From idea to product: Kevlar, the strength of a scientific discovery.


Poliaramide fabric.
Poliaramide fabric.

The bulletproof vests that protect police and military personnel around the world, the cords that held the Pathfinder spacecraft on its descent to the surface of Mars, and the gloves worn by workers in the metalworking industry. What do they have in common?

The answer is Kevlar®, a highly durable polymeric synthetic fiber that combines high strength and low weight (it is five times more resistant than steel per weight module). The fiber can be used as a raw material for cords or flexible and comfortable fabrics. Also, it can be added to other materials to reinforce them. Kevlar® generates products capable of resisting the most diverse aggressions, from shrapnel and stab wounds to firearm shots. Also resistant to extreme temperature and pressure conditions, the fiber has been in the desert, on the mountain, in Antarctica, on the seabed and in space.

The history of this material begins, of course, with a scientific discovery that was made in 1965 in one of the DuPont laboratories by Stephanie Louise Kwolek. Stephanie had a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, without a doctorate and was the only female representative in the laboratory. Her competence and passion found in this place and at that moment a favorable environment, which yielded good results, not only for the company, but also for humanity as a whole.

From walks in the woods to DuPont laboratories

Stephanie Louise Kwolek.
Stephanie Louise Kwolek.

Stephanie Kwolek was born on July 31, 1923 in the United States, the daughter of Polish immigrants. Together with her parents and younger brother, her childhood was in New Kensington, a small town 30 km from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, in a wooded area she used to walk with her father while trying to discover animals and identify plant species, whose leaves were pasted and classified in a notebook. Her father deceased when she was only 10 years old, but he was responsible for developing a strong curiosity and taste for experimentation in Stephanie. With her mother, who until her father’s death spent much of her time at home in front of the sewing machine (later she started working in the industry to support the family), Stephanie developed her creativity and taste for fashion. The girl loved making paper clothes for her paper  dolls.

After fantasizing about a career as a fashion designer, Stephanie Kwolek discovered that she wanted to be a doctor. However, as medical school was very expensive, she went to study science at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburg. More precisely, she attended Margaret Morrison Carnegie College, which was a college for women within that university. During her university years, in addition to an excellent academic performance, Stephanie gathered laboratory experience, doing work for the university and for companies during her summer vacations.

Stephanie graduated in 1946, at the age of 23, with a “major” in chemistry and a “minor” in biology, and went on to look for a job in the field, thinking about working for a few years until she collected the money to start her medical course. Stephanie was quickly hired by DuPont – by then already famous for the invention of nylon, the first synthetic fiber in history, among other products. The young woman then moved to Buffalo, New York, to work as a chemist in the Rayon Department, which would later become the Pioneer Textile Research Laboratory, where she worked with the synthesis of new polyamides and polyesters.

In 1950, the laboratory was transferred to the company’s main “invention site,” the so-called Experimental Station, located in Wilmington, Delaware, where Stephanie moved to in order to contribute with the team that would try to develop new methods of polymer production, performed at low temperatures, to create fibers with the highest possible resistance.

Passionate about the laboratory

By that time, Stephanie had already traded her dream of being a doctor for the passion of being a scientist. It fascinated her to have a new challenge each day and to learn something new every day. Furthermore, the working environment in that DuPont laboratory was very positive for her.

To begin with, the job was stable and there was a certain freedom to choose the research topics, within a list that the director prepared based on the company’s objectives. (Stephanie always liked participating in two projects simultaneously, preferably one that was more fundamental and the other one more applied). To develop her research, Stephanie could work independently, following her own plans, and without the pressure to generate immediate economic results. She just needed to have good sense to know when to stop a project that would not bear fruit in the medium term. This possibility of independent and free research was important not only to satisfy the researcher’s creative and curious nature, but also because she was working on very new lines of research, still lacking fundamental research, which needed to be done within the laboratories of the company.

In addition, there was great equipment and many opportunities to exchange ideas with colleagues. Finally, Stephanie was able to publish her results in articles or books, after the texts were reviewed by professionals from various sectors of the company, who checked whether the publication of that data could harm business. For Stephanie, writing articles was an important moment in her work, when ideas became more organized and results were subjected to scrutiny.

quote1_enIn her view, the set of good working conditions generated a conducive medium for scientific discoveries capable of generating radical innovations (new materials or molecules and new synthesis processes) that could position the company at the forefront of the market. As was the case with Kevlar®.

The discovery that spawned Kevlar®

In the 1960s, the Pioneer Research Laboratory in Textile Fibers became involved in the search for a fiber being very resistant, but also very light. One of DuPont’s goals was to offer the market a material that would replace steel as a rubber additive in tire manufacturing, so as to make tires lighter and thus reduce fuel use, as a period of oil shortage was expected in the following years.

After experimenting with dozens of different polymers, the laboratory decided to start working with the group of polyaramides, or aromatic polyamides, which were promising in terms of properties, but also famous among researchers for the difficulty of dealing with them in the laboratory. The polyaramides were particularly difficult to dissolve due to the rigidity of their rod-shaped molecules, unlike the flexibility of many other polymer molecules.

Persistent, as well as competent, Stephanie Kwolek was cast to participate in the challenge. Or, rather, the challenges, in the plural, that arose daily in each of the stages involved: the choice and synthesis of the compounds that would react to form the polymer (which, at the time, did not readily exist for sale), the polymerization method and, not least, the dissolution of the polymer obtained. In fact, to form the polymer fiber desired by DuPont, it was necessary to spin the polymer. For this, the laboratory had a very simple equipment, called a spinneret, in which a polymeric solution is forced to pass through small holes. In the next step, the solvent is removed and the fibers obtained.

At this stage of development, Stephanie was testing different compounds to dissolve the difficult polyamides, when she looked at her freshly prepared polymer solution and noticed, with the naked eye, that it was essentially different from all the others she had ever seen. The new solution was opaque and fluid, and not transparent and viscous as expected. In addition, when stirred, it was opalescent (with reflections in the colors of the rainbow).

Instead of throwing it down the drain, she got excited and took it to the spinneret to perform the spinning test. Believing that the milky aspect was due to the presence of particles in suspension that could clog the holes of the spinneret, the equipment technician refused to do the test. The spinning was done a few days later, after Stephanie scientifically proved that there were no particles in the solution. And the result was remarkable. The polyamide fibers obtained with the recipe developed by Stephanie were much more resistant than nylon, and also more resistant than steel, but much lighter. As soon as she confirmed the results of the characterization of the new material, she presented her discovery to her superiors, who joined her enthusiasm.

But what is the explanation for the super strength of polyamide fibers? Here’s the thing. Stephanie Kwolek managed to temper a polyaramide and with it prepare a polymeric solution of rigid macromolecules. During the spinning process, these molecules remained fully stretched and aligned in an orderly fashion. The result was a fiber with a very organized structure, from which the exceptional properties emerged.

quote2_enThe solution she had placed in the spinneret, the scientist would later discover, could be classified as a liquid crystalline solution. From this discovery, several new high-performance fibers were created based on liquid crystalline solutions, mainly Kevlar®.

Product and market development

The development of the Kevlar® product, which started immediately after Stephanie’s discovery in 1965, took several years within DuPont, and involved an interdisciplinary team without the direct participation of Stephanie, who remained in the laboratory in search of new discoveries. The process included the development of the final chemical formula and adjustments to the spinning equipment. The adaptation to the industrial scale took into account economic, practical and ecological issues. In addition, starting in 1972, a marketing plan for Kevlar® was designed and put into practice, based on partnerships with potential customers to customize the product according to the desired application, generating an entire family of fibers.

Thus, it was in 1982 that the product was actually marketed, seventeen years and hundreds of millions of dollars after the initial scientific discovery. Since then, the Kevlar® family has conquered dozens of markets through hundreds of products, such as firemen boots, coatings for armored cars, rackets and components for boats, airplanes and automobiles, to name just a few examples besides those mentioned in the beginning of this story.

As for Stephanie Kwolek, she continued to work at DuPont until her retirement in 1986. She won several awards and honors for her work with liquid crystal solutions. She became a female icon of scientific discovery and “the face” of Kevlar®. After leaving the company, she dedicated time to encouraging girls to work in research, in addition to advising DuPont. She died at the age of 90, in June 2014, in Wilmington.


Some references:

  • Stephanie L. Kwolek, interview by Raymond C. Ferguson in Sharpley, Delaware, 4 May 1986 (Philadelphia: Chemical Heritage Foundation, Oral History Transcript # 0028). Available here.
  • Stephanie L. Kwolek, interview by Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent at Wilmington Delaware, 21 March 1998 (Philadelphia: Chemical Heritage Foundation, Oral History Transcript #0168).
  • Women in Chemistry: Stephanie Kwolek. Canal no YouTube do Science History Institute. Available here.
  • The Kevlar Story – an Advanced Materials Case Study. David Tanner, James A. Fitzgerald, and Brian R. Phillips. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. Engl. Adv. Mater. 28 (1989) No. 5.
  • Kevlar Technical Guide. Available here.

B-MRS member receives award from TMS (USA)


Prof. Victor C. Pandolfelli
Prof. Victor C. Pandolfelli

Professor Victor Carlos Pandolfelli (DEMa-UFSCar), a B-MRS member, received an award from TMS (The Minerals, Metals and Materials Society, USA) as co-author of the work “Improving the reliability of fluidized bed calciners by suitable refractory lining selection,” presented in 2019 at this society’s annual meeting. The award, whose name is “Light Metals Subject Award – Alumina/Bauxite” is dedicated to research that highlights the application of science in solving practical problems. The award ceremony took place on February 24, 2020, during the 149th TMS Annual Meeting, which was held in San Diego, California (USA).

The award-winning work, coordinated by Pandolfelli, was carried out within a joint project between the company 4 Cast, specialized in ceramic materials for high temperature applications, and UFSCar. Mariana A. L. Braulio (4Cast), J. R. Cunha (Alcoa Alumar – Brazil) and D. Whiteman (Alcoa- Australia) also received the award as co-authors of the work.

New B-MRS Board of Directors took office at a ceremony.


The new board of directors of the Brazilian Materials Research Society (B-MRS) took office on the morning of February 14, in a ceremony held in the auditorium of the Gleb Wataghin Institute of Physics at Unicamp (IFGW – Unicamp), in the city of Campinas (São Paulo state), with the presence of more than 80 people.

Elected by the members of B-MRS in October 2019 for the February 2020 to February 2022 term, the new board is chaired by Prof. Mônica Alonso Cotta (IFGW-Unicamp), who became the first female president of B-MRS.

Another characteristic of this board is the broad representation in geographical terms (directors from the south, southeast, northeast and north Brazilian regions), disciplinary terms (backgrounds in Physics, Chemistry and Materials Engineering) and gender (four men and three women).

Along with the president, Rubem Luis Sommer (CBPF) assumed his duties as director of administration, finance and patrimony, as well as five scientific directors: Prof. Andrea Simone Stucchi de Camargo  (IFSC-USP), Prof. Antonio Eduardo Martinelli (UFRN), Prof. Iêda Maria Garcia dos Santos (UFPB), Prof. Ivan Helmuth Bechtold (UFSC) and Prof. Newton Martins Barbosa Neto (UFPA).

In her speech, the president highlighted the interdisciplinary nature of the materials research community and, in particular, that of B-MRS. “One of our strengths derives precisely from the synergy between the areas, and this requires good communication skills between researchers, respecting complementary expertise, sharing knowledge, to obtain a product that is greater than the sum of its parts,” said Cotta, who added that communication with the lay public will be one of the fronts that the new board will focus on as a priority.

In addition, Professor Cotta highlighted the importance of the scientific community in taking a stand against political decisions with no scientific basis that can affect the lives of millions of people. “B-MRS will continue to support the excellent work that the Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science and the Brazilian Academy of Sciences have lead in recent years, working with Congress in a purposeful and meaningful way, and demonstrating strong defense of Brazilian research and science,” she added. See full speech here.

Professor Cotta received this position from her predecessor, Prof. Osvaldo Novais de Oliveira Junior (IFSC-USP), who chaired B-MRS for two consecutive terms. The former president, who received praise for his management in the speeches of the authorities, expressed words of gratitude to the B-MRS team, to the directors and members of the deliberative council that accompanied him, and to the B-MRS members who participated in the actions of the society. “I am sure that the next years will be even better,” she said.

Speeches given by the authorities: economic-social development and women in science

The ceremony, which lasted a little over an hour, also included the words of Unicamp authorities (the vice-chancellor, Prof. Teresa Dib Zambon Atvars, and the director of the IFGW-Unicamp, Prof. Pascoal José Giglio Pagliuso) and the representatives of several entities:  Brigadier Maurício Pazini Brandão, from the Brazilian Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovations and Communications (MCTIC); Prof. Marcia Cristina Bernardes Barbosa, director of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences (ABC); Prof. Carola Dobrigkeit Chinellato, board member of the Brazilian Physics Society (SBF); Prof. Antonio José Roque da Silva, director of the Brazilian National Center for Research in Energy and Materials (CNPEM); Prof. Ronald Cintra Shellard, director of the Brazilian Center for Research in Physics (CBPF), and Elson Longo (CDMF-UFSCar), who was president of B-MRS in the 2004-2005 biennium.

In the brief speeches given, some of the constant subjects were the conquest of spaces by women, the need to unite different individuals and organizations for the survival and advancement of science and technology, and the seriousness and impact of the research developed in Brazilian universities. One of the most discussed subjects was the transformation of scientific knowledge into wealth, not only as a desire or need, but also as a fact of the current Brazilian reality, which can be observed mainly in startups and companies resulting from universities and research centers.

The first speaker was Brigadier Maurício Pazini Brandão, professor at the Technological Institute of Aeronautics (ITA), who participated in the ceremony as regional director of the representative office of MCTIC in São Paulo. In his words, he stressed that the materials research community must go beyond the production of scientific articles. “We want products and innovation with invoices,” he said.

Then, the vice-chancellor of Unicamp returned to the question raised by Brandão, with some data on companies founded by former students of that university. Together, these “daughter companies” have an annual turnover of R$ 7.9 million, equivalent to three times the annual budget of Unicamp, informed Professor Atvars, who ended the brief speech highlighting the achievements of women, often obtained by means of “triple shift work.” More examples of companies and innovations from the academic world, in the area of ceramic tiles and cosmetic products, were presented later in the speech by Professor Elson Longo.

Professor Pascoal José Giglio Pagliuso spoke about Professor Mônica Cotta, his colleague at the teaching staff and the IFGW board, where she is the associate director. The IFGW director described the new B-MRS president as tireless, vigilant, with a huge heart and a prominent position in matters involving minorities and human rights. “She is the first woman and the first professor at Unicamp to occupy this impactful position in Brazilian research,” he highlighted.

Afterwards, Marcia Barbosa, professor at UFRGS and director at ABC, took up the issue of transforming knowledge into wealth and affirmed that basic science does in fact generate development. A scientist with outstanding performance in favor of the participation of women in the exact sciences, Barbosa said she was concerned with the present times and called on the scientific community to all work “together.” “The new B-MRS board will know how to build windmills to transform the energy of tsunami and gather together other entities,”she said. Work in partnership was also highlighted in the words of Professor Carola Dobrigkeit Chinellato (Unicamp), who hoped that the new board will make new bonds and extend the scope of B-MRS.

In the penultimate speech of the ceremony, Antonio José Roque da Silva, who directs Sirius (construction of the new Brazilian synchrotron light source), commented on the budgetary difficulties he has faced to carry out the project, sometimes linked to the difficulty of politicians and society in general in understanding the times and actors involved in scientific research and its transformation into social development and wealth. “We need to better explain this time scale,” he urged.

Concluding the speches, Ronald Cintra Shellard brought some data that show the imbalance, in Brazil, between the research carried out in the universities (where there is more freedom to choose a theme) and in the research institutes (in which the scientific work aims to fulfill a determined mission). The ratio of university/institute researchers, which in the world ranges from 1/1 to 4/1, in Brazil it is 12/1, said the director of CBPF. According to the scientist, this does not reflect an excess of professionals at the university, but a lack of researchers in the country, particularly in research institutes.

B-MRS Newsletter. Year 7, issue 1.


 

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Newsletter of the
Brazilian Materials
Research Society

Year 7, issue 1. February 7, 2020.

B-MRS News

Swearing in of the new B-MRS board. The members of the new B-MRS Executive Board, chaired by Professor Mônica Cotta, will take office on February 14 in a ceremony open to the public, which will be held in the auditorium of the Physics Institute Gleb Wataghin (Unicamp). Know more.

Featured Paper

A Brazilian scientific team made an important contribution to the development of solid electrolytes for lithium-ion batteries, which are safer than liquid or gel electrolytes that are currently widely used. The researchers have developed a polymer-based material that surpasses all those reported so far in some parameters related to conductivity, which can generate fast-charging batteries. The work was recently published in The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters. Know more.

eletrolito_news

Featured Scientists

Oxides for better and cheaper electronics. Ceramics obtained from polymers that catalyze the conversion of CO2 into methane. A material that enables the use of ethanol in fuel cells. Fibers obtained from an Amazonian plant for bulletproof vests. Learn more about the doctoral dissertations that were awarded the Brazilian Capes Theses Award, and get to know their authors Miguel Boratto, Heloísa de Macedo, Bernardo Sarruf and Fábio Braga. Here.

capes_news

News from B-MRS Members

– Prof. Felipe de Almeida La Porta (UTFPR), B-MRS member, is co-editor of a Springer book on computational-experimental research on materials and biomolecules. Know more.

Community

– B-MRS regrets the death of Antonio Ricardo Droher Rodrigues, leader of the Engineering Division at LNLS/CNPEM. Ricardo Rodrigues was the technical and scientific leader of the design and construction of the two Brazilian synchrotron light sources: UVX (developed in the 1980s and 1990s) and Sirius (fourth generation source developed since 2009, currently in the testing phase). Rodrigues passed away on January 3, 2020, at the age of 68. B-MRS’s Executive Board expresses its regret at the premature departure of this Brazilian scientist who made great contributions to our community. Know more about Ricardo Rodrigues.

19 encontro_banner_560 px

XIX B-MRS Meeting + IUMRS ICEM 2020
(Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil, August 30 – September 3, 2020)

Website: www.sbpmat.org.br/19encontro/

Submissions. Abstract submission is open until April 1st. Guidelines for preparing abstracts are available here.

Symposia. The event comprises 29 thematic symposia. See the list.

Registration. The registration system is open. July 15 is the deadline for early registration (with discount). The fees, which include three lunches, are already on the website. Know more, here.

Exhibitors and sponsors. 12 companies have already confirmed their participation as exhibitors-sponsors of the event. Companies and other organizations interested in participating in the event as exhibitors, sponsors or supporters, can contact Alexandre at comercial@sbpmat.org.br before March 31.

International plenary lectures. Renowned scientists from China, Italy, Japan and USA have already confirmed their presence as speakers at the event. Learn more at the event website.

José Arana Varela Lecture (national plenary lecture). Professor Edson Roberto Leite (LNNano – CNPEM) was chosen by B-MRS to receive this distinction and give a lecture at the event.

Joaquim da Costa Ribeiro Memorial Lecture. The honor goes to Professor Cid Bartolomeu de Araújo (UFPE), who will give the lecture at the event.

Venue. The event will be held at Rafain Palace Hotel and Conventions, located in Foz do Iguaçu (Brazil). Know more.

Accommodations. See accommodation options from the event official travel agency, here.

Joint event. The event brings together the 19th edition of the B-MRS annual meeting and the 17th edition of the International Conference on Electronic Materials organized every two years by the International Union of Materials Research Societies (IUMRS).

Organization. Professor Gustavo Martini Dalpian (UFABC) is the general coordinator, Carlos Cesar Bof Bufon (LNNANO) is the program coordinator and Flavio Leandro de Souza (UFABC) is the general secretary. At the international committee, the event features scientists from America, Asia, Europe and Oceania. Know more.

Reading tips

– Perovskites, superconductors at room temperature and solid-state electrolytes: materials that are worth keeping an eye on in 2020, according to Nature. Know more.

– 2D future: the two-dimensional technologies that scientists from some of the most renowned laboratories in the world are developing, from graphene nanofibers that store combustible hydrogen, to molybdenum disulfide devices that collect the remains of electromagnetic energy from Wi-Fi and cell phones and transform into usable energy. Know more.

– Scientists are surprised to discover that spherical drops of liquid crystal turn into structures of complex and beautiful shapes when the temperature decreases. This discovery generates advances in fundamental science and opens up possibilities for new materials (Nature). Know more.

Events

World Forum for Women in Science – Brazil 2020 + 4th International Conference for Women in Science without Borders: Energy, Water, Health, Agriculture and Environment for Sustainable Development. Rio de Janeiro, RJ (Brazil). February 10 – 14, 2020. Site.

Pan American Ceramics Congress and Ferroelectrics Meeting of Americas (PACC-FMAs 2020). Panama (Panama). July 19 – 23, 2020. Site.

XVIII International Congress on Rheology. Rio de Janeiro, RJ (Brazil). August 2 – 7, 2020. Site.

XIX B-MRS Meeting + 2020 IUMRS ICEM (International Conference on Electronic Materials). Foz do Iguaçu, PR (Brazil). August 30 – September 3, 2020. Site.

11th International Conference of Microwave Materials and their Applications. Aveiro (Portugal). August 30 – September 2, 2020. Site.

XLI Congresso Brasileiro de Aplicações de Vácuo na Indústria e na Ciência. Foz do Iguaçu, PR (Brazil). October 5 – 7, 2020. Site.

5th International Conference of Surfaces, Coatings and NanoStructured Materials – Americas (NANOSMAT-Americas). Foz do Iguaçu, PR (Brazil). October 7 – 10, 2020. Site.

Follow us on social media

You can suggest news, opportunities, events or reading tips in the materials field to be covered by B-MRS Newsletter. Write to comunicacao@sbpmat.org.br.
 

Featured scientists: Interviews with winners of the Brazilian award for best doctoral theses.


The Capes Thesis Award distinguishes, annually, the best doctoral theses of each area, defended during the precedent year within Brazilian graduate programs. On December 12, 2019, 49 awards and 98 honorable mentions were bestowed by Capes to recently graduated doctors, among  1.142 applications.

Capes is the Brazilian federal government agency under the Ministry of Education, responsible for quality of undergraduate and postgraduate courses in Brazil.

Meet some of the winners from the materials research community.

Interview with Miguel Henrique Boratto, winner of the Capes Award in Materials area. 


Thesis: Semiconducting and insulating oxides applied to electronic devices. Available at https://repositorio.unesp.br/handle/11449/153215

Author: Miguel Henrique Boratto.

Supervisor: Luis Vicente de Andrade Scalvi (UNESP).


Miguel Boratto (direita) junto a seu orientador de doutorado, Prof. Luis Vicente de Andrade Scalvi após a defesa da tese.
Miguel Boratto (right) and the supervisor of his doctoral thesis, Prof. Luis Vicente de Andrade Scalvi.

Improving performance and reducing the cost of electronic devices that are part of our daily lives is the desire of almost everyone. However, contributing to this is a not a reality for everyone. Miguel Henrique Boratto, dedicated the four years of his doctorate and the two years of his master’s degree to study some materials from the oxide group, with a view to their possible use in the production of fundamental pieces of electronics.

With a degree in Physics and a master’s and doctorate in Materials Science and Technology from UNESP (the São Paulo State University), Miguel first studied this group of materials during his master’s degree, but it was in his doctorate that he managed to manufacture thin films of tin, titanium and zirconium oxides using inexpensive processes, and testing their performance in electronic devices (transistors, capacitors and memristors), always guided by professor Luis Vicente de Andrade Scalvi.

The work that generated the awarded thesis was carried out in laboratories at UNESP in the cities of Bauru and Araraquara, and also at The University of Western Ontario (Canada), where Miguel did a 12-month internship, under the supervision of professors Giovanni Fanchini and Lyudmila Goncharova. During his doctorate, Miguel received fellowships from Brazilian agencies Capes (in Brazil) and CNPq (in Canada).

Five scientific articles directly related to the thesis were published in peer reviewed international journals with good impact factor. In addition, the results presented by Miguel at the 2017 B-MRS Meeting were awarded with two awards for the best oral presentation and best poster of their symposium.

After defending his doctorate, Miguel continued studying materials for electronic applications, as a postdoctoral fellow at UFSC. In addition, in June/July last year, he was selected to be part of a group of 580 young scientists from 89 countries participating in physics discussions with 30 Nobel Prize laureates, the 69th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. Currently, as a post-doc fellow, he researches organic devices for bioelectronic applications at UNESP – Bauru and teaches Modern Physics Laboratory.

See our brief interview with Miguel Boratto, 32 years old, born in São João da Boa Vista (São Paulo).

a) Curvas de saída de transistores de filme fino de Sb:SnO2 e b) Sb:SnO2/PCBM. Detalhe: Diagrama do transistor e circuito elétrico. c) Diagrama de bandas da heterojunção Sb:SnO2/PCBM durante etapas de equilíbrio e operação do transistor.
a) Output curves of thin film transistors  Sb:SnO2 and b) Sb:SnO2/PCBM. Detail: Diagram of the transistor and electric circuit. c) Band diagram of the Sb:SnO2/PCBM heterojunction during balance and operation steps of the transistor.

B-MRS Newsletter: In your view, what is the most relevant contribution (scientific/technological/social) of the awarded thesis?

Miguel Boratto: In and of itself, the thesis presents a good part of the work developed and published, that’s why I think this is the most relevant work I have produced. Among the works presented, scientific relevance is in obtaining, by means of low cost methods, known materials followed by their applications in electronic devices to study their properties and final performance.

B-MRS Newsletter: From your point of view,  what are the main factors that allowed you to carry out a prominent research work at the national level?

Miguel Boratto: Aid from the national program “Science without Borders,” with CNPq scholarship for internship abroad, greatly expanded my horizon in relation to the work to be developed and partnerships to be carried out. I also think the partnerships I have made are important, as they are necessary to carry out work with more resources and possibilities.

B-MRS Newsletter: Leave a message for our readers who are undergraduate or graduate students.

Miguel Boratto: The epigraph of my thesis, by Niels Bohr: “An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made in a very narrow field.”


Interview with Heloísa Pimenta de Macedo, winner of the honorable mention in Materials area. 


Thesis: Hybrid Porous Ceramics Derived from Polysiloxanes Containing Ni Nanoparticles for Production of Methane via Hydrogenation of CO2. Available at https://repositorio.ufrn.br/jspui/bitstream/123456789/26500/1/Ni-Containinghybrid_Macedo_2018.pdf

Author: Heloísa Pimenta de Macedo.

Supervisor: Dulce Maria de Araújo Melo (UFRN).

Co-supervisor: Michaela Wilhelm (Universität Bremen).


Heloísa Pimenta de Macedo
Heloísa Pimenta de Macedo

When she started her doctorate in Materials at the Brazilian Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN), under the guidance of Professor Dulce Maria de Araújo Melo, Heloísa Pimenta Macedo was already familiar with ceramic materials and their applications in catalysts – themes in which she had worked during her Materials Engineering degree and her Master’s in Materials, always at UFRN. However, it was in her doctorate that she had the opportunity to investigate superior properties to those she already knew, and to contribute to a relatively new research area.

The theme of Heloísa’s doctorate was the development of hybrid ceramics, their characterization and their application as catalysts in a process of converting carbon dioxide (CO2), the great villain of the greenhouse effect, into methane (CH4), a compound with added value that can be used as fuel or raw material.

Hybrid ceramics have the distinctiveness of being obtained through the pyrolysis of polymeric compounds. They are polymers that convert into ceramics after going through high temperatures (400 to 600 °C, in Heloísa’s work). In addition, to work as catalysts, these ceramics can be added with metals (in this case, nickel nanoparticles).

Heloísa completed her doctorate with a Capes scholarship, and it was this same Brazilian agency that awarded her a scholarship to do a one-year internship at Universität Bremen (Germany), in a group with equipment and skills in the subjects she was researching.

The work of Heloísa’s doctorate was reported in an article published in a peer reviewed international journal with good impact factor. In addition, during her doctorate, Heloísa participated in some research projects that resulted in a series of published papers.

See our brief interview with this 30-year-old researcher from Natal (Rio Grande do Norte state), who is currently conducting research as a postdoctoral fellow at the UFRN Environmental Technology Laboratory.

Cerâmicas híbridas pirolisadas a temperaturas menores apresentam melhor desempenho catalítico.
Hybrid ceramics show better catalytic performance when pyrolised at lower temperatures.

B-MRS newsletter: In your view, what is the most relevant contribution (scientific/technological/social) of the awarded thesis?

Heloísa de Macedo: The development of hybrid ceramics with a wide variety of easily adjustable properties, featuring promising materials for important catalytic reactions, such as the conversion of CO2 into CH4.

B-MRS newsletter: From your point of view, what are the main factors that allowed you to carry out a prominent research work at the national level?

Heloísa de Macedo: To be part of a modern laboratory (Environmental Technology Laboratory) and of an excellent Postgraduate Program (with maximum score according to Capes), offered me all the resources for developing the thesis. In addition, of course, of the opportunity to undertake a doctoral internship at an excellent university in Germany, with renowned professionals in the field of materials, and all the infrastructure and equipment available, which allowed me to do high quality work.

B-MRS newsletter: Leave a message for our readers who are undergraduate or graduate students.

Heloísa de Macedo: I would tell them to persist in their dreams and believe in their potential, as they are the fundamental parts for Brazilian science.


Interview with Bernardo Jordão Moreira Sarruf, winner of a honorable mention in the area of Engineering.


Thesis: Ceria-based anodes with cobalt and copper additions for the direct utilization of methane in solid oxide fuel cells. Available at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/338789167_BernardoSarruf-PhDThesis2018?channel=doi&linkId=5e2a4e8b299bf15216787c23&showFulltext=true

Author: Bernardo Jordão Moreira Sarruf.

Supervisor: Paulo Emílio Valadão de Miranda (UFRJ).


Bernardo Sarruf
Bernardo Sarruf

In his doctoral research, Bernardo Jordão Moreira Sarruf made a contribution to the development of fuel cells which is particularly relevant to the Brazilian reality. Fuel cells are devices that generate electricity and which have increased in popularity in recent years due to the emergence of some electric car models based on this technology. In fact, fuel cells are capable of transforming the chemical energy of a compound (the fuel) into electrical energy, through electrochemical reactions of oxidation and reduction. They work similarly to ordinary batteries, with the difference that the compounds that undergo the reactions come from outside the device.

The most common fuel in these batteries is currently hydrogen. However, this element, although it is the most abundant in the universe, is not easily obtained on planet Earth, and even less so in gas stations in Brazil. The good news is that other compounds can be used as fuel for fuel cells. Such is the case of methane (the main component of vehicular natural gas) and ethanol – two fuels widely available in the country.

In his doctoral research, Bernardo Sarruf developed a material based on cerium dioxide that performed very well on fuel cells “fueled” with methane, ethanol and hydrogen. The material was used as a battery electrode, that is, as a propellant for the transformation of chemical energy into electrical energy.

Bernardo’s first leap into the subject of fuel cells was in 2008, during his undergraduate degree in Materials Engineering at Brazilian Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), when he performed undergraduate research under the guidance of Professor Paulo Emílio Valadão de Miranda at the Hydrogen Laboratory. Between 2011 and 2013, when carrying out the master’s degree with the same advisor and in the same laboratory, Bernardo went deeper into the microstructural characterization of fuel cell anodes, while developing a software company for characterizing materials that he had just incubated in the university startups incubator.

Then, in 2013, Bernardo started his doctorate, once again under the guidance of Paulo de Miranda. From 2015 to 2016, he undertook an internship at the University of Birmingham (England), under the supervision of Professor Robert Steinberger-Wilckens, in a research center dedicated to fuel cells and their various fuels. In 2018, Bernardo defended the doctoral thesis that earned him the honorable mention in the Capes Thesis Award. The work generated five articles published in peer-reviewed international journals with good impact factor. During his doctorate, Bernardo received a scholarship from Brazilian agencies Capes (in Brazil) and CNPq (in England).

See our brief interview with Bernardo Sarruf, born in Niterói (Rio de Janeiro state), 33 years of age, who continues to work in the area of fuel cells at the Hydrogen Laboratory as a postdoctoral researcher, in addition to being a collaborating professor at the university.

Em cima, curvas de desempenho eletrquímico da pillha a combustível operando com hidrogênio, metano e etanol como combustíveis. Embaixo, imagem de microscopia eletrônica de varredura do anodo cerâmico poroso mostrando a distribuição das fases no material.
Above, electrochemical performance curves of the fuel cell operating with hydrogen, methane and ethanol as fuels. Below, a SEM image of the porous ceramic anode showing the fase distribution of the material.

B-MRS newsletter: In your view, what is the most relevant contribution (scientific/technological/social) of the awarded thesis?

Bernardo Sarruf: The fact that the work has demonstrated the development, even if embryonic, of a material that showed excellent results operating as an anode in solid oxide fuel cells for the use of both hydrogen and primary fuels, such as methane and ethanol, paves the way for inserting the fuel cells during the energy transition we are currently undergoing. A fuel cell is a device that combines hydrogen and oxygen from the air to produce electricity, with water as the electrochemical reaction by-product. In our case, instead of using hydrogen (which is still expensive and has an incipient supply infrastructure), we use methane (natural gas) or ethanol, products that already have a well-developed supply chain. As well known, policies to mitigate climate effects will increasingly consist of giving priority to low carbon technologies, which is the case with hydrogen chain technologies. Using ethanol as a fuel in an electrochemical device with almost zero CO2 emissions opens up even more opportunities for Brazil, which is currently the second largest exporter of this product.

B-MRS newsletter: From your point of view, what are the main factors that allowed you to carry out research work that is highlighted at the national level?

Bernardo Sarruf: The support of funding agencies (CAPES and CNPq) is and was fundamental, and we hope that research in Brazil will receive more and more the attention it deserves. The experience of my supervisors in the area was extremely important. I can say that I had a unique opportunity to work with cutting-edge resources and equipment, which were mostly acquired with the support of Hydrogen Laboratory projects over the years.

B-MRS newsletter: Leave a message for our readers who are undergraduate or graduate students.

Bernardo Sarruf: An important message is, perhaps a cliché: there is no magic recipe or shortcuts, if you wake up every day anxious to “get your hands dirty” and go to work, follow the experiment, cheer with the achievements and learn from mistakes, you will surely succeed. Moreover, what I try to do in my day-to-day life as a researcher is seeing beyond what is obvious to me; listening to people outside the professional environment also helps a lot in this task.


Interview with Fábio de Oliveira Braga, winner of a honorable mention in the area of Engineering.


Thesis: Optimized configuration of multilayer ballistic shielding with frontal ceramic and aramid composites or curauá fabric.

Author: Fábio de Oliveira Braga.

Supervisor: Sérgio Neves Monteiro (IME).


Fábio Braga
Fábio Braga

The bulletproof vests that offer highest levels of protection to police and military personnel in Brazil are reinforced with extremely resistant synthetic fabrics, which can be used in the form of thick plates, about 3 cm thick, or combined with ceramic plates. With these reinforcements, ballistic vests are able to protect a person from the firing of a 7.62 mm caliber rifle, for example.

Throughout his master’s and doctorate, conducted at the Brazilian Military Engineering Institute (IME) under the guidance of Professor Sérgio Neves Monteiro and with CNPq fellowships, Fábio de Oliveira Braga investigated whether it was possible to replace these synthetic fabrics with materials based on natural fibers, thus reducing the weight, thickness and cost of the reinforcement plates of the ballistic vests. In particular, Fábio has been dedicated to studying the fibers that are extracted from the leaves of an Amazonian plant belonging to the pineapple family, the curauá. These fibers can withstand high tensions – property that the Indians of the region have long used to make nets, to tie boats, etc.

Fábio’s doctoral research, awarded with the Capes Award, was entirely carried out in Brazil. At IME, Fábio prepared the samples, performed the physical and mechanical tests and applied a statistical method to find the best thickness ratio between ceramics, curauá and a third material (aluminum) in the composition of the vest plates. Thermogravimetric analyses were performed at the Institute of Macromolecules of the Brazilian Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. In addition, he used the facilities of the Army Assessment Center to perform ballistic tests, which showed that plates made with materials based on curauá are capable of absorbing energy from an impact that could be lethal to humans, in addition to retaining the projectile.

Seven scientific articles related to the thesis were published in peer-reviewed international journals with good impact factor.

In addition, the work won an award at the poster competition of a symposium on sustainable materials engineering at the annual meeting of the  The Minerals, Metals and Materials Society, held in 2019 in the U.S.A.

See our brief interview with Fábio Braga, born in Resende (Rio de Janeiro state), metallurgical and materials engineer with a specialization in Inspection and Maintenance Engineering in the Petroleum Industry, and a master’s and doctorate in Materials Science.

Currently 30 years old, Fábio is a professor at Universidade Federal Fluminense (UFF) and at Faculdade SENAI Rio, where he coordinates the specialization courses in Welding Engineering and Equipment and Materials Inspection Engineering.

Imagem da placa balística de manta de fibra natural (curauá) após o impacto com projétil 7,62 mm. A marca hexagonal é a região onde estava posicionado o material da primeira camada da blindagem (cerâmica), que, como esperado, sofreu fragmentação total.
Image of the ballistic plate of natural fiber blanket (curauá) after impact with 7.62 mm projectile. The hexagonal mark is the region where the material of the first layer of the armor (ceramic) was positioned, which, as expected, suffered total fragmentation.

B-MRS newsletter: In your view, what is the most relevant contribution (scientific/technological/social) of the awarded thesis?

Fábio Braga: In the research line I was inserted in, we sought to replace aramid composites (such as Kevlar®) in ballistic vest plates, with lighter, sustainable, inexpensive and widely available composites made with natural lignocellulosic fibers. In my work, a commercial blanket of natural fiber from the Amazon, known as curauá, was used for the first time, integrating these ballistic plates. In order to maximize the performance of the material and minimize its weight, a statistical method of multivariate analysis was used to approach the problem. In the end, we obtained optimized material properties.

B-MRS newsletter: From your point of view, briefly, what are the main factors that allowed you to carry out a prominent research work at the national level?

Fábio Braga: I attribute the success of this work to the quality of the scientific training I had in Engineering and Materials Science, at State University of the North of Rio de Janeiro (UENF) as undergraduate student and at IME (master’s and doctorate). I had the opportunity to receive fellowships for undergraduate research (UENF) for 3 years, master and doctorate, which was fundamental. In addition, I had great emotional and financial support from my family, wife (Bianca) and my advisor, Professor Sergio Neves Monteiro, who was instrumental in my training.

B-MRS newsletter: Leave a message for our readers who are undergraduate or graduate students.

Fábio Braga: Research requires much dedication and study, but it is a very rewarding path. Today I live from teaching and doing research, and I am very grateful to have chosen this path.

Featured paper: Solid electrolyte for safer and fast-to-charge batteries.


[Paper Controlling the Activation Energy for Single-Ion Diffusion through a Hybrid Polyelectrolyte Matrix by Manipulating the Central Coordinate Semimetal Atom. Victoria C. Ferrari, Raphael S. Alvim, Thiago B. de Queiroz, Gustavo M. Dalpian, Flavio L. Souza. J. Phys. Chem. Lett. 2019, 10, 24, 7684-7689. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.jpclett.9b02928.]

Solid electrolyte for safer and faster-to-charge batteries

Our cell phones, laptops and tablets, as well as the electric cars that are beginning to transit planet Earth, would not exist without rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. These devices were the subject of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, which recognized the work done in the United States, United Kingdom and Japan by three scientists in the 1970s and 80s, mainly focused on the development of the materials that compose the electrodes of these batteries.

However, there are still challenges to continue improving the performance and safety of lithium-ion batteries and to adapt this technology to new applications. One of these challenges refers to the development of solid materials for the electrolyte of these batteries, as an alternative to the liquid or gel-like materials which are currently widely used, which present a greater risk of causing accidents, such as the explosions of smartphones, widespread in the media. Located in the middle of the electrodes, the electrolyte has an important function of promoting the displacement of the lithium ions (only them, not the electrons) in their back and forth between the electrodes. For this reason, the electrolyte material must be a good ionic conductor – a condition that can be more difficult to achieve in solid materials.

Picture of the solid polymer electrolyte with germanium: transparent and flexible.
Picture of the solid polymer electrolyte with germanium: transparent and flexible.

In an article recently published in The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters (impact factor = 7,329), a Brazilian scientific team presented an important advance in the development of solid materials for electrolytes that can be used in lithium-ion batteries and other electrochemical devices (those that produce electricity from chemical reactions and vice versa) and electrochromic devices (those that have a color or opacity change when voltage is applied to a material, such as smart windows). Using a simple and economical manufacturing method, which can be carried out at an industrial scale (the hydrolytic sol-gel), the researchers produced a solid polymer-based material that demonstrated exceptionally good performance as an ionic conductor. “The low amount of energy required to activate the ion in this material to move and its high ionic conductivity at room temperature may drastically reduce the charging time of the batteries,” specifies Professor Flavio Leandro de Souza, professor at the Brazilian Federal University of ABC (UFABC) and leader of the work.

This Brazilian electrolyte is a light and flexible film from the polyethylene family, with an aspect very similar to the material of the transparent films and polyethylene bags used on a daily basis. “From an aesthetic point of view, this material can provide lighter devices with different shapes,” explains Professor Souza. “In terms of safety, it brings unprecedented improvement, as it does not contain toxic materials in its composition and, because it is in a solid state, there is no risk of leakage in the event of breakage or fracture, also avoiding explosions usually observed nowadays, causing many devices to be banned in air travel.”

The secret behind the good performance of this electrolyte regards the presence of a germanium atom in the center of the polymeric structure, called the “coordination atom.” In fact, this metallic atom modifies the polymeric chain, reducing its spontaneous vibrations and thus attacking the main disadvantage of polymers as ionic conductors: the coupling of the movement of the lithium ion to the movement of the polymeric chain.

Beginning of the story: an off-plan experiment

The initial idea of the work dates back to the years 2001 to 2006, when Flavio Souza was a master’s student and later in his doctorate in Materials Science and Engineering at the Brazilian Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar). During this period, under the guidance of Professor Edson Leite, Souza was trying to produce a silicon matrix with metallic nanoparticles, through a process that had the formation of a polymer as an intermediate step which final destination was the burning stage in a common oven. When Souza observed the solid, transparent and easy-to-manipulate polymer that had formed, he decided, out of sheer curiosity, to save the material and subject it to electrical characterization to check whether it was able to conduct nickel. “Nothing happened, but I showed it to my advisor, who suggested replacing the nickel with a lithium salt. To my surprise, this was a conducting material. And that is when it all started,” reports the scientist. This first material, a polymer that contained a silicon atom in the center of its structure, allowed lithium ions to move through its structure without much interference from the movements of the polymer chain, and for this reason it was classified as a fast ion conductor.

Years later, as a professor at UFABC and coordinator of the Laboratory of Alternative Energy and Nanomaterials, Souza decided to return to this subject and propose a challenge to a young student of Energy Engineering, Victória Castagna Ferrari, who had sought him out for undergraduate research. “The challenge proposed and accepted was to try to further improve this type of material for application in lithium ion batteries and electrochromic windows and to answer some scientific questions,” says Professor Souza. “Victória is a brilliant student, quickly showing she could take this challenge to a very high level,” he says.

The work was developed over two years of scientific initiation for Victória as a UFABC scholarship holder and two more years as a master’s student in Nanoscience and Advanced Materials with a CAPES scholarship, always under the guidance of Professor Souza.

During this period, Souza and his student wanted to answer a series of scientific questions. This included using several experimental and theoretical techniques and relied on the collaboration of other UFABC researchers: Professor Thiago Branquinho de Queiroz in experiments of solid state nuclear magnetic resonance, and professor Gustavo Martini Dalpian together with postdoctoral fellow Raphael da Silva Alvim in computer simulations.

The authors of the paper. From the left: Victoria Ferrari, Raphael Alvim, Thiago de Queiroz, Gustavo Dalpian and Flavio Souza.
The authors of the paper. From the left: Victoria Ferrari, Raphael Alvim, Thiago de Queiroz, Gustavo Dalpian and Flavio Souza.

The team first investigated whether the replacement of the silicon atom by another element (in this case, germanium) would influence the mobility of lithium ions in the material. The results were exceptional. “This substitution increased the conductivity by two orders of magnitude and reduced the activation energy by 50%,” says Souza. In fact, the experiments showed that the energy needed to set the lithium ion in motion was 0.27 eV (electron volts) in the silicon polymer and 0.12 eV in the germanium polymer. “This value undoubtedly sets a record as the lowest obtained for a solid polymeric electrolyte in the literature,” says Souza. In the scientific literature, Souza contextualizes, the value oscillates between 1 and 0.5 eV.

Further research efforts were then made to understand why germanium had made the polymer a better ionic conductor. The team was able to understand in detail the structure of polymers coordinated by silicon and germanium, the movement of the polymeric matrix, the movement of lithium ions and the interaction between them. The experiments and simulations confirmed that the exchange of silicon for germanium does not change the type of polymer (the fundamental nature of the structure is the same), but it does change the electronic structure of the polymer chain, changing the location of the most relevant orbitals and further reducing its spontaneous vibrations, which affects the interaction of lithium ions with the polymer chain.

This work was supported by Brazilian agencies Capes and CNPq (federal) and Fapesp (state), and used multi-user equipment from UFABC and the National Laboratory for Scientific Computing (LNCC).


To understand in detail how lithium ion batteries work, we recommend this video:

Swearing in of the new B-MRS board.


The members of the new Executive Board of B-MRS will take office on February 14, 2020. The ceremony will be held at 10 am in the auditorium of the Physics Institute Gleb Wataghin (Unicamp), in the city of Campinas (SP).

The new board, elected in October 2019 for the 2020 – 2021 biennium, is chaired by Professor Mônica A. Cotta (IFGW-Unicamp). The directors are Professor Andrea S. Stucchi de Camargo (USP),  Professor Antonio Eduardo Martinelli (UFRN), Professor Ieda Garcia dos Santos (UFPB), Professor Ivan H. Bechtold (UFSC), Professor Newton M. Barbosa Neto (UFPa) and Dr. Rubem L. Sommer (CBPF).

The ceremony is open to the public. Those interested in participating should confirm their presence by email to secretaria@sbpmat.org.br until February 12th.

B-MRS member is co-editor of a Springer book on experimental – computational research on materials and biomolecules.


Prof Felipe La Porta.
Prof Felipe La Porta.

Professor Felipe de Almeida La Porta, from the Chemistry Department of the Brazilian Federal Technological University of Paraná (UTFPR) is co-editor of the book “Emerging Research in Science and Engineering Based on Advanced Experimental and Computational Strategies.” The other editor is Professor Carlton A. Taft, from the Brazilian Center for Research in Physics (CBPF).

Published by Springer, the book has 20 chapters that were signed by 89 researchers from Brazil and other countries. According to La Porta, a wide variety of materials and biomolecules applications are covered in this book, including plasmonic materials, semiconductor oxides, printed polymers, chitosan nanoparticles, biomass, inorganic nanotubes, colloidal quantum dots, nanocrystals as potential antimicrobials, biomolecules for disease inhibition and cancer control/prevention, proteins to hinder metastasis, natural products used in medicine, infinitely coordinated polymers, zeolites, compounds related to graphitic carbon nitride, polysaccharides, organic, magnetic and conductive polymers, and also ferrites in the form of nanoparticles.

Link to the book: https://www.springer.com/gp/book/9783030314026#aboutBook