10 January 2022

Manuel Souto was awarded an ERC Starting Grant

Manuel Souto was awarded an ERC Starting Grant

The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded Manuel Souto, researcher at CICECO-Aveiro Institute of Materials and Assistant Professor at the Department of Chemistry of the University of Aveiro, a highly prestigious Starting Grant worth 1.5 million euros. This is the second and third ERC Starting Grant awarded to CICECO and UA researchers, respectively.

The ERC project of Manuel Souto aims at exploring a new generation of porous organic polymers, known as Covalent Organic Frameworks (COFs), to be used as electrodes in lithium batteries, and is entitled “Molecular design of electrically conductive COFs as efficient electrodes for lithium batteries”. One of the advantages of these materials is their great versatility, because their physical properties can be modulated à la carte by chemical design.

One of the major project challenges is to increase COFs electrical conductivity, as this is the main bottleneck for real applications, explains the ERC awarded researcher. "An important goal is to further understand at the fundamental level the charge transport in these materials, so the project will also have a major impact on other fields, such as optoelectronics, and on the development of other energy storage devices, besides lithium batteries." Another important objective is to optimize COFs processing, in order to increase the performance of the batteries.

Manuel Souto says he realized that one of the limitations of COFs is their low electrical conductivity, which poses problems for their use in certain applications. He considered, however, that he could contribute some new ideas inspired by his previous work in the field of organic conductors, his PhD specialty. Thus, he explains, "this ERC project is interdisciplinary, and one of the central ideas is to combine the fields of COFs and organic electronics.”

The partnership that will make the work feasible involves collaborations with researchers from CICECO (Manuel Melle Franco), and another Portuguese university (Helena Braga, FEUP/U. Porto), and with researchers from Spain, Germany, Belgium and South Korea.

Manuel Souto, 33 years old, is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Chemistry and researcher at CICECO since 2019. He obtained his PhD (triple award-winning thesis) in Materials Science, in 2016, from the Institute of Materials Science of Barcelona (ICMAB-CSIC) working on multifunctional organic radicals. In 2017, he started working as postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Molecular Science (ICMol-University of Valencia) in the field of Metal-Organic Frameworks. His main current research interest is the design and synthesis of new functional electroactive porous frameworks for different applications in electronics. 

In addition to this grant worth 1.5 million euros, the CICECO's record includes other eight ERC grants: two Advanced Grant (ERC-AdG), two Consolidator Grant (ERC-CoG), one Starting Grant (ERC-StG), and three Proof of Concept grants (ERC-PoC).

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