Daniel Errandonea: materials under pressure

Professor Daniel Errandonea is an Argentinean born physicist from Universitat de Valencia, Spain. With over 180 published articles, his experimental work with materials under extreme conditions has implications for green technology. Most recently Errandonea and colleagues have explored phase transitions in orthovanadates.

What research projects are you and your group currently working on?

We are working on a number of projects which involve the study of materials at extreme conditions, high pressure and high temperature, using a wide array of experimental techniques. The idea is to use such conditions to radically alter the properties of materials, creating materials and phases not observed under normal conditions. We work in a wide variety of materials, from noble gases, metals, and oxides to semiconducting and ceramic materials. In particular, a vast part of our research activity has been recently dedicated to the study of ternary oxides, including vanadates, tungstates, phosphates, chromates, etc. Much of our research is performed in close collaboration between experiment and theory. We also regularly benefit from the use of large scientific facilities, such as synchrotrons; e.g. ALBA. Recently, we have discovered several novel phases in orthovanadates, which potentially could be useful for the development of green technology applications like photocatalytic hydrogen production.

What motivated you to pursue this field of research?

I have been involved in high-pressure research since doing my Ph.D. at Universitat de Valencia in the late 1990s. After postdoctoral positions in Germany and the USA I could establish myself as an independent scientist in Valencia, working in collaboration with other scientists from Valencia and with members of the MALTA consortium. One of the main reasons that first motivated me to work in high-pressure research is the possibility to mimic processes and phenomena similar to those occurring in the interior of the Earth and other planetary objects in order to understand their physical, chemical, and geological foundations and implications. The possibility of developing novel materials for applications in diverse technological areas also keeps me interested in pursuing high-pressure research.

Where do you think the field is heading?

It is not easy to try to predict where my research field may head in the future. Nowadays, there are many excellent scientists working very hard in high-pressure research, with many promising problems currently studied. Making such a prediction sounds to me intellectually arrogant. Therefore, I will just mention a few topics which appear to be interesting for me. They include:

1) the study of amorphous materials, which can be can be irreversibly compacted by pressure leading to novel materials with optical properties, densities, and chemical properties. These can be continuously tuned by changing the applied pressure.

2) The study of intermetallic compounds, which could be used in thermoelectric devices with high cooling efficiencies.

3) The exploration of methods of hydrogen storage in solids and CO2 trapping in minerals of the Earth’s mantle.

4) The study of the properties of multiferroic and ferroelectric materials under high-pressure conditions.

5) Finally, the examination of the chemistry and physical properties of materials that comprise deep planetary interiors (including melting studies) will continue to be a hot topic for decades. All this will come together with the permanent development of high-pressure techniques, pushing up the maximum pressure and temperatures achievable in experiments.

What interests you outside of science?

I have many other interests. Firstly, I devote part of my time to my family. My wife is also a physicist and we both make efforts to make compatible our scientific careers with raising two sons. My main interests are in politics and history. I like to learn about history and to be informed on politics. History is a way to understand the previous and present civilizations. Politics and governments have a large influence in our life, so I think that we should be keen in knowing what is going on in politics. I also enjoy traveling since I like discovering new countries and cultures. Finally, I enjoy doing sport; especially, like most Argentineans, I like football and when I was younger I was considered to be a good full-back defender.

What do you find to be the most rewarding aspects of your job?

There are many aspects I like from my job.

  • To solve new problems and to be constantly learning.
  • To work with young people and to share with others what I have learnt.
  • The fact that there is a large freedom to choose a research subject and to decide what to do in the laboratory.
  • To have the possibility to constantly meet bright people from whom I can learn.
  • To be paid a decent salary for doing something I enjoy doing every day.

What would you say to a student who wanted to shape her or his future with a career in science?

In order to make a career in science young people should look for promising new lines of investigation. It is important to choose a strong research group with international recognition. The selection of a Ph.D. thesis advisor is also an important consideration. The advisor should be not only an expert on the topic of study, but also the student has to like the advisor and their working style, since the student will have to work with the advisor for years. Go to conferences and make efforts to give goods talks. Work hard and do not be afraid to ask stupid questions. However, the most important advice I have is to think critically about your work, to understand the core science involved in your research subject avoiding the superficial, and to build your credibility by being rigorous, deep, and serious.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Photo of Errandonea provided with permission. Copyright Daniel Errandonea 2016.



Categories: Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter

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