Within the nanomaterials research domain at IMO-IMOMEC, physicists and chemists combine their complementary expertises to prepare, study and apply nanostructured materials. In the field of physics and chemistry there is a general trend to move towards materials that are downsized into the nanoscale, for at least one of their dimensions. This downscaling is driven by applications such as ultra-high density data storage, highly efficient solar cells, miniaturization in nanoelectronics, photocatalysis, high density and high power energy storage, etc. The challenges in this research field are numerous. First of all, nanosized material units have to be prepared and manipulated to form novel solid materials. For instance, in order to prepare a nm thick metal oxide film, precursor solutions are synthesized, which contain a homogeneous mixture of all the metal ion building blocks. These precursors are deposited by e.g. spincoating in order to prepare a film onto a substrate that is appropriate for the envisaged application. Another example are ordered arrays of metal nanoparticles on top of suitable substrates taking advantage of the self-organization of macromolecules into micellar structures. In this case, physical methods like plasma etching are required to obtain the desired pure nanostructures. Besides inorganic nanomaterials, organic nanostructures (molecules) attract increasing attention since they could serve as new building blocks for, e.g., future nanoelectronic devices ("Molecular Electronics").
Once the nanomaterials are prepared, the fundamental processes that lie at the basis of their functional properties are studied, and theoretical models can be designed to explain the newly observed phenomena. It is imperative to unravel the relationships between the structure and the properties of the nanomaterials, since these can differ enormously from their macroscopic counterparts. Finally, an important issue is also to design new synthesis routes and equipment to allow the fabrication of the nanomaterials in the proper state.