For close to thirty years, researchers and students of the four departments of the Gleb Wataghin Physics Institute of Unicamp, came up against serious working difficulties. The lack of investment in maintenance of the laboratories led to the accumulation of a series of problems, such as the obsolescence of the electrical circuitry. “The infrastructure of the laboratories hadn't kept up with technological evolution over the last few decades”, says Carlos Rettori, the coordinator of the Optical and Magnetic Solid Properties Group of the Quantum Electronics Department. At the minimum, it had become necessary to guarantee adequate conditions for the working of computerized equipment, through good stability of temperature and energy.
The modernization of the laboratories demanded a high investment and was able to count upon the support of FAPESP's Infrastructure Program. During the period of the renovation work, everything had to be switched off, bringing with it loses to ongoing research and the conclusion of student theses. However, in Rettori's opinion, the wait was worthwhile. “Today we have adequate installations, both from the point of view of quantity of electrical energy and from safety, with good grounding and protection against lightning”, he says. It was the end of the chaos that reigned during the days of lightning storms when the lightning would burn out various machines and computers.
The no-break system finished with the frequent blackouts, which shut down equipment and destroyed the work of various weeks. For example, during the phase of sample preparation, the materials generally need to pass through a heat treatment for a week. “When this is interrupted, one goes back to square one”, explains Rettori. Also, in the analysis phase, the measurement of the physical properties of the materials is done using automatic equipment, previously programmed in accordance with the type of experiment and that runs twenty four hours per day. “If it enters into collapse, then we lose all of the measurements.”
The financial resources of the program also allowed for the installation of a central air conditioning system that guaranteed the correct functioning and the adequate conservation of equipment. “We have very sophisticated equipment, highly sensitive to temperature variation”, emphasizes Rettori. This is the case of the paramagnetic electronic resonance spectrometer for measuring microwaves, a piece of newly purchased equipment costing US$ 1 million and being used in a thematic project financed by FAPESP. “Equipment of this level couldn't have been installed if it hadn't been for the Infrastructure Program.”
Today the laboratories are operating at full steam, developing research both of analysis and in the development of new semiconductor materials, which have diverse applications in optical and electronic technologies and with superconductors.
Interchanges with institutions abroad is being strengthened more and more. The group is developing projects in conjunction with important teams such as those at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico; Florida State University in the city of Tallahassee, Florida; San Diego State University in San Diego, California; Rattgers University in Nova Jersey; Ames Laboratory, of Iwoa; Universidad Del Pais Vasco in Bilbao, Spain; and the Balseiro Institute in Bariloche in the Argentine.
The competitiveness of the group on the international scenario, according to Rettori, is due in a large part to the resources of the Infra Program and to the successive thematic projects that have guaranteed the continuity and the financing of research over the last twelve years.Republish