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iqfr enThe Institute of Physical Chemistry "Rocasolano" (IQFR) is located at the seat of the former National Institute of Physics and Chemistry, that in the period 1932-1936 spearheaded Spanish science. These days, the research interests of the IQFR range from fundamental aspects of physical chemistry to nanoscience and atmospheric chemistry or the application of physical-chemical techniques to problems of biological interest. Our research priorities include a variety of subjects, such as structural biology, functional biophysics, chemical kinetics and reactivity, computational chemistry and physics, laser design and applications, or surface structure and chemistry, together with other topics connected to interdisciplinary research in the field materials science and nanotechnology and the molecular basis of biological processes.


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Alejandro Manjavacas, granted with the Young Investigator 2016 Prize

manjavacasAlejandro Manjavacas Arévalo, a former PhD student at the IQFR, has been distinguished with the Young Investigator 2016 prize, granted jointly by the Spanish Physical Royal Society and the BBVA Foundation.
Dr Manjavaca, now at the New Mexico University (USA) as Associated Investigator, carried out his PhD research on “Light-matter interactions at nano-level” at this Institute, under the supervision of Prof. J. García Abajo. His doctoral dissertation, together with that of Dr. Luis Cerdán also from the IQFR, was distinguished with the “Premio Extraordinario 2012-2013” by the Complutense University of Madrid.


The ERC funds the research of Alfonso Saiz-López

ERC alfonso saizAlfonso Saiz-Lopez, Research Scientist at CSIC and Head of the Link to the ERC press release in this Institute, has obtained an ERC Consolidator Grant 2016 funded with 2 M euros by the European Research Council for the 5-year project “Climate dimension of natural halogens in the Earth system: Past, present, future (CLIMAHAL)”.
Through an extremely competitive selection process, the ERC Consolidator Grants will fund 314 projects (24 in Spain) out of 2300 applications. The CLIMAHAL project will use a multidisciplinary approach including spectroscopic and kinetic methods, and theoretical modelling to determine for the first time how natural halogen molecules affect the climate of our planet in past, present and future scenarios.
The ERC Consolidator Grants open every year to support research of consolidated and exceptional scientists of any nationality and age. The ERC selects pioneering and high risk projects with ground-breaking ideas within their fields of research.

Link to the ERC press release



zenonWe study thermochemical [1] and electronic properties [2] of halogen-containing species with relevance to several atmospherical processes (e.g. catalytic ozone destruction and air quality).
On the one hand, we found that Gn (Gaussian-n, n = 3,4) ab initio computations are accurate theoretical methods to provide reliable heat of formation and carbon-halogen bond-energy values of a wide variety of chlorinated and brominated organic species [1]. These data will be implemented in climate models in order to evaluate the atmospheric-impact of these compounds.

On the other hand, we have shown that the CASPT2 methodology ("Complete Active Self Consistent Field Perturbation Theory”) is also an excellent method for providing reliable values of absorption optical parameters (within the UV-Vis range) of representative species such as IBr and HgBr2 which have particular connotation in photochemical atmospheric processes [2].

[1] J.Z. Dávalos, R. Notario, C.A. Cuevas, J.M. Oliva, A. Saiz-Lopez: “Thermochemistry of halogen-containing organic compounds with influence on atmospheric chemistry”. Comp. Theor. Chem. 1099 (2017) 36-44. DOI:10.1016/j.comptc.2016.11.009
[2] S.P. Sitkiewicz, J.M. Oliva, J.Z. Dávalos, R. Notario, A. Saiz-Lopez, D.R. Alcoba, O.B. Oña, D. Roca-Sanjuán; “Ab initio quantum-chemical computations of the electronic states in HgBr2 and IBr: Molecules of interest on the Earth's atmosphere”. J. Chem. Phys. 145 (2016) 244304, 1-14. DOI:10.1063/1.4971856


magnetiteMagnetite is the material used to track the history of the Earth magnetic field. Thus its magnetism, and especially its changes with temperature, have attracted a long-standing interest. Magnetite undergoes several phase transitions, some purely magnetic, like the spin-reorientation transition (typically at 130-140K) where the magnetization changes direction, and others, like the Verwey transition, a metal-insulator transition due to a change in the crystal structure, from cubic to monoclinic. We have recently employed novel microscopy techniques to observe the changes of magnetic domains due to these transitions: one, spin-polarized low-energy electron microscopy (SPLEEM), of which there are four instruments in the world, in collaboration with Andreas K. Schmid and coworkers from the Berkeley National Laboratory, and the other, spin-resolved photoemission electron microscopy (spin-PEEM), of which there is currently only one instrument, at the Max Planck Insitute for Microstructure Physics (Halle), in collaboration with Christian Tusche. Upper left-hand figure: SPLEEM image of the magnetic domains below the Verwey temperature, color-coded for the orientation of the magnetization as shown in the circle below (1). Right-hand figure: spin-PEEM image (2) of the magnetization above (upper image) and below (lower image) the Verwey temperature. These techniques allowed us to obtain images with nm resolution of the magnetic domains below and above the transition temperature.

(1) Laura Martín-García, Arantzazu Mascaraque, Beatriz M. Pabón, Roland Bliem, Gareth S. Parkinson, Gong Chen (陈宫), Andreas K. Schmid, and Juan de la Figuera, "Spin reorientation transition on magnetite (001)", Phys. Rev. B 93 (2016) 134419, DOI:10.1103/PhysRevB.93.134419

(2) J. de la Figuera and C. Tusche, "The Verwey transition observed by spin-resolved photoemission electron microscopy", App. Surf. Sci. (2016), DOI:10.1016/j.apsusc.2016.05.140


HBC revised-MMRThe discovery of stable amyloids composed solely of polar residues surprised scholars who believed that protein conformational stability is chiefly due to the hydrophobic effect. These amyloids, rich in Asn and Gln residues, form extensive hydrogen bonding networks. When aligned, hydrogen bond networks are strengthened due to cooperative effects arising from hyperpolarization. In this work, Density Functional Theory and Natural Bonding Orbital analysis were applied to study a series of polar and hydrophobic peptides in amyloid-like oligomers of different sizes and revealed that hydrogen bond networks formed by Asn and Gln side chains experience a distinct class of cooperativity that strengthens them significantly relative to main chain hydrogen bond networks. These computational results were corroborated experimentally utilizing recognition by amyloid specific molecular probes, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and experimental electric conductivity measurements on Asn/Gln-rich and hydrophobic peptides. On the basis of these findings, approaches to selectively inhibit the formation of polar versus hydrophobic amyloids can now be devised.

The figure shows a schematic representation of the delocalized electron density (blue shading) in the H-bond networks formed by Asn side chains (left) and the peptide backbone (right).

Miguel Mompeán, Aurora Nogales, Tiberio A. Ezquerra & Douglas V. Laurents ( "Complex System Assembly Underlies a Two-Tiered Model of Highly Delocalized Electrons" J. Phys. Chem. Lett. (2016) 7(10): 1859-1864.


imanes-molecularesA scientific collaboration between the Institute of Physical Chemistry "Rocasolano" (CSIC), the University of Buenos Aires (Argentina), the National University of La Plata (Argentina) and the University of the Basque Country has been front cover of the journal Molecular Physics, as an invited article of a special volume on the Proceedings of the 55th Sanibel Symposium on theoretical and computational chemistry. These Symposia were initiated in 1961 by Per-Olov Löwdin, a former member of the Nobel Committee. Molecular magnetism manifests itself macroscopically through the magnetic moment (total spin, S) of a molecule, and is due to the presence of unpaired electrons – (poly)radicals – in the ground state of the system. The main conclusion of the article is the prediction of a system with a maximum spin Smax = 6 in its ground state (high-spin state), constructed by connecting twelve NB11H11 radical type (S = ½) icosahedra, forming a magnetic supericosahedron (first iteration). This prediction opens the door towards the design of molecular magnets based on boron molecules (boranes), since the system can be extended in three dimensions, thereby maximizing the total spin Smax in the series Smax(n) = {1/2, 6, 72, ..., 12n/2}.

Diego R. Alcoba, Ofelia B. Oña, Gustavo E. Massaccesi, Alicia Torre, Luis Lain, Rafael Notario, Josep M. Oliva
"Molecular magnetism in closo-azadodecaborane supericosahedrons", Molecular Physics (2016) 114, 3-4, 400-406.

TDP-43TDP-43 is a protein which acts in part like an editor and in part like a postman; he modifies his "messages" written in RNA, before delivering them to the cytoplasm. Under certain "bad weather" conditions, part of the TDP-43 protein acts like an "umbrella" (really a hydrogel or functional amyloid) to protect the messages. But sometimes these "umbrellas" can break and become tangled together, forming a "net" (harmful amyloid aggregates) that disrupts the message editing and delivery system, and putatively leads to cell death. In fact, TDP-43 aggregates are linked to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a fatal neurodegenerative disease that kills 4000 Spaniards per year. The elucidation by NMR of the structure, dynamics and stability of the first quarter, or N-terminal domain, of the TDP-43 protein's structure, dynamics and stability by NMR methods provides the keys to better understand the function and malfunction of this important protein.

Mompeán M, Romano V, Pantoja-Uceda D, Stuani C, Baralle FE, Buratti E and Laurents DV "The TDP-43 N-Terminal Domain Structure at High Resolution." FEBS J. Jan 12th, 2016
doi: 10.1111/febs.13651