properties. To this end, special interest will be paid the domain configuration of the FE substrate, and to catalyst/FE interfacial effects, such as formation of screening charges, structural distortions and defect chemistry. These effects will be mainly assessed by state of the art Transmission Electron Microscopy imaging and spectroscopic techniques, and synchrotron Photo-Electron Emission Microscopy. ICMAB-CSIC is a prestigious research institute promoting multidisciplinary research in materials science and nanoscience. The Crystallography of Magnetic and Electronic Oxides and the Advanced Characterization and Nanostructured Materials groups at ICMAB, will provide the platform and expertise for the execution of this project. 

More information: torrelles@icmab.es, felip@icmab.es, https://departments.icmab.es/cmeos/, https://departments.icmab.es/acnm/  


Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) contrast agents based on hybrid radical dendrimers-nanovesicles (Nora Ventosa Rull / José Vidal Gancedo)

 Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is one of the best non-invasive clinical imaging methods used in medicine that provides images of soft tissue anatomy in excellent detail, in particular with the use of contrast agents (CAs). Gadolinium (Gd) based contrast agents are the most widely used in MRI. These CAs have historically been considered as safe, but recent reports have emerged regarding the accumulation of residual toxic Gd ions in the brain, bones, skin, liver and kidneys. Since the use of CAs in MRI is of vital importance to gain lifesaving clinical information, it is critical to find alternative imaging probes than the current Gd-based CAs.

Our goal is the development of metal-free contrast agents based on organic radicals. Our strategy consists in the incorporation of many organic radical units to a dendrimer scaffold. Dendrimers are globular macromolecules and nearly perfect monodisperse nanosystems with tunable size and precise number of peripheral groups.  Thus, they are chemical versatile scaffolds, which can hold many radicals units. The conjugation of radical dendrimers with nanovesicles can provide additional advantages for the pharmaceutical development of these new CAs such as facilitating targeting to damaged tissues (e.g. tumour) or protection against bioreduction. Our group has recognized expertise on R+D of molecular material for biomedical applications; in the last years we have achieved excellent results in the areas of radical dendrimers for MRI and of lipid-nanovesicles as nanocarriers. It is worth saying that we are one of the few groups in the world developing these type of macromolecules for MRI contrast agents’ applications.

More information: ventosa@icmab.es, j.vidal@icmab.es, https://projects.icmab.es/nanomol/labs/nanomedicine-nora-ventosa, https://projects.icmab.es/nanomol/labs/organic-radicals-jose-vidal-gancedo

Design of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Curcuminoid Systems (PAH-CCMoids) for the creation of 2D sensor materials (Núria Aliaga-Alcalde)

 The main objective of the project is the generation of novel curcuminoids (CCMoids), that act as building units (0D) toward the creation 2D species (e.g.: COFs, covalent organic frameworks, or POPs, porous organic polymers).

The choice of CCMoids relates to their intrinsic electronic, coordinating and luminescent properties and our expertise in the design of these molecules. They are dyes with great synthetic versatility. The present project involves the synthesis of CCMoids containing terminal moieties that can react with additional linkers or among them and create conjugated/fluorescent 2D systems in solution and on surfaces. The final systems will be light responsive with great advantages (coordination to metal/metalloids, immobilization on functionalized surfaces/electrodes, improvement of solubility, low cost and bio-inspired systems, among others). The synthesis and characterization of novel CCMoids will be performed following standard methods but also studied at molecular-scale in ultra-high vacuum AFM/STM experiments as well.One of the main goals is to achieve optoelectronic responsive 2D materials that can be synthesized by straightforward chemical procedures allowing the production in high quantities of pure systems that can be deposited on surfaces/devices in organized ways with relevant coordinating/luminescent/electronic properties as active sensor. In addition, a second challenging aim is the creation of these structures in situ on the surfaces under study by means of chemical vapour deposition or the use of instrumental that allows the deposition of the material in UHV from solution.

More information: naliaga@icmab.es, https://departments.icmab.es/funnanosurf/ 


Electrolytes for Li, Na, K, Mg and Ca based batteries: On the impact of the cation solvation structure on power performances (Alexandre Ponrouch)

 For all battery chemistries, the electrolyte ensuring ionic connection between the anode and the cathode is a crucial component. The cation in solution is surrounded by its solvation shell, which can include solvent molecules but also anion(s) if ion-pairs are formed. High mobility of the formed cation complexes in the electrolyte and low desolvation energy (energy required to strip off the solvation shell before plating or insertion can take place) are keys for the battery power performances. In this project five different battery chemistries will be considered and compared (Li, Na, K, Mg and Ca). The impact of the electrolyte formulation (combination of salt, solvent and additives) on: i) the nature and mobility of the cation complexes and on ii) desolvation energies will be systematically investigated.

This will be done mostly through spectroscopic (Raman, FTIR, NMR, etc.) and electrochemical (impedance, cyclic voltammetry, electrochemical quartz crystal microbalance, rotating disc electrode, etc.) methods. A new versatile electrochemical method will also be implemented allowing for the determination of the cation (Li+, Na+, K+, Ca2+ or Mg2+) transport number (i.e. fraction of the total electrical current carried in an electrolyte by the cation). The hosting group has a long experience in post-Li battery technology focusing on electrolyte and interfacial processes. The candidate will have the opportunity to interact with a highly skilled and motivated team working in the framework of an ERC starting grant (CAMBAT, Calcium and magnesium metal anode based batteries, proposal ID: 715087) and to work in a state of the art laboratory dedicated to fundamental electrochemistry for battery applications.

More information: aponrouch@icmab.es, https://departments.icmab.es/ssc/ 


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