History of the Synchrotron Light Brazilian National Laboratory – part 2. The construction in Brazil of the source of synchrotron light and its first beamlines.

[See the first part of the story here].

During the military dictatorship, the dream of having a source of synchrotron light in Brazil was embraced by the national research foundation, CNPq, and by teams of scientists that were able to transform it into a project. At the end of such period, the Brazilian Synchrotron Radiation National Laboratory (LNRS) was conceptually created. Also, Campinas, a city in the state of São Paulo that headquarts the university Unicamp, was chosen as the place where the laboratory would be located.

In 1985, having José Sarney as the first civil President of Brazil after 21 years, and Renato Archer as the minister of the newly-created Ministry of Science and Technology, a group of four people connected to LNRS carried out a three-month mission in the United States, at Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC), where there is a source of synchrotron light. There, the Brazilian team worked under the supervision of the scientist Helmut Wiedemann, specialist in synchrotron light. “Our purpose was to learn the traces of the theory and technology involved in the construction of our synchrotron light”, says Antonio Ricardo Droher Rodrigues, best known as Ricardo Rodrigues, who was part of such mission.

However, the government gave one step back in the project after some demonstrations of resistance of groups of the scientific community: criticism to the creation of the Brazilian synchrotron and an offer to move the laboratory to Rio de Janeiro. Renato Archer decided then to carry out a new evaluation and, on January 30th, 1986, he created an advising commission, coordinated by Roberto Lobo, who delivered a favorable opinion for the effective implementation of the laboratory in the city of Campinas.

In the second semester of 1986, the first board of directors of the laboratory was appointed, with Cylon Gonçalves da Silva (Professor of the Unicamp Institute of Physics) in the position of director of the laboratory, Aldo Craievich (researcher of the Brazilian Center for Research in Physics, CBPF) as vice-director and head of the scientific department of the laboratory, and Ricardo Rodrigues (Professor of the Institute of Physics and Chemistry at USP São Carlos) as the project leader (technical coordinator). In fact, this was the board of directors of a laboratory that didn´t exist yet and these men had, as their main mission, the implementation of the laboratory.

From the room to the house, from the house to the hangar, from the hangar to the campus

The team worked in a lent room in the building of the Unicamp´s Dean Office until the end of the year. In the first semester of 1987, it moved to a rented house, with four rooms, located in the district of Chácara Primavera in Campinas. At that time, the laboratory already had its definitive name, Synchrotron Light National Laboratory (LNLS in Portuguese) and the staff was formed by the members of the board of directors, another professor of the Unicamp Institute of Physics, Daniel Wisnivesky, and about six other collaborators.

“Initially, the team members earned as independent employees”, tells Ricardo Rodrigues. “Such labor situation was “regulated”, initially, by 35 openings of CNPq and then, to maintain the required growth, through an agreement signed between CNPq and a foundation of Unicamp to develop the project and construction of the linear accelerator (LINAC), injector of the future Brazilian synchrotron”, he adds. The legal or bureaucratic hindrances to hire people only had a better solution as from 1998 with the sanction of Law no. 9.637, which created the social organizations (private legal entities, non-profits, dedicated to education, scientific research, technological development, protection and preservation of the environment, culture, and health). “The institution of the social organizations was a result of a Herculean work of Cylon”, says Ricardo Rodrigues.

In July 1987, the staff, with approximately 40 people, moved to the district of Fazenda Santa Cândida in Campinas, occupying an hangar of 1,800 m2 that had been purchased by CNPq and refurbished during that first semester.  At the end of that year, the group had 50 people. “The first members were in its majority, newly-graduated physicists that learned by doing all the required knowledge”, tells Ricardo Rodrigues.

In 1990, the government of the State of São Paulo purchased and assigned to LNLS a property of approximately 500 x 800m2 (the campus) in the neighborhood of Guará, in the district of Barão Geraldo, for its definitive installation. In 1992, the LNLS team left the hangar at Santa Cândida and occupied the new buildings of the campus, the definitive headquarter of LNLS.

A partir da esquerda, Cylon Gonçalves da Silva, Ricardo Rodrigues e Aldo Craievich, por volta de 1990, no prédio provisório do LNLS.

Let’s get down to work!

Between 1987 and 1997, the team of LNLS, which could count on 70 people, worked in the construction of the source of synchrotron light. Such project could foresee a linear accelerator or LINAC and a circular accelerator known as storage ring, in addition to a series of beamlines (the laboratories around the ring where the users use the radiation for their studies through several scientific instruments). “Over all those years, almost on a daily basis, we saw technical problems being solved in our team”, says Ricardo Rodrigues, who directed the construction of the source while Aldo Craievich led the construction of the first seven beamlines and developed an extensive program of courses, schools, and workshops aiming at the training of new users of synchrotron light.

The first component of the source that got ready, at the end of 1989, was a LINAC able to accelerate the electrons up to a power of 50 to 60 million of electrons-volt (MeV). Such linear accelerator will later be part of the definitive LINAC, of 18 m of length and 120 MeV.

Also in 1989, the team prepared the project of the circular accelerator, which in fact was not a circle but a polygon of 93 meters of length. According to this project, the ring would be able to accelerate electrons up to a power of 1.15 billion of electrons-volt (GeV). Between 1990 and 1991, still in the hangar, the prototypes of components of such circular accelerator were built.

The construction of the beamlines was progressing in parallel. In order to fund it, requests were sent to science agencies, especially the one from São Paulo (FAPESP) and the national one (CNPq).

From 1992 on, already in the definitive headquarter, in the campus of Guará, the civil works were progressing. The beamlines were installed and the components of the circular accelerator were produced – some of them in series, such as the more than 100 electromagnets of the ring.

In 1995, the assembly of the ring started, as well as its connection to the LINAC of 120 MeV, which was installed in an underground tunnel.

In the same year, the first beamline constructed in LNLS (toroidal grating monochromator, TGM), was taken to the synchrotron light laboratory CAMD, in the United States, where it was operated during two years by members of LNLS. Then, it returned to Campinas to be part in LNLS. The X-ray monochromator, another development of LNSL, also left the country to be tested in the LURE synchrotron laboratory, in France.

In June, 1996, the source of synchrotron light was completed, assembled, and tested, operating at 1.15 GeV. In October of such year, the synchrotron light arrived for the first time to an beamline, the TGM.

Finally, in July, 1997, LNLS started its activities of national laboratory, counting on a source of synchrotron light operating at a power greater than the designed one (1.37 GeV), seven beamlines ready for use, a staff able to maintain the laboratory and a structure ready to asssess by peer review the research projects submitted by the reasearchers who wanted to use this laboratory. Only in 1997, 100 projects were carried out in the LNLS beamlines. 

A homemade laboratory

In summary, such laboratory, which has worked without stopping for 17 years making feasible scientific and technological research projects in Materials and other areas, was almost fully designed and constructed in Brazil, more precisely in the city of Campinas by a team of scientists and their collaborators. These people were. over a decade, successfully overcoming several technological, financial, macro-economical, legal, bureaucratic, human, psychological and other types of challenges.

Such team went further to the design and assembly of the big scientific machine. Its members manufactured most part of the pieces and components of the big laboratory, except for the shelf parts as pumps and valves.

At least a part of such work could have been made in collaboration with industrial companies, but that did not occur. According to Ricardo Rodrigues, the national industry from that time was not equipped to meet the demands of such project and was not interested in small contracts which required great engineering work. On the other hand, there were import restrictions that hindered the participation of foreign companies. “The economy was quite closed in relation to foreign companies”, he says.

Last but not least, the project leaders were interested in training an internal team that would master all technology deployed in the accelerators, so that LNLS would have a long life through continuous improvements – what have been happening indeed. The LNLS of 2014 has components that the LNLS of 1997 did not have: notably the intermediate accelerator (booster), an inverter, two wigglers, and eight new beamlines.

The training of the LNLS team consisted mainly in “learning by doing”, complemented by visits of one or two weeks in institutions abroad similar to LNLS. Besides, since the beginning, LNLS counted on an international committee of specialists who participated in annual meetings in Campinas, where the Brazilian team presented their projects and results so that they could be evaluated.

Acoording to Yves Petroff, who directed centers of synchrotron light in Europe, followed up the implementation of LNLS, and was its scientific director from November 2009 to March 2013, the “extremely low” budget available summed to the fact that almost everything was constructed in the laboratory, expanded the construction of the machine of LNLS, which took more time than usual to be built. “Finally this has been a chance because the technical staff has acquired a complete knowledge of accelerator and today, if there is a failure, it can be fixed quickly ; the reliability of the machine (97%) is among the best in the world.”, states Petroff. According to the French physicist, such experience allowed LNLS to suggest the construction of the SIRIUS accelerator, which is being led by Ricardo Rodrigues. The machine will have a power of 3 GeV and an emission of 0.28 nm.rad. “This will be a fantastic opportunity for the materials science community in Brazil and Latin America”, says Petroff.

To learn more:

– Cylon Gonçalves da Silva. The National Laboratory for Synchrotron Light. The Brazil experience. Available at: http://www.slac.stanford.edu/pubs/beamline/26/1/26-1-dasilva.pdf

– Aldo F. Craievich, Ricardo Rodrigues. The Brazilian synchrotron light source. Hyperfine Interactions 113 (1998) 465-475. (Springer)


BOX 1. Mini-interview with Cylon Gonçalves da Silva, first director of LNLS (1986-1998).

SBPMat newsletter: Was it difficult to the team to carry out a project of such size, persisting over a decade?

Cylon Gonçalves da Silva: – From my point of view, as a general responsible for the project, the greatest difficulty was financial-budgetary. It is good to remember that LNLS was constructed in one of the worst periods of the Brazilian economical history. For years with the inflation out of control, in the beginning of the month I didn’t know if there would be resources for remuneration at the end of the month. And it was a piece of information that I had to keep with myself, not to affect the team’s morale. Regarding sources for funding and investment, I remember a year (1992) when we had the fortune of 800 thousand dollars to move the project forward. There was a fight each month which we won with a lot of effort and with the help of friends of the project in the Board of Directors and in Brasilia. Some day, it will be required to record such facts and their names. We had a small number of congressmen in the Congress that supported the project, “LNLS bench”. It is interesting that it comprised all shades of the political spectrum, what facilitated (a little) our life at the time of discussing the budget.

The inability of the three directors in synchronizing their depressions contributed to the continuity of the project. If we had a synchronous group, the project would have failed. As the three had never been depressed at the same time, the other two cured the third one from depression and the project continued. Without disregarding the inability of reaching an agreement about who would commit suicide first: the team and then the general director (as he wanted to), or if the general director would commit suicide first and then the team would do so later (as the team wanted to).

With Ricardo in the Technical Direction, the technical difficulties seemed not to exist. And with Aldo taking care of the scientific part, I did not need to worry. They will probably have another view of the difficulties they faced.

SBPMat newsletter: – What were the most thrilling ties of such history you can remember?

Cylon Gonçalves da Silva: – When we saw working the first LINAC of 50 MeV (in December, 1989), that one I called the “Great Post-Graduation Project”,  we had the first evidence that we were on the right track and had met the right team. The difficulties of importing anything were huge at that time and there were components, such as klystrons, which we could not manufacture or acquire in Brazil. We started the manufacturing of the accelerating structures, when an opportunity of acquiring them from China came up, then we shortened the way. For the imports, until 1990, the aid from CERN was decisive. But it is another story.

The international panels of revision of the project showed the incredible professional growth of the young team in a few years. Especially in the second panel, when the youngsters of the technical team started to talk to great specialists of accelerators as mates, not as students.

To me, the construction of LNLS was an excuse to train quality professionals after all. The success we had was more than demonstrated by the number of members of our team who (unfortunately) emigrated and now occupies outstanding positions in great laboratories abroad. It is the reason why I consider Sirius a very important project too, for the opportunity of training top-class technicians and engineers; not only to work in the Laboratory but to contribute in the industry and with the creation of companies to the elevation of the technological level in Brazil, and not to loose what was reached with the first steps taken by LNLS.

Despite all difficult times we lived, which were not a few, I had never doubted a thing: that if we persisted, the project would reach a good end. The great skepticism that surrounded our job for the majority of the scientific community was a good encouragement to us to proceed. Without wanting and knowing, even the opposition helped us to make LNLS concrete. The first injections and storage of electrons in the ring and the view of the first synchrotron light were the thrilling coronation of such certainty. They marked the admission of Brazil in the group of countries able to design and construct particle accelerators of great size.

The beamline operating in CAMD (Louisiana, USA), an (temporary) export of the first complex scientific instrument of the project, built in Brazil, showed to our team and the international community that it was not only the construction of the ring that progressed satisfactorily, but also the project and construction of the instruments required to use the light. Thanks to such operation, part of the technical team started to become familiar with the difficulties involved in real life of an instrument connected to a source of synchrotron light, even before we had our own.

The transformation in Social Organization (1998), after a long battle, with the creation of a new institutional model for science in Brazil was another exciting moment to me. Maybe, the most important of the contributions that I may have given to the project. Here, it is needed to acknowledge the former Federal Congresswoman Irma Passoni (PT-SP) to have taken me to meet Dr. Aloysio Campos da Paz (deceased in 2014) of Hospital Sarah, in Brasília. It was from the long talk with him that I conceived the institutional model that took me to formulate the proposal of the Management Contract, a long time before Minister Bresser Pereira raised the flag of the Reform of the State (abandoned much earlier, it is certain). It is another history that would deserve to be told one day.

From the personal point of view, I got touched with the concession of the title of the Emeritus Researcher of LNLS when I left the Laboratory, which entitled me to maintain a room and a relationship with the Laboratory that I had helped to create. I always imagined living again someday with that extraordinary environment of scientific and technological research, following the work and the enthusiasm of young researchers, even if as mere spectator on the bleachers. I feel sorry about having gave back such title, years later in very unpleasant circumstances. Not having been invited to the visit that the Minister Raupp made to LNLS for the celebration of the 25-year anniversary of the Laboratory, nor to the launching of the cornerstone of Sirius, it can undoubtedly be explained by the fact that when CNPq granted me with the title of Emeritus Researcher, the communication addressed to me at LNLS was returned with the note “Unknown Addressee, return to sender”.  Sic transit gloria mundi.


BOX 2. Mini-interview with Ricardo Rodrigues, technical coordinator of the implementation of LNLS and leader of SIRIUS project since 2009.

SBPMat newsletter: – Which were the main challenges faced during the construction of LNLS in your opinion?

Ricardo Rodrigues: – As a technical coordinator, it was to accept my own errors of optimistic evaluation of the terms to overcome technical difficulties. To counteract such frustrations, we could always transfer the guilt to the lack of organization of our country, where projects are approved, but without commitment of the Governments. It was and continues to be the great difficulty of any project of such kind. In such aspect, we were lucky to have an intelligent General Direction able to do the exhausting negotiations required to maintain a reasonable rhythm in the releases of resources. The lack of commitment of the governments with the projects officially approved induces to the lack of focus on their execution, since the delay in the release of financial resources allows the projects to be continuously revised.

SBPMat newsletter: Was it difficult to the team to carry out a project of such size, persisting over a decade?

Ricardo Rodrigues: – No. The people that got involved in the Project were looking for great technological challenges. There was always an appropriate technical infrastructure working, so that at times of little money it was possible to test new ideas or improve technical solutions with few resources. Almost everything could be made “at home”. For young enthusiasts of science and technology it is very important since it brings promptness to the process. Another aspect is the participation of everyone in the technical decisions. Everyone felt they were greatly responsible for the results and they were very proud for their successes.

History the Brazilian Synchrotron Light National Laboratory. Part 1: The dream of a big research machine in Brazil and the first steps toward the construction of the laboratory.

This photo of LNLS shows the main accelerator and the beamlines. Credits: Julio Fujikawa / Divulgação LNLS.

Since 1997, at the Brazilian Synchrotron Light National Laboratory (LNLS), in the city of Campinas, in São Paulo state, electrons accelerated at a speed very close to the light speed and compressed in a beam of the thickness of a strand of hair travel a 93-meter-long polygon, called “storage ring”, generating a type of radiation of unique brightness with important applications in the study of organic and inorganic matter, the synchrotron light.

In several points around the ring, scientists, mainly from academia but also from industry simultaneously work in several small laboratories, known as “experimental stations” or “beamlines’, which scientific instruments use the beams generated by the synchrotron light source after having been filtered by monochromators. Thanks to such filters, each experiment receives the type of radiation of the electromagnetic spectrum it needs, from infrared up to X-rays.

Still today, the synchrotron light source of LNLS is the single one in Latin America. Since the opening of the laboratory, the use of the experimental stations is free and open to the international scientific community. The candidates submit their research projects to a committee composed by members of the scientific community, which sends them to peer review. The accepted proposals get a room in the busy agenda of LNLS, during the day or at night. In the last few years, the laboratory has benefited around 1,500 researchers a year, original from Brazil (the majority), from Argentina (approximately 17%) and, in smaller proportions, from other countries.

The LNLS research resources are used in works of the most varied knowledge areas, such as Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Environmental Sciences, Geo-sciences and, especially, Material Science and Engineering. “For an expressive number of researches of such area in Brazil, the LNLS beamlines are some of the main measurement instruments in their research programs”, says Harry Westfahl Jr., scientific director of LNLS from March, 2013.

According to Aldo Felix Craievich, a scientist that had an important participation throughout the creation process of LNLS and was its first scientific director, one of the purposes of the laboratory, since the beginning, was to offer to the researchers on Material Science and Engineering a unique and good quality experimental infrastructure. “The operation of LNLS during 17 years already allowed many Material scientists and engineers to perform research in the beamlines in very favorable conditions. And most of these studies would be impossible to perform in classic laboratories”, completes he.  In fact, the high intensity and other unique characteristics of synchrotron light allow to study the materials in a more detailed manner that the radiation that may be produced by sources found in the laboratories of the universities. “Today, a large fraction of materials are in fact nanomaterials and, in such context, the best X-ray tubes can´t compete with synchrotron radiation”, affirms Yves Petroff, French physicist that directed centers of synchrotron light in Europe and was the scientific director of LNLS from November, 2009 to March, 2013.

Having experimental techniques such as X-ray diffraction (XRD), small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS), X-ray absorption (EXAFS, XANES), photoelectron spectroscopy (PES), VUV spectroscopy and microtomography, the beamlines at LNLS allow a broad and deep study of the structure and properties of the materials. “The researchers bring to LNLS the materials created in their laboratories, such as, for example, more resistant plastics, more efficient catalysts, or metals with unusual electronic and magnetic properties, to understand at microscopic level the manifestation of such innovative properties, or even to guide new synthesis paths”, exemplifies Harry Westfahl Jr.

According to Aldo Craievich, the contribution of LNLS to the development of Material Science is proven by the quantity and quantity of articles published in high-impact journals based on experimental studies performed in the laboratory. As an example, Craievich comments that, in the three-year period 2006-2008, out of a total of 547 papers generated from works developed at LNLS, which can be seen in the LNLS annual reports, 211 were published in journals of the area of Material Science, number that increases when adding the publications on Chemistry and Physics that deal with basic aspects of the properties of solid materials.

However, the contribution of LNLS to the scientific and technological development of Brazil has started before the laboratory got open to the scientific community. The process of creation and implementation of LNLS as a National Laboratory was a rich experience to its players, and an interesting history to know, especially because the greatest part of synchrotron light sources and of the light lines was designed and manufactured in the country.

LNLS Origin: the beginning

The wish to have in Brazil a great particle accelerator is as old as the community of physicists in the country. One of the first attempts of installing a machine of such type occurred early in the 1950’s and was characterized because it was a proposal of construction, instead of purchase. The military and scientist Admiral Álvaro Alberto de Motta e Silva, who had led the recent creation of the Brazilian National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) and was at that time the president of the institution, saw in the University of Chicago a particle accelerator of synchrocyclotron type, and returned to Brazil with the proposal of manufacturing a small equipment of such type in Rio de Janeiro, at Brazilian Center for Research in Physics (CBPF), to train technicians and scientists of the country that subsequently would be able to manufacture a bigger machine. The project started in 1952. In 1960, the small synchrocyclotron worked for the first time, but, by several reasons, it has never been fully operational.

With the end of the hardest period of Brazilian Dictatorship, in which many scientists left the country, the issue of the big scientific machine was resumed and, in 1981, the president of CNPq, Lynaldo C. Albuquerque, called the scientific community to prepare proposals of big research machines to implement in Brazil. As a response, the first discussions on the construction of a synchrotron light source occurred in CBPF. At the end of the year, the proposal was presented by Roberto Lobo, director of CBPF, to the president of CNPq. In 1982, both scientists visited the French national laboratory of synchrotron light LURE, at Université Paris-Sud, where Aldo Craievich was taking a post-doctoral internship and acquiring valuable experience in applications of such radiation.

“Since the beginning, the small group of people that participated in such discussions noticed that, to move forward such great, high-complexity, and high-cost project, it was required to reach a consensus in the Brazilian scientific community, and attract a reasonable number of potential interested users”, comments Craievich. In the scientist’s memories, the first public presentation of the preliminary ideas occurred in the Brazilian National Meeting of Condensed Matter Physics held in the city of Cambuquira, in April, 1982. “In the occasion, it was observed a certain resistance of the scientific community upon being informed  of the high cost of the project, due to the fear that this could affect the funding of other projects in progress”, tells Craievich.

Even though, Lobo, Craievich, and some more researchers of CBPF prepared a first formal document aiming at the implementation of a new synchrotron light source in Brazil (“Preliminary proposal of the feasibility study for the implementation of a national laboratory of synchrotron radiation“), which was approved in 1983 by CNPq. CNPq created, then, the Synchrotronic Radiation Project (PRS), coordinated by Roberto Lobo, and engaged in allocating money to form human resources to develop the project and train future users. Also in 1983, in October, CNPq established the PRS executive committee, which was coordinated by Aldo Craievich (CBPF) and counted on more seven participants linked to CBPF, UFRJ, UNICAMP, and USP. Among them was Ricardo Rodrigues, who, some years latter, would be appointed technical director of the construction of the laboratory. To promote a greater disclosure and discussion of the project and the formation of future users, it was held, in August, 1983, at CBPF, the Meeting on Techniques and Applications of Synchrotron Radiation, with the participation of 220 scientists. Also with the purpose of forming new human resources, in early 1984, PRS launched a call offering CNPq’s scholarships for researchers and undergraduate, master´s and PhD students, on themes related to the construction of the source and beamlines and their applications.

Two more newness marked the year of 1984 in the history of LNLS. PRS passed to count on a technical-scientific committee (CTC), chaired by Roberto Lobo (USP), and formed by a dozen of scientists linked to CBPF, IPT, PUCRio, UNICAMP, and USP, including Cylon Gonçalves da Silva, who would become the first director of the laboratory in 1986, and would lead its effective implementation. Additionally, in December, 1984, CNPq took one more step toward the construction of the synchrotron light source upon creating the figure of the National Laboratory of Synchrotron Radiation (LNRS), with Roberto Lobo as pro tempore director, and still without a place assigned to its headquarters.

Right after the creation of LNRS, CNPq called the scientific community to propose places for the construction of the laboratory. From the four proposals – Rio de Janeiro, Niteroi, Campinas, and São Carlos – CNPq president, in one of the last resolutions of his tenure, a little before the end of military government, in February, 1985, chose Campinas as the future headquarters of LNRS.

In the next edition of SBPMat newsletter, don’t miss the article on the second part of this history – the phase of the construction of the laboratory.

SBPMat´s community people: interview with the scientist Aldo Craievich.

Along half a century devoted to research in Condensed Matter Physics, scientist Aldo Felix Craievich made important contributions to the study of structures and structural transformations in solids, by doing research in glasses (topic in which he pioneered scientific research in Brazil), paraffins, materials obtained by sol-gel and various nanomaterials. These studies resulted in more than 200 articles published in international journals with peer review, which have more than 3,600 citations.

However, the legacy of Craievich’s work for the Materials community goes beyond his scientific production. For 17 years, the scientist was one of the protagonists of the successive steps in the history of creation of the Brazilian Synchrotron Light National Laboratory (LNLS), whose research resources have impacted the Materials community, not only in Brazil but also in other countries, especially in Latin America. Craievich also focused intensely on the training of users of synchrotron light in courses offered in several Latin American countries and in ten schools he directed and in which he participated as a lecturer at the International Center for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste, Italy.

Born in the inlands of the province of Santa Fe, Argentina, Craievich graduated at undergraduate and PhD level in Physics from the prestigious Balseiro Institute, located in the Argentine city of Bariloche, having developed his doctoral research work in France at the Laboratoire de Physique des Solides of the Université Paris-Sud, under the supervision of André Guinier, one of the greatest exponents of crystallography and characterization techniques by X-ray of the twentieth century.

Craievich began working in Brazil in 1973, year when he took over teaching and research functions at the São Carlos Institute of Physics and Chemistry (IFQSC) at University of São Paulo (USP), at the invitation of Yvonne Mascarenhas. In 1976 he returned to Laboratoire de Physique des Solides to take a one-year post-doctoral internship, returning to IFQSC afterwards. In 1980 he moved to Rio de Janeiro to work as a researcher at the Brazilian Center for Research in Physics (CBPF), a position in which he remained until 1986. In 1981 he took a second postdoctoral internship in France, this time at the National Center of Synchrotron Light LURE – laboratory he frequently attended for shorter periods thereafter. Thus, when he took over the coordination of the executive committee of the project aiming to create a synchrotron light laboratory in Brazil, Aldo Craievich was one of the rare scientists (there would be two nationwide) who had experience in using such light source.

In 1987, he returned to the state of São Paulo. Until 1997, he led planning, design and construction of the first seven LNLS beamlines in the city of Campinas and has developed a comprehensive training program for new users. Simultaneously, from 1987 on, Craievich taught at the Institute of Physics at USP, in the city of São Paulo and, in 1997, he devoted himself full time to his position as a Professor at that institution, where he was head of the department of Applied Physics between 2002 and 2006.

Aldo Craievich also participated in the creation of our SBPMat (Brazilian MRS) from the first meetings and electronic message exchanges, which occurred in 2000. In addition, his name is among the scientists who made up the “interdisciplinary committee of Materials”, responsible for preparing the statutes of SBPMat.

Among other distinctions, Craievich received honors granted by the LNLS user community and team (1997 and 2010), by the Brazilian Society of Crystallography (2000), by the Balseiro Institute (2011) and by the Asociación Argentina de Crystallography (2014). He received the Mercosur Award for Science and Technology both in 2004 and in 2010, for his part in research on topics “Energy for Mercosur” and “Nanotechnology for Mercosur”, respectively. He has been a member of the São Paulo State Academy of Sciences (ACIESP) since 1980. In December 2014, he was elected member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences (ABC).

Currently at 75 years of age and already retired, Aldo Craievich continues to conduct research activities in IFUSP while a senior professor and 1A researcher at CNPq, the Brazilian National Council for Scientific and Technological Development. He is also member of the Support Nucleus for Research in Nanotechnology and Nanoscience (NAP-NN) at USP and member of the editorial board of several scientific journals; among which the Journal of Synchrotron Radiation (IUCr, Chester, UK), in which he acts as a co-editor.

Below you will find an interview with the researcher.

SBPMat Newsletter: – When did you become interested in science?

Aldo Craievich: – I started my university studies at National University of Cordoba, Argentina, in March 1959, making my way into the aeronautical engineering career. During my first years at the university, I had to split my time between study and my work in the State Aeronautical and Mechanical Industries (IAME). My choice in Aeronautical Engineering was due to the relationship between the career and the area of my work at IAME, where I wished to continue my activities after my graduation. However, limitations to my availability, due to my work activities, made me realize that the quality and the pace of progress of my university studies were unsatisfactory.

After completing two years of aeronautical engineering in March 1961, I accidentally read a poster that mentioned the opening of an entry exam for a course offered by the Institute of Physics of São Carlos de Bariloche in Argentina (today Balseiro Institute). One of the requirements for entry, which I met, was to be approved in sophomore year of studies in Physics or Engineering. I was particularly interested in this possibility, mainly because of the Balseiro Institute, which, in addition to offering education of excellent quality, granted full scholarships for all its undergraduate students. Without thinking much about it, I took the entry exam and was approved. Thus, from August 1961 until December 1964 I completed my bachelor’s degree in physics at the Balseiro Institute. In this Institute I had, in fact, the possibility to devote myself exclusively to study in an appropriate environment and without dividing my attention to other concerns.

My real interest in science arose shortly after I joined the Balseiro Institute. During the basic part of my studies in this Institute, I had several professors of singular quality, including José Balseiro (founder and dean of the Institute), Enrique Gaviola (Argentine experimental physicist of international prestige) and Guido Beck (Austrian renowned theoretical physicist). Balseiro had a selfless, enthusiastic and efficient performance as a dean and professor, and exerted a strong influence on his colleagues and students, as well as on subsequent generations of the Institute. In spite of the fact that the period of my interaction with Balseiro was brief (he died in March 1962), it was enough for me to realize the importance of Physics. Today I think that my interaction with exemplary professors I had during my early years in the Balseiro Institute, was what sparked my interest in science, which continues today.

SBPMat Newsletter: – What led you to become a scientist and work in the Materials area, more precisely in Condensed Matter Physics?

Aldo Craievich: – During the final phase of my studies in physics in Balseiro Institute, I began to reflect on the kind of specific research area towards which I should guide my professional future. At this time of doubt I took the advice of Conrado Varotto, later founder of company INVAP (spin-off of the Balseiro Institute) and now executive director of the Argentine National Commission on Space Activities (CONAE), who told me to make my final graduation work on structural and electronic properties of metal alloys. Soon after graduating from Balseiro Institute, I joined the Institute of Mathematics, Astronomy and Physics (IMAF after FaMAF) of the National University of Cordoba, Argentina, as a teaching assistant, in March 1965. My initial intention was to work in an experimental subject of Condensed Matter Physics, without yet having decided the specific area. Knowing of my interest, the IMAF director, Alberto Maiztegui, suggested I deployed an X-ray laboratory for materials research using a previously purchased diffractometer. At that time I received the support of Alberto Bonfiglioli, a researcher at the National Atomic Energy Committee of Buenos Aires. Bonfiglioli suggested I initially completed my basic training in the area, doing my doctoral thesis at   Laboratoire de Physique des Solides of Université Paris Sud, in Orsay, France, under the supervision of the eminent Professor André Guinier. Guinier was one of the creators and director of that laboratory and author of pioneering research on the link between the structure of imperfect solids and characteristics of the diffuse scattering of X-rays. He was also a pioneer in applying the technique of spreading X-rays at small angle (SAXS) to the study of materials, one of the discoverers of the known Guinier-Preston zones in aluminum alloys and author of many classic books in this research area.

In short, my interest in research in the area of materials, specifically for studies of the structure and transformations in condensed matter, first appeared during my final graduation paper at Balseiro Institute supervised by C. Varotto, and increased with my first activities in IMAF in collaboration with A. Bonfiglioli and consolidated during my doctoral thesis in France under the guidance of A. Guinier.

SBPMat Newsletter: – And why did you come to Brazil?

Aldo Craievich: – In 1969, after my return from France and recent PhD, I started the implementation of the X-Ray Laboratory at IMAF in Cordoba, Argentina, in order to apply the techniques of X-ray diffraction and SAXS in studies on glassy materials. After several years of work and having already obtained some results, I realized that the development of the laboratory occurred more slowly than I expected. The reasons were many, including, financial difficulties to acquire equipment and excessive involvement in administrative activities, which significantly reduced my time for research. So, at the end of 1971 I decided to do a post-doctoral internship abroad to be able to focus for a while on my research.

At the same time, at a meeting of the Chilean Physics Society held in Valdivia, Chile, in January 1972, I had my first contact with Yvonne Mascarenhas, a professor at the São Carlos Institute of Physics and Chemistry (IFQSC/USP today IFSC/USP), in the city of São Carlos, who invited me to undergo a one-year internship in her Crystallography Laboratory. I accepted the invitation and, in March 1973, I began my research and teaching tasks in IFQSC. The Crystallography Laboratory had, at that time, an X-ray diffractometer operating for polycrystals studies and a SAXS equipment, which had been recently acquired. What was expected of me, in addition to performing teaching tasks, was to install the new SAXS apparatus and start lines of research in topics of my own interest and in collaboration with other local scientists.

After starting my internship in Brazil, the general political situation in Argentina and particularly the conditions for teaching and research in universities were deteriorating, which induced me to extend my temporary stage at IFQSC several times. Later, in my several visits to Argentina during the late 1970s, I realized a further decline and also a disturbing political and social situation. These findings and, on the other hand, the interesting new challenges presented in IFQSC and the strong support received from the local community and development agencies (FAPESP and CNPq), led me to decide to turn my temporary stage into a permanent transfer. I realized then that I had found the necessary and promising basic conditions in Brazil in order for me to do a good job in research.

SBPMat Newsletter: – What, in your consideration, are your main contributions to the Materials area?  Consider all aspects of your work.

Aldo Craievich: The main research I developed from 1965 until today can be classified into five major lines I describe below (I mention some relevant references associated with each line of work).

(i) Nanophase separation in glassy solids

After my transfer to Brazil in 1973 I began experimental studies through the SAXS technique to determine the mechanisms responsible for the early stages of the isothermal process of nanophase separation in B2O3-PbO-Al2O3 glass. Thus, I continued the line of research I had started in IMAF in Argentina. In order to interpret the results I used a thermodynamic model proposed by John Cahn, called spinodal decomposition, for systems corresponding to the core of the gap of miscibility, and the classical model of nucleation and growth for compositions and temperatures close to the binodal border. I observed, in particular, the existence of a systematic deviation between the experimental SAXS results with respect to predictions of the Cahn model, which assigns a relaxation effect of initial stresses in the glass matrix produced by the primary process of quenching. As a result of this research, I wrote the first two articles published in indexed journals related to research on glassy materials held in Brazil [Craievich, Phys.Chem.Glasses 16, 133 (1975); Craievich, Phys.Stat.Sol. 28, 09 (1975)].

I also noticed that the model of spinodal decomposition does not adequately describe the stages of nanophase separation in glass system B2O3-PbO-Al2O3. Then a comparison was made of the results of SAXS experiments I conducted in IFQSC in 1973/74, related to advanced stages of the process, with the predictions of the new statistical theory developed by Joel Lebowitz et al. at the end of the 1970s. The results led to an article I’ve written in collaboration with Juan M. Sanchez (former student of IMAF and today vice president for research at Texas University) in which we demonstrated, for the first time, quantitatively for glassy materials, the time evolution of the experimental structure function shows the properties of dynamic range predicted by the theory [Craievich and Sanchez, Phys.Rev.Lett. 47, 1308 (1981)].

(ii) Structure and phase transitions in molecular crystals

Back to IFQSC of São Carlos in 1977 after completing a postdoctoral internship in France, I worked in collaboration with Jean Doucet of the Laboratoire de Physique des Solides,in Orsay, France, and a doctoral student in systematic studies of structures and of phase transition from a set of wax crystals composed of linear molecules CnH2n+2.All studied paraffins show a structure formed by stacking layers of molecules CnH2n+2, with their major axes parallel and lateral compact packaging. We associated the characteristics of thermal expansion and the phase transitions of these solids to variations of amplitude of linear molecule release around its main axis. As a result of this research, we published, in a few years, more than 10 articles, all of which received a high number of citations. In particular, one on the “rotary” phase studies observed in three paraffins with n = 17, 19, 21, which received 209 citations so far [Doucet et al, J. Chem.Phys. 75, 1523 (1981)].

(iii) Nanomaterial formation processes by the sol-gel method

During the 1980s I did a lot of research in situ on structural changes through the use of SAXS line associated with the French synchrotron light source (LURE). I am particularly interested in structural changes that occur during the new process, called the sol-gel, to obtain nanostructured materials. This complex process consists of a sequence of steps, which starts from a precursor in the colloidal form of liquid solution, continues with the aggregation of colloidal particles and subsequent sol-gel transition to be possibly completed by drying and sintering the resultant nanoporous material.

I conducted the first studies on this line in collaboration with research groups led by Jerzy Zarzycki (Laboratoire de Verres du CNRS, Université de Montpellier, France) and André Aegerter (IFQSC-São Carlos). Most of these experimental studies aimed to examine the process kinetics analysis and were done using the SAXS technique   in situ   [Lours et al J.Non-Cryst.Solids 100, 207 (1988)]. This was achieved by using a SAXS line associated with a synchrotron light source of high intensity, allowing measurements with high temporal resolution. In several cases, we use new concepts of fractal geometry to achieve the accurate characterization of the structures, which allowed us to clearly identify the mechanisms of aggregation.

During the 1990s, I continued my studies of the structures of various nanomaterials and sol-gel type processes with the participation of Luis Esquivias and colleagues (University of Cadiz, Spain), and with the researchers of the group led by Celso Santilli (UNESP-Araraquara). With the group of Luis Esquivias we worked on various topics, with emphasis on research of the influence of the controlled use of ultrasound on the structural characteristics of final sonogels. With Celso Santilli and his group, we researched a number of nanomaterials, through studies of SAXS in situ, which contributed in particular to a better understanding of the structure, mechanisms of formation and relations with the properties of various types of organic-inorganic hybrid nanocomposites [Dahmouche et al, J.Phys.Chem. B 103, 4937 (1999)]. 

(iv) Proteins in solution

I have participated, since the 1980s, in numerous collaborations on structural studies of proteins in solution. Particularly, I collaborated on a study of the tertiary structure of albumin, which turned out to be the first published research with experimental results obtained exclusively at LNLS [Castelletto et al, J. Chem.Phys. 109, 2825 (1998)]. Later, we published a paper on the variation of the average density of proteins with molecular mass, which, in the literature, was being considered invariant [Fischer et al, Protein Sci. 13, 2825 (2004)].  This article had for a decade more than 200 citations in literature. More recently, we have developed a new method of determining the molecular mass of proteins in solution using exclusively SAXS experiment results on relative scale [Fischer et al, J.Appl.Cryst. 43, 101 (2010)].

(v) Structure and stability of phases of metal nanoparticles and solid solutions of nanostructured oxides

During the last decade I participated in a number of studies on the structure, mechanisms of formation and stability of phases of several nanomaterials, in collaboration with several research groups.

With Guinther Kellerman, one of my thesis students and now a professor at UFPR, we published several pioneering papers on the mechanisms of formation of Bi and Ag nanoparticles on glassy matrix and the relationship between the size of Bi nanoparticles and their melting and crystallization temperatures. The experimental results were also quantitatively compared with corresponding theoretical predictions [Kellermann and Craievich, Phys.Rev. B 78, 054106 (2008)].

In collaboration with Felix Requejo and his group from Universidad Nacional de La Plata, Argentina, we researched various structural features of noble metal nanoparticles supported on porous matrices [Giovanetti et al, Small 8, 468 (2012)] and, more recently, arrangements of nanoplates of CoSi2 buried and consistent within a monocrystalline Si substrate.

With Diego Lamas of the Universidad Nacional de San Martín, Argentina, and members of his group, we conducted a series of studies of solid solutions of nanostructured oxides. In the particular case of zirconia-escandia nanostructured system, we demonstrated that it is possible to maintain ambient temperature, phases of the tetragonal and cubic structure with interesting properties, which are stable only at high temperature in these materials when composed of micro or macroscopic crystals [Abdallah et al , RSC Adv. 2, 5205 (2012)].

b. Participation in the creation and management of a research institution

In late 1986 I was appointed deputy dean and head of the scientific department of the Brazilian Synchrotron Light National Laboratory (LNLS) in Campinas. At that time the dean and the head of the LNLS project were Cylon Gonçalves da Silva and Ricardo Rodríguez, respectively. In 1987 the building of a synchrotron light source began in LNLS, comprised of a linear accelerator 120 MeV electrons, an electron storage ring (UVX) of 1.37 GeV and a set of beamlines.

During my tenure at LNLS I was responsible for the design of the first seven beamlines of the LNLS, which were developed in parallel with the construction of the linear accelerator and storage ring. I also made a persistent effort to promote the training of future users of LNLS, organizing numerous events (short courses, workshops etc.) in which several specialists (mainly foreign researchers) gave talks and/or participated in training sessions.

In addition to the administrative and technical tasks associated with my duties as deputy dean, I continued conducting experimental research for periods of one to two weeks a year in the LURE synchrotron light laboratory, in France. The first-hand knowledge acquired in these internships abroad was useful for my work related to the planning and construction of the first LNLS beamlines.

The construction phase of the UVX source and the first set of beamlines ended during the first half of 1997 [Rodrigues et al, J.Synchr.Rad. 5, 1157 (1998)] and were then opened for use by the scientific community.

When the synchrotron light source was completed in July 1997, I felt that the time had come for me to resign from my job of deputy dean of the LNLS and continue my work with exclusive dedication in the Institute of Physics, from 1998 on. I considered that this way I could continue my activities as a user researcher of the light source and also contribute more directly to the education of students and the growth of the LNLS user community.

c. Participation in the creation of research groups and laboratories

During my 50 years of teaching and research activities, I worked successively in five institutions: IMAF/UNC in Argentina (1965-1972), IFQSC/USP in São Carlos (1973-1980), CBPF in Rio de Janeiro (1981-1986), LNLS in Campinas (1987-1997) and IF/USP in São Paulo (1998 -…). My contributions to the creation and development groups and lines of research in these institutions are succinctly set out below.

(i) IMAF (Cordoba, Argentina): I created and organized at IMAF its first x-ray laboratory, started a new line of research on phase separation of glassy solids and contributed to the education of young students in the Materials Science area. I published in 1973 the first article in collaboration on the structure of a glassy material associated with research conducted in IMAF.

(ii) IFQSC/USP (São Carlos): I implemented in IFQSC, in 1973, the first SAXS laboratory operating in Brazil. That same year I started a line of research on glassy materials that was strongly developed later on by the main action of Edgar Zanotto (now head of LaMaV at UFSCar, São Carlos), who I advised in his master’s thesis. Finally, in collaboration with Yvonne Mascarenhas and a graduate student, we completed, in 1984, pioneering structural studies of proteins in solution made by using SAXS.

(iii) CBPF (Rio de Janeiro): I implemented the first X-ray laboratory at CBPF comprised of a diffractometer of polycrystalline and a SAXS chamber. My main activity in CBPF during the period 1981-86 was participating in feasibility studies, diffusion activities and discussion sessions that led to the creation, in 1986, of the Brazilian Synchrotron Light National Laboratory.

(iv) LNLS (Campinas): During my work at LNLS, in addition to carrying out the activities associated with the construction of the synchrotron light source described above, I promoted and coordinated one of the projects of the first series approved in 1996 by the Support Program for Nuclei of Excellence (PRONEX) of CNPq. In this project on “Research and structural and magnetic characterization of materials”, 22 researchers/professors of LNLS, IF/USP, IF/UNICAMP, IQ/UNESP and DF/UFPR participated.

(v) IFUSP (São Paulo): I contributed to the consolidation of the Crystallography Laboratory of IFUSP, primarily through my participation in the project planning and in the incorporation of a new state-of-the-art SAXS apparatus with a spot section beam. This apparatus allows studies of SAXS and GISAXS at room temperature and at high temperatures with automated data collection. This was the first modern equipment in operation in Brazil and probably also in Latin America.

d. Contribution in science policy

After performing a sabbatical internship in the LURE synchrotron light laboratory, in Orsay, France, back to CBPF in 1982, I participated in meetings of a small group of researchers who discussed the possible feasibility of building a source of synchrotron light in Brazil. That same year, the president of CNPq after expressing hid support for the initiative, decided to create Project Synchrotron Radiation (PRS/CNPq) coordinated by the director of the CBPF, Roberto Lobo. In the context of this project I worked as coordinator of the Executive Committee and member of the Technical Scientific Council (CTC). In my role of coordinator of the Executive Committee, I organized meetings, lectures and visits of foreign experts. I also collaborated in the development of a first conceptual project of a source of synchrotron radiation and participated in the drafting of a proposed master plan for its implementation. Details of the work performed were exposed in the article “Proposta preliminar de estudo de viabilidade de um Laboratório Nacional de Radiação Síncrotron”   [Lobo et al, CBPF / PRS 1 (1983)] and in report “PRS: Atividades e Perspectivas” [Craievich, CBPF / PRS 14 (1984)].  I also coordinated a CNPq scholarship program that allowed young Brazilians to access for the first time sources of synchrotron light abroad and, thus, gain experience in their use.

In the period 1983-1985, I presented in Argentina the project of the Brazilian synchrotron, at the Balseiro Institute of Bariloche, in the CNEA of Constituyentes, at a meeting of the Argentina Physics Association (AFA) in La Plata and at the Latin American Symposium of Physics on Solid State (SLAFES ) in Mar del Plata.

On the other hand, I participated in the phase of foundation of two new scientific organizations: the Brazilian Society for Materials Research (SBPMat) in 2000, which, so far, held thirteen annual meetings, and the Latin American network Materia, which promoted, since 1995, twelve scientific meetings in eight different countries in Latin America.

e. Training of new scientists

From 1965 to 2009 I taught several undergraduate and graduate courses in the various institutions of Argentina and Brazil where I worked. On the other hand, from 1982 to today, I participated in short courses, schools and training workshops for synchrotron light users in several cities of Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Cuba and Mexico. I also contributed to the education of synchrotron light users outside Latin America, acting as coordinator and professor of a number of schools on applications of synchrotron radiation organized by the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste, Italy. This activity in the ICTP lasted for almost 20 years, in a total of ten successive schools, four weeks each, held biannually from 1991 to 2008.

On the other hand, I advised 18 post-graduate students (nine masters´ and nine doctoral students). Most of my former advisees continued acting as researchers and professors in various universities in the states of São Paulo, Bahia and Paraná, and research centers in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. One of them works in an industrial company in the state of São Paulo and the other, of French origin, who I co-advised along with a researcher at Université Paris V, works in an industrial research laboratory in Belgium. I still maintain collaborations with two of my former advisees in research of structural properties and nanomaterials phase transitions and studies by SAXS proteins and other macromolecules in solution.

SBPMat Newsletter: – What led you to take part in the history of the Brazilian Synchrotron Light National Laboratory (LNLS)?

Aldo Craievich: – In 1981, having already joined the CBPF (the Brazilian Center for Research in Physics), in Rio de Janeiro, I decided to spend a sabbatical year in the LURE (Laboratory for the Use of Electromagnetic Radiation) synchrotron light laboratory, in Orsay, France. What interested me about this scholarship was the chance to have access to a new kind of experimental instrumentation, which allowed me to conduct researches of my own interest, impossible in classical laboratories, such as in situ kinetic studies on rapid structural variations in glass materials at high temperatures.

Once I completed my sabbatical year at LURE and had already returned to CBPF, in September 1982 I was invited by the CBPF Director to participate in formal activities aiming the future construction of the synchrotron light source in Brazil. What led me to take part in the preliminary work of this project at CBPF, then in the LNLS, during the construction stages of the light source, was a conjunction of reasons. I took into account that (i) the eventual future local availability of a synchrotron light source would be greatly relevant for the scientific development of Brazil, (ii) having a synchrotron available in Brazil would be particularly useful for the advance of the research lines I had in progress, and (iii) I had already acquired, back in 1982, the capacity and expertise required to actively participate in the proposed tasks.

SBPMat Newsletter: – Leave a message for our readers who are starting their careers as scientists.

Aldo Craievich: I believe that a necessary and important condition for being a good scientist in the area in which I work is to have a strong interest in understanding and trying to explain the essential nature and the relevant properties of matter around us. So my first message is to encourage young students who have this kind of interest to pursue scientific careers.

Studies that transform a young student in a good scientist depend less on the nature of specific topics and more on how new knowledge is acquired and presented. The student and the teacher should consider each new subject of study a challenge to be faced. On the other hand,  the student should value the hard work of teachers who present each new theme aiming at deep understanding, preventing easy paths. In this sense my second message to young students is to, as far as possible, seek the teachings, advice and guidance of teachers not only those outstanding, but also demanding.

The personal contributions of every researcher to the progress of science should be considered by them in general as relatively modest. My third message is related to an important quality, which, in my opinion, every new researcher and also those with greater experience should have: a permanent attitude of respect for other people’s work. A very clear message on this subject was mentioned by Balseiro, dean of the Physics Institute where I did my undergraduate studies, in his speech to the graduate students in the first class of this institute in 1958. He said “I do not think there is a more pathetic index of lack of culture, except violence, than the lack of respect for other people’s work. This lack of respect is a form of destruction and who destroys other people’s work can be described as savage, that is, the lack of culture in its most pristine form”   [http://www.ib.edu.ar/index.php/historia-del-ib/primera-graduacion.html].

To learn more about Professor Aldo Craievich: “Un físico del Mercosur” published by “Ciencia e Investigación.Reseñas”, tomo 1, no 3, available at: http://aargentinapciencias.org/images/stories/R-tomo1-3/RevRes-1-3xArt/7a24Craievich-ceiRes-1-3.pdf (in Spanish).