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NANOELECTROMECHANICAL MOTION IN FUNCTIONAL MATERIALS

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Into the intriguing world of nanomaterials

In the quest to learn more about motion at the nanoscale, an EU-funded network of leading institutes around Europe has supported promising researchers in making their first steps in nanomaterial characterisation using scanning probe techniques.

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The NANOMOTION (Nanoelectromechanical motion in functional materials) network ran from 2011 to 2015, training the next generation of researchers on state-of-the-art nanoelectromechanical tools. Intensive workshops and exchange visits contributed to making 12 early-stage researchers and 2 experienced researchers experts in piezoresponse force microscopy (PFM) and electrochemical strain microscopy (ESM). PFM applies an electric field through the probe tip of a scanning force microscope to measure the piezoelectric response – the reversible deformation in response to an electric field. ESM, another type of scanning probe microscopy, probes electrochemical reactivity and ionic flows in solids with unprecedented resolution and is particularly valuable in energy research. NANOMOTION fellows successfully applied PFM, for the first time, to lead-free piezoelectric ceramics and thin films. The materials are environmentally friendly alternatives to ferroelectric perovskites (PZTs), the most widely employed class of piezoelectric ceramics. Use of PZTs is, however, to be restricted by the EU and there is currently no equivalent on the market. Another line of research involved the investigation of multiferroic materials. Few materials exhibit both ferroelectricity and ferromagnetism, but magnetoelectric coupling at the nanoscale is common and currently the subject of intensive research. Fellows prepared and characterised laminar multiferroic composites, providing valuable insights into magnetoelectric coupling effects at nanoscale. Combining cutting-edge techniques and best practice with strong private sector involvement, NANOMOTION not only helped to launch the careers of dedicated researchers but also to revolutionise multiple fields, from materials science to engineering. In particular, a boost to multifunctional nanomaterials research is expected to have an impact on the development of nanoelectromechanical systems.

Keywords

Nanomaterials, NANOMOTION, piezoresponse force microscopy, electrochemical strain microscopy, piezoelectric ceramics

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