Applied Magnetism Institute
The Instituto de Magnetismo Aplicado (IMA) was founded in 1989 by the University Complutense of Madrid (UCM) and co-sponsored by the Spanish Railway Infrastructures Company (formerly RENFE, nowadays ADIF). It was the first University Research Institute created in Spain. IMA was founded initially as a small research center with five permanent scientists -Prof. A. Hernando (Chairman), Prof. J. M. González Calbet (Vice- Chairman), Prof. M. Vallet Regí, and Dr. G. Rivero, from UCM, and Prof. M. Vázquez Villalabeitia from CSIC, and the aim to combine basic scientific research in the field of functional materials with transfer of technology, especially in the railway sector, that has a significant use of magnetic materials. The research on magnetic materials (amorphous materials, thin films or nanomaterials) was based on new fabrication methods that required advanced characterization tools in order to understand the relationship between structure and properties as the key to optimize the functionalities of materials for specific applications. Consequently, from the very beginning, IMA started to strongly cooperate with the scientific group responsible of the Electron Microscopy Center at the Complutense University that later become a national facility integrated in a Unique Scientific and Technological Infrastructure (ICTS), the National Center for Electron Microscopy (CNME) (see map of ICTS).
The requirement to determine the relationship between structure and properties made the IMA researchers to establish strong collaborations with theoretical physicist with expertise in condensed matter theory and simulations in order to develop jointly the physical basis that explain the behavior of the analyzed materials. This cooperation increased significantly in the last years when the research was focused on nanomaterials, with size-depending properties. IMA has been the reference research center for magnetism in the UCM. Along these years, the different research groups at the UCM working in functional materials have had an increasing relationship with the IMA that provided a full equipped lab for magnetic measurements and the experience to transfer technology.
In addition, the evolution of scientific research towards multidisciplinary studies and projects, made IMA establish also strong cooperation programs with other groups not working in magnetism but using functional materials for different applications. This evolution made the IMA transform into an advanced research center and become the reference laboratory for functional materials at the UCM, increasing significantly the personnel, resources and facilities. In particular, IMA has a large tradition of cooperation with physicians and experts in medical sciences. Some of the magnetic materials developed at IMA have outstanding properties for the development of medical devices to be implanted in vivo and monitor vital constants remotely. That made the researches at IMA establish collaborations with physicians, mainly those from hospitals at the UCM campus, developing biomedical magnetic devices that resulted in several patents. Technological activities at IMA led to the creation of a spin-off in 2000, MICROMAG 2000, a company that provides solutions for radiofrequency applications using amorphous magnetic materials. Since the creation of the company, IMA has been a strategic partner of MICROMAG that has nowadays clients all around the world (including USA). In addition, IMA provided technological solutions for the leader companies in the sector of Energy, Transportation and Biomedicine.
UMAFUS-UCM has a cooperation agreement with the Spanish Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) through the Associated Unity Agreement between IMA and SIC for more than 20 years. This agreement favors the cooperation allows to share resources, facilities, common projects and stages of researchers from both institutions.
IMA has now a large critical mass with more than 40 permanent scientists with different background, around 15 tenured scientists, in addition to one technician and three administrative personnel. This large critical mass ensures the stability of the center and the resources and human power required to develop excellent scientific research and technology transfer activities. In order to give a response to this new situation that overpasses the field of magnetism, the Unit of Functional Materials of UCM (UMAFUS-UCM) was created. With this new structure, IMA is one of the leader research centers for functional materials in Europe. Over the last years, UMAFUS-UCM members have shared and pursued common objectives aimed at understanding and development of functional materials through the synergy and complementary approaches and disciplines like physics, chemistry, materials science, medicine and crystallography, among others. This unit has been built on the basis of the collaboration of some of the top experts in correlating the structure of materials with their properties in order to examine some of the hottest topics in material science and nanoscience, including magnetic and strongly correlated systems, materials for energy and transportation, information technology and biomedicine.
The common ground for these groups relies on improving and extending the functionalities of different materials, metallic, ceramics and hybrids, with different morphology and size as bulk, thin films and nanomaterials, establishing the connection between structure and physical properties through a deep knowledge of the atomic structure. This way, it has been possible to understand the basic principles of emerging devices and optimize them in order to transfer the technology to the private sector.
In the reference period (2012-2016) the researchers have published over 460 papers in international journals being 78 % in the first quartile and 30.4% in the first decile of the journals of the area. The researchers of the IMA are fellows of the top international professional societies and committees. They have also received international prestigious awards and honors and participated continuously in the organizing committees of the world leading conferences in their areas, as well as publishing in top ranked journals as Science (3 papers), Nature Materials (2), Cell (1), Nature Physics (4) or Advanced Materials (3), among others.
The UMAFUS-UCM unit is therefore articulated around the Institute of Applied Magnetism (IMA), located at an industrial area, surrounded by infrastructures of the Spanish Railway Infrastructures Company (ADIF) that sponsors IMA, and a large number of technological companies working on the field of earth transportation. The National Center of Electron Microscopy (CNME) facilities, located at the campus of the University Complutense of Madrid and fitted with the most advanced atomic resolution electron microscopy tools, are used to unambiguously establish the relationships between structure and properties at the finest detail level. In addition, CNME guarantees the cooperation with the academic researchers and with physicians at the hospitals in campus. Moreover, there are an increasing number of companies that use the CNME facilities and benefit from the know-how by establishing a cooperation that favors the technology transfer process. The Scientific staff members of those centers, in addition to different research groups at UCM working on the field of magnetism and functional materials, have been cooperating in the last years in order to consolidate the core of UMAFUS-UCM. Thanks to this synergy UMAFUS-UCM has fully equipped labs with the most advanced fabrication and characterization tools to carry out research at the frontier of the knowledge.
The long tradition of more than 20 years of technology transfer at IMA, with more than 100 contracts, situates UMAFUS-UCM in a preferential position to transfer the results from the basic research to the industry. Many technological companies consider the unit as a strategic partner for the development of new products. Moreover, the large number of former PhD students of the IMA that moved to the private sector (over 50) and work now at R&D departments, ensures a proper connection of the unit with the companies.
Summarizing, the main target of UMAFUS-UCM is dual: first, to carry out research on the field of magnetic and functional materials, including synthesis techniques, correlation between structure and properties. And secondly, to develop devices based on those new materials for applications in different fields, such as Transportation & Energy, Information Technology and Biomedicine. UMAFUS-UCM will perform excellent basic research combined with the development of new devices so the technology can be transferred to the private sector in order to give response to society needs such as welfare, communications and energy. Such capability to walk the whole way from basic research to final applications is largely pursued by the EU, and is defined as a milestone of the H2020 program in order to overcome the gap between research at the lab and the industrial sector. This connection has been successfully achieved by UMAFUS-UCM in the field of magnetic materials for more than 20 years.