Marsden Success 2013

Marsden Success 2013

Four Principal Investigators of The MacDiarmid Institute have been awarded Marsden Fund grants.

Congratulations to Principal Investigators Profs Sally Brooker (Otago) Alison Downard (Canterbury) and Jeff Tallon (Callaghan Innovation) and Associate Investigator Dr Franck Natali (Victoria) for their success as the lead scientists on newly awarded Marsden grants.

Graphene supercapacitors: transforming energy storage solutions

Professor Alison Downard


Our modern society relies on ever-increasing amounts of energy, putting efficient generation of electricity using renewable sources high on international agendas. However, most renewable energy technology also requires efficient storage at greater levels than can currently be managed. Supercapacitors are emerging as a possible solution.

Semiconductor-based spintronics: can rare-earth nitrides and group III-nitrides get it together?

Dr Franck Natali


The everyday electronics in our computers and phones are based on semiconductor technology. They use the flow of electric charge (electrons) to manipulate and store information. However, the new kid on the block is known as spintronics.

Designer spin crossover: towards nanoswitches, sensors and displays

Professor Sally Brooker


Spin crossover complexes can act as nano-switches because they can switch between two states, low spin and high spin (which have distinctly different colour, size and magnetism). Switching between these states occurs on perturbation, for example by a change of temperature or pressure, or by irradiation, and in special cases exhibits a memory effect. Such complexes are attractive for the development of functional nano-components, and represent a ‘bottom up’ approach to ‘molecular’ computers, rather than the current ‘top down’ approach of etching smaller and smaller circuits onto silicon chips. Hence considerable international attention is being directed at developing such nano-components and the associated fundamental science that underpins this research.

Dipoles of Charge or Spin – what is the pairing mechanism in HTS cuprates?

Dr Jeff Tallon


New Zealand plays a leading role in the commercial development of high-temperature superconductors through HTS-110 Ltd; and contributes extensively to fundamental knowledge of these materials. Despite huge international efforts their complex physics is still not understood. Superconductivity arises from pairing of electrons, but the “glue” that binds them remains unknown. Many believe it to be magnetism arising from spins residing on the copper (or iron) atoms. This proposal seeks to break the impasse by firstly introducing a new systematic approach to study these materials, namely changing ion size in order to systematically vary the electron interaction strength. This simple method is applicable to the complete range of physical spectroscopies available to the community and should introduce a more methodical approach to the global study of high-temperature superconductors. Secondly, we explore the implications of this approach for competing dielectric and magnetic models for electron pairing. Is it coherent fluctuations of charge or spin dipoles which do the business? Unexpectedly, preliminary results favour the former – a dielectric model, just as predicted by one of our team. We bring to bear both theory and experiment, including a wide range of established and new techniques, here and abroad, to settle the issue.