In 2023, 11 ICMAB researchers had been granted with nineteen (19) projects of the European Research Council (ERC): 1 Advanced, 7 Consolidator, 4 Starting, and 7 Proof of Concept.
The ERC operates according to a "curiosity-driven", or "bottom-up", approach, allowing researchers to identify new opportunities in any field of research. Accordingly, the portfolio ERC funded projects spans a wide range of topics and research questions. Discover them here!
At the ICMAB we have projects on superconducting tapes, organic energy materials, cancer therapy and diagnosis, graphene-based devices, flexoelectricity, photonic and optoelectronic devices, molecular electronic devices, calcium and magnesium-based batteries and ferries for 5G materials. Our researchers have also been awarded by many other European projects (FETOPEN, COFUND, EURONANOMED…) and other projects from different institutions. Check them out!
The ULTRASUPERTAPE project is an unprecedented approach for low cost/high throughput/high performance high temperature superconducting tapes for the new clean, efficient and smart energy paradigm. A transient liquid assisted growth (TLAG) in chemical solution deposited layers is used to reach ultrafast growth of thick superconducting tapes. An integrated system based on additive manufacturing and digital printing is devised to address a competitive manufacturing process with very high throughput and low cost, where combinatorial chemistry is selectively used for fast screening. Ultra-high tapes performances at high and ultrahigh magnetic fields are envisioned by maximizing the superconducting condensation energy with local strain and electronic state engineering.
With the aim of achieving breakthrough advances in the performance of organic photovoltaic and thermoelectric applications, the FOREMAT project will develop a high throughput platform that will enable the ultrafast identification of promising organic materials, simultaneously producing design rules for improved compounds and composites and efficiently optimizing device performance. The goal is to deliver organic material systems with a step-change in performance, bringing them close to the expected market turn point, including panchromatic organic photovoltaics with ca 15% efficiencies and thermoelectric devices that could revolutionize waste heat recovery by their flexibility, lightweight and high power factor. The development of multicomponent materials promises to dramatically improve the cost, efficiency and stability of organic energy devices.
The NEST project that focuses on the preparation of radioactive nanomaterials, smaller than the size of human body cells, for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Depending on the nature of the employed radioactive materials, it is expected that the nanomaterials prepared will allow both an early diagnosis of tumors and their treatment in a localized manner, thus minimizing damage to healthy tissue
The project Tmol4TRANS is dedicated to the design of molecules, which inserted in nano-transistors based on graphene, will produce efficient conductance at room temperature. It is also expected to optimize the device and production since the hybrid between the molecule and the device will have a high reproducibility. This is a project that wants to encourage the use of molecules in electronic devices that we use every day to improve their performance. Tmol4TRANS would have a direct impact in Molecular Electronics and Spintronics, as well as in the broader scope of nanoelectronics.
The MULTIFLEXO project objective is to advance decisively in the theoretical understanding of flexoelectricity (a phenomenon whereby a material generates electricity by suffering a non-homogeneous deformation, for example by bending) and more generally, of material properties that emerge from a non-uniform distortion. The theoretical study of these properties presents a great challenge that Max Stengel has assumed as a pioneer in the simulation of the first principles of flexoelectricity and he approaches it with an innovative multiscale strategy that integrates quantum-mechanical calculations with a description of solids and nanostructures on a larger scale. The tools that will provide will allow in the future, the design of innovative devices for energy harvesting, innovative transducers and photovoltaic materials with improved properties.
Robust disruptive materials will be essential for the “wireless everywhere” to become a reality. This is because we need a paradigm shift in mobile communications to meet the challenges of such an ambitious evolution. In particular, some of these emerging technologies will trigger the replacement of the magnetic microwave ferrites in use today. This will namely occur with the forecasted shift to high frequency mm-wave and THz bands and in novel antennas that can simultaneously transmit and receive data on the same frequency. In both cases, operating with state-of-the-art ferrites would require large external magnetic fields incompatible with future needs of smaller, power-efficient devices. To overcome these issues, the FeMiT project will ltarget ferrites featuring the so far unmet combinations of low magnetic loss and large values of magnetocrystalline anisotropy, magnetostriction or magnetoelectric coupling.
PHOTHERM will develop new materials that can convert different fossil-free energy sources into heat or cold within emission-free systems. The objective is to face the current challenges in the resource use, waste generation and clean energy supply designated to heating and cooling, which is currently the destination of 50 % of our energy consumption. To do so, his team will combine molecular photo-switches known as MOST systems, which capture and store sunlight, with phase change materials (PCM), which deal with thermal management. The project is also focused on improving the ways in which material synthesis is done
The main objective of MULTIMETALBAT is to bring a new paradigm for metal anode by developing electrolytes containing a mixture of multiple cations (Li+, Na+, K+, Ca2+ or Mg2+) which will modify the overall thermodynamics of plating and stripping when compared with conventional single metal anode. Kinetic competition between various electrodeposition processes will be promoted and the SEI will be engineered to sustain high mechanical, chemical and thermal stability, hence helping promoting homogeneous cation diffusion through it. Targeted figures of merit include: i) critical current density for 3D metal growth above 10 mA.cm-2 and ii) 350 Wh/kg energy density for 100 mAh pouch cells, almost doubling that of current Li-ion. Yet, the main objective of MULTIMETALBAT will be increased safety and extensive standard safety measurements will be performed on prototype cells and compared with Li-ion batteries.
The ENLIGHTMENT project is aimed at the fabrication of different types of low cost and large area photonic architectures to improve the performance of solar cells, sensors, photodetectors and many other devices. Nanostructured dielectric and metallic photonic architectures can concentrate the electric field through resonances, increase the light optical path by strong diffraction and exhibit many other interesting optical phenomena that cannot be achieved with traditional lenses and mirrors. This research plan is aimed to develop photonic electrodes that will enhance light matter interaction based on wave optics phenomena while being fabricated with techniques fully compatible with today’s mass production approaches, allowing seamless integration of wave optics components in current devices.
The ERC Starting Grant e-GAMES is dedicated to organic electronic devices, such as molecular logic gates for the storage and transmission of magnetic and optical information and for locally controlling surface wettability; ambipolar organic field-effect transistors with donor-acceptor systems and their exploitation in light, temperature or pressure sensors, and/or memory devices; and organic/inorganic hybrid devices based on field-effect transistors for sensing environmentally hazardous carbon nanoparticles
CAMBAT addresses important challenges in the quest for a sustainable future, since batteries are essential components in a wide range of “everyday” technologies. It aims at developing new sustainable battery chemistries based Ca or Mg metal anodes which would bring a breakthrough in terms of energy density, while relying on much more abundant elements as compared to today’s state of the art Li-ion technology. A milestone of this project is the formulation of new non-corrosive electrolytes with enhanced ionic transport that would promote the formation of a stable electrolyte/electrode interface. This should enable building laboratory prototype cells with enhanced energy density and lower cost than commercially available Li-ion batteries. The European Research Council (ERC) has a number of funding schemes amongst which the Starting Grant is a very prestigious one that aims at encouraging young talented research leaders to gain independence in Europe and to build their own careers.
Can Onur Avci
The aim of MAGNEPIC is to place magnetic insulators at the core of spintronics by exploiting their advantages over conducting magnets.
Magnetic conductors are ubiquitous in spintronics due to their ability to generate and detect spin currents by electrical means. However, we now know that nonmagnetic materials with large spin-orbit coupling can efficiently convert charge currents into spin currents with de-coupled directions. This key feature enables spin current injection into virtually any material, including magnetic insulators where charge currents cannot propagate but spin currents can.
The aim of this project is to bridge the long-established knowledge on magnetic insulators with today’s expertise on spintronics and measurement techniques.
Proof of Concept
LAB-TECH is devoted to organic electronic devices, such as organic field-effect transistors (OFETs), which are raising an increasing interest for their potential in large area coverage and low cost applications. Organic-based devices have recently emerged in the market beginning to replace amorphous silicon in some applications, and also with great perspectives to find their place in a wide range of new applications that require low cost, flexibility and large area coverage.
The ORGEVINE project aims to reduce water and phytosanitary chemicals usage as well as enhancing production yield in the wine industry by developing a network of wireless autonomous sensors that will provide real time images of key field parameters such as temperature and humidity. The sensors will be self-powered by non-toxic thermoelectric generators (OTEGs), taking advantage of the ubiquitous renewable energy source that is the temperature difference between soil and air. Therefore, avoiding the costly battery replacement, which is a major bottleneck in the Internet of Things.
Microplastics are incredibly small pieces of plastic that degrade the environment and are difficult to recycle. However, they are used in many products as a whitening agent. One example is on personal care products, where microplastics are added to make them white and opaque. Reducing their use is a meaningful way to reduce harm to the planet.
The CELLO project proposes the use of vegetalcellulose and marine algae-based biopolymers to develop opacifying agents and colorful biocompatible membranes with photonic functionalities for single use. Cellulose is the most abundant biopolymer on Earth, and it is also bioresorbable so it does not have a negative impact on the environment.
Colloidal inks are a key component for the industrial manufacturing of superconducting coated conductors through the ultra-fast Transient Liquid Assisted Growth (TLAG) method developed by Teresa Puig's group at ICMAB, combined with the low-cost chemical solution deposition (CSD) processing. To manufacture superconducting coated conductors through the TLAG-CSD method, there is the need for robust, stable and reproducible colloidal inks in large quantities, compatible with the process and able to stabilize nanoparticles and with an increased solubility of salts. Moreover, these colloidal inks should be customized for different industrial metallic substrates to further be expanded to other CSD growth processes. The main objective of SMS-INKS ERC PoC project is to validate a new generation of multifunctional colloidal inks (MFCI) that enable the manufacturing scale-up of nanocomposite superconducting tapes by low cost and high throughput methods. We will take the laboratory synthesis towards a scaled up industrialized process.
Within this project, Gerard Tobias and his team will explore the use of lithium as a therapeutic option for neutron capture therapy (NCT), a form of radiotherapy that exploits the potential of some specific isotopes for cancer treatment. The nuclear reaction that takes place when some isotopes are irradiated with neutrons, produces lethal particles with path lengths that can limit the destructive effects to a single cell, thus conferring high therapeutic precision to this form of radiotherapy. For this therapy to be successful, enough neutron active atoms must be delivered to the tumor site so a lethal capture reaction can take place. Despite lithium is known to undergo nuclear reactions of interest for the localized eradiation tumors, research with this element has been largely limited due to its chemistry.
Within this project, Mariano Campoy-Quiles and his team will explore a new kind of time-temperature indicators based on organic semiconductors to provide visual cues for undesirable exposure to elevated temperatures for cold-chain verification, especially for pharmaceutical, medical and food industry products, that require shipping and handling at specific temperatures.
Within this project, Núria Aliaga-Alcalde and her team will explore the utilization of novel sublimation systems that enable easy, eco-friendly, and low-cost identification of optimal combinations for creating new materials for organic electronic devices. smolSUB will leverage these sublimation systems to facilitate the direct deposition of organic molecules onto various substrates, optimising the testing process of organic electronic materials. With applications spanning wearable electronics, OLEDs, and organic solar cells, smolSUB envisions profound transformations in the testing, creation and application of new organic electronic devices.
Pi4NoRM aims to address a crucial challenge in the technology transition to higher frequencies, particularly in 5G and upcoming 6G wireless systems - the development of low-cost miniaturized circulators. The project, led by Martí Gich from the Nanoparticles and Nanocomposites (NN) Group, will focus on developing sub-THz ultra-compact circulators using high anisotropy ferrites. This innovative approach will enable higher data exchange volumes and rates while reducing energy consumption. The success of Pi4NoRM holds the potential to revolutionize wireless systems and radar technologies, opening a roadmap of innovation in the field.