Leading up to the Prague ICG, news came out of Brazil of a very large award to support glass and glass-ceramic research, as well as education outreach.
Edgar Zanotto in his lecture. Credit: ACerS.
The new funding from the São Paulo State Research Foundation (FAPESP) establishes theCenter for Glass Research, Technology and Education in Vitreous Materials (CeRTEV) and will be led Edgar Zanotto, professor at the Federal University of São Carlos. (Zanotto was the GOMD 2012 Morey Award lecturer.) I had the chance to talk to Zanotto in June at PACRIM–GOMD about the new center and what it means to the glass research community.
The funding agency, FAPESP, awarded 17 new research centers for support for eleven years each after conducting a 2-year competition that began with a field of 90 proposals.
The CeRTEV is an 11-year, approximately USD$22 million effort with funding at about USD $2 million per year for five years, after which the FAPESP will evaluate the program before authorizing funding for the next six years. CeRTEV is a collaboration involving 14 faculty at two universities located in São Carlos. Two more faculty who are education and outreach specialists round out the investigator team.
“We had this strategy of getting 14 researchers from two universities which were based in the same town. The whole strategy was to facilitate interaction throughout the eleven years,” Zanotto says.
Seven professors each from the Federal University of São Carlos (Zanotto’s home institution) and the University of São Paulo–São Carlos campus are collaborating. The two campuses are only four kilometers apart. The center brings together an interdisciplinary team that includes experts in vitreous materials like Zanotto, but also physicists and chemists who specialize in characterization techniques such as nuclear magnetic resonance, Raman spectroscopy, and extended X-ray absorption fine structure (EXAFS) spectroscopy.
Like the other 16 new centers, CeRTEV focuses on two “actions”—research and technology to support Brazillian industries, and education and outreach.
The research component will involve a systematic search for new glass and glass-ceramic compositions with specified properties such as bioactivity, biocompatibility, high mechanical strength, or desired electrical properties.
“The main idea of the research part is to develop the genome of different glasses, from the recognized structure to special thermal treatments, which may or may not crystallize these materials, and then to develop microstructures to achieve certain properties for applications,” he says.
The group chose five application areas to develop glasses and glass-ceramics for: bioactive materials, dental materials, armor, optical materials, and catalysis for certain processes. However, Zanotto says, “We are not really attached to these five areas. We are going to start with these five areas, but we may add some more during the next few years.”
Taking the view, perhaps, that “what’s good for the world is good for Brazil,” and vice versa, the centers are expected to have a strong international influence. In fact, FAPESP used international review panels to evaluate the 90 proposals to avoid conflicts of interest. International collaborations are vital to the centers, according to Zanotto. “Within the activities of the center, one of the major issues is to foster international collaboration. From the very beginning, the agency required all 17 centers to build a very strong international network,” he said.
Zanotto, who was just in Prague at the ICG, already is known worldwide, but will be looking for more international collaboration opportunities. Besides research, the education and outreach component of the project lends itself naturally to international exchanges. Similar to the IMI-NFG program at Lehigh University and Pennsylvania State University, he envisions international exchanges as a critical outreach activity. However, he also expects CeRTEV to expand beyond traditional approaches to education to build more outreach channels.
“We have to go further than the traditional education we do at the university,” he says, “for example, through websites, online courses, special short courses for undergrads, post grads and also high schools.”
Considering the size of the award in terms of funding as well as time, CeRTEV is likely one of the largest and longest timeframe research efforts dedicated to glass science. Its impact will unfold over time, but it is likely to have a dominant influence on glass research globally for more than a decade.
Zanotto’s enthusiasm is infectious. “We believe this will give us some momentum… [We expect the project] will catalyze some energy, some new efforts, and motivate, perhaps, some young people to enter the field,” he says.
“So let’s see—let’s talk in three years and see how things are doing. At least for Brazil, it will have a large impact. As to the international glass science, let’s see. I hope so!”