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What's nims?

Advantages and innovations of NIMS

The National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) is Japan’s sole public research organization specialized in materials research, boasting a number of distinctive characteristics and achievements.

NIMS continues to
support and revolutionize lives

All of the manufactured electrical products, machines and civil infrastructure vital to our lives—such as lighting devices, roads, bridges, buildings and cars—are made of materials. NIMS researchers have produced a number of ubiquitous materials for changing the world as Japan’s national materials research specialists.

Sialon phosphorsa revolutionary lighting technology

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are very energy-efficient lighting devices. Early white LED bulbs were able to generate white light when their blue LED chips were coated with a yellow phosphor.

However, their blue-tinged white light made them unpopular for use in lighting fixtures. A red phosphor was needed to generate natural white light, but it had yet to be invented. NIMS tackled this challenge and succeeded in developing a red sialon phosphor, enabling LEDs to emit natural white light. Today, these white LEDs are commonly used in lighting fixtures around the world. The sialon phosphors NIMS developed revolutionized lighting technologies and have become a global standard.

FMS alloy seismic damperprotecting skyscrapers from major earthquakes

When the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred, long-period ground motion was widely reported by media outlets as far from the epicenter as Osaka, causing skyscrapers to sway for long periods of time. To prevent damage caused by this phenomenon, many new buildings are equipped with seismic dampers. However, once a building experiences a massive earthquake, the performance of its dampers degrades, requiring them to be replaced through large-scale civil engineering work.

NIMS has developed a shape-memory FMS alloy highly resistant to the fatigue caused by repeated deformation. In addition to its ability to absorb external stress, the fatigue strength of this alloy is 10 times higher than that of conventional damper materials. Because of these advantages, the alloy has been integrated into the seismic dampers used in some buildings, which require no maintenance or replacement. This is an example of NIMS’ efforts to protect buildings from major earthquakes.

Photo: Takenaka Corporation

HAMR mediaan ultrahigh-density recording technology vital to an advanced information society

Data centers established around the world store huge amounts of digital information primarily using hard disk drives (HDDs). According to one estimate, these data centers will account for 10% of total global power consumption within a decade. More energy-efficient, higher density data storage technologies are therefore needed. NIMS succeeded in developing the world’s first HAMR (heat-assisted magnetic recording) media—a ultrahigh-density recording technology—using a new FePt material. HAMR HDDs are already in practical use, supporting our advanced information society.

* The picture above is not of a HAMR HDD, but is intended to give you a general idea of its appearance.

Bismuth-based superconductora potential key to making power transmission significantly more efficient

The 1988 discovery of a bismuth-based high-temperature superconducting material by the National Research Institute for Metals (a predecessor of NIMS) surprised the global scientific community.

The electrical resistance of superconducting materials abruptly drops to zero when they are cooled to their critical temperatures. In 1986, Swiss and German scientists jointly discovered a material capable of superconductivity at 35 K (-238°C)—a temperature significantly higher than previously known critical temperatures. They won the Nobel Prize in Physics for this discovery. Although a number of different high-temperature superconductors have since been discovered, the bismuth-based superconductor NIMS developed is different from them in chemical composition and has a very high critical temperature of over 100 K (-173°C), suggesting that superconductivity could occur at temperatures higher than previously reported.

This bismuth-based superconducting material may potentially be used to develop resistance-free power transmission cables and very strong electromagnets, and testing is underway to put it into practical use.

Photo:Nacása & Partners Inc.

Changing the world
through creative approaches

Streamlining materials R&D by integrating data science

NIMS has been making serious data-driven materials research efforts. This new approach improves R&D efficiency by making more effective use of data on materials. For example, the NIMS materials data platform DICE provides high-quality data and applications to both NIMS and external researchers.

Independent research:
a driving force in enhancing NIMS’ research capability

To promote its ability to produce revolutionary research results, NIMS allows its researchers to allocate 50% of their time and effort (i.e., 50% of their annual working hours) to independent research in pursuit of their personal research interests. Researchers who have improved their research capabilities through independent research are likely to make great contributions to NIMS’ missions.

Figure of allocation of NIMS researchers’ efforts.50% effort is Research to fulfill NIMS’ missions time and the other 50% is Independent research time.

The state-of-the-art lab equipments

Materials research is impossible without proper lab equipment. NIMS has a wide array of cutting-edge equipment—including very rare, valuable instruments—enabling it to offer one of the best materials research environments in the world.

Photo of SARPES system

Spin- and angular-resolved photoemission spectroscopy (SARPES) system capable of measuring electrons’ binding energy, momenta and spin states in a material. NIMS owns a high-performance SARPES system—one of the only 10 such systems in existence.

Photo of TEM

NIMS is equipped with various types of microscopes, including the transmission electron microscope (TEM) shown in this photo, and an array of analytical and measurement instruments.

NIMS Open Facility available for use by external researchers

The NIMS Open Facility is available not only to NIMS researchers but also to researchers from universities, private companies and public organizations in Japan and overseas. NIMS has been supporting the R&D activities of these researchers to fulfill its role as the central hub in the Advanced Research Infrastructure for Materials and Nanotechnology (ARIM) Japan program under the direction of the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT).

NIMS Open Facility

Japan’s top research institution

Japan’s leader in materials science

NIMS is regarded as Japan’s most influential materials science research organization.

Japan’s top 10 materials science organizations

Rank Organization No. of frequently cited papers Proportion of frequently cited papers to total number of papers published
1 National Institute for Materials Science(NIMS) 157 2.4%
2 University of Tokyo 76 1.5%
3 Tohoku University 53 0.8%
4 National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology 51 1.3%
5 Kyoto University 38 1.0%
6 RIKEN 32 2.8%
6 Kyushu University 32 0.9%
8 Waseda University 27 2.6%
9 Tokyo Institute of Technology 20 0.6%
10 Hokkaido University 19 0.8%

NIMS’ ranking in other scientific fields

Chemistry 3rd place
Physics 3th place
Overall 6th place

NIMS, the world-top-level research institute

NIMS is comparable to internationally renowned universities as qualified by the proportion of the top 1% most cited papers to the total number of papers published.*

Figure:Top 1% Papers(All area:2016-2022 average value)
* Top 1% most cited papers are determined for each scientific field.

Japan’s highest patent licensing income per capita

Compared to other Japanese research organizations and universities, NIMS generates by far the highest patent licensing income per 100 researchers.

Figure:Patent licensing income per 100 researchers (FY2020).NIMS is far ahead of research organizations in Japan

Collaboration with major industrial firms

Industrial Collaboration Center

In line with NIMS’ slogan, "The true value of materials lies in their use by people," NIMS is committed to supporting the development sector through strategic, continuous collaboration with industrial firms based on its medium-to-long-term roadmap. NIMS has been developing next-generation technologies in collaboration with internationally famous companies like SoftBank and L’Oréal Japan.

Materials Open Platform (MOP)

NIMS-led, industry-specific MOP frameworks enable companies in the same industries to work together to achieve common goals, thereby fostering innovation. NIMS MOPs have been started in several industries.

Schematic chart of MOP

International environment

About 30% of NIMS researchers are foreign nationals, making NIMS a culturally and linguistically diverse research institute.

NIMS’ Research Center for Materials Nanoarchitectonics (MANA) and International Center for Young Scientists (ICYS) are particularly rich in diversity. They actively support the efforts of outstanding international researchers to exchange new ideas and conduct advanced research.

Photo of researchers in conversation.

The Research Center for Materials Nanoarchitectonics (MANA) encourages its researchers and students from diverse nationalities to engage in active interactions.

Photo of a young researcher doing research

Many promising young researchers at the International Center for Young Scientists (ICYS) have produced outstanding results in their independent research projects.

Attracting overseas students to NIMS

In addition to Japanese students, NIMS attracts many international students, despite the fact that it is not a university. This is because they know that NIMS is committed to fostering young talent.

Many students enroll in NIMS via its Joint Graduate School Program or International Cooperative Graduate Program, in which they conduct advanced materials research under the supervision of NIMS researchers.

Photo of students doing research.
Map of Overseas universities that cooperate with NIMS (as of June 2023)

Comfortable and secure environment for researchers

NIMS is based in Tsukuba (i.e., Tsukuba Science City) in Ibaraki Prefecture. While Tsukuba is a well-developed city with many research organizations, private companies and stores, it also has a wealth of natural beauty, including large parks and Mount Tsukuba. Living there enables researchers to enjoy urban convenience and natural splendor at the same time.

Easy access from the Tokyo metropolitan area

It takes only 45 minutes from Tsukuba Station to Akihabara Station by the fastest train.

Convenient location for collaborating with other research organizations

Tsukuba is home to 29 national universities and research institutions.

Satisfying your relaxation and shopping needs

Many stores and public parks

Emergency medical services available

You can see a doctor even at night or on weekends.

A plenty of educational events and intercultural opportunities for children

Great setting for raising and educating children

* Source: Ibaraki Prefecture webpage on national research organizations in Tsukuba (updated on October 7, 2021)

Other advantages of NIMS

Gender-equal work environment

NIMS has been working to create an inclusive, lively workplace by enhancing the private and professional lives of employees with different values and lifestyles.

No risk of being transferred to a distant location

All NIMS sites (Sengen, Namiki and Sakura) are within Tsukuba. Because of their proximity to one another, NIMS employees and their families don’t have to worry about long-distance relocation and sudden changes in their living environments due to a transfer.

Close to Tsukuba Station

The main campus of NIMS(Sengen site) is only 15 minutes away from Tsukuba Station on foot via a tree-lined walkway. NIMS is the research institution closest to the station in Tsukuba city, making commuting very convenient.