During more than two decades the working conditions of the physics laboratories of the public universities of São Paulo imposed serious limits on the researchers' work, laboring against all of the efforts in search of maximum precision. Through the lack of investments in the infrastructure itself, the installations were becoming more and more precarious, hindering the development of the research work.
“We had money and sophisticated equipment to carry out the research, but the basic needs were lacking”, says Vanderlei Salvador Bagnato, of the Physics Institute of the University of São Paulo (USP), in São Carlos. The list of problems heralded the imminent collapse of the research centers: there was a lack of benches, tables, updated systems for gases supply, lighting, refrigeration, air conditioning, and even more seriously water and electrical energy.
FAPESP's Infrastructure Program funded the modernization of the physics laboratories, by investing R$ 32.1 million in 235 projects scattered throughout the laboratories of several research institutions. For example, USP institutes, both in São Paulo and on the campus of São Carlos, the State University of Campinas (Unicamp) and the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar) were benefited.
A good part of these resources were used in the substitution of the electrical circuits, adjusting the increasing electrical energy demand spawned by the purchase of modern equipment, and in the installation of air conditioning systems. “Today we have highly sensitive and sophisticated equipment that requires reliable infrastructure from the point of view of the stability of the electrical voltage, well grounded circuits, a stable environmental temperature in the laboratory, and a water cooling system for the equipment”, emphasizes professor Carlos Rettori, of the Physics Institute of Unicamp.
By creating the conditions for the adequate functioning of the equipment, the Infrastructure Program provided a solid base to the teaching and the advance of research in the state, and at the same time helped to preserve and to strengthen an incalculable patrimony in terms of installations, precision instruments and computer networks. “Without a laboratory there is no physics”, defines the director of the Physics Institute of the University of São Paulo (USP), Silvio Roberto de Azevedo Salinas.
Through the multipurpose equipment modules, many of the laboratories were able to purchase latest generation equipment, increasing their productive capacity and the quality of the published scientific papers. At the UFSCar, with resources from the Infra Program, professor Wilson Aires Ortiz, of the Superconductors and Magnetism Group, installed a SQUID (Superconducting Quantum Interference Device ), a magnetic field sensor of high range that allows the automatic analysis of materials with great precision.
The possibility of having a piece of equipment of this type was fundamental for the production of new theses, and for the staff training and also to expand the frontiers in this area. “We are working in a laboratory like few of its kind in the world”, states Ortiz. Professor Rettori agrees completely. “Our research has to be competitive, and we would never have been able to arrive at this point with our infrastructure being thirty years out of date.”Republish