Oxides at the nanoscale offer new and largely unexplored opportunities to establish novel advanced technologies or to improve existing technologies based on oxide materials.
A major barrier in the development of new applications and uses of oxides at the nanoscale is the ability to synthesize nanoparticles, nanostructures and ultrathin films with precisely controlled size, composition and shape in a way that is economically and ecologically sustainable. Therefore, processing of the nanoscale building blocks into the real materials suitable for applications is of essential importance in view of revealing the high performance and new properties. This is one major motivation and primary objective of the present research proposal. However, significant advances cannot be achieved only on the basis of trial-and-error but must rather be based on an atomic level understanding of the physical and chemical properties of the materials and in particular on the relationship between structure-composition-property and the reduced dimensionality of the oxide nanostructures. This is a very challenging task because oxides can adopt a great variety of structures and compositions and the properties of oxide materials at the nanoscale may differ significantly from the typical and well known bulk phases. Therefore, advanced characterization tools are needed beside advanced synthetic routes in order to fully exploit the potentialities of the field.
For all these reasons, an integrated approach is required to study nanostructured oxides, and this is only possible with a joint combined effort where various expertise and competences are put together. This implies to cover aspects that go from theoretical design, synthesis and preparation under various conditions, detailed structural and electronic characterization, up to the implementation and engineering in working devices. We aim at a synergic effort at three different levels. The first synergy is the merge of different expertise to study multifunctional oxides relevant in advanced technologies by connecting scientists with background as diverse as physics, synthetic chemistry, electrochemistry, surface science, material science, catalysis, microelectronics, electronic structure, industrial R&D, etc. The second synergy is to cover a broad range of materials shape and dimensionality, going from clusters to nanoparticles and colloids, from nanostructures to nanowires, from nanotubes to ultrathin films. Finally, the third synergy is related to the possibility to cover aspects which go from basic science, theoretical modeling, investigations under UHV conditions, to wet chemistry, systems operating in normal working conditions up to actual devices and applications.
This ambitious goal will be achieved by combining in a joint effort 13 national groups with solid international reputation working in different environments: 6 groups active at Universities, 4 groups associated to the National Research Council (CNR), one group active at the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT), one high-tech international company (SAES Getters) and one small spin-off company (E.T.C.).