Research programmes

As a result of a high degree of internal collaboration, each research group at the IMDEA Materials Institute participates in several of our research programmes. Driven by the talent of the researchers, the research programmes combine cutting-edge fundamental oriented research in topics at the frontiers of knowledge with applied research encompassing the midterm interest of our industrial partners to provide long-term technological leadership.

The programme on Novel Materials combines expertise in design and synthesis of nano and molecular building blocks with their integration into macroscopic materials and devices, in developing solutions for high performance structural composites with enhanced multifunctional capabilities such as thermal, electrical and fire resistance, and in exploring the processing-structure-property relationship with special emphasis on the role of microstructure on the mechanical response at all length scales. This interdisciplinary pool of researchers is formed by chemists, physicists, and engineers (chemistry, materials, mechanical and aeronautical) carrying out both fundamental and applied research via close collaboration with companies in the transport, aerospace, energy, safety, and biomedical sectors. Research facilities include state-of-the art equipment for synthesis, processing, manufacturing, structural/materials characterization and material properties.

The programme on Advanced Manufacturing is highly interdisciplinary in nature spanning the fields of alloys, biomaterials, polymers, composites, energy materials, and involving both experimental and computational efforts. The objective of this programme is to improve quality, productivity, cost efficiency and sustainability in current manufacturing paradigms, as well as conceive and develop novel hybrid manufacturing techniques to enable the commercial realization of emerging products in the aerospace, biomedical, energy, automotive and other industrial sectors.

Effective unit-process innovation and development derives from an understanding of the physical and chemical phenomena influencing manufacturing processes. Therefore, a key part of this programme involves the creation and development of models based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) to predict the optimum manufacturing routes and quality of the manufactured products, as well as the modelling and understanding of tool-material interactions. This fundamental knowledge is supplemented by state-of-the-art characterization techniques needed to monitor the quality of manufactured products including their (micro)structure and mechanical and functional properties.

The research programme on Integrated Computational Materials Engineering (ICME) is aimed at integrating all the available simulation tools into multiscale modelling strategies capable of simulating processing, microstructure, properties and performance of engineering materials, so new materials can be designed, tested and optimized before they are actually manufactured in the laboratory. The focus of the programme is on materials engineering, i.e. understanding how the microstructure of materials develops during processing (virtual processing), the relationship between microstructure and properties (virtual testing) and how to optimise materials for a given application (virtual design). Moreover, experiments are also an integral part of the research programme for the calibration and validation of the models at different length and time scales. The expertise of the researchers in the programme covers a wide range of simulation techniques at different scales (electronic, atomistic, mesoscopic and continuum) and is supported by a high-performance computer cluster.

Progress in the development of new materials and processing methods can only come from a thorough understanding of the microstructure of the material in focus, its evolution during either processing or service operation, and its influence in the relevant properties for the purpose it was designed. Since the microstructural features that determine the material behaviour usually span several length scales (for instance, from the macroscopic defect distribution to the nanometer scale precipitates in the case of metallic alloys), this understanding can only come from advanced 4D characterisation techniques, capable of determining the evolution of the 3-dimensional microstructure over time at different length scales (hence the name 4D). This is precisely the objective of this programme, i.e., to understand microstructure/defect distribution and evolution in advanced materials during processing and service using advanced characterisation techniques.