Ural Federal University: University Scientists Work on Advanced Nanomaterials

Synthesis of new materials with unique characteristics for practical applications is the goal of the project “Experimental and Theoretical Investigation of Physical Properties of Advanced Nanomaterials,” which was launched at Ural Federal University. The state program for supporting universities, Priority 2030, in which the Ural Federal University is a participant, is also focused on this very goal. The project will last until 2025 inclusive.

The project is implemented by six groups consisting of 40 scientists. Researchers are united by general objectives: to study and describe the formation processes and physical features of micro- and nanoscale structures to create promising solid-state materials based on segmentelectrics, dielectrics, semiconductors, and superconductors.

The project is led by the world-renowned scientist Vladimir Shur, Professor at the Department of Condensed Matter Physics and Nanoscale Systems, Chief Researcher at the Section of Optoelectronics and Semiconductor Technology, and Head of the Ural Multiple Access Center “Modern Nanotechnologies”. One of the experimental-theoretical groups under his leadership studies the evolution of domain structures in ferroelectric crystals.

“Segnetoelectrics have a domain structure that can be changed by applying an external electric field. The creation of stable domain structures with a given geometry is a rapidly developing field of science and technology – domain engineering. Targeted design of micro- and nanoscale domain structures makes it possible to significantly improve a variety of important application-specific characteristics of segmentelectrics,” says Vladimir Shur.

The study of domain kinetics in the electric field is also important because ferroelectrics are actively used in ferroelectric memory devices with record-breaking write densities, high read and rewrite rates, and low power consumption.

In addition, the group of Vladimir Shur studies the processes of creating surface micro- and nanostructures as a result of laser irradiation. The goal is to obtain materials with self-cleaning ability, increased anti-corrosion and anti-icing properties.

“Rolling down from such a surface, the water drops remove all impurities. The idea of this technology is borrowed from nature, so the phenomenon is called the “lotus effect. The surface can be structured in such a way that the liquid spreads out in specified directions (the field of research on the behavior of small volumes of liquids during such manipulations is called microfluidics). A laser-treated fluoroplastic plate with a structured surface can serve as a filter that separates oil from water,” Shur explains.

Material scientists led by Denis Alikin, Senior Researcher at the Ural Multiple Access Center “Modern Nanotechnologies”, will study other thin-film and ceramic segmentelectric materials, as well as thermoelectrics and ionic conductors. As a result, mechanisms for strengthening their mechanical, piezoelectric, and thermal properties, which are necessary for creating micro- and nanoscale devices for converting electrical energy into mechanical energy, storing and storing mechanical, thermal, and electrical energy, and providing non-volatile power for electronic circuits and sensors, will be revealed. The group also focuses on the development of prototypes of microelectromechanical and nanoelectronic devices using electron, ion, and probe lithography methods.

The experimental-theoretical research group, which is headed by Aleksandr Germanenko, Vice-Rector for Research at Ural Federal University and Head of the Department of Condensed Matter Physics and Nanoscale Systems, studies rare-earth zirconates as well as germanates and silicates. His interest in these crystals stems from their use in the creation and optimization of optoelectronic devices, as matrices for laser materials, luminophores, radiation detectors, and luminescent probes.

The experimental team headed by Vladimir Vazhenin, Head of the Section of Optoelectronics and Semiconductor Technology, will use magnetic resonance methods to study defect centers that modify the properties of quantum electronics materials, in particular, crystals of yttrium and scandium silicates. In addition, information will be obtained on the defectiveness of a number of ceramic materials and nanowires. The studied materials are promising for creation of quantum storage devices, fast scintillation materials and laser applications in the infrared region of the spectrum.

The object of the experimenters’ attention, headed by Nadezhda Selezneva, Head of the Academic and Research Laboratory of X-Ray Evaluation of Substances and Materials, is chalcogenides of transition metals with layered structures. The results of this scientific work will provide a holistic picture of their physical properties, establishing the relationship between the crystal, electronic structure, and magnetic properties. Scientists seek to understand the mechanisms of change in the properties of such compounds as a function of temperature and pressure. Iron-containing chalcogenides can be used to create permanent magnets without rare-earth elements, materials for high-density data recording, and superconducting materials with improved characteristics.

A group of theorists led by Aleksandr Moskvin, Professor of the Department of Theoretical and Mathematical Physics, is studying the mechanism of formation of the properties of high-temperature superconducting compounds of copper and nickel – cuprates and nickelates.

“Despite many years of efforts by scientists, the nature of superconductivity of high-temperature superconductors has not yet been established. The solution of this problem makes the prospects of obtaining the superconducting state at temperatures close to room temperature quite real,” explains Vladimir Shur.

The project “Experimental and Theoretical Investigation of Physical Properties of Advanced Nanomaterials” is implemented in cooperation with leading institutes of the Ural and Siberian departments of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Kazan Scientific Center of the RAS, with Moscow, Samara, Tyumen, and Novosibirsk state universities, as well as universities in Armenia, Belarus, China, and Brazil.

The project will result in the publication of monographs and hundreds of articles in reputable scientific journals indexed in international databases, the defense of PhD and doctoral dissertations, and the filing of applications for patents.

The key to the project’s success is the extensive experience of Ural Federal University scientists in experimental and theoretical research on the above-mentioned topics. For example, works in the field of segmentelectricity and domain engineering under the leadership of Vladimir Shur, one of the most productive and cited scientists of the UrFU, have been recognized by the world scientific community. The comprehensive study of compounds based on transition metal chalcogenides was crowned not only by a large number of publications in highly ranked scientific journals, but also by registered patents.

Scientists use the laboratory and technological base of the Ural Center for Collective Use “Modern Nanotechnologies” with equipment worth over 1 billion rubles.

“The Center’s equipment makes it possible to study electronic and photonic phenomena, study the structural properties of materials, conduct measurements of electrophysical properties in a wide temperature range, and conduct microscopic studies using scanning methods,” comments Vladimir Shur, who is the Head of the Center.

At present, the Ural Multiple Access Center “Modern Nanotechnologies” is being re-equipped as part of a project of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation (075-15-2021-677).

According to Vladimir Shur, the Center acts as the executive secretariat of the BRICS Network Center for Materials Science and Nanotechnology, which represents the shared-use centers of leading universities and academic institutions in Russia, China, India, South Africa, and Brazil. Among the main goals of the Network Center is the organization of international cooperation and coordination of research activities in the field of materials science and nanotechnology.

“The resources of this international network can be used by any interested scientist from the participating organizations. Material science and nanotechnology are extremely relevant areas of modern world science, which are represented at a very high level in the BRICS countries,” says Vladimir Shur.