The Social Council of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya · Barcelona Tech (UPC) has awarded the 12th Duran Farell Prize in Technological Research, awarded every two years, to the research group led by Dr Jordi Sort Viñas, ICREA lecturer at the UAB Department of Physics, for their project entitled Voltage-Control of magnetism in nanoscale-engineered materials: a new concept for energy-efficient data storage. The prize also went to CAR-CSIC researcher Elena Garcia Armada, for her project on the paediatric exoskeleton entitled "Exoesqueleto Pediátrico (ATLAS)". Each of the projects will receive a cash prize of €10,000 from the company Naturgy Energy Group SA.
This is the first time the prize, which is awarded every two years and takes into account projects developed in the past three years in Spain, is awarded in two modalities: one for a female researcher or a team in which the main researcher is a woman, and one for a male researcher or team in which the main researcher is a man.
Storing data in electronic devices more efficiently and safely
The project Voltage-Control of magnetism in nanoscale-engineered materials: a new concept for energy-efficient data storage, directed by Jordi Sort Viñas, seeks to solve one of the most important challenges faced by modern society: the energy needed for large scale data storage. The project consists in using voltage instead of intensity in order to record information on electronic storage devices, so as drastically to reduce thermal dissipation caused by the Joule effect. New materials with optimised microstructures at nanoscale level were developed, new protocols on how to act on these materials through voltage and a new design for the devices were created.
In addition to a drastic reduction in energy loss in these processes, the application of voltage when registering information in the devices' memory also makes them safer and more robust, and therefore is useful for technologies focusing on preventing or avoiding electronic falsifications or attacks.
As a physicist with a PhD in Materials Science from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Jordi Sort is an ICREA researcher at the Department of Physics, where he directed the Group in Advanced Materials for Nanoengineering, Nanomechanics and Nanomagnetism. His research tasks have focused on the synthesis of a large variety of functional materials and the sutdy of their structural, mechanical, magnetic, thermic and antiocorrosive properties, with the aim of improving their behaviour and obtaining innovative technological applications.
The European Research Council (ERC) acknowledged the taks of his research group with both the Proof of Concept (2019) grant to create a new type of memory for computers with a robust design capable of minimising energy losses produced by heat, and the Consolidator Grant (2015) to help develop, alongside other UAB researchers, new nanoporous materials with which to build computers needing practically no electricity, with no loss in energy due to heat. In that same 2015, Jordi Sort received a European Training Network in magnetoelectric materials and was awarded with the FEMS Materials Science and Technology Prize 2015 by the Federation of European Materials Societies. This year, Jordi Sort has been elected Fellow of the Institute of Physics (IOP, UK). He has also received prizes from the Catalan Physics Society (2000) and the Royal Spanish Society of Physics (2003). He has published over 320 articles, is author of six patents and has directed 32 local and international research projects. The results of these projects were presented in over 300 conferences in which Jordi Sort participated as guest speaker.
Duran Farell Prize in Technological Research
First announced in 2000 and awarded every two years, the Duran Farell Prize in Technological Research was created by the UPC's Social Council with the collaboration of the gas company Gas Natural Fenosa. The prize was created as a homage to businessman Pere Duran Farell, who was also the first president of the UPC's Social Council, and president of Grup Gas Natural.
The jury in charge of selecting the winners of the prie, which this year reaches its 12th edition and 20 years of history, was presided by Ramon Carbonell, President of the UPC's Social Council. Also forming part of the jury were Teresa Riesgo, General Secretary of Innovation of the Ministry for Science and Innovation (MCIN); Zulema Altamirano, Director of MCIN Science and Women Unit; Olga Alay, Deputy Director General of Sectorial, Scientific and Technological Policies of the Government of Catalonia; Jordi Portabella, General Director of the Catalan Foundation for Research and Innovation; Sílvia Sanjoaquin, from the Naturgy Energy Group, SA, and Jordi Berenguer, Vice Rector for Transfer, Knowledge and Innovation at the UPC, in addition to Valentí Guasch, Head of the UPC Research Area, as secretary.
Website of the Duran Farell Prize