The current Special Issue introduces a collection of contributions from diverse research groups working in materials science at various centers of the community of Madrid. At the heart of Spain, this autonomous community, comprising around 1/7 of the Spanish population, includes the city of Madrid, which is the capital of the country. Madrid is home to a large number of public and private universities and research centers. The Complutense University of Madrid is the largest and is one of the most prestigious universities in Spain, also being one of the oldest in the world.1 Founded in Alcalá de Henares in 1293, it moved to Madrid in 1823 and was designated as the Central University, finally receiving its current name,Complutense University of Madrid (Universidad Complutense de Madrid, UCM) in 1970. Other important public universities are the Polytechnic University of Madrid (Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, UPM), the Autonomous University of Madrid (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, UAM), the University of Alcalá, the Carlos III University of Madrid (UC3M), the National Distance Education University (UNED, Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia), and the Rey Juan Carlos I University. More recently several private universities such as Universidad Pontificia de Comillas, Universidad de San Pablo (CEU), Universidad Europea de Madrid, etc., have been founded in the community of Madrid. Many of the universities located in the Madrid area host departments and groups promoting research in materials science and technology and several of its experts have participated, thus illustrating the current features in this issue as detailed below.
The public sector of research in Spain comprises various Spanish government laboratories known as OPIS (Organismos Públicos de Investigación, Public Research Organizations), which operate under the direct dependency of different ministries, ranging from health to defence. Some of them, for instance the INTA (Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial, National Institute of Aerospace Technology) and the CIEMAT (Centro de Investigaciones Medioambientales y Tecnológicas, Research Centre for the Environment and Technology) are involved in materials science research. The largest public agency for research in Spain, and the third largest in Europe, is the CSIC (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Spanish National Research Council), which is of a multisectorial and multidisciplinary nature, covering all fields of knowledge from basic research to technological development.2 The CSIC is organized around eight scientific-technical areas, one of them being materials science and technology, which is currently composed of 13 research centers distributed throughout the country. Among these last centers, the Materials Science Institute of Madrid (ICMM, Instituto de Ciencia de Materiales de Madrid) is the biggest research center including 378 people, with 108 of them belonging to the scientific staff.3 This year is the 25th anniversary of its foundation. Nowadays, the ICMM can be regarded as a world leader, focusing its diverse basic research lines on functional materials, such as photonic and magnetic materials, materials for information technologies, materials for energy and environment, graphene, nanocomposites, hybrid and porous materials, nanostructured materials, surfaces and coatings, biomaterials, biohybrid and bioinspired materials, and new architectures in materials chemistry, in addition to modelling, theory, and simulation of materials. Other CSIC Institutes in Madrid, such as the ICTP (Institute of Polymer Science & Technology, Instituto de Ciencia y Tecnología de Polímeros), the ICV (Institute of Ceramics and Glass, Instituto de Cerámica y Vidrio), the CENIM (National Centre for Metallurgical Research, Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Metalúrgicas), the IETCC (Eduardo Torroja Institute for Construction Science, Instituto de Ciencias de la Construcción Eduardo Torroja), and the ICP (Institute of Catalysis and Petroleochemistry, Instituto de Catalisis y Petroleoquímica) also offer powerful support for materials research, in particular regarding technological aspects.
Beside the Spanish Governmental laboratories (OPIS), the Regional Government of Madrid has recently promoted a network of research centers of excellence known as IMDEA (Madrid Institute for Advanced Studies, Instituto Madrileño de Estudios Avanzados), which combine public and private support. Several of these centers focus their research on materials science, with the contribution from the IMDEA-Materials and the IMDEA-Nanoscience being of particular relevance.
The role of private companies in research activities related to the materials field in Madrid is very scarce compared to the public sector, following the general and traditional customs in the country overall.4 Institutional encouragement for pushing research activities in materials science and technology, as well as in other research areas, is concentrated in stimulant programs from regional or national entities. For instance, the CDTI (Centre for Industrial Technological Development, Centro para el Desarrollo Tecnológico Industrial) is a business public entity ascribed to the Spanish Ministry for Science and Innovation, which fosters the technological development and innovation of Spanish companies. MATERPLAT is a recent network devoted to procure academia–industry collaboration amongst companies, technological centers, universities, and research institutes devoted to the development of advanced materials and nanomaterials. Examples of involved companies from the Madrid Community are Acciona Infraestructuras, Repsol, Técnicas Reunidas, and Tolsa.
Madrid is the Spanish autonomous community with the highest production of papers on materials science and technology. Around 5000 documents (ISI web of Science: Materials Science Multidisciplinary) from the different groups and laboratories in Madrid have been published in the last ten years (from January 2001 to December 2010), representing around 40% of the overall Spanish production. Half of those publications correspond to the CSIC Institutes in Madrid, with the ICMM as the outstanding leader in this field. The UCM, UAM, UPM, and UC3M contribute with ca. 14%, 13%, 11%, and 6%, respectively. However, the most cited paper in the materials area in the last decade belongs to the UAM with the paper entitled “The SIESTA method for ab initio order-N materials simulation” by Soler et al.,5 which as been cited more than 2500 times. The second most cited contribution is “The electronic properties of graphene” by Castro Neto et al.6 from the ICMM-CSIC, with about 1500 citations at present. Having been published in 2009, this is a remarkable “hot paper” in the area.
The launch of research in materials science as well as in the other fields and disciplines started just after the Spanish transition to democracy. In the 1980s, there was a turning-point in scientific research in Spain, when two circumstances favorable to the development of scientific research in Spain occurred: 1) the election of a government in 1982 that paid special attention to the promotion of I+D, which increases the financial support from 0.43% of the GNP in 1981 to 0.85% in 1990, and the establishment of a new law for the promotion and coordination of scientific and technical research, known in short as the Spanish Science Law in 1986; and 2) the incorporation of Spain into the European Union (then the European Community). These circumstances made possible the development of initiatives for the promotion of research areas that rely on the interaction of different disciplines and particularly affected the CSIC. The actions taken by the CSIC for the development of materials science research in Spain were: 1) the establishment of a mobilizing program in 1985 to stimulate the interest of Spanish scientists in the materials research field and 2) the creation of four institutes of materials science in Barcelona, Sevilla, Zaragoza, and Madrid.
This current year (2011) the 25th Anniversary of the ICMM is being commemorated. The first director of this institute was José M. Serratosa, who can be considered the promoter of materials science, not only in Madrid but in the entire country. His crucial influence in the Spanish government and the CSIC, as well as his tremendous personal efforts, greatly contributed to the promotion of material science in Spain. He was Vice-Director General responsible for science policy in the government of Spain (1977 to 1979), and the creation of these four institutes is, indeed, an outstanding achievement of Professor Serratosa.
Contributions from the abovementioned universities and governmental agencies held in Madrid are highlighted in this Special Issue. One of the most fascinating topics at the present moment is graphene, an amazing type of materials whose discovery and research merited the 2010 Nobel Prize,which was awarded to Geim and Novoselov. In this issue several contributions focus on graphene from diverse points of view. In this context, Guinea and co-workers (ICMM-CSIC), in a Research News article, treat modeling aspects, enhancing the fact that these materials show a good agreement between theoretical models and experimental results, such as electronic transport properties, which are attributed to the simplicity of this type of carbonaceous systems. In another Research News that also deals with this topic, Terrones and co-workers from the UC3M review and discuss the requirement for developing alternative methods to produce large amounts of diverse types of graphenes, which are essentially now produced using the graphite oxide way, as well as discussing their interest in the development of new nanocomposites when these materials are used as fillers of polymers. A response to these questions can probably be found in the contribution by Ruiz-Hitzky and co-workers (ICMM-CSIC), which reports a new, safe, cheap, and easy synthetic approach that allows the production in large amounts of bulk graphenoids from natural resources, such as table sugar or gelatin, using porous solids as supports. This last Research News contribution has been immediately highlighted by Hernant, who compared production from this procedure with pure graphene single layers formed in cupper foils by Tour et al.7 Otero and co-authors from the UAM, ICMM-CSIC, UCM, and IMDEA-nanoscience have contributed with a Review Article on the molecular self-assembly at surfaces in which they discuss their own results and propose as conclusion that “one should not think on the self-assembly of organic molecules on a solid surface, but rather one should think of the co-assembly of organic molecules and a solid surface” (sic). Alonso-Alvarez and co-workers from the IMM-Instituto de Microelectrónica de Madrid (CNM-CSIC) introduce a Research News contribution on self-assembly, in this case of quantum dots and quantum posts, discussing the importance of their observations with a focus on the production of dense stacks of nanostructures that could be of great importance for the improvement of solar cells, IR photodetectors, and LEDs that exploit the exciting optoelectronic characteristics of strain balanced nanostructures. The Communication by Gallego-Gómez (ICMM-CSIC) and co-authors deals with the topic of light emission from nanocrystalline silicon inverse opals, reporting their preparation using an easy magnesiothermic process, concluding with the advantages in potential photonic or sensing devices fabrication. Rivera-Calzada (UCM) and other co-authors have contributed a Research News dealing with heteroestructures combining transition metal oxides, highlighting the importance of the interface structure of highly strained YSZ/STO superlattices in determining an enhancement of their ionic conductivity. On the topic of transition mixed oxides, Pico's group, also at the UCM, introduce a Research News focusing on “tunable” ferrites that appear as promising candidates for the improvement of devices of practical interest in magnetic refrigeration, high-potential lithium batteries, and ferrofluids for hyperthermia, among other potential advanced applications. New architectures of inorganic porous materials such as zeolites and metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) offers a wide range of structures and topologies of great importance for the development of traditional adsorbents and catalysts, as reviewed by Medina et al. from the ICMM-CSIC. In a Research News these authors introduce the relationships between structural features and properties of interest for the development of applications as sensing devices and especially for gas (hydrogen, carbon dioxide) storage because some of these materials exhibit extraordinarily high specific surface areas. Closely related to this last contribution, Gómez-Herrero and Zamora from the UAM contribute a Research News discussing recent progress in the potential use of coordination polymers as molecular wires for nanoelectronics. On the other hand, the concept of in situ operando spectroscopy has been introduced and discussed by Bañares (ICP-CSIC), also in a Research News contribution, with a focus on catalysis applications to which this technique can provide fundamental information on the materials structure and the involved processes. Several contributions deal with hybrids and complex systems. For instance, Darder and co-workers (ICMM-CSIC) contribute a Research News introducing recent examples of bionanocomposites and bioinspired materials conformed as foams showing novel hierarchical porous systems that bring out a broad range of advanced applications ranging from biomedical purposes to energy generation and storage. Related to this last topic but centered on biomaterials, Vallet-Regí from the UCM participate with an extended Review Article focusing on present use and future of diverse ceramics, silica-based materials, and organic-inorganic hybrids for tissue engineering, controlled drug delivery, cancer therapy, and other clinical applications. Other types of hybrid systems are referred to in the Research News contribution by Bitinis and co-workers from the ICTP-CSIC, which discusses polymer-clay nanocomposites with special attention focused on polymer families constituted by elastomers, thermosets, and bionanocomposites. The Research News contribution by Torres-Salas (ICP-CSIC) and co-workers introduces new trends for covalent enzyme immobilization on diverse supports emphasizing on the ordered mesoporous organosilicas and in the in silico analysis concept. The contribution by Levy's group and co-workers (INTA and ICMM-CSIC) refers to hybrid materials prepared by sol-gel, which show tunable optical and electro-optical properties, and the contribution by Serna's group (ICMM-CSIC) refers to functional materials based on iron oxides with special interest in biomedicine purposes. Related to these last materials, González-Alfaro et al., also from the ICMM-CSIC, report in a Communication on the use of modified magnetite nanoparticles for the functionalization of clays and other porous solids giving rise to superparamagnetic materials that have adsorbent behavior, which opens way to advanced applications, includingfor instance, the easy and efficient elimination of pollutants from water. Finally, the Progress Report by LLorca's group at the IMDEA-Materials focuses on a multiscale modeling approach to carry out high-fidelity virtual mechanical tests of composites and other structural materials.