The European Ceramic Society


Oct 5, 2023

YCN Newsletter 18 - Research in Spot "Selective peptides to build semiconductor heterostructures in a sustainable way" by Ana Castellanos-Aliaga

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was, and remains to date, an ambitious plan of action to achieve a sustainable future that Heads of State committed to achieve over 15 years (2015-2030).

In this context, various research projects have shown that the development of new materials and innovative strategies for sustainable transformation will play a key role in achieving this goal.

In this framework, my PhD focuses on the sustainable production of heterostructures of two of the main semiconductors to date: TiO2 and ZnO. On one hand, we carry out strict control of the morphology of each semiconductor, being able to modulate and enhance their properties. In this way, we have obtained to date nanoparticles of TiO2 with different degrees of truncation and also nanostructured microspheres. In the case of ZnO, we have obtained a variety of morphologies such as sheets, nanowires and seeds.

On the other hand, we do not only focus on sustainable synthesis but also have developed a sustainable methodology to obtain semiconductor heterostructures. Our methodology is based on molecular recognition: a selective peptide would allow the self-assembly of both semiconductors. We have also applied this method to remove nanoparticles from wastewater.

Since a heterostructure reduces the electron-hole recombination, it is meant to improve the photocatalytic response of each semiconductor. Therefore, we also test the photocatalytic response of the heterostructures obtained. Our results show an improvement of this property, being able to degrade pollutants such as Methyl Orange faster than the ZnO and TiO2 themselves, even at very low concentrations.

This methodology makes it possible to obtain different geometries with high precision under mild conditions (aqueous media and temperatures below 40 ºC). The sustainability of this process is remarkable since the current methods to obtain semiconductor heterostructures require organic solvents, strong acids or bases, high temperatures and vacuum. It also opens the door to the remediation of waters that are currently limited in the degradation of components such as drugs, plastics and nanoparticles.

The results obtained so far have led to the publication of several articles, the application for a patent and recently, at the last ECerS conference, the first prize of photography.

Last but not least, if you are interested in our work, please feel free to contact me! I would be pleased to hear from you.



  1. “Along the shore of the peptide sea”. 1st prize of YCN photo contest
  2. SEM micrograph of a thin ZnO film covered with peptides. ZnO film morphology causes wave effect when coated with peptides
  3. Self-assembly of TiO2 microspheres and ZnO thin film through molecular recognition.


Ana Castellanos-Aliaga

PhD Student (FPU Fellow)

Department of Electroceramics, Funceramics group (

Instituto de Cerámica y Vidrio – CSIC

Madrid, Spain 

Last news

Apr 18, 2024
Next Deadline to apply to the JECS Trust is 31st May 2024!

Please note that the decisions of the JECS Trust board will not be known before end of July 2024. Activities submitted for the deadline of 31st May 2024 for support from the JECS Trust should then not begin before mid-August 2024.

Apr 17, 2024
YCN Newsletter 21 - Interview of Dr. Stefan Pfeiffer

Interview of Dr. Stefan Pfeiffer Managing Director of the Deutsche Keramische Gesellschaft (DKG) and former YCN representative


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