Research Team / Research Group Name (if any)
Preparation, characterization and properties of non-molecular solids
Brief description of the Research Team / Research Group / Department
The group established by Prof. Alario-Franco back in 1973 has been qualified as "excellent" in 2018 by the Spanish Research Agency. Along this period, the focus has been the synthesis, structure and microstructure of materials in the search of outstanding physical-chemical properties. The main research lines include: study of magnetic/magnetocaloric compounds, superconductors, multiferroics, electrodes and electrolytes of batteries, supercaps and SOFCs. The group benefits from visits of scientists and actively collaborates with other prestigious national/international researchers. Regarding experimental aspects such as the synthesis, the group has expertise in alternative methods, being pioneer in high pressure/high temperature methods, also called "extreme conditions" through the unique "High-Pressure UCM Lab". The group has also pioneered in Spain the microstructural characterization of solids by means of Transmission Electron Microscopy and ancillary techniques along with late Atomic Resolution HRTEM and STEM having the instrumental facilities at the UCM. The group has expertise in transport measurements and frequent access to neutron diffraction and synchrotron facilities is granted. Currently, the group is composed by 21 researchers, including the permanent staff, postdocs and PhD students. The scientific output of the group in the last 5 years includes more than 120 research papers in indexed journals, 3 patents over 500 communications at conferences and 10 PhD Theses.
Research lines / projects proposed
The project is focused on the structural and microstructural characterization of materials interesting as electrolytes and electrodes of Li and Na batteries. The specific location of the Li and Na mobile species within the crystal structure plays an essential role in their ion-conducting properties and determines its possible applications. Average crystal structure models do not adequately describe the complex and changeable local atomic arrangements occurring in most of the cases and looking at the nanoscale inside the crystals frequently helps to explain the macroscopic properties of the solid. The use of high resolution transmission and scan-transmission electron microscopy methods (HRTEM and STEM) and the combination of annular bright field (ABF) and high angle annular dark field (HAADF) imaging methods with EELS are unique tools in the study of the distribution of light elements such as lithium and oxygen. The detailed study of changes in the location of species may be helpful in understanding the conduction pathways in ionic conductors but the same principles can be applied to elucidate in crystalline solids different properties to those of transport. Our expertise in the use of these techniques has allowed us to solve complex crystal structures and established the strong relations between composition, crystal structure and properties. (1) Dalton Transactions 2014, 43, 14644; (2) ChemSusChem 2015, 8, 398; (3) Dalton Transactions 2016, 45, 7148; (4) Crystal Growth &Design 2017, 17 (12), 632; (5) Journal of Materials Chemistry A 2018, 6, 5430.