The resources of the Infrastructure Program financed the renovation and the modernization of the Chemical Institute laboratories of the State University of Campinas (Unicamp). The investments, totaling some R$ 5.34 million, guaranteed appropriate conditions for the development of teaching and of important research with applications in the areas of the environment, telecommunications and medicine, among others.
The Solid State Chemistry Laboratory, for example, now has a totally modernized research area. Its installations are equipped with stainless steel sinks, fitted cupboards below the benches with casters to facilitate access to the hydraulic and electrical systems, ergonomic benches, gas lines and standardized plumping, as well as a room with controlled temperature and humidity. The electrical installations received special attention since the research makes use of ovens going up to 1,700ºC for the melting of glass and special ceramics. “We needed a specific electrical installation (of 50KVA), independent from that used by the computers, and more sensitive electronic equipment”, reports the coordinator of the laboratory, Oswaldo Luiz Alves.
There was even the need to relocate those ovens that had been installed in a teaching laboratory, which had meant that they could only be used in the evenings, at the weekends or at times unoccupied by students, and to guarantee that they would be operational in accordance with safety standards. “We work with sulfur oxides and hydrogen sulfide gas that can cause allergic reactions and even seriously compromise the respiratory system”, explains Alves. The installation of the fume cupboards with laminar flow provided the necessary level of exhaust draft.
After the reforms, several important pieces of research could be carried out in this laboratory that today is part of the Research Center into Optics and Photonics, one of the ten Research, Innovation and Diffusion Centers (Cepids) maintained by FAPESP. For example, the laboratory is studying the development of porous materials for the removal of pigments that are discharged in the effluents of companies that dye cloth, which can damage the environment, and technologies for the deposit of membranes on top of glassy substrates (fine films), that can be used with sensors for gas pollutants in industrial situations.
There is also research into the use of nanometric particles that impart to glass non-linear optical properties or quantum effects, of use in fast telecommunications. “Besides the increase in motivation, the Infra Program gave the team a laboratory of international standing, which increased the competitiveness in relation to other universities and awakened the interest of foreign researchers”, says Alves.
The Program also benefited students and researchers at the Thompson Laboratory of mass spectrometry of the IQ-Unicamp. Its coordinator, Marcos Nogueira Eberlin, recalls that before the reform the working conditions very often created embarrassing situations. In an area of only 50m2, researchers and students had to take turns using the single spectrometer. Today, with an area almost five times greater, of 240m2, used only for research and with a new laboratory totally restructured, the team can dedicate itself to the development and application of new techniques for the resolution of analytical problems of pollutants in water, soil and the air, and of the existence of metabolites in biological fluids, just to site a few examples.
The appropriate infrastructure made possible the installation of the first spectrometer conceived to be a pentaquadrupolar (couples together mass spectrometers of triple phases – three analyses of the masses). We are talking about a more sensitive piece of equipment, which allows for the multiplication of the potential use of the equipment and to carry out a greater number of experiments, explains Eberlin. “We could come out ahead in basic research of reaction mechanisms. Today, we're developing new techniques for the determination of homocysteine – amino acid in the blood -, that could substitute, with advantages, the traditional dosing of cholesterol”, says Eberlin. The team is also researching new techniques of the monitoring of chemical reactions in an aqueous environment (analysis of organic compounds in water).
The laboratory maintains agreements with various São Paulo universities and with other States and cooperates with groups from Denmark, Finland and the United States. Together with the University of Purdue in Indiana (USA), for example, it is carrying out work on bio-molecules, based on the discovery of the process of natural selection of chiral amino acids.
The Natural Products, Synthesis and Isolation Laboratory, where five professors work, had not gone through any renovation since its construction in 1972. According to Anita Jocelyne Marsaioli, only the brickwork was intact. The resources of the Infrastructure Program allowed for the reform of its installations in an area of 300 m2, and the development of important research. “One of our post doctorate students recently received honorable mention in the Mário Covas Award for his research into solar filters with anti-cancer action in vitro”, revealed Dr. Anita.Republish