In the first call for proposals, the new, more inclusive, and collaborative selection process attracted proposals from scientists in 15 countries and 17 Brazilian states, most notably the Northeast of the country
Sirius, the Brazilian synchrotron light source planned and operated by the Brazilian Center for Research in Energy and Materials (CNPEM), an organization supervised by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MCTI), has opened another regular call for proposals for research to be conducted in the first six operating experimental stations.
From April 3 to 24, researchers who are interested in conducting experiments at Sirius may submit proposals. These experiments from the proposals chosen during this call will be carried out during the second half of 2023, between August 2 and December 16.
For the second time, the proposals will be selected through a double-anonymous peer review process that considers scientific merit. The final allocation of beamline time in the research stations also takes into account the geographical distribution and diversity of scientific areas.
“Sirius was planned to leverage research in a variety of areas, and we encourage diverse ideas. For this reason, we designed an objective and impartial evaluation process in which research proposals are analyzed from multiple points of view. We hope to receive scientific proposals that target strategic problems with well-designed hypotheses which can be tested at Sirius, including from groups without experience using synchrotron light techniques,” says Harry Westfahl Jr., director of the Brazilian Synchrotron Light National Laboratory/CNPEM, which is responsible for running Sirius.
Although there is no cost for academic use, researchers from Brazilian and foreign institutions who live in Latin America and the Caribbean whose projects are approved may request financial aid to travel to Campinas, where Sirius is located, and use the facilities there.
“The regular opening up of the first research stations at Sirius to the scientific community is the most important landmark for this project, in my opinion. This call for proposals can benefit a variety of areas such as biology, geology, engineering, physics, and chemistry. For this to happen, we must advocate for better conditions for Brazilian science. Our users need structure in their laboratories to raise questions, create good hypotheses, and conduct initial testing in order to then come to Sirius. It is essential that we have an entire well-structured science and technology system and especially ongoing investments in training human resources to obtain good results in what is one of the most advanced pieces of equipment in the world,” states Antonio José Roque da Silva, Director General of the CNPEM.
More information about submitting proposals and financial aid can be found at Information for Users on the LNLS website, and you can also contact the technical staff at the LNLS to answer any questions using the form below.
The second regular call for research proposals at Sirius includes six beamlines (as the experimental stations are called). These beamlines operate independently and simultaneously and have already completed the scientific commissioning phase, when researchers test the parameters of the machinery and the available techniques in real experiments. The beamlines and experimental resources available in this call for proposals are:
- Carnaúba: Micro and nano-florescence and X-ray spectroscopy and ptychography. This station analyzes a wide variety of nano-structured materials to obtain 2D and 3D imaging with nanometric resolution of soil composition and structure and biological materials and fertilizers, as well as other research in the environmental sciences.
- Cateretê: Coherent diffraction imaging (ptychography) and X-ray photon correlation spectroscopy (XPCS). This station is optimized for 3D imaging with nanometric resolution of materials for a broad array of applications.
- Ipê: X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS) and photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS). This beamline is optimized to combine techniques for surface and interface analysis of materials and molecular systems. It is applied to the study of chemical composition, electronic structure, and elementary excitations in materials for chemical transformation, energy conversion, and information technology.
- Ema: High-pressure X-ray spectroscopy and diffraction. The techniques offered in this beamline allow researchers to investigate materials subjected to extreme temperatures, pressures, or magnetic fields. Research on matter subjected to such conditions may reveal new properties with characteristics that do not exist under normal ambient conditions. This is the case for superconductive materials, for example, which can conduct electrical currents without resistance and have the potential to revolutionize energy transmission and storage.
- Imbuia: Micro and nano infrared spectroscopy (FTIR). This experimental station is dedicated to research using infrared light, which allows identification of functional groups of molecules and analysis of the composition of practically any material with nanometric resolution.
- Manacá: Macromolecular crystallography (MX). This line features equipment that reveals 3D structures of proteins and enzymes with atomic resolution, showing the position of each atom that comprises a certain protein and its functions and interactions with other molecules, such as those used as active components in new medications.
Research proposals for the Manacá beamline are “fast tracked“: submissions for research on this beamline are evaluated and accepted on an ongoing basis without interruption, as established during the scientific commissioning phase.
Besides the six beamlines that are open for regular operations, another four beamlines are entering the scientific commissioning phase, in which users can conduct experiments that help assess the parameters of the beamline.
New proposal assessment process
So that every proposal can be evaluated from multiple specialist points of view, a new distributed assessment system was adopted, in which all researchers submitting proposals are also potential revisers for the same process within their specialty areas. At least five reviewers assess each proposal.
“The evaluators do not have access to the names or institutions of the proposing researchers. Gender pronouns are also removed from proposals. To keep the process anonymous, proposal authors are instructed to remove any language that might identify research previously published by the group to avoid any reviewer bias,” notes LNLS Director Harry Westfahl Jr.
This same system also applies to research conducted by the CNPEM’s own scientific groups.
During the first call, which opened in November 2022, 334 proposals were received. Most came from institutions in Brazil, but institutions in Latin America, North America, Europe, and Asia were also represented. Roughly a quarter of the proposals were received from new users, in other words, researchers who have never used the open facilities in any of the four national laboratories that are part of the CNPEM.
At the end of the process, 125 projects were selected; 108 of these were submitted by researchers from nearly all Brazilian states, and 17 from foreign institutions.
A highlight of this process was the approval rate for proposals from Brazil’s Northeast region: 48.6%.
Brazil’s Southeast, which submitted the largest number of proposals, had a 37% approval rate, followed by the South and Center-West regions, with 31% and 25%, respectively. No proposals from the North of the country were approved during this call for projects.
The Brazilian Center for Research in Energy and Materials (CNPEM), a private non-profit organization under the supervision of the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovations (MCTI), provides a sophisticated and vibrant environment for research and development that is unique in Brazil and is found in few scientific centers in the world. The Center operates four National Laboratories and is the birthplace of the most complex project in Brazilian science – Sirius – one of the world’s most advanced synchrotron light sources. CNPEM brings together highly specialized multi-thematic teams, globally competitive laboratory infrastructures open to the scientific community, strategic lines of investigation, innovative projects in partnership with the productive sector, and training of researchers and students. The Center is an environment driven by the search for solutions with impact in the areas of Health, Energy and Renewable Materials, Agriculture and Environment, and Quantum Technologies. Through the CNPEM 360 Platform, it is possible to explore, in a virtual and immersive way, the environment and activities of the Center; visit https://pages.cnpem.br/cnpem360. As of 2022, with the support of the Ministry of Education (MEC), CNPEM expanded its activities with the opening of the Ilum School of Science. The interdisciplinary higher course in Science, Technology, and Innovation adopts innovative approaches to provide excellent, free, full-time training with immersion in the CNPEM research environment.