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Research Projects

Verification of the existence of macroscale repulsive Casimir forces in suspend self-standing films

Research head: Hernán Ruy Míguez García
Period: 1-11-2018 / 31-10-2020
Financial source: Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad
Code: FIS2017-91018-EXP
Research group:

Abstract [+]

The ultimate goal of the VERSUS project is the first observation of repulsive Casimir-Lifshitz forces in macroscopic plane-parallel systems. To this end, it will focus on the design, fabrication, and characterization of optical materials that allow controlling the intensity and nature of the Casimir-Lifshitz force, so that levation phenomena can be observed and characterized due to the balance between the latter and gravity force. This radically new approcah makes use of optical spectroscopic techniques (based on optical interferometry between the partially reflected and transmitted light at the interfaces of the plane-parallel system) for characterizing the equilibrium distance at which the system levitates over a substrate. According to very recent results attained by the applicant group, it is possible to find materials whose optical constants and densities are such that when they are immersed in a fluid they can levitate over a substrate as a result of the aforementioned force balance. Our group has recently demonstrated theoretically that there is a number of materials that prepared in this films (<1 micrometer) can levitate several tens or hundreds of nanometers over a carefully selected substrate. Specifically, thin layers made of teflon, polystyrene or silicon dioxide immersed in glycorel are expected to levitate over a silicon  wafer, being possible to tune the equilibrium distances at which such layers will be suspended through their thicknesses and temperature of the system. The devised selft-standing thin films (in single layers or multilayer arrangements) must be compact, mechanically stable, of smooth surfaces, of controlled thickness, and chemically compatible with the fluid in which they are immersed. The macroscopic observation of repulsive Casimir-Lifshitz forces, never reported before, through optical spectroscopic measurements would constitute an unprecedented milestone in the field of fundamental matter interactions.

Advanced optical materials for more efficient optoelectronic devices

Research head: Hernán Ruy Míguez García
Period: 01-01-2018 / 31-12-2020
Financial source: Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad
Code: MAT2017-88584-R
Research group: Mauricio E. Calvo Roggiani, Gabriel S. Lozano Barbero

Abstract [+]

The MODO project is focused on the optimization of the optical design of optoelectronic devices, be they photovoltaic or light emitting ones, with the aim of increasing their efficiency or endow them with new functionalities. The hypothesis on which it is based is that this goal can be reached by means of the integration of optical materials that allow controlling the radiation-matter interaction in the absorbing or optically active layers of the device. The strategy herein proposed is based on the sequential realization of design, preparation, characterization and integration of devices of diverse photonic structures (photonic crystals, metallic particles, disordered optical media, corrugated surfaces) employing mainly solution processing techniques fully compatible with those used to fabricate the targeted devices. Optoelectronic technology based on perovskites has attracted a great deal of interest in the last years as a result of the high solar to electric power conversion efficiency, above 20%, that have been reached in a relatively short time compared to other photovoltaic technologies. At the same tiem, they present high photoemission quantum yields in the green and the red, which make them also good candidates as color converter layers for LEDs. However, these expectations are partially threatened by both the stability problems and potentially toxic environmental effects they present. It is one of the main goals of this project to propose solutions to specific drawbacks present in the optoelectronic technology based on hybrid perovskites through the implementation of optical designs that gives rise to a reduction ot both the amount of material employed as well as the exposure to environments that typically degrade them. We seek to deepen our understanding of phenomena that give rise to the photoinduced degradation of these materials when exposed to diverse environments, which will allow us to propose specific solutions to develop more stable and efficient perovskite layers. Simultaneously, concepts based on the strict control over the local density of photon states and oriented to the directional amplification of luminescence at selcted spectral ranges will be applied to light emitting devices based on semiconductor nanocrystals as well as to photo- and electro-luminescent organic compunds. Full control over the excited state decay dynamics over large areas and observation of laser emission will also be sought after. In all cases, the energy efficiency of the targeted devices has not been optimized before from the point of view ot the optical design.
The proposal is included in the framework of the Societal Challenge called "Secure, clean and efficient energy" and aims to develop photonic technology using nanotechnology tools and in the advanced materials field, all identified as Key Enabling Technologies KETs in the Spanish Strategy on Science and Technology, aligned with the European Program H2020.

Biomass valorization and sustainable energy production over (photo)catalysts and structured reactors based on carbonaceous materials

Research head: Miguel Angel Centeno Gallego y Svetlana Ivanova
Period: 01-01-2018 / 31-12-2020
Financial source: Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad
Code: ENE2017-82451-C3-3-R
Research group: Carlos López Cartes, Leidy Marcela Martínez Tejada, María Isabel Domínguez Leal, Regla Ayala Espinar

Abstract [+]

The main goal of ENERCARB, project coordinated among the U. of Zaragoza, the ICMS and the U. of Cádiz, is the development of multifunctional and structured catalysts based on carbonaceous catalytic materials of biomorphic and/or graphenic-graphitic character. These materials must be active, selective and stable in catalytic reactions related to i) the production and use of chemicals derived from lignocellulosic biomass, i.e. 5-HMF, levulinic acid, FDCA and g-valerolactone; ii) to sustainable energy vector production (H2), and iii) to chemical and photochemical utilization of CO2 (CO2 hydrogenation), biogas decomposition, photo-reforming of bio-alcohols) using H2 of renewable origin (“water splitting”). This project tries to improve currently implemented processes for energy production, and to propose other more innovative processes, such as use of sunlight, undoubtedly called to play an important role in this field. In fact, the use of solar energy would make more energy-efficient, the CO2 methanation reaction by using H2 of (photo)renewable origin produced by "water splitting". ENERCARB also intends to generatre high added value products by bio-refinery processes, as alternative to currently obtained chemicals from fossil sources. A set of carbonaceous solids with tunned structural properties (meso/micro hierarchical porosity), hydrophilicity-hydrophobicity, chemical functionalities, surface composition, etc., will be designed ad hoc for each of the reactions considered by the different subprojects. The implementation of continuous processes through the use of structured reactors is the next logical step to increase the efficiency of the the proposed proceses. The development and use of structured catalytic systems increases the viability and intensifies the processes, and therefore leads to higher energy and environmental efficiency. The complimentary nature of the three participating groups opens the possibility of addressing all these objectives in one single project. It will allow the application of different emerging methodologies for the synthesis of new carbonaceous materials, such as biomorphic mineralization, the expansion-functionalization of graphite intercalation compounds, special graphites (e.g. graphite nanolayers or nanoflakes), use of inorganic templates for the generation of mesoporous carbons, and also its advanced functionalization and its application in processes of high impact in the area of energy, chemical and environmental technologies

Development of new nanostructured materials for methane valorization to C2-C4 olefins

Research head: Alfonso Caballero Martínez y Gerardo Colón Ibáñez
Period: 1-1-2018 / 31-12-2020
Financial source: Ministerio de Ciencia, Innovación y Universidades
Code: ENE2017-88818-C2-1-R
Research group: Rosa Pereñiguez Rodríguez, Francisco Jesús Platero Moreno, Angeles Maria López Martín, Juan Pedro Holgado Vázquez

Abstract [+]

In the present project the preparation of a set of materials, including some with perovskite structure (Fe, Co, Mn, Cu and Bi in positions B; Ca, Mg, Ce and La in positions A), and the study of its application in different processes of heterogeneous catalysis and adsorption of pollutants has been proposed. For this purpose, a number of recently described preparation techniques will be used to obtain high surface specific and controlled nanostructure systems. In this way, and combining the metals in positions A and B to act both as promoters and precursors of metal alloys in the reduced systems, systems with very varied and versatile properties will be obtained.
Thus, we will study its catalytic properties in processes of great interest for the valorization of methane, the main component of natural gas and one of the most abundant energy sources today. In particular, and together with systems supported on mesoporous materials and others, the activity of nickel perovskites for the dry methane reforming reaction will be studied first in order to obtain synthesis gas. The aim will be to obtain active and above all stable systems in the face of the usual deactivation phenomena by deposition of coke. Secondly, systems based mainly on Fe and Co for the Fisher-Tropsch reaction to C2-C4 olefins will be studied, products of great economic interest as precursors to a large number of other high added value products.

Integration of the Ca-looping process in concentrated solar power plants for thermochemical energy storage

Research head: Luis A. Pérez Maqueda
Period: 01-01-2018 / 31-12-2021
Financial source: Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad
Code: CTQ2017-83602-C2-1-R
Research group: Pedro Enrique Sánchez Jiménez, María Jesús Diánez Millán

Abstract [+]

The proposal deals with the general social challenge of finding new cheap and environmentally friendly energy storage technologies to overcome the intermittency of energy generation from renewable sources. Particularly, in this project we propose integrating Ca-looping technology within a thermosolar concentration plant. Ca-Looping technology was originally proposed for CO2 capture and it is based on cycled carbonation-calcination of calcium oxide-calcium carbonate. Our research group has been working on this technology for several years with the objective of understanding the deactivation mechanisms as the number of cycles increases. Thus, we have studied the kinetic mechanisms of these processes and the microstructural changes that takes place during cycling. In a coordinated project that is about to finish this year (SOLARTEQH, Retos 2014) where we already proposed the integration of Ca-Looping for thermosolar energy storage. This project was the basis of a H2020 proposal (SOCRATCES) that has been recently approved and that will start by the beginning of 2018. The project CALSOLAR is a step forward in the integration to increase the efficiency of the plant. Subproject 1 will coordinate the new project. Moreover, subproject 1 will select, prepare and characterize all compounds investigated in the project. We will work with mining companies that will provide the raw materials (mainly limestone and dolomite) with different purities and crystallinity. Composite materials with nanostructured silica obtained from rice husk (provided by rice mills from the Guadalquivir area) will be prepared. Compounds obtained from steel slags (supplied by nearby steel mills) rich in calcium will be prepared. Within subproject 1, a new thermogravimetric instrument to perform thermal storage cycles under realistic conditions will be designed and constructed in our laboratories. This instrument should work under different controlled CO2 pressures and under superheated steam. The kinetic
mechanisms of carbonation and decarbonation and the microstructural changes will be investigated during cycling. The working team is experienced in the tasks of the project while some additional external scientists will participate. Thus, two foreign professors with solid backgrounds in solid-gas reactions and high resolution TEM are collaborating with us. Moreover, an industrial scientist from Abengoa with a very broad experience in thermal storage and thermosolar power plants is also included in the team. Both subprojects will work in a coordinated way with the aim of setting the optimum conditions for the final application. Finaly, the results of the project will be directly applied to the pilot plant constructed within the H2020 SOCRATCES project.

Rational design of highly effective photocatalysts with atomic-level control

Research head: Gerardo Colón Ibañez
Period: 02-10-2017 / 01-10-2020
Financial source: Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad. Unión Europea
Code: RATOCAT (project4076)
Research group: Alfonso Caballero Martínez, Angeles Martín

Abstract [+]

Using the sun’s energy to generate hydrogen from water is probably the cleanest and most sustainable source of fuel that we can envisage. Unfortunately, catalysts that do this are currently too expensive to be commercially viable. The RATOCAT project aims to develop improved photocatalyst materials, along with the processes for their production. The catalytic performance of cheap TiO2 and C3N4 powders will be improved by tailoring their surface with nanostructured oxides as co-catalysts of highly-controlled composition, nanoarchitecture, size and chemical state. First principles simulations will be used to design the optimum nanostructures, which will then be deposited onto powders with the required precision using atomic layer deposition, again supported by simulation. Lab-scale tests of photocatalytic activity will provide feedback for the optimisation of the material and process, before the most promising materials are tested in the field on both pure water and wastewater.

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

Research head: Gabriel S. Lozano Barbero
Period: 01-04-2017 / 31-03-2022
Financial source: European Commission STARTING GRANT
Code: H2020-ERC-STG/0259
Research group:

Abstract [+]

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.

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)

Abstract [+]

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

Abstract [+]

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 . 

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:

Abstract [+]

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.

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

Abstract [+]

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.


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

Abstract [+]

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

Abstract [+]

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

Abstract [+]

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)

Abstract [+]

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.