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Iván Caño and Remei Escudero: 2nd and 3rd prize at the SCN2 Dresselhaus Awards for ther research works

Iván Caño and Remei Escudero, former Bachelor Students in Physics and Nanoscience and Nanotechnology at the UAB, have won, respectively, the 2nd and 3rd prize of the Dresselhaus Awards, organized by the Catalan Society of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (SCN2). The two students had to defend their work by presenting a poster to a jury formed by PhD fellows of related fields. 

Jan 10, 2020

The Dresselhaus Awards event took place on 17 December 2019, and the winners were announced on 3 January 2020

Iván Caño: Perovskites for photovoltaics

Iván Caño, winner of the 2nd prize, did his Physics Bachelor's Final Project under the supervision of Mariona Coll, at the SUMAN group. His work was entitled "Compositional nanoengineering in ferroelectric perovskites for photovoltaic applications". 

"I am very grateful for the opportunity given by the SCN2 to participate in this initiative. It is the first time these awards have been held, and it made me very happy to win one of them. The experience of sharing my project with other students in an atmosphere of constructive competition was very rewarding by itself" - Iván Caño.

Iván is currently studying a master’s degree in Engineering Physics at the UPC (Barcelona), with a specialization in physics of matter and materials. He has been granted with a scholarship to work at the ICMAB under the direction of Mariona Coll, collaborating in a research project to study and implement chemical methods for all-oxide photovoltaics.

"My contribution consists in investigating innovative nanoengineering techniques to transfer thin films to low-priced, easy to scale substrates, by working with free-standing, removable oxide layers. In the next years I would like to do my PhD and continue working in the fields of materials science and alternative energy. I believe materials will have a consequential role in the development of more sustainable, efficient and environmentally friendly societies, and I would very much like to be part of this scientific and technological revolution" - Iván Caño.  

Abstract of the research project:

In recent years, there has been a worldwide concern for finding alternatives to fossil and nuclear fuels, being solar energy one of the most promising renewable sources to satisfy the global energy needs. Although commercial Si-based PV devices have been remarkably successful, they present some drawbacks, such as the difficulty to achieve improvements in efficiencies, life and performance in time. Otherwise, an all-oxide PV approach is very attractive due to the chemical, mechanical and thermal stability, robustness and nontoxicity of their components.

Particularly, ferroelectric perovskite oxides have aroused great interest as promising light collectors for solar energy harvesting. They present alternative mechanisms for photovoltaic charge separation, through which it is possible to surpass the fundamental efficiency limits of conventional semiconductors, but their band-gap falls in the UV range. Since the maximum of sunlight emission corresponds to the visible and near-infrared, it is convenient to have materials with band-gap values in those ranges. Therefore, one of the biggest challenges so far is to reduce the band-gap towards the visible region while simultaneously retaining ferroelectricity. Recently, BiFe1-xCoxO3 has demonstrated huge potential as a new visible light absorber material. Here we prepare a series of rare earth doped BiFe0.7Co0.3O3 thin films by chemical solution deposition in order to unlock its full potential and gain new insights on the cross-coupling mechanism of light absorption and ferroelectricity, and how it is influenced by the chemical composition.

Remei Escudero: Protein corona on magnetic nanoparticles

Remei Escudero, winner of the 3rd prize, did her Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Bachelor's Final Project under the supervision of Anna Roig and Carlos Moya, at the NN group. Her work was entitled "Preformation of a protein corona on superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles with human serum albumin". 

She is co-author of the article "Insights into Preformed Human Serum Albumin Corona on Iron Oxide Nanoparticles: Structure, Effect of Particle Size, Impact on MRI Efficiency, and Metabolization" (Carlos Moya, Remei Escudero, David C. Malaspina, Maria de la Mata, Jesús Hernández-Saz, Jordi Faraudo, Anna Roig)published in ACS Appl. Bio Mater. (2019, 2, 7, 3084-3094, doi:10.1021/acsabm.9b00386). 

Remei is currently studying a master's degree in Nanomedicine in Louvain (Belgium). 

Abstract of the article:

In the past decade, profuse research efforts explored the uses of iron oxide particles in nanomedicine. To a great extent, the efficiency and fate of those magnetic nanoparticles depend on how their surfaces interface with the proteins in a physiological environment. It is well reported how an ungoverned protein corona can be detrimental to cellular uptake and targeting efficiency and how it can modify the nanoparticles biodistribution. Novel strategies are emerging to achieve enhanced and more reproducible performances of engineered nanoparticles with a custom-built protein corona.

Here we report on a generalized protocol to preform a monolayer of human serum albumin (HSA) on superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (SPIONs) of different sizes. The resulting molecular structures are described by molecular dynamics simulations of the hybrid nanoconjugates. The simulations outcomes regarding the number of proteins in the corona and their monolayer arrangement on the particle surface are in agreement with the results obtained from dynamic light scattering and electronic microscopy analysis. Using tryptophan fluorescence quenching, we revealed the existence of a strong interaction between the SPIONs and the HSA which endorses the robustness of the protein−nanoparticle conjugates in this system. Moreover, we evaluated the effect of the HSA corona on the SPIONs efficiency as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) contrast agents in water, human serum, and saline media. The protein corona did not affect the efficiency of the SPIONs as T2 contrast agents but reduce their T1 efficiency. In addition, we observed a greater stability for HSA-SPIONs nanoconjugates in saline and in acid media, preventing nanoparticle dissolution in extreme gastric conditions.

Other prizes

The Dresselhaus Awards 1st prize was for Sara Lumbreras i Navarro, former Physics student at the UB for her work on the "Developement of a computer-based tool for a novel microscopy technique", supervised by Mario Montes-Usategui (Physics Faculty, UB). A special mention award was given to Sergio Campos i Jara, former Nanoscience and Nanotechnology student at the UAB for his work on "Ru and RuO2 nanoparticles on multiwall nanotubes for water treatment", supervised by Núria Romero and Xavier Sala Romàn (Science Faculty, UAB). 

About the Dresselhaus Awards

The SCN2 Dresselhaus Awards were created in 2019 to promote and reward scientific excellence, taking into accunt social, gender and environmental awareness, as well as the technology transfer of the research. In their first year, these awards are aimed at rewarding the work done by students during their Bachelor's Final Project (TFG) in those disciplines related to nanoscience and nanotechnology: physics, chemistry, biotechnology, biomedicine, electronic engineering, etc. Any TFG relate dto nanoscience and nanotechnology was welcome to participate in the awards. 

The 1st award was awarded with 100 €, the 2nd with 50 € and the 3rd with 30 €, and with the possibility of becoming members of the SCN2 for three years without any cost. The jury was formed by PhD fellows who volunteered to do this task. Several PhD fellows from the ICMAB participated in the jury, such as Miquel Torras or Pamela Machado. 

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