Advanced functional materials
New materials with outstanding properties are continuously appearing in all fields of activity. Some representative fields of research are already running and will be further developed at BCMaterials. Those are:
Materials for Energy
New materials for energy generation and storage constitute a topic of the greatest significance due to its great economic potential and social impact. Fuel cells, and specially the so-called SOFC´s (solid oxide fuel cells), are one of the most promising alternatives for the production of environmentally friendly energy. Chemical energy storage devices (batteries) and electrochemical capacitors (ECs) are among the leading technologies today, critically needed to enable the effective use of alternative energy sources such as solar and wind, and to allow the expansion of electrical or hybrid electrical vehicles. A fundamental understanding of the physical and chemical processes that take place in the electrodes, the electrolytes and specially their interfaces is needed to design the next generation of high performance ECs. New separators and electrolytes with increased capacity and conductivity are needed to improve efficiency and the possibility of operating at high currents, but also new materials have to be design to increase service life and to reduce size and associated unitary cost.
High performance permanent magnets (PM) based on rare earth metals are widely used in medium to large electric generators and motors, in wind generators, transport and industry. In particular the scarce and expensive Dy metal is needed for improving the performance of most NdFeB magnets, leading to an increase of anisotropy and, subsequently, coercivity. The development of new Dy-free and rare earth free high energy PM will lead to lower cost, more efficient energy and power dense devices and, most importantly, it will result in a substantial reduction in our dependence upon the critical rare earth elements in PM. Research at BCM encompass the following subjects:
- Understanding the basis for the design and synthesis of new anodes and cathodes.
- Characterization of physical, chemical and dynamic electrochemical properties controlling electrode surfaces and electrode-electrolyte interfaces.
- Theoretical modelling of electrode structure and design of electrochemical phenomena.
- Development of nanostructured electrolyte and electrode materials for SOFC’s, and new component materials for advanced Li-based batteries and electrochemical capacitors.
- Preparation of the above materials as ultra-thin layers.
- Development of high coercivity, Dy free magnets by grain boundary engineering.
- Exploring new alloys and processing routes to achieve rare earth-free high performance magnets.
Materials for Sensors and Bio-Sensors
Sensors, and specifically magnetic sensors, are nowadays earning an exceptional relevance in many technological areas such as personal electronics, automotive and transportation and bio-medicine. They are also of great importance in their traditional niche application: the industrial processes.
New, competitive sensors must be produced by microfabrication (MEMS) to benefit from the high sensing density and smooth interfacing with electronic circuitry, as well as from reduced fabrication costs and energy consumption. The research in this area must therefore seek for promising functional materials with outstanding sensing properties but also pay attention to the effects of scaling and the necessity to integration with microelectronic conditioning interfaces.
Research at BCM focuses on:
- Development of new magnetic thin films and multi-layered structures for magneto-resistance and Magneto-Impedance ultra-sensitive magnetic field sensors.
- Study of new magnetoelastic materials for sensing applications. In particular Fe base metallic glasses.
- Hibrid Magnetoelectric (magnetostrictive/piezoelectric) materials and devicesfor industrial and bio-medical sensors.
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