The International Institute for Multifunctional Materials for Energy Conversion (IIMEC) is an NSF-funded International Material Institute, established at Texas A&M University, in partnership with the University of Houston, Pennsylvania State University, and international research collaborators at universities in North Africa, the Middle East, and Mediterranean countries. IIMEC’s mission is focused on creating an active network of materials researchers, facilities and cyber infrastructure in the Middle East-Mediterranean region, focusing on transformative research on multifunctional materials exhibiting strong coupling among different fields, resulting in various forms of efficient energy conversion. By bringing high quality research and education programs on materials to the selected international regions, IIMEC’s mission is to improve the utilization of natural resources and bring balance between renewable and non-renewable energy sources. Such efforts will ultimately contribute to the peace, stability, and sustainability of resources in the region.
The research of the IIMEC has an overarching theme of computational materials science for multifunctional materials, which serves three specific research areas: 1) coupling of thermal/magnetic and mechanical properties; 2) coupling of electrical and mechanical properties; and 3) thermal and electrical, and optical and electrical coupling. The intellectual merit of this institute originates from the fact that IIMEC brings together leading researchers in computational and multifunctional materials from the region and provide a new level of infrastructure to enable collaboration among these researchers with the purpose of modeling and predicting cross-coupling of multiple functionalities, eventually leading to design of new multifunctional materials with high energy conversion efficiencies.
Since the start of the award in September 2009, IIMEC senior scientists have worked on many initiatives:
- Establishing and growing contacts and collaborations with the international participants through an international kick-off meeting in College Station, Texas, in January 2010, followed by the second annual meeting in Doha, Qatar, in February 2011, and the third annual meeting in College Station, Texas in January 2012.
- Interactions and collaborations in specific areas starting with:
- a workshop in SMAs, in Istanbul, Turkey, in June 2010
- a summer school in Thessaloniki, Greece and a retreat in Texas, in August 2010
- a follow-up workshop in France, in December 2010
- supporting two workshops in May 2011, one in Saudi Arabia and the other one in Egypt
- the first winter school on computational materials science in College Station, Texas, in January 2012 that will be an annual event under the umbrella of IIMEC
- a conference on bio-based materials and composites in Morocco in February 2012
- a workshop in Tunisia (U.S.-Morocco-Tunisia workshop on entrepreneurship and innovation in engineering education in Tunisia)
- supporting two summer schools, one on advanced composite materials in Greece and sponsoring another one on renewable and sustainable Energy with the focus on organic and nano-photovoltaics – I-CAMP 2012, at the University of Colorado, Boulder, both in July 2012.
- Developing education and human resources by creating and delivering short courses, giving invited talks and lectures at the various participating sites, and planning joint research collaborations.
- Continuing with exchanges of faculty and students from US to the collaborating countries and from various participating countries to the US.
- Executed several memoranda of understanding with several partner universities for formal student exchanges, joint degree programs, and research faculty and student exchanges.
- Strengthening research collaborations by leveraging resources provided by IIMEC to facilitate joint research proposals submitted to research foundations in different countries, most notably Qatar National Research Foundation and KAUST in Saudi Arabia.
- Improving the computational cluster for use by US and international participants for more efficient sharing of data, computational software and other programming needs.
- Expanding Spain and Italy have been added as new collaborating countries of IIMEC.
One of the main challenges for IIMEC for this coming year will be to continue to find ways to keep moving forward with our research collaborations and the student exchanges, as political instability continues to move through the region. We have been fortunate that most of our student and faculty exchanges are taking place. The computer cluster and the advisory board have become two additional instruments that enhanced interactions and brought relevance of the IIMEC projects to the participating countries. The suggestions from the advisory board in the third annual meeting were quite beneficial and we took actions to address those suggestions such as improving interactions, dissemination of information and by deciding to hold the next annual meeting at Georgia Tech Lorraine in France and co-lead the annual winter school on computational materials with University of Houston.