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Advanced Materials for Energy

The area of Advanced Materials for Energy is a unit of research and technological development focused on materials for the conversion and storage of energy. Its activities involve the transfer of scientific and technological knowledge to industry and offers, at the same time, technological support for addressing innovations in this field. This activity is strongly related to the activities of research and technology development in other areas of the Institute, where projects are boosted through collaboration.

With regard to energy conversion, the work of the Advanced Materials for Energy area is mainly focused on solar energy, including different options for the direct conversion of solar energy into electrical energy and/or chemical energy. Besides photovoltaic systems, there are different technological approaches, and activities cover other mechanisms of conversion based on nanomaterials and nanotechnologies. Their performance is investigated for application in thermoelectric and thermionic systems, and nanoionic properties are being studied for new electrochemical systems, while nanocatalyts are being implemented for new energy conversion systems and the relevant advances in nanoelectrochemistry are being used for improved energy storage cells.

In this field of research, the main challenges for scientific breakthroughs in new materials and devices are framed within the cost needs for the energy obtained and its compatibility with the use of sources distributed in buildings, cities and energy production plants.

In this context, our activities with photovoltaic energy are centred on thin layer technology II-VI and the use of new concepts in nanomaterials to increase efficiency and/or reduce cost. At the same time, our capacity to synthesize and/or grow new nanostructured materials as well as new catalysts is addressed to new concepts of photoelectrochemical systems for the direct conversion of solar energy into chemical energy and new methods to make use of thermoionic and thermoelectrical conversion. Regarding photoelectrochemical conversion, or artificial photosynthesis, our objectives are to obtain hydrogen and reduce CO2 to develop a C1 economy with special attention to the storage of chemical energy. These activities are also guided by new discoveries in the field of nanoionics for the advancement of electrochemical systems such as fuel cells and their reversible use as electrolysers.

Likewise, the activity in new 3D electrodes based on advanced nanomaterials and the use of catalysts, membranes and new formulations of liquid electrolytes is being applied to the development of new technologies for electrical storage beyond the present battery technology as well as new methodologies for the diagnosis and prognosis of energy storage systems.

The above activities are focused on convergence for the development of integrated systems, their control, and development of testing tools. Their control by means of sensors and the use of harvesting tools allows us to guarantee sustainable autonomy, and potential effects on energy management criteria.

The Advanced Materials for Energy area is organized in five interrelated laboratories and a general laboratory of common services and facilities. These laboratories are respectively focused on the following main activities:

a) Functional Nanomaterials

b) Materials and Catalysis

c) Solar Energy Materials and Systems

d) Nanoionic and fuel cells

e) Energy storage and energy harvesting


Functional Nanomaterials

The research and technological activity of the FNG has been focused on the production of new nanostructured materials, their structural, chemical and functional characterization, and their use in photovoltaic, thermoelectric and catalytic applications. The following are the current main research lines of the FNG:

  • Preparation and characterization of functional nanomaterials
  • Functionalization and self-assembly/deposition of colloidal nanocrystals
  • Fabrication and characterization of nanomaterials-based devices for energy conversion and storage: Photovoltaics, thermoelectrics and catalysis.

Materials and Catalysis

This group’s activity involves the development and application of new catalysts for energy conversion reactions and for the transformation of chemical-based energy carriers. The capacity for synthesis, structural characterization and functional assessment of the developed catalyst using reactor prototype is also available.

The main activities are centered on bioalcohol and biomass transformation and reforming, hydrogen production and on the production of fine chemicals from CO2, contributing to the development of the C1 economy by applying heterogeneous catalysis based on the development of advanced active multi-catalysts and supporting nanostructures.

Reactor prototyping is applied for laboratory scale assessments although scale-up procedures are also considered for pilot plants.

Solar Energy Materials and Systems

The Group of Solar Energy Materials and Systems is focused on the development of new materials and processes for advanced thin film PV technologies compatible with the requirements of sustainability and compatible with industrial mass-production with very low environmental impact, high efficiency and low manufacturing cost. These are the main challenges facing PV technologies in order to respond to increasing social and industrial demands to become real alternatives to conventional non-renewable energy technologies. With this main goal, the Group has been very active in the development of thin film technologies based on inorganic chalcogenide compounds, including technologies that are beginning their industrial implementation stage – like those related to Cu(In.Ga)(S,Se)2 (CIGS)- as well as emerging technologies based on new materials such as kesterite (Cu2ZnSn((S,Se)4 (CZTS)) compounds, as well as in the research and development of advanced characterisation tools suitable for quality control and process monitoring.

Nanoionic and fuel cells

The group is focused on fundamental and applied research in ionic/electronic conductor materials for energy applications. Technology transfer is one of the main goals of the group facing the implementation of new materials in new devices and the optimization of familiar technologies through newl approaches. The research and technological activity developed in the NFC group can be divided into two main lines:

-Nanomaterials for energy (micro) systems.
-Solid Oxide Cells (SOC).

Singular nanofabricaton equipment such as large area PLD with combinatorial facilities or wafer-level CVD for nanowires growth are combined with flexible automatic test stations for the electrochemical and electrical characterization of microdevices (micro-SOFC, thermoelectric micro harvesters and micro gas sensors) and SOCs (materials, button cells and small stacks working in power generation and electrolysis mode).

Energy storage and energy harvesting:

Activities are focused on the development of materials and device technologies required for implementing new advances in energy storage systems and their field demonstration for large and intermediate energy storage systems related to renewal and distributed energy sources. The main actions are mainly addressed to electrical storage systems based on liquid electrolyte, flow redox and metal air batteries as well as chemical storage.

New 3D electrodes, membranes and liquid electrolyte are developed, tested and evaluated using our self-made battery cell technology that has been adapted for flow redox battery as well as for new photoelectrochemistry cell. Materials, catalysts and devices/photoreactors are being developed for it, and experimentally implemented and checked for artificial photosynthesis and solar fuel production (hydrogen, CO2 reduction, syngas, methane and methanol).

On the other hand, the laboratory is launching activities or developing improved materials for energy harvesting elements for biasing sensor systems required for monitoring and controlling energy production plants, distribution grids, energy consumption and efficiency in buildings, environments and improving system sustainability, etc

Prof. Dr. Joan Ramón Morante
Head of Advanced Materials for Energy
Prof. Dr. Alejandro Pérez
Group Leader of Solar Energy Materials and Systems
Dr. Andreu Cabot
Group Leader of Functional Nanomaterials
Prof. Dr. Narcis Homs
Group Leader of Materials and Catalysis
Dr. Albert Tarancón
Group Leader of Nanoionics and Fuel Cells
Dr. Edgardo Saucedo
Dra. Teresa Andreu
Dra. Cristina Flox
Dr. Alejandro Morata
Dr. Marco Argudo
Laboratory Technician
Dra. Doris Cadavid
Laboratory Technician
Fco Javier Vázquez
Ajudant Investigador
Moisés Espinola
PhD Fellowships
Dr. Victor Izquierdo Roca
Dr. Francisco Hernandez
Dr. Marcel Placidi
Yudania Sanchez
Laia Arques
Becaria Doctoral
Dr. Marc Torrell
Dr. Sebastian Murcia
Dr. Jordi Guilera
Dr. Iñigo Garbayo
Dr. Raul Benages
Carles Ros
Ajudant Investigador
Dr. Florian Oliva
Sergio Giraldo
Dra.Michaela Meyns
Dr. Aitor Hornes
Elba Hernández
Gerard Gadea
Ignacio Becerril
Dr. Jordi Jacas
Dr. Nina Carretero
Pengyi Tang
Francesco Chiabrera
Marti Biset
Tècnic Laboratori
Laia Arques
Becaria Doctoral
Alejandro Hernandez
Becari Doctoral
Hemesh Avireddy
Becari Doctoral
Dr. Rafael Trocoli
Dr. Marcos Sanles
Ievgenii Liashenko
Dr. Miguel Morales
Dra. Miriam González
Tècnica de Laboratori
Dra. Nerea Alayo
Dr. Félix Urbain
Arturo Javier Pajares
Becari Doctoral
Dr. Federico Baiutti
Dra. Caroline Willich
Dra. Merce Pacios
Tècnic de Laboratori
Tammy Leung
Becaria Doctoral
Arianna Pesce
Becaria Doctoral
Jacob Andrade
Becari Doctoral

INDUCIS: Development and industrial implementation of cost-effective advanced CIGS photovoltaic technologies. The objective of this project is the interchange of knowledge and the establishment of cooperative synergies between the research and industrial sectors required for the development and industrial implementation of advanced photovoltaic (PV) technologies for the fabrication of low cost, high efficiency, thin-film solar cells and modules. Coordinated.

SCALENANO: Development and scale-up of nanostructured based materials and processes for low-cost high-efficiency chalcogenide based photovoltaics. Scalenano is an integrated project from the Energy 2011 FP7 programme that involves 13 partners including the main European research centres and companies active in thin film chalcogenide PV technologies. The main objective of the project is to achieve significant advances in the competitiveness of these technologies through the development and integration of new industrial scalable processes and new concepts for nanostructure device architecture. This constitutes one of the main research actions funded by the European Commission in the PV research field, with a total budget higher than €10,000,000.

KESTCELLS: Training for sustainable low-cost PV technologies: development of efficient kesterite-based solar cells. KESTCELLS is an interdisciplinary network that includes a wide and ambitious consortium for the advanced cooperative training of high level researchers in the development of new CZTS-based photovoltaic technologies. The consortium includes 12 groups from Universities, Research centres and companies involved in the development of these emerging technologies, with the participation of global pioneers and leading groups in this field, such as Helmholtz Zentrum Berlin and the Universities of Luxembourg, Northumbria, Uppsala and Free Univ. Berlin. Coordinated

PVICOKEST: International cooperative programme for photovoltaic kesterite-based technologies. The objective of this project is the study of the growth and basic properties of new kesterite-based materials specially adapted for low-cost, high-performance and environmentally-friendly photovoltaic technologies. The project builds on the development of new synergies and collaborative activities between participants across Europe, who have a broad knowledge base in related fields.

ATON: Research and development of new energy generation technologies based on thin-film photovoltaic cells. ATON aims to generate new scientific and technological knowledge for acquiring the technological knowhow required by the enterprises belonging to the consortium, for the consolidation of competitive industrial activity in the development and production of more efficient and more economical thin film PV modules, including amorphous Si and CIGS-based technologies.

LIQUION: The use and applications of ionic liquids. The aim of this project is to conduct research into new technologies based on ionic liquids and their industrial applications in the transport, energy, environmental and biomedical sectors. The applications for energy include the creation of batteries and new photovoltaic technologies.

Low cost ceramic-based substrate for chalcogenide-based PV Technology.

Development of Kesterites-based solar cells for low-cost photovoltaic technologies.
KIC-EES: Electric Energy Storage. This KIC project deals with Electric Energy Storage including Hydro-Units, Flywheels and Batteries. The IREC participates in the design and testing of new and more efficient fuel cells and batteries.

SAPIENS: SOFC Auxiliary Power in Emission/Noise Solutions.
This project aims to design, optimize and build several 200W mSOFC stacks and to integrate them into hybrid power systems comprising the fuel cell, a battery and appli-ances found in a recreational vehicle (RV).

SAFARI: SOFC APU for Auxiliary Road-truck Installations
“SAFARI” is a new proposal and consortium assembled to apply the Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) in early markets for auxiliary power supplies on trucks using liquid methane, a fuel increasingly used in the EU because it is economic, low carbon, cleaner than diesel and has greater future availability.

MULTICAT: Development of efficient catalysers for sustainable chemical processes and clean energy generation. The objective of this project is to develop new catalytic processes mainly designed for the production of alternative energies and their storage. The project therefore focuses on the design of multi-site catalysers, and offers the possibility of having consecutive cascade reactions that avoid intermediate separation and purification steps.

POWER-PACK: High energy density (bio) ethanol-fuelled power source for consumer electronic applications and microsystems. The objective of this project is to develop a high energy density power generator based on solid oxide fuel cells and fuelled with (bio) ethanol for powering portable devices and microsystems. This opens up a new line of research for the Nanoionics Group of the Catalonia Institute for Energy Research (IREC).
Funding: MICINN-Proyectos de Investigación Fundamental No Orientada Chemical Vapor Deposition System for Semiconductor Nanowires Growth onto Wafer-like Substrates

Development of solid oxide fuel cells and electrolysers
KIC-EES: Electric Energy Storage. This KIC project deals with Electric Energy Storage comprising Hydro-Units, Flywheels and Batteries. IREC participates in the design and testing of new and more efficient fuel cells and batteries.
Funding: European Institute of Technology - KIC Innoenergy

KIC-Smart Grids. The objective of the project is to facilitate gradual changes in the development of the Smart Grids of the future, through new materials and manufacturing processes.
Funding: European Institute of Technology - KIC Innoenergy

KIC-HIITEG: High Temperature Thermoelectric Generator based on process convergence. The HITTEG is in line with the expected impact of the present project aimed at greening surface transport and industry by recovering energy from the wasted heat, which represents nearly two-thirds of the chemical energy of fuel. Adding a TE converter recovering the heat of the exhaust gases will reduce the load of the alternator and its associated induced consumption, resulting in fuel savings and reduced emissions.
Funding: European Institute of Technology - KIC Innoenergy

KIC-Enthin PV. Encapsulation of thin film PV.

SOI-HITS: Smart Silicon on Insulator Sensing Systems Operating at High Temperature. The project addresses the development of on-chip smart microsystems based on Silicon on Insulator (SOI) technology. The system will contain a Multi-Measurand sensor array with on-chip CMOS electronics able to operate in harsh environmental conditions, such as high temperatures up to 225ºC, and high relative humidity levels to 100%, which are out-of-reach for existing silicon-based devices.

Development of Vanadium Redox Flow Batteries
Funding: (REDES-2025), Singular Strategic Projects. MICINN - Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation

REDOX 2015. Energy Storage for the Electricity Grid. This project is based on research and development of a redox flow battery, considered as a reliable, economical and competitive energy storage technology for industrial and commercial use, allowing for high electrical density storage in a grid.

NANO-EN-ESTO: Multifunctional materials in 3D nano-architectures for energy conversion and storage. The project aims to develop improved electrodes for energy conversion and storage devices.

MULTICAT: Development of efficient catalysers for sustainable chemical processes and clean energy generation. The objective of this project is to develop new catalytic processes mainly designed for the production of alternative energies and their storage. The project therefore focuses on the design of multi-site catalysers, and offers the possibility of having consecutive cascade reactions that avoid intermediate separation and purification steps.

S3: Surface ionisation and new concepts in MOX gas nanosensors (greater selectivity, sensitivity and stability for detecting low concentrations of toxic or explosive gases). EU-funded project to develop new low-consumption che­mical sensors for energy-autonomous systems (energy harvesting) for use in safety sensor networks or energy efficiency control.

SOSTCO2: New sustainable industrial uses for CO2. The project aims to develop an efficient and scalable system for photo-reducing CO2 using mesoporous materials. The first step is to synthesise TiO2 nanocrystalline. The second step will be the evaluation of photovoltaic activity in comparison with the reduction of CO2.

M2E: Electronic materials and M2E power. This consolidated research group carries out activities related to electronic materials and power.

JPI-2. Photoelectrocatalytic applications for CO2 reduction

XaRMAE: Advanced Materials for Energy Network
The priority research lines of the XaRMAE are new materials, methods and processes for energy production, storage and transportation, and its rational use. The network also offers scientific and technological support to other public and private institutes and companies.

MULTICAT. Development of efficient catalysers for sustainable chemical processes and clean energy generation. The objective of this project is to develop new catalytic processes mainly designed for the production and storage of alternative energies. The project therefore focuses on the design of multi-site catalysers, and offers the possibility of having consecutive cascade reactions that avoid intermediate separation and purification steps.

CICYT. Tailored multi-component catalysts for the production of high-purity hydrogen by oxidative steam-reforming of bioalcohols