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Applied Magnetism Institute

UMAFUS - The Unit of Functional Materials at UCM

The Instituto de Magnetismo Aplicado (IMA) was founded in 1989 by the University Complutense of Madrid (UCM) with the aim to combine basic scientific research in the field of functional materials with transfer of technology, especially in the field of magnetic materials. The research was based on determining the relationship structure-properties-applications, so from the very beginning IMA started to strongly cooperate with the scientific group responsible of the Electron Microscopy Center at Complutense University that later become a national facility integrated in a Unique Scientific and Technological Facility (ICTS), the National Center for Electron Microscopy (CNME). The requirement to determine the relationship between structure and properties made the IMA researchers to establish strong collaborations with theoretical physicists 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.

In the last years, the development of multifunctional materials and 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 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.

The UMAFUS-UCM research team is composed by groups that over the last years 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 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.


The main research areas of UMAFUS are:


-Magnetic oxides with particular attention to complex strong correlated oxides

These materials exhibit the most disparate physical behaviors including exotic magnetic, optical and transport properties. These can be coupled and tailored through a controlled stoichiometry in complex architectures. Basic research on this topic was focused on the fabrication and understanding of the basic principles that govern the physical properties of those materials. Actually, perovskite-strongly correlated complex oxides (AMO3) constitute one of the most important series of synthetic inorganic materials and one of the hottest topics in Materials Science, leading to most relevant systems such as high Tc superconductors, colossal magnetoresistant manganese related perovskites and multiferroics. The structural dimensionality, as well as compositional changes, strongly influences the physical properties of these oxides and related compounds. In this context, a part of the research at the unit has been devoted to control factors affecting the dimensionality in complex perovskites. Also, the electronic structure of the M cation strongly influences the structural modifications that take place when creating anionic vacancies and therefore, a controlled reduction of the oxygen content is carried out. Harnessing compositional variations in the anionic and/or cationic sublattices along with the control of the oxidation states are essential tasks because they lie at the very root of the intriguing magnetic and electron interactions of these systems. Local structural and compositional order disorder phenomena, as well as subtle changes in oxidation states, can be revealed by high resolution electron microscopy (HREM), scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) and X-ray energy dispersive and electron energy loss spectroscopies (EDS and EELS). Based on the acquired knowledge, additional work was carried out on the design of devices based on these oxides for electromagnetic applications.

-Magnetic materials for radiofrequency

The use of wireless communications has increased exponentially in the last years, so the search for materials absorbing modulating microwaves is of fundamental interest to successfully achieve further technological developments. The unit carried out an intense activity on amorphous magnetic materials that exhibit intense responses in the microwave range (magnetic permeability of the order of 10-100). This activity combines basic research on the structure-properties relationship with the development of devices for biomedical applications that are implanted in the human body and allow monitoring vital constants by means of radiofrequency fields. These amorphous magnetic materials have also been used for the fabrication of protection devices against microwave radiation damage, and they have also been used as sensors in transportation technology. These materials have also promising properties towards designing novel energy harvesting devices and security systems.


This research line (leaded by Prof. Vallet) has been specifically focused on bioceramics for medical applications useful for drug delivery, tissue engineering and the fight against infection. Research on the design of functionalized mesoporous materials has been expanded with the ability to release bioactive molecules. This effort in science has become the cornerstone to understand in depth these drug release systems that are so popular nowadays in this field. The complexity of these hybrid systems increases to adapt their properties to specific clinical needs. In many cases, it is necessary to organically modify the mesoporous silica walls through the covalent attachment of functional groups. This functionalization leads to hybrid mesoporous materials that can act as host matrices of a wide range of drugs via weak interactions. The functionalization of the silica walls may be necessary for several reasons. In some cases, there are certain drugs with remarkable hydrophobic nature that do not exhibit any trend to penetrate into the hydrophilic mesoporous silica. The functionalization with hydrophobic functional groups is a good alternative to promote the load of different hydrophobic drugs. This strategy is also employed to delay the release kinetics of certain drugs from mesoporous channels to the aqueous release medium due to the decrease in the wet ability degree of the material surface. One of the great advantages of these mesoporous materials is the great versatility of the synthetic process, which allows the production in bulk, but also as microcapsules and even as nanoparticles. This leads to an excellent tool in medicine and nanomedicine. Actually, magnetic nanoparticles have been encapsulated into inorganic mesoporous nanoparticles of silica for applications against cancer, able to design smart nanoparticles which besides are able to simultaneous and sinergically perform a double function, to delivery in a controlled way cytotoxic and to give off heat (hyperthermia). The stimuli responsive effect can be applied for on-demand release of the drug.

-Nanomaterials and nanostructures

This is a transversal topic, which overlaps with all of the above described lines. The modification of the physical properties at the nanoscale constitutes and appealing approach from a fundamental point of view, and allows tuning their functionalities and optimization for specific applications. The unit carried out a vast amount of work in research of metallic and oxide nanoparticles, including analysis of the structure with the most advanced microscopic techniques in order to engineer functional properties of the materials at this scale.

-Quantum technology

We are witnessing an emerging new era for information technologies, and the European Commission has selected this area as a priority for a forthcoming flagship. The ongoing quantum revolution is unfolding worldwide, bringing transformative advances to science, industry and society. It will create new commercial opportunities, address global challenges, provide strategic capabilities for security and seed yet unimagined capabilities for the future. It comprises five strategic branches in which our unit has achieved international recognition: quantum metrology, quantum sensors, quantum cryptography, quantum simulation and quantum computation. Developments in this area will lead to long-term economic, scientific and societal benefits. They will result in a more sustainable, productive, and entrepreneurial and secure European Union. Our contributions to these developments rely on the synergies generated among several of our research groups. The interplay between novel features of quantum magnetic materials supports quantum computations in a reliable way, and theoretical models have been developed in order to carry out quantum computations in a fault-tolerant way on those magnetic materials. The researchers of the unit have performed outstanding contributions at the frontier of the knowledge in this field paving the physical principles of quantum computing.


The unit is composed by:

-Permanent Research Staff: 53

-Pos-doctoral Scientists: 21

-Pre-doctoral Students: 36

-Technicians: 1

-Administrative personnel: 3

CV of group leaders 

Prof. José María González-Calbet

Full Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at the Complutense University since 1990. Co-author of more than 460 publications in the fields of Solid State and Materials Chemistry with h-index 41 and more than 7000 citations. Research devoted to the study of the reactivity of solids to obtain new functional oxides. Director of 20 doctoral theses, more than 26 research projects as IP and co-inventor of 6 patents. Head of National Centre for Electron Microscopy at UCM since 2010 and Vice Chairman of the Applied Magnetism Institute (IMA) since 1990. Responsible for UCM of Materials cluster of CEI Moncloa since 2010.

Prof. Antonio Hernando Grande

Full Professor of Magnetism at UCM. Founder and director of IMA since 1989. Co-author of more than 300 research papers (H=47, over 10.000 citations) and 17 patents. He has been IP of more than 40 research projects and 60 contracts for technology transfer obtaining funds over 5 M. He has also supervised 22 PhD theses and presented more than 100 invited talks at conferences. Awards: Doctor Honoris Causa by Universidad de Santander and Universidad del País Vasco; Member of the Royal Academy of Science of Spain, Fellow of the American Physical Society; Gold Meal of the Spanish Royal Society of Physics, Research Award Miguel Catalan from the Madrid Region Government; National Research Award Juan de la Cierva.

Prof. María Vallet Regí

Full Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at the Complutense University since 1990. Co-author of more than 650 publications in the fields of Biomaterials and Materials Science with h-index of 76 and more than 22000 citations. She is an Advanced ERC guarantee, internationally recognized as a pioneer in the field of mesoporous ceramic materials applied to biomedicine, a research field in which she is considered as a worldwide scientific reference. She was a leading innovator in showing the capacity of these systems to act as drug delivery systems; these materials can be loaded with biological active molecules to achieve a controlled drug release of these molecules. These achievements opened a new therapeutic window which has ended up in the launching of a novel profitable research field. Her research involves the relationship between drugs, biomaterials and nanomedicine including application of nanoparticles for the cancer treatment by hyperthermia, design of stimuli-responsive systems, dendrimers for gene transfection application and 3D scaffolds for tissue engineering with different surface functionalization. Awards: Doctor Honoris Causa by Pais Vasco University (UPV-EHU) and Jaime I University (UJI, Castellón); Member of the Royal Academy of Pharmacy of Spain, Member of the Royal Academy of Engineering of Spain; Gold Meal of the Spanish Royal Society of Chemistry, Research National Award Leonardo Torres Quevedo (2008), Research Award Miguel Catalan (2013) from the Madrid Region.

Prof. Jacobo Santamaria

Full Professor at the Department of Physics of the University Complutense Madrid. He is co-author of more than 240 publications with h-index 34 and more than 3000 citations in the last 10 years. He has been invited to give more than 50 seminars and colloquia and more than 70 talks at prestigious international conferences. He has supervised over 20 Master Degree Research Projects and 11 PhD students. Head of the Research Group Physics of Complex Materials-GFMC, devoted to the fabrication and study of thin films, nanostructures and heterostructures of correlated oxides with special emphasis on magnetism and superconductivity. In the last 10 years he has set up a laboratory with epitaxial growth capabilities in a clean room environment, equipped with optical and e beam lithography and equipped with magnetotransport experiments (up to 4) for cryogenic temperatures in magnetic fields, making significant advances on the physics of complex oxides interfaces. His expertise is in fabrication and measurement of oxide planar nanostructures and heterostructures and magnetic tunnel junctions.

Prof. Juan Manuel Rodríguez Parrondo

Full Professor of Physics at UCM. He is co-author of 96 publications with h-index 26 and more than 2700 citations. He has supervised 4 PhD students and 6 postdocs. He has led six national grants in the last ten years and has given more than 20 invited talks in the last five years. In 2016 he was invited speaker at STATPHYS '16, the main international conference in Statistical Physics. He has been invited researcher at the University of Lund, the Max Planck Institute for Complex Systems, Rockefeller University, ESPCI (Paris), Stanford University, UC Berkeley, and UC San Diego. In 2008, he was awarded the Martin Gutzwiller fellowship at the Max Planck Institute for Complex Systems (Dresden), for his "substantial contributions to fundamental problems such as the nature of dissipation and the arrow of time, the physics of ratchets and the search for optimal strategies in games".

Prof. Miguel Ángel Martín-Delgado Alcántara

Full Professor of Theoretical Physics, Ph. D. Physics U. Complutense de Madrid. He has directed or participated over 20 research projects, nationally and internationally (EU and USA). He has obtained funding for about 3M euros. Co-authored of more than 140 publications with more than 5000 citations and h-index of 35. Author and editor of several books in Springer-Verlag. He is corresponding member of the Royal Academy of Sciences of Spain. General coordinator of the research consortium QUITEMAD (Quantum Information Technologies Madrid). Scientific Editor for journal Scientific Reports (area of Quantum Physics) of Nature Publishing Group.

Prof. Ignacio Lizasoaín Hernández.

Full professor at UCM. PhD in 1989 (Outstanding PhD thesis award). His scientific production includes more than 150 JCR papers with 7.000-10.000 total citations and h-index of 50. He is co-editor of 6 books, co-author of more than 60 chapters of books, co- inventor of 3 patents and co-director of 16 PhD Thesis. As principal investigator, he has led 3 international grants, as a whole or as partner coordinator (Human Capital and Mobility programme; NATO Science Programme; National Institutes of Health. USA), more than 15 national grants funded by the Spanish Plan Nacional de I+D+I (FIS, SAF,

Net research programmes), more than 10 by other public agencies (Madrid Regional Government, etc.) and several by private companies.

Dr. Maria Varela del Arco.

PhD (2001) in Physics at the Complutense University, Madrid, Spain (Outstanding PhD thesis award). She has coauthored over 200 research papers (h-factor of 38, over 4700 citations) and has been IP of several research projects including U.S. Department of Energy programs, Spanish MINECO or a Starting ERC grant (totaling >2M euros). She has supervised two master and two PhD theses, nine postdoctoral researchers and several summer visitors. She has presented 78 invited talks at international conferences and 42 invited seminars at leading institutions worldwide. Awards: Novel

Researchers in Experimental Physics in 2001 from the Royal Spanish Physical Society or the Microscopy Society of America Burton medal in 2014.

Prof. Carlos Leon Yebra

Associate Professor at the Department of Physics of the University Complutense Madrid. He has co-authored more than 160 papers, receiving a total of more than 4250 citations and with an h-index of 35. He has been invited 14 times to international conferences, and to give more than 10 seminars and colloquia. He has supervised 14 Master Degree Research Projects and 5 PhD students. He is coauthor of a book on Ionics published by Springer- Nature. Since 2013 he is Spanish National Contact Point for Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials Calls of European H2020 Research Program. He is also serving as Editorial Board Member for Scientific Reports, a journal from Nature Publishing Group.

Dr. Miguel Ángel García García-Tuñón

PhD in Physics in 1999 (Outstanding PhD thesis award). Co-author of 132 research papers (h=33, over 3500 citations) and 10 patents (3 transferred) and has been IP of 13 research projects obtaining competitive funds of 689 K. Participation in 16 contracts for technology transfer (IP in 4 of them). He has also supervised 4 PhD theses and presented 21 invited talks at conferences. Awards: Golden Epsilon (Spanish Electroceramics Society 2010) and Golden Alpha for technology transfer (team shared, from the Spanish Society for Ceramics and Glass 2015).

Dr. Pilar Marín Palacios

PhD (1995) in Physics at the Complutense University, Madrid, Spain. She has coauthored over 100 research papers (h-factor 20, over 1300 citations) and has been IP of 9 research projects more than 20 technology transfer contracts with companies obtaining funds over 2M. Co-author of 20 Patents, many of them in exploitation by companies. Supervisor of 4 PhD thesis. She presented more than 15 invited talks at conferences. Responsible of Micromag 2000, S.L. spin-off company start-up in 2000. Awards: II Talgo Award for Technological Innovation (2001) and I Concurso de Indes de Empresas "Spin-off" of the Community of Madrid in the area of New Materials, Nanotechnology and Production Technologies (June 2003). Member of the Board of the Spanish Club of Magnetism and the Ibernam Network Sensors and Nanotechnologies.

Dr. Arantzazu Mascaraque

PhD in Physics in 1999 (Outstanding PhD thesis award). Co-author of 62 research papers (h=17, over 900 citations) and 1 patent. She has been IP of 8 research projects obtaining competitive funds of 210 K. He has also supervised 3 PhD theses (1 with Outstanding PhD thesis award) and presented more than 20 invited talks and seminars. She has been Vice-dean for Research of the Physics Faculty during the period 2010-2014.

Dr. Oscar Rodríguez de la Fuente

PhD in Physics in 2002 (Outstanding PhD thesis award). Co-author of 40 research papers with h-index of 13. He has been IP of 6 research projects obtaining competitive funds over 350 KEuros. He has also supervised 3 PhD theses (1 with Outstanding PhD thesis award) and presented more than 20 invited talks and seminars.

Dr. Patricia de la Presa Muñoz de Toro

PhD in Physics in 1997. Co-author of 61 research papers (h=16, over 800 citations) and 2 patents and has been IP of 3 research projects obtaining competitive funds of 247 K. Participation in 1 contract for technology transfer as IP with 340 k found. She has also supervised 1 PhD thesis and 2 under development, and presented 12 invited talks at conferences.

Research facilities

The research groups forming the unit have access to the most advanced experimental labs and computational equipment in order to ensure a high quality research level.


CNME is fully equipped with the most advanced electron microscopes. Two aberration corrected microscopes, a JEOL ARM 200cFEG and a JEOL ARM 300cFEG, constitute the major core of the facility. Information of all equipments in the CNME can be obtained at www.cnme.es


The laboratory is aimed to the fabrication of electronic and spintronic devices based on oxide heterostructures by using thin-film growth, etching, and lithographic techniques. It is in a clean room (class 1000) environment with the following equipment:

ü  3 high pressure sputtering systems for growth of oxides thin films 1 reactive ion etching system.

ü  1 sputtering system for the growth of alumina and metallic layers 1 vacuum chamber for thermal evaporation of metallic electrodes.

ü  Class 100 lithography room allowing the use of optical masks down to 0.8 microns.

ü  1 electron beam lithography writer (RAITH 50) for the fabrication of nanostructures with resolution down to 100 nm Electron-beam evaporator deposition chamber for metals (4 sources co-evaporation).

ü  Fully equipped chemical synthesis lab. Planetary mills.


The laboratory is aimed to the electrical characterization of electronic and ionic transport in materials and devices with:

ü  4 closed cycle He cryostats for magnetotransport characterization in the temperature range 4-300 K and applied magnetic field up to 0.5 T 1 liquid He cryostat equipped with a 10 T magnet.

ü  1 Broadband Dielectric Spectroscopy measurement system (10-4 Hz to 1 GHz) and temperature (100 600 K).

ü  1 Agilent Impedance Analyzers allowing ac conductivity and dielectric measurements in the range 20 Hz 30 MHz (300-1000 K).

ü  1 Radiant Technologies Precision Multiferroic system for characterization of ferroelectric response.

ü  General electronic equipment for transport measurements SQUID magnetometer (2-400 K, 5 Tesla).

ü  1 VSM magnetometer (2-000K K, 8 T) Magnetoresistance measurement system (5-350 K) Magneto-optical lab fully equipped.

ü  1 Magnetic hyperthermia device (200-400 MHz).

ü  1 Microwaves spectrum analyzer (with a aneoic chamber and antennas) AC susceptometer (5-300 K, 0-100 KHz).

ü  1 Thermogravimetric balance with magnetic field Laboratory of surface science.

ü  Fully equipped laboratory for electrochemical deposition; Ultra High Vacuum chamber with STM, LEED and preparation chamber with dosers; Ultra High Vacuum chamber with and IR detector, LEED, AES, mass spectrometer and preparation chamber; System for fabrication of nanoporous

ü  templates; MBE chamber for metal growth.

The researchers of the unit are users of large scientific infrastructures: European Synchrotron Radiation Facility; ISIS Synchrotron at STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory BESSY synchrotron; ILL neutron reactor, Advanced Photons Source (Argonne Nat. Lab); Oak Ridge National Laboratory Center for Nanophase Materials Science; Los Alamos Neutron Science Center.

In addition, UCM has several facilities that complement the above experimental techniques. It is worth mentioning the X-Ray Diffraction service which provides solutions for powder, single crystal and thin film diffraction based on a well- equipped set of diffractometers.

The researchers of the unit use calculation and simulation facilities, being the most relevant one CeSViMa, the center for computation