RESEARCH PROJECTS

The Group has completed more than 30 projects to date. The main research project we are currently involved are:

NoCoBiNa: Non-conventional magnetic nanoparticles for biomedical applications (MAT2014-55049-C2-1-R)

Two well-matched groups at the Universidad del País Vasco and Universidad de Cantabria, with a common track record in magnetic nanoparticles (MNPs) research, will collaborate in this project to develop, characterise and test non-conventional MNP systems as new materials for biomedical applications. The novelty of these systems arises from the preparation methods employed and the nature of the materials themselves. Firstly, we will address the production of biocompatible magnetite (Fe3O4) via the non-conventional method of culturing magnetotactic bacteria. These organisms metabolically synthesize perfectly stoichiometric nanocrystals, with sizes and shapes that they control genetically. The nanoparticles are naturally surrounded by biocompatible membrane, making them excellently suited for biomedical use. Secondly, we will make Permalloy (Fe20Ni80) nano-disks by using lithographic methods to pattern thin films. Under the right conditions, these structures can present a magnetic vortex configuration that has already been identified as being suitable for in vivo cancer cell destruction. Thirdly, Rare-Earth (R) based RX2 (X=metal) nanoparticles will be prepared by surfactant-assisted ball milling. The attraction here is that nanoscale Rare-Earth alloys are uniquely tunable with respect to their physical properties, viz. their magnetic moment, anisotropy, inter-grain coupling and characteristic (ordering/blocking/freezing) temperatures.

The three systems will be comprehensively explored using macro- and micro-characterisation techniques, coupled with the best analytical and modelling methods, so that we will be able to understand the influence on the magnetic properties of the structure, constitution, morphology and arrangement of the nanoparticles. We will make intensive use of both in-house and European Large Scale Facilities techniques. Among other observables, we will measure the characteristic magnetic temperatures (Verwey transition, TC, TN, freezing and blocking) and the magnetic configurations (ferro-, ferri-, antiferro-, glassy) of the systems. Additionally, in vitro studies will be performed to evaluate the biocompatibility of selected MNPs on murine immune cell lines. Dose-dependent cytotoxicity will be analysed by incubating the cells with nanoparticles at different concentrations during several contact time periods. We will also analyse the effects of electromagnetic fields on MNP-loaded cell viability, to evaluate their use in magnetic hyperthermia treatments. The suitability of selected MNPs for magnetic drug and cell delivery will also be tested.

A multidisciplinary team of researchers from materials science, physics and microbiology has been gathered for the project. In addition to the País Vasco and Cantabria teams, we have secured the support of leading external scientists with outstanding expertise in biomagnetism (Q.A. Pankhurst), magnetic modelling (O. Hovorka, J.P. Sinnecker) and synchrotron techniques (C. Meneghini). This project is rooted in our own preliminary work, the scientific outputs of which have already been published. We are confident and assured that we can succeed in this challenging work, and significantly expand the known range of MNPs suitable for biomedical applications, well beyond the current focus on Fe-oxides synthetized by chemical routes. As ground-breakers in this field, we expect to make major discoveries that will benefit us all.

 

FUNSAFE: Functional properties and non-equilibrium processes in shape memory alloys and related ferroic materials. (MAT2014-56116-C4-R)

Societal challenges as "Efficiency on the use of resources and raw materials” and “Safe, sustainable and clean energy” need multifunctional materials to develop new technologies The present project concerts actions of research groups of the University of Balearic Islands (UIB), University of Basque Country (UPV/EHU), the University of Oviedo (UniOvi) and the research Center BCMaterials (BCM), in order to combine their complementary experience and research facilities to tackle several interconnected issues related to fundamental and functional properties of magnetic and nonmagnetic shape memory alloys (SMAs) as well as advanced magnetocaloric compounds, which hinder a number of promising applications. It also intends to incorporate to the objectives and tasks two more groups in the next call (2015) to consolidate a consortium of a significant number of Spanish groups working in the subject. For this reason the duration of the project has been fixed to 4 years in order to match the periods for application of the teams forming the consortium.

The main scientific objective of the project is disclosing the mechanisms underlying stability of martensitic structures and the mobility of twin boundaries and interphases in the bulk and thin-films of magnetic and nonmagnetic SMAs, together with exploring the magnetocaloric (MC) properties of SMAs and other alloys with low content or even absence of rare earth metals.
The project will focus on the following objectives:
1.- Tailoring the hysteresis temperature/stress/magnetic field martensitic transformation
2.- Improvement of the ductility of magnetic/metamagnetic SMAs
3.- Optimization of the cost/performance ratio of high-temperature SMAs
4.- Development of efficient materials for magnetic refrigeration

 

LUMIMAGNET-NANO: Multifunctional luminescent and magnetic nanoparticles for advanced biomedical applications (H2020-MSCA-IF-2014)

The key goals of the “LUMIMAGNET-NANO” project are: (a) the training of a talented young researcher, Dr. Rosa Martín-Rodríguez, in the fast growing field of science, technology and industrial applications of nanomedicine, where the host and partner institutions have a critical knowledge and expertise; and, (b) the design, development and optimisation of cost-efficient magnetic nanoparticles with multifunctional recovering for biomedical applications. The aim of the research project is to take advantage of both magnetic and optical properties for magnetic hyperthermia applications. The interdisciplinary training program includes preparation of magnetic nanomaterials, surface modification to provide luminescent functionality, characterization, spectroscopic studies including X-ray absorption spectroscopy in synchrotron radiation facilities, in-vitro study, and implementation for hyperthermia applications. The fellow is a talented researcher who has gained much expertise in synthesis and structural and spectroscopic characterization of luminescent nanomaterials and cell biology protocols during her undergraduate and postgraduate career. To further boost her career, she needs to gain expertise in preparation of biocompatible nanoparticles, magnetic characterization techniques, X-ray absorption spectroscopy and hyperthermia applications, fields in which the University of Basque Country has a world-recognised expertise. Additionally, through two three-month secondments at academic and industrial co-hosts, University of Rome Tre and Resonant Circuits Ltd. respectively, the fellow will gain additional high-level training in X-ray spectroscopy and industrial hyperthermia applications. This multidisciplinary project will also increase her supervision experience, project and intellectual property management expertise, and research funding and proposal writing skills.