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Technology at the service of the community

Changes expand the activities of the IPT division

The mission of the century old Technology Research Institute (IPT) is to serve the community, companies and industries interested in the practical application of technological research. During this period IPT has built up a solid partnership with private initiative. During 1995, with the support of FAPESP's Infrastructure Program, the institute renovated and modernized its laboratories, which resulted in qualitative changes in its standard of service and relationships with outside bodies.

An example of this change can be seen in the Chemical Division. Initially, four large projects were benefited, those which involved from the updating of the telephone system to the replacement of the power cables, built way back in the 50s, says Marco Giulietti, of the Chemical Processes Grouping/Chemical Division. From 1998 onwards, projects linked to specific laboratories were contemplated. One of them was the Particle Technology Laboratory, coordinated by Giulietti himself and Maria Inês Ré, which had its area increased from 300 m2 to 600 m2. The new installations enabled the introduction of equipment evaluated at US$ 500,000, which had been unused or rented to other departments.

The reforms made possible the development of research into the processes of the micro encapsulation of perfumes, aromas and veterinary products, as well as research into bottlenecked technology and of values to be added on to industrial products. These last two have already generated two new patents of interest to national companies. “Over the last two years, after the renovation out through the Infra, our activities have simply doubled and our forecast is that we will reach an income of US$ 350,000 in 2001”, says Giulietti.

The researchers at the Biotechnology Laboratory/Chemical Division of IPT were also assisted. For more than twenty years, the laboratory has been carrying out analysis and the development of processes that use micro organisms, bacteria, fungi, and animal cells in the transformation of raw material into products of interest to the community. One of the major projects in this area is with the client Sugarcane, Sugar and Alcohol Cooperative of the State of São Paulo Ltd. (Coopersucar).

In the opinion of Elizabeth de Fátima Pires Augusto, of the Biotechnology Group, the money from the Infra Program was used to update the laboratories to the level demanded when dealing with pathogenic micro organisms. “Without this certification it wouldn't have been possible to receive any Federal funding through the National Council of Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) or the Financier of Studies and Projects (Finep)”, she explains. The Infra Program resources covered close to 80% of the expenses involved. The IPT itself came up with the remainder.

The Tokio Morita building, housing the Organic Chemistry and Inorganic Chemistry Analytical Laboratories, of the Chemical Division of IPT, was also able to count upon Infra resources for modernizing its installations.Today it carries out close to three hundred sample analyses per month, with the possibility of increasing this service. Before the renovation, it was a location with serious operational problems and of work safety difficulties.

The renovation attended to the standards of security demanded by the Ministry of Labor, in such a way as to avoid contamination by chemical gases, corrosive substances and personal accidents with pieces of apparatus, explains professor Regina Nagamine, Head of the Inorganic Materials Group. The air conditioning equipment and a very old cooling tower were substituted, and in addition a smoke detection alarm system was installed. Also renovated were the boilers and the electrical installations. “The greatest beneficiaries were IPT's clients”, concludes professor Regina.

Halon gas

In the Fire Safety Laboratory of IPT's Civil Engineering Division (DEC), the researchers have as their focal point the prevention and protection of fires in buildings, fire resistant materials and research into the extinguishing of fires. Nothing similar exists in the country, assures Rosária Ono, of the Laboratory team. Part of the team is researching alternatives to the use of the gas halon in fire prevention systems and in fighting fires in telephone centers and data processing centers (CPDs), locations where fire cannot be put out by the use of water. Nevertheless, this gas is harmful to the ozone layer.

The need for environmental protection and the observance of international safety protocols has led the telephone concessionaires, such as Telefônica and BCP, the Company of Basic Sanitation of São Paulo (Sabesp) and other State and private companies to search for alternative solutions to the use of halon. In Rosária's opinion, there are already several solutions developed and used abroad. The initial idea was to test them here, but the hurdle was the lack of conditions of the laboratory.

To settle this question an abandoned shed was reformed. The basic research equipment consists of two full scale chambers, resistant to large alterations in temperature, with built in exhaust systems, for experiments and construction materials and fire extinguishing tests.