Area 1: Materials for energy and environment (MEM)

Area description

The objective of this area is the development of new materials for an efficient use of energy and the conservation of the environment.


Deputy - coordinator

DESCRIPTION: Nanoporous materials like MOF, zeolites and the like, and polymeric membranes modified with these applied to gas separation, nanofiltration, osmotic distillation and pervaporation.
  • The membranes capable of making molecular separations are based on the application of porous materials made to measure, such as zeolites and MOF (“metal-organic framework”), above all. They are mainly applied in this line to gas separation (purification of H2 and biomethane, capture of CO2), nanofiltration (purification of solvents, removal of micro-pollutants from water) and membrane reactors.
  • The preparation of these membranes involves the synthesis of ad hoc nanoporous materials (microporous and mesoporous silicates, derivatives of graphene, zeolites and MOFs) controlling their surface chemistry and textural properties. As this part of the synthesis is important, the results obtained in the development of materials allow addressing catalytic, encapsulation and collaboration applications with companies in the textile, water treatment and silicate manufacturing sectors.
DESCRIPTION: Development of new materials and devices for fuel cells and solid oxide electrolyzers, as well as batteries..
We have more than 20 years of experience in materials and devices for Fuel Cells and Oxide-based Electrolyzers (SOFC / SOEC). This experience includes fundamental studies, such as transport mechanisms in ionic and mixed conductors with electrochemical, structural and spectroscopic techniques, or the electrochemical processes in the interfaces and grain boundaries using advanced microscopy techniques, as well as others focused on the application, such as the microstructural modification of components to improve the performance of materials and devices or investigation of degradation mechanisms.

We have participated in large national and international projects with companies and transferred a large part of our developments to the multinational Saint-Gobain. We have also led a joint project with the BSH group for the development of microtubular stacks for household appliances.

In the field of batteries, our group has worked since 1998 on new conductive lithium materials as solid electrolytes, focusing on the relationship between structural and dynamic properties. We have directed 4 national projects and we participate in a European one (IRSES programme).

We have a solid collaboration with the multinational Exide Technologies, through various projects and contracts in recent years.

DESCRIPTION: It encompasses aspects, both fundamental and applied, in the field of magnetic refrigeration at room temperature and, also, at very low temperatures. Following a multidisciplinary approach, the activity goes beyond the study of new materials and also includes the development of cooling devices. .

  • The development of new materials with a high MCE for application in magnetic refrigeration in household appliances (i.e. near room temperature) or at low temperatures (eg to liquefy hydrogen, natural gas or helium) is one of our main strengths.
  • The design of new cooling systems is another distinguishing feature. Part of our recent activity, in collaboration with the industrial sector, has consisted of the simulation and development of prototypes of adiabatic demagnetization refrigerators (ADR) for room temperature.
  • In the field of low temperatures, we have found extraordinary values of the MCE thanks to various material design strategies: ferromagnetism, frustration and polarization of rare earths by transition metals, among others.
  • Additionally, groundbreaking results from us and other leading groups have shown that molecular materials are a special class of cryogenic magnetic refrigerants. Its high modularity at a chemical level allows its properties to be changed in a controlled way.
  • Our contributions in molecular refrigerants include, among others, the first observation of (a) an MCE higher than that of commercially used refrigerants, (b) magnetic refrigeration to temperatures close to absolute zero, (c) the feasibility of small-scale refrigeration, in nanometric deposits and layers.

DESCRIPTION: Development of new materials and structures for the use of solar energy, specifically for photovoltaic solar cells.

  • Work in this line is focused on dye, organic, perovskite or quantum dot solar cells (DSSC). In this type of cells, the materials are inexpensive and can be processed in solution, which allows the price of the devices to be lowered.
  • Work is being done on the development and chemical synthesis of new materials, as well as on new structures in solar cells, seeking cheaper alternatives to the current ones, which do not use toxic materials, with higher efficiencies and which improve the stability of the device.
  • In addition, due to their optical properties, the investigated materials can also be useful as photocatalysts, as well as in optoelectronic devices such as photodetectors, LEDs and sensors.
  • It also can carry out the estimation and study of the properties of materials through computational calculations.
  • Continue the development of new materials and structures in order to improve the performance of solar cells.
  • Develop devices capable of working under artificial light or low luminosity conditions, as well as flexible solar cells.
  • Advance and deepen the study of the mechanisms that limit the efficiency or stability of cells in order to propose solutions to these problems.
  • Planned solutions include the development of semiconductors with new formulations, as well as the design of combinations of different materials as part of the active layer.
  • The new materials will also be used in other applications, e.g. photocatalysis, active systems in Raman spectroscopy, electrochemical storage devices and in artificial photosynthesis systems.
  • Researchers Santiago Franco, Belén Villacampa and Jesús Orduna have been working for about 10 years on the development of organic molecules for use in different types of solar cells: DSSC, organic and perovskite. Three doctoral theses have been defended in this line of work, with another three in progress. National and regional projects have been obtained. A project is currently being developed in collaboration with the company ABORA Solar S.L., as well as a project in the State Programme for the Generation of Knowledge and Strengthening R&D&I in the 2019 call and an Action (Erasmus+ KA-107) with Chile.
  • On the other hand, researchers María Bernechea and Emilio José Juárez-Pérez have recently joined the Aragonese research network. Despite this, they have already won several projects for this line, including a RETOS project in the 2019 call – “Proyectos de I+D+i” and a “Europa Investigación” 2020 project.
  • All of them have contacts with companies and collaborators, both national and international, with the intention of applying for collaborative projects.
  • This is a line of great international relevance and strategic importance for the region of Aragon that the new Institute would like to strengthen.
  • This line has great strategic potential for funding and is perfectly aligned with the various strategic plans in energy and sustainability policies set out by the Government of Aragon, the State Plan and the European Union’s Agenda 2030.
  • It is a line with excellent strategic potential to receive funding..
  • Excellent level of high impact publications.
  • Excellent number of citations in the area.
  • Line recently funded with an ERA-NET project, Europe Research and two national projects in the 2019 call for proposals – “R&D&I projects”.

DESCRIPTION:  Study, optimization and development of new materials and devices that favor the intensification of catalytic processes of environmental and energy interest.

  • For almost a decade, efforts have been made to study and develop the structural properties of catalytic materials to optimize their performance in the presence of different sources of electromagnetic radiation.
  • Great experience has been acquired in developing different strategies that allow taking advantage of the advantages of selective heating with microwaves, trying to expand the photo-response in the range of the solar light spectrum (UV-Vis-Near Infrared).
  • This line has also worked in the search for new structured materials that allow maximizing the advantages of irradiation with light or microwaves.
  • From the point of view of the application of these materials, there is extensive experience in processes of selective oxidation / reduction of polluting elements both in the gas phase and in the aqueous phase, the revaluation of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane or the optimization of processes of energy interest.
DESCRIPTION: Development of catalysts and adsorbents from carbons derived from biopolymers and from graphical and graphene materials.
  • Carbonaceous materials, both those of biomorphic origin and those of a graphical / graphitic nature, are being investigated as catalysts, catalytic and photocatalytic supports, and as adsorbents in a wide variety of chemical processes of an energy and environmental nature. This is due to its textural and chemical properties, its high surface area and porosity, its high electrical conductivity, the presence of a great variety of functional groups on the surface and its relative chemical inertness. The success of biorefineries will require new multifunctional catalysts with controlled textural properties. A large part of these new generation catalysts will be obtained from carbonaceous materials and nanomaterials (NMCs).
  • Our group has studied the preparation and application of catalysts Metals supported on carbons derived from biopolymers by biomorphic mineralization. This method is highly versatile to modulate the composition and texture of the material obtained, which is decisive for the development of new (photo) catalytic and adsorbent materials. Thus, we have obtained that the activity of biomorphic catalysts prepared from cellulose and agricultural residues is determined by the microporous structure of the carbonaceous support obtained, which can be modified during preparation. In parallel, we have developed kinetic models of MNC growth using CCVD, which are necessary for scaling up the process at an industrial level.

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