Research activities in the Center are included in three interdisciplinary Thematic Lines:
Leader: Dr. Vitor Rocha Vieira
This Thematic Line joins the efforts of theoretical and experimental physicists dealing with the investigation of the structure of matter with its repercussions on applications based on the optimization of materials and processes.
Fundamental scientific knowledge leads the progress of human societies by establishing basis for cultural and economic development. Every manufactured object used and each applied technological process relies on the mastering of a chain of concepts that starts with the first principles of Physics. On the other hand, actual applications are merely the immediate visible part of the huge potential of future realization rising from the deep understanding of nature provided by science. This is valid to Materials Engineering and Science as to any other research area. Understanding the structure of matter and the role of interactions at different scales is essential to a successful mastering of concepts leading to the optimization of materials and processes.
The thematic line of Fundamental Physics has a double purpose of understanding the physics, characterizing existing systems and searching for new phases of matter both theoretically and experimentally, and to conduct research with the aim of proposing possible applications.
This thematic tine of CeFEMA joins the efforts of theoretical and experimental physicists dealing with the investigation of the structure of matter with its repercussions on applications based on the optimization of materials and technological processes. The Theoretical Physics Group and the Complex Fluids, NMR and Surfaces Group are involved in this research line. The relation between the theoretical and experimental activity is in great measure established through the co-disciplinarity of the research undertaken by the groups. The connections between the two groups concern the common integration in the Condensed Matter Physics area, sharing conceptual frameworks related to the study of problems involving structural and dynamical properties of matter, symmetries, phase transitions and order parameters. A great deal of physical concepts, like those related to symmetries and topological properties, transcend the scale of the problems and allow for the application of common theoretical tools to (at least apparently) completely distinct systems.
Important topics that unify our efforts are both the study of non-trivial phases and transitions induced between different phases by varying different parameters. Systems studied include magnetic and superconducting systems and soft matter materials such as liquid crystals and ionic liquids. The theory group is devoted to the proposal of models and their solution (either exact or approximate) together with the calculation of properties that can be measured experimentally. The experimental group performs measurements of properties of soft matter systems with particular emphasis on NMR techniques.
The search for new phases of matter includes novel phases in graphene materials due to electron-lattice and electron-electron interactions, topological phases in novel 2D materials, superconductivity in nanostructures, heterostructures and interfaces, exotic/novel forms of superconductivity based on Efimov physics. An important line of work is the search for mechanisms to enhance superconductivity and, in general, mechanisms that lead to condensed phases at all energy scales, together with the theoretical understanding of dense systems. Other dense systems, such as dense nuclear matter and exotic nuclei and non-perturbative quantum chromodynamics will also be studied. Another common point within the theoretical group is the study of systems where fraccionalization and confinement play a role such as in low dimensional systems and chromodynamics.
The objectives of the CFNMRS group are mainly focused on the investigation of physical properties of soft matter with particular emphasis on complex systems and self-organized materials at the nano-scale. Most of the research efforts of the group concern the effects of molecular structure variations on the ordering and molecular dynamics properties of the systems and their relationship with specific physical properties of the materials.
In the field of Liquid Crystals, the objectives of the research group include the increasing of research efforts on non-conventional nematic phases by means of electro-optical and also magneto-optical techniques, combined with NMR studies of molecular order and dynamics.
Applied Physics and Nanotechnology
Leader: Prof. Olinda Conde
The range of phenomena, materials, systems and devices benefiting from research in Applied Physics is unrivaled in their scope and importance. Amongst the areas where Applied Physics plays a fundamental role are Nanotechnology and thin films and surface engineering. Nanostructured materials in bulk or thin film form and nanostructured surfaces are already an inescapable part of modern everyday life and the base of critical future developments. Information technology, manufacturing, communication systems, energy harvesting and storage, environmental protection and management, medicine and pharmacology, are just a few domains where nanotechnology and nanostructured materials have been driving innovation and important technological progresses.
Thin films of advanced nanomaterials and materials processing methods that shape and transform materials with lateral resolution at the nanoscale, such as ultrafast laser and ion beam processing, allow to design and create complex devices and systems with unprecedented or, at least, significantly optimized functionalities and enhanced properties, opening new avenues in a wide variety of applications. Also, functionalized nanoparticles and 2D materials, which are becoming a keystone for advanced research in biomedicine and energy technologies can be prepared using similar tools.
The work program of the thematic line reflects the interdisciplinarity and wide range of applications as well as the areas of expertise of the participating Groups. It includes the following main topics:
FUNCTIONAL NANOSTRUCTURED SURFACES AND MATERIALS
- Surface functionalization of metallic, ceramic and polymeric materials for improved interaction with living tissues in orthopedics and tissue engineering applications
- Preparation, functionalization and characterization of catalysts based on nanotubes or core-shell metallic particles on 2D materials for renewable energy harvesting and storage
- Design and production of self-cleaning and anti-icing surfaces with controlled optical behavior for solar energy harvesting applications
- Functionalization and characterization of nanoparticles for medical applications
- Design of superlubricity surfaces for micro and nanomechanisms and extreme application conditions, such as in space investigation
- Characterization of polymeric membranes and study of the flow structure and mass transfer mechanisms at membrane/fluid interfaces for the predictive modeling of ultrafiltration, nanofiltration, reverse osmosis and membrane-based medical applications.
FUNCTIONAL THIN FILMS
- Fabrication and characterization of heterostructures based on silicon thin films for application in energy conversion systems
- Fabrication and characterization of magnetic thin films and multilayers for current induced magnetization studies
- New dopant predeposition method to CMOS integrated circuits
- Study and application of transparent conductive oxide thin films for photosensors.
HIGH LATERAL RESOLUTION LASER PROCESSING
- Study of the chemical and structural transformations induced by high intensity ultrafast lasers within bulk dielectric materials and resulting change in chemical and optical properties; application to microfluidics, lab-on-a-chip, and sensor manufacturing
- Transformations induced in metallic surfaces and thin film multilayers by high intensity ultrafast lasers; application to wetting and to sensor and catalyst manufacturing
- Nanopatterning of magnetic thin films and multilayers by ultrafast laser interference methods; study of spin waves propagation in the patterned nanostructures for application in spintronics and terahertz electronics.
Engineering of Advanced Materials and Processes
Leader: Prof. Norberta Pinto
Sustainable development relies on innovative chemical processes, efficient energy production technologies and new visionary materials, altogether making a judicious use of raw materials and natural resources. Particularly promising are membrane-based processes, which are crucial for an economic development committed with environmental preservation. Additionally, conceiving and designing materials for fuel cells with improved performance are key for competitive commercialization of hydrogen-based renewable energy. On the other hand, metastable materials prepared by mechanical synthesis and new materials produced by laser synthesis and processing are essential for different types of structural/functional applications and processes under extreme temperature conditions and/or radiation exposure.
The thematic line covers the following main topics:
MEMBRANES AND CHEMICAL PROCESSES
- Synthesis and characterization of polymeric membranes and mixed matrix membranes, based on new nanostructured functional materials, for application in the fields of energy, water, environment, chemical processes, medical devices, food and biorefinery
- Development of asymmetric membranes with bio and hemocompatible membranes, for blood oxygenators and other medical devices
- Development of advanced module configurations capable of accommodating large membrane areas and simultaneously ensure a suitable management of the flow and mass transfer and module design for artificial organs involving extracorporeal blood circulation; this research is complemented by predictive modelling of membrane processes with recourse to CFD incorporating quantitative parameters pertaining to membrane characteristics, flow structures and mass transfer mechanisms
- Modelling, simulation and application of membrane-based processes for water, environment, chemical processes, food, wine and biorefineries
ELECTROCHEMICAL MATERIALS AND PROCESSES
Synthesis, characterization and assembling/testing of new materials and devices using electrochemical methods, as such or complemented with other physicochemical techniques, aiming at the preparation of materials and devices with applied impact in the areas of energy, electronics, and environment.
The activities will be centered on:
- Preparation and characterization of (nano)materials for anodes/cathodes of low temperature fuel cells, namely metal-based nanosized catalysts for borohydride electro-oxidation, three dimensional cathodes for O2/H2O2 reduction, small-scale direct borohydride fuel cells, and alcohol-fuelled proton exchange membrane fuel cells
- Water electrolysis, namely, functional cathodes for H2 production, development of a novel alkaline electrolyser
- Environmental oriented electrochemistry, namely development of novel batteries like lithium batteries with improved cyclability, and disposable rechargeable Zn/MnO2 printable batteries on paper and their integration with printed paper based organic solar cells, mediated electrochemical oxidation of pollutants and carbon dioxide mitigation
BULK NANOTRUCTURED MATERIALS
- Tailoring of nanostructured metal-ceramic composite materials, based on multiscale dispersions in nanostructured matrices, for functional and structural performance; optimization of the thermal conductivity and/or electrical conductivity vs radiation damage resistance and thermally stable strength under high/low temperature conditions
- Improving wear resistance of nanoscaled materials in harsh environmental conditions such as the ones imposed by bodily fluids
- Investigating the impact of biofilms on wear of nanostructured materials, notably, the effect of bacterial biofilms on the lubrication and wear resistance properties
- Development surface patterns using 2-D self-assembled structures suitable for local strain measurements using digital image correlation analysis at micron and submicron levels
LASER SYNTHESIS AND PROCESSING
- Development of laser methods for minimally invasive dental and craniomaxillofacial surgery
- Laser-assisted combinatorial design of Ti-alloys with optimized biomechanical behavior for biomedical applications
- Study of the ablation mechanisms of biological hard tissues
- Development of processes for laser deposition of single crystalline high-temperature materials for the aerospace industry
- Development of advanced composite coatings for extreme applications;
- Development of laser-assisted repair and decoration methods for the ceramic industry