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Research Projects

X-ray Detectors Based on Perovskite Composites

01-10-2023 / 31-03-2025

Research Head: Miguel Anaya Martín
Organismo Financiador: BBVA
Código: LEO23-11319
Grupo de Investigación: Materiales Semiconductores para la Sostenibilidad

Photon counting detectors have the potential to transform how we obtain CT scans to achieve low dose, high resolution images for medical diagnosis and monitoring. However, the materials currently used to manufacture these detectors require extremely high purity and are, therefore, economically expensive to achieve, limiting their widespread adoption. This project will employ perovskite composites to considerably reduce production costs and facilitate the scalability of direct X-ray detectors, thus opening avenues to making them universal in CT imaging.

Photonic materials boost afterglow in transparent persistent luminescence thin films

01-12-2023 / 30-11-2025

Research Head: Gabriel S. Lozano Barbero
Organismo Financiador: Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación. "Europa Excelencia"
Código: EUR2023-143467
Grupo de Investigación: Materiales Ópticos Multifuncionales

Persistent luminescent (PersL) materials are able to store optical energy in structural defects that act as traps and generate light long after the excitation source disappears, i.e. afterglow, allowing the introduction of time as a design element in new lighting solutions. Despite the advantages associated with size reduction, the properties of persistent nanomaterials are far from those of their bulk counterparts. PHLOW seeks to find new ways to control PersL by designing the optical environment of emitters, a path unexplored until today. To this end, it is proposed to process transparent thin films with PersL for integration into photonic architectures in order to optimize the charging process and improve the amount of light emitted during the afterglow. It is relevant to note that the charge storage and emission processes compete with each other. That is, as the traps are filled, they are also partially emptied in a dynamic process. However, there is no strategy specifically designed to alter the charging process or increase the population of the traps. At the same time, the radiative de-excitation rate of a transition depends on the optical environment through the local density of optical states. For this reason, the optical design is expected to have an impact, in addition to the outcoupling mechanism, on the intrinsic process of light generation, which should allow altering the trap population balance, affecting the charge kinetics and the intensity of the PersL. Thus, the general objective is to study the impact of changes in the optical environment on the processes of energy storage and persistent light emission in order to highlight the potential of optical design as a tool to control PersL in transparent thin films. This naturally interdisciplinary approach will have a profound scientific impact, as photonics has never been explored to control the charge and emission mechanisms that determine PersL, but also technological, as it enables the development of timedependent light sources to drive more versatile color converters, smart labels, novel coatings for anti-counterfeiting or optical data storage.

Design and 3D printing of personalized porous biphasic implants for the treatment of osteochondral defects

01-09-2023 / 31-08-2026

Research Head: Dr. Yadir Torres Hernández (US) y Dra. Ana Alcudia Cruz (US)
Organismo Financiador: Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación
Código: PID2022-137911OB-I00
Componentes: Dr. Francisco José Gotor Martínez, Dr. Manuel de Miguel Rodríguez (US), Dra. Ana Isabel Raya Bermúdez (Universidad de Córdoba), Dr. Juan Morgaz Rodríguez (Universidad de Córdoba), Dra. María José Montoya García (US), Dr. Eugenio Velasco Ortega (US), Dra. Mercedes Giner García (US), Dra. Loreto Monsalve Guil (US), Dra. Belén Begines Ruiz (US), Dr. Francisco José García García (US)
Grupo de Investigación: Reactividad de Sólidos

Currently, the number of musculoskeletal injuries that require the replacement of both bone and cartilage tissue is drastically increasing. These conditions, referred as to osteochondral defects (OCD), are derived from different diseases. The Lancet Commission estimated that, in 2020, more than 500 million people were affected only by osteoarthritis, with an associated medical cost between 1% and 2.5% of the gross domestic product in high-income countries. Most treatments applied for OCD just address the cartilage tissue, so the use of biphasic implants to simultaneously treat both tissues is under investigation nowadays. These implants are formed by a rigid section that substitutes the subchondral bone tissue and a soft section that mimics que cartilage. In this project, the novel fabrication of bespoke biphasic implants is proposed for the OCD treatment in articular regions. The use of Direct Ink Writing (DIW) 3D printing for both tissues will allow a complete implant personalization. On the one hand, DIW will be optimized for the 3D printing of a β-Ti alloy to obtain a 3D part with an improved biomechanical and biofunctional balance, according to the previous experience of our group in the fabrication of Tibased implants by different methodologies. This technology allows control of the objects porosity whose optimization, together with the use of β-Ti alloy, will lead to a bone substitute with a Youngs modulus very close to the host bone tissue, reducing the stress-shielding problem without compromising mechanical performance. The DIW printer used will include two reservoirs, to simultaneously print two different inks, and a rotary axis for the printing on top of the implants curved surface. In addition, the inclusion of a chitosan-based composite containing bioglasses in the metallic section will enhance the osseointegration and will reduce the bacterial proliferation due to the antimicrobial activity of the polymer. The most promising printed parts will be evaluated in vitro, using hOB, and in vivo in New Zealand White Rabbits. The results obtained with the printed β-Ti alloy will be compared with the results obtained from commercially pure Ti and different Ti alloys substrates previously prepared by the research group using the space-holder technique to select the bone substitute with the best performance. On the other hand, a novel Interpenetrated Polymer Network (IPN) will be optimized to generate a hydrogel with the required properties to be printed and perform as the cartilage tissue. This IPN will contain 2 different polymeric materials. The main one will be based on polymers with previously demonstrated antibiofouling capacity, in which some researchers of the team have experience, and a home-synthetized crosslinker based on hydrophilic carbohydrates to improve biocompatibility. The second polymer will be hyaluronic acid crosslinked with a sugar-derived hydrophilic diamine to enhance the chondrocytes adhesion and proliferation. The proportion of each
component and the porosity obtained with the printing strategy will be evaluated to maintain the antibiofouling behavior but offering the required performance in terms of viscoelasticity and wear resistance to mimic the cartilage. In addition, their cell and gene behavior will be evaluated in vitro. Finally, the final biphasic implant will be fabricated using the most promising tissue substitutes and tested in vivo in New Zealand White Rabbits.

Design of Advanced ceramics with 2D nanomaterials for High-temperature ElectrochemicAl Devices

01-09-2023 / 31-08-2027

Research Head: Ana Morales Rodríguez / Rosalía Poyato Galán
Organismo Financiador: Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación
Código: PID2022-140191NB-I00
Componentes: Ángela Gallardo López, Felipe Gutiérrez Mora, Rocío del Carmen Moriche Tirado
Grupo de Investigación: Reactividad de Sólidos

The advance in knowledge in ceramic matrix composites with 2D nanomaterial fillers is essential to address their future use in technological applications such as high-temperature electrochemical devices. Thus, a deep understanding of the basis of their new functionalities and optimized performance is needed.
This proposal outlines a systematic study of composites with 8 mol% yttria-stabilized zirconia matrix, a well-known ionic conductor, incorporating two different 2D laminar nanomaterials -graphene or boron nitride nanosheets- as fillers, intended for use in solid oxide fuel cells, with the aim to deepen in the understanding of the mechanisms that control their thermal, mechanical and electrical behavior.
To begin with, a processing study will be carried out in order to obtain composites with an optimized microstructure, always pursuing a homogeneous distribution of the 2D nanomaterial throughout the ceramic matrix and a high density. In a first step, the powder processing routine will be optimized in order to enhance the dispersion of the 2D nanostructure in the composite powder. In a second step, a sintering study with different temperatures and pressures will be carried out with the aim of obtaining fully- dense composites. The effect of the 2D nanostructure incorporation on the ceramic composite microstructure will be analyzed in terms of the crystalline phases and distribution, size and structural integrity of the 2D nanomaterials.
Thermal diffusivity and conductivity measurements will be conducted on the sintered composites, as a function of temperature and under different atmospheres to analyze heat dissipation and the effect of the filler dispersion and orientation in the thermal response. These thermal properties are essential since operation of the solid oxide fuel cell takes place at high temperature.
To ensure structural stability of the composites during operation, high-temperature deformation tests will be performed controlling stress, temperature, and working atmosphere conditions. The identification of the microscopic mechanisms responsible of the creep behavior as well as the comprehension of the fracture mechanisms and plasticity of the composites will be pursued to allow for prediction and control of their structural response in service.
The electrical conductivity measurements fundamental for this application will be carried out on the composites as a function of temperature in order to assess the effect of the incorporation of the different 2D nanostructures. The conduction type -ionic, mixed or electronic- for the composites with different graphene nanosheets contents will be identified.

Innovative techniques based on electric fields for the preparation of all solid state batteries

01-09-2023 / 31-08-2026

Research Head: Eva Gil González
Organismo Financiador: Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación
Código: PID2022-141199OA-I00 (Proyectos Investigación Orientada)
Componentes: Xin Li, Alejandro F. Manchón Gordón, Sandra Molina Molina, Ahmed Taibi
Grupo de Investigación: Reactividad de Sólidos

The development of energy storage technologies is essential for the transition to a climate-neutral economy. All-Solid-State Batteries (ASSBs) are promising candidates to solve the functional problems of convectional lithium-ion batteries that are currently dominating the technological market. ASSBs replace the flammable organic liquid electrolyte of traditional devices with a non-flammable solid, which improves the safety of this devices, among many other advantages. Thus, solid electrolytes have experienced great development in the last decades, where oxide and phosphate-types solid electrolytes are emerging as a very important group due to their high ionic conductivities, wide electrochemical window, and good compatibility with lithium metal. However, the high temperatures (for long periods of time) required for their synthesis and processing consume a large amount of energy, which considerably limit their economic competitiveness and also deteriorate their physical properties due to lithium volatilization. Furthermore, the co-sintering process with the other active materials of the cells (anode and cathode) is extremely complicated, as the high temperatures promote the appearance of secondary phases and high interfacial resistances that, unfortunately, limit the lifespan of ASSBs. This is precisely one of the major challenges facing the development of these devices. INNOBEC proposes an innovative approach to address the aforementioned problem by implementing the Flash Sintering (FS) to ASSBs. FS consists in simultaneously applying an electric field and heat to a ceramic sample, so that the densification of the material is achieved almost instantaneously and at much lower temperatures than those used in conventional methodologies. FS not only reduces the energy cost, but also enables the processing of materials with limited thermal stability, such as solid electrolytes. Additionally, since FS are considered as "non-equilibrium" techniques, some materials have been granted with exceptional properties, such as suplerplasticity in ceramics and improved ionic conductivities, which has been attributed to the generation of a large number of defects. Furthermore, FS is a highly versatile technique and, very recently, it has been demonstrated the Reaction Flash Sintering (RFS), where not only the sintering but also the chemical reaction are merged in a single step, boosting the efficiency of the process and amplifying the possibilities offered by FS.
INNOBEC aims to take advantages of the competitiveness offered by FS and RFS of reduced processing times and temperatures to prepare materials with optimized properties for ASSBs, specifically, oxide-types and phosphate-type ceramic solid electrolytes as well as ceramic composites with mixed ionic-electronic conduction to be used as cathodes or anodes. The ultimate goal of INNOBEC is the co-sintering in a single step of ASSB-type multilayer structures and the evaluation of their electrochemical performance. INNOBEC is an innovative project, which merges the previous experience of the PI in both fields ASSBs and FS, proposing a new energy efficient methodology to facilitate the preparation and processing of solid electrolytes so that the serious interfacial problems, arising from the co-sintering and that are slowing down the development of ASSBs, can be alleviated.