This area combines experimental techniques and competencies on transversal topics, with results that are continuously applied to the development of research programs at CNPEM and help broaden the portfolio of services offered to the academic and business community. The Center’s efforts permit technological and scientific advances through ongoing training for its technicians, specialists, and researchers, and also create countless internal technological challenges. The resulting knowledge makes the CNPEM capable of cutting-edge research on a variety of topics.
The CNPEM’s bioimaging division is a multidisciplinary scientific effort between the national laboratories in order to develop multimodal and multi-scale approaches to obtain morphological and physiological data focused on human health. Illnesses are modeled in lab animals and in human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC). This technique reprograms cells from an adult (from blood, skin, urine, etc.) to resume the behavior of embryonic cells, and they can then be differentiated into the various types of cells that comprise the human body, such as brain or heart cells, for example.
The advanced equipment (particularly the light lines in Sirius and the cryomicroscopy and electron microscopy complexes) and the skills of the CNPEM researchers combine to permit correlations between the data obtained from models and other data from minimally invasive experiments to visualize biological processes or samples, generating levels of data that combine to produce what is known as correlated multimodal microscopy.
Data theory and science
We work to develop new computational methodologies to calculate the electronic structure of materials, molecular dynamics and electron transport, as well as artificial intelligence platforms to discover new materials and other applications. In all research areas, theoretical support in the understanding and simulation of experimental data catalyzes and characterizes the results. The CNPEM works to develop and apply computational methodologies and has an extensive and wide-ranging computational infrastructure for this purpose.
Engineering and scientific instrumentation
Throughout its history, the CNPEM has developed the capacity to design and produce scientific instrumentation, a skill associated with the knowledge accumulated since the construction of the first synchrotron light source in Brazil and later leveraged by the complexity and demanding technical requirements of Project Sirius. This experience has made the CNPEM a national and international reference in several specialties such as mechanical, vacuum, and materials technology, electromagnetism, instrumentation, and software, as well as competencies in planning and constructing sophisticated building infrastructure. Because of this knowledge, the CNPEM is well suited to carry out a variety of projects. Notably, in late 2020 a cooperation agreement was signed between the CNPEM and CERN, focusing primarily on research and sharing resources and transfer of technology in the area of superconductivity.
Micro and nanofabrication
Micro and nanofabrication encompass a group of advanced techniques for manipulating and combining materials with a wide array of applications. Production of multifunctional devices is one example of an area that depends heavily on advances in these techniques, and could make it possible to create new multifunctional devices with unique properties for application in the areas of health, energy, and the environment.
The microfabrication and nanofabrication facilities at the CNPEM offer an open, multi-user structure to produce devices that was created to support both scientific and industrial communities through access to equipment, processes, and technical staff that are ready to face the scientific and technological challenges of our society.
Tools to characterize materials on the nano scale (roughly 40,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair) are needed to continually refine research in many areas. Electron microscopy can reach resolutions that permit observation on this scale or even on the atomic scale, making it possible to visualize the atoms that comprise material, their chemical composition, and state of oxidation. This experimental technique, together with the various applications of synchrotron light, cover important possibilities for explaining the structure of matter.
The technical competencies in this area predate the CNPEM and are reinforced by the success of Project Sirius, which was the world’s third fourth-generation synchrotron light source when it began operations. This is a physics and engineering project with exceptional characteristics and challenges in several areas, from sophisticated mathematical calculations to define the accelerator parameters to designing various mechanical and electronic components with strict requirements for tolerance and fabrication.
Notable skills in radiation physics are also involved. Synchrotron accelerators are controlled sources of ionizing radiation, and to ensure the radiological safety of the facility it is important to understand the processes of radiation production as well as interactions between the resulting radiation and various materials. This knowledge is directly linked to the shielding plan and radiation safety systems of a synchrotron.
Science with synchrotron light
Sirius, with its bright, broad-spectrum, and high-flow synchrotron light, allows investigations of numerous materials (including biological samples) at the molecular and atomic levels. Experiments with temporal resolution under various temperature, atmosphere, and pressure conditions are possible. This infrastructure, which is unique in the world, is open to and serves both scientific and industrial communities. Applying this set of state-of-the-art tools could allow unprecedented technological leaps in all areas of science, working towards scientific and technological development for a new future.
The CNPEM has an ample structure for material synthesis. Nanostructures can be obtained through processes such as deposition of fine films via physical vapor deposition (PVD), resistive filaments, electron beams, or cathode pulverization, as well as atomic layer deposition (ALD), pulsed laser deposition (PLD), and molecular beam epitaxy (MBE), chemical processes of colloid synthesis in solution and electrodeposition. These unique installations make it possible to synthesize and process inorganic colloidal nanocrystals with greater control of size, shape, and chemical composition, metallic and dielectric thin films, and semiconductors, 2D materials, organic materials, and nanocomposites. With a focus on synthesizing products from biomass, the CNPEM has laboratories and competencies to obtain nanofibrillated cellulose, nanocrystalline cellulose, and lignin nanoparticles. Using techniques from synthetic, structural, and computational biology we utilize biochemical routes toward the sustainable production of chemicals, biofuels, biochemicals, and biomaterials. Alongside the entire technological structure of the laboratories, there is also a highly qualified team to study phenomena and improve processes from the lab bench up to the pilot scale.