History of materials research in Brazil: 40 years of the first glass research laboratory in Brazil.


boxlamav_enBrazil’s first laboratory dedicated to the study of vitreous materials completes 40 years in December 2016. This laboratory, which began its activities with only a small muffle furnace with temperature up to 1100 °C, today has 18 ovens, 4 which reach 1750 °C, and also thirty instruments to manufacture and characterize glasses distributed over 500 m2. The anniversary in question is LaMaV´s (Vitreous Materials Laboratory), of the Department of Materials Engineering (DEMa) at the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar).

On the 40th anniversary of LaMaV, the team declares it is fully satisfied with its achievements [see box beside]. The pioneering work of the laboratory was essential in generating, disseminating and applying scientific knowledge on glass in the country, in academia and in industry. “We prepared about a hundred masters, doctors and post-docs, who now work as professors and researchers at major institutions such as USP, UFSCar, ITA, UEPG, UEMa, UFBa, PUC, IPT, CEFET, UFF, UNESP, UFLavras, UFABC, CTA, UNIOESTE and in other institutions in Brazil and abroad, and in numerous companies. This is a very important legacy! ” said Edgar Dutra Zanotto, one of the founders of SBPMat and the Materials Research journal, who founded LaMaV and heads it until today.

But the efforts and results of LaMaV go beyond national borders, since it always featured internationality. The laboratory has received students and visiting professors from dozens of countries. Its team has brought to Brazil the most important international conferences on glasses, it participates in the editorial boards of almost all major specialized journals on vitreous materials and has received seven of the most prestigious international awards and honors of the area – in addition to more than 20 national awards, including the Almirante Álvaro Alberto* award. The group research, especially that on nucleation and crystallization of glasses and glass ceramics, is recognized worldwide. “A significant part of active researchers in this area have heard, attended a lecture or read an article or patent resulting from our research. We have indeed put the city of São Carlos and Brazil on the world map of glass research!” adds Zanotto.

LaMaV is currently very active on glass crystallization issues, structural relaxation and residual stress processes, glass ceramics, biomaterials, and mechanical, rheological, electrical and biochemical properties of vitreous materials. “Today we have an impressive laboratory and excellent financing, mainly from FAPESP (the São Paulo State research foundation) but also from Capes, CNPq (federal funding agencies) and some companies. However, the endless bureaucracy of the funding agencies for purchasing materials and equipment, the accountability and also the uncertainties related to the future of universities (e.g., austerity measure PEC 55 and others), coupled with the shortage of secretaries, technicians and engineers (lab managers) to assist in the organization and maintenance of laboratories, have always been and continue to be formidable obstacles,” ponders Zanotto.

The making of…

It all began on December 15, 1976, when Zanotto was hired as assistant professor at DEMa-UFSCar. His main objective was to start glass research work in the department.  In 1970, the first undergraduate course in Latin America in Materials Engineering was created, and two years later DEMa was created. By 1976 the department already had research groups in metals, polymers and ceramics, but no one worked with glasses, Zanotto remembers. “The creation of LaMaV was a natural outcome of setting up the undergraduate course in Materials Engineering at UFSCar,” declares Professor Zanotto.

At the end of 1976, Edgar Zanotto was a newly graduated materials engineer (at UFSCar) who had just completed scientific initiation research work under the guidance of visiting Professor Osgood James Whittemore, researcher in the area of ceramic materials of the University of Washington (USA). “My undergraduate research carried out that year, focused on the chemical durability (leach) of candidate glasses for the encapsulation of radioactive waste,” recalls Zanotto. “And, amazingly, this subject is still hot! ”, he adds.

Soon after being hired, Zanotto created LaMaV. The first experiments – carried out by Zanotto himself – consisted of melting glass at low melting point, using a muffle furnace and a platinum crucible (recipient that can be used at high temperatures), borrowed from the chemical analysis laboratory of the university.

In 1977, the founder of LaMaV started the Master’s program in Physics at the Institute of Physics and Chemistry at São Carlos (IFQSC) of USP, under the guidance of Professor Aldo Craievich, who was probably the only scientist active in the glass area in Brazil before 1976. In fact, he is the author of the first two papers on glasses signed by researchers from Brazilian institutions, both published in 1975. During the Master, Zanotto produced and thermally treated glasses (to generate crystallization) at LaMaV, carried out microscopic investigation at the DEMa metallurgy laboratory, and characterized glasses by XRD and SAXS at IFQSC-USP. Zanotto finished his Master’s research work and defended the dissertation a year and a half later. That same year he began his doctorate, also in the area of glasses, at the University of Sheffield (UK), under the supervision of the famous Professor Peter James. In 1982, having defended his doctorate, Zanotto returned to LaMaV.

“In the first 10 to 15 years, isolated work, inexperience and the uncertainties and difficulties associated with the mercurial research funding, in addition to the reduced physical space and little laboratory infrastructure disrupted our activities”, recalls Zanotto. Nearly a decade after the laboratory was created, the second Professor of the group was hired, Oscar Peitl Filho, Zanotto’s former master’s and doctoral student. A few years later, Ana Candida Martins Rodrigues became the third professor of the LaMaV team. Then in 2013, Marcello Andreeta was hired. “Today we are 4 teachers, 1 technician, 1 administrative assistant and about 30 research students and post-docs, 7 from other countries,” says Zanotto.

The year of 2013 was a milestone in the history of LaMaV due to the approval by FAPESP and the beginning of activities of CeRTEV (Center for Research, Technology and Education in Vitreous Materials). Directed by Zanotto, CeRTEV brings together LaMaV (headquarters of the center) and other laboratories from UFSCar, USP and UNESP, to conduct research, development and education activities in the field of vitreous materials, with funding from FAPESP until 2024. “With CeRTEV, we have established one of the largest academic research groups on glass on this planet, with world-class infrastructure, 14 professors and about 60 research students!”, acclaims Zanotto.

“Looking back, if I could return to December 1976, with the experience accumulated over these 40 years, I believe I’d do it all over again, but more efficiently!”, expresses the founder of LaMaV.

Doctoral students from 28 countries attending the "Glass and glass-ceramics school" at LaMaV, August, 2015.
Doctoral students from 28 countries attending the “Glass and glass-ceramics school” at LaMaV, August, 2015.

Interviews with plenary speakers of the XIV SBPMat Meeting: Edgar Zanotto.


Edgar Dutra Zanotto.

Glass-ceramics, discovered in the decade of 1950, are produced by the catalyzed internal crystallization of certain glasses containing nucleating elements, and submitted to temperatures from 500 to 1,100 °C. They can present many properties which make of them interesting materials for many applications in the fields of medicine, odontology and architecture, among others.

In the XIV SBPMat Meeting, glass-ceramics will be addressed in a lecture entitled “60 years of glass-ceramics R&D: a glorious past and bright future”. The lecturer will be Edgar Dutra Zanotto, full professor of the São Carlos Federal University (UFSCar), in Brazil, and director of the Brazilian Center for Research, Technology and Education in Vitreous Materials (CeRTEV).

Zanotto became fascinated by glass-ceramics in 1977, when he read the book Glass Ceramics by Peter McMillan, from Warwick University (United Kingdom), while he was completing the graduation course of Materials Engineering at UFSCar. From that moment on, these materials and their crystallization process have been the focus of his studies, first in his Master’s Degree in Physics (USP São Carlos, Brazil) then in his PhD in Glass Technology (University of Sheffield, United Kingdom) and, until the moment, in the research and development projects that he develops with his group in the Laboratory of Glass Materials (LaMaV) at UFSCar.

“Orchid”. Optical microscopy image of crystallization in eutetic glass. Credits: Vladimir Fokin e Edgar Zanotto (LaMaV-UFSCar).

Edgar Zanotto is author of an important production in science and glass technology. There are more than 200 scientific articles, with approximately 3,500 citations in Web of Science and 5,000 in Google Scholar; 20 book chapters; 17 patent orders; 2 books and 4 prefaces of international books. His H index is 34, according to Web of Science, and 39 according to Google Scholar. Zanotto already received 28 prizes or distinctions from diverse entities, as American Ceramic Society, Elsevier Publishing Company, International Commission on Glass, The World Academy of Sciences and CNPq, the Brazilian Federal Research Foundation. He is Commander of the Brazilian National Order of the Scientific Merit. He was chairman of six of the most important international congresses on the glass area. He gave more than 110 invited lectures and a dozen of plenary lectures. He is editor of the Journal of Non-Crystalline Solids.

Here is a mini interview with this lecturer of the XIV Meeting of SBPMat.

SBPMat newsletter: – What are your most significant contributions or the ones with bigger social impact in the subject of glass-ceramics? Explain them very briefly and comment what was generated from them (papers, books, patents, products, etc.).

Edgar Zanotto: – I believe that the most significant contributions of my research group are referred to tests and improvements of models of nucleation, crystal growth and total crystallization of glasses. Moreover we developed and tested, successfully, models that describe the sintering with concurrent glass crystallization, besides several measurement techniques and theories of dynamic processes (viscous flow, structural relaxation, diffusion and crystallization) in glasses. The numbers of papers, patents and books generated from these researches are described above.

Optical microscopy image of crystal scratch in isochemical glass. Credits:Valmor Mastelaro e Edgar Zanotto (LaMaV – UFSCar).

SBPMat newsletter: – Please, name some products made with glass ceramics that are in the market and some possible promising applications.

Edgar Zanotto; – Throughout the last 39 years we develop glass ceramics from iron and steel slags and from recycled glasses – for application in civil construction and architecture – and also more sophisticated materials for odontological and medical use. These will be presented in the lecture.

SBPMat newsletter: – If you wish, leave a message or an invitation to your plenary talk to the readers who will attend the XIV SBPMat Meeting.

Edgar Zanotto: – In the lecture I intend to revise the main models of nucleation and crystal growth in glasses and to discuss their applicability to the development of new glass ceramics. Everything will be illustrated with colorful figures of innumerable new products. I hope that the lecture will be interesting and motivating for the students and researchers (experimental and theoreticians) of the areas of materials science and engineering, and condense matter physics and chemistry.

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