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Centre of Excellence in Multifunctional Materials for Industrial and Medical Applications

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - NOMATEN (Centre of Excellence in Multifunctional Materials for Industrial and Medical Applications)

Reporting period: 2022-05-01 to 2023-10-31

Main aim of the NOMATEN Teaming project is to support growth of a new Centre of Excellence developing materials for extreme applications (high temperature, radiation and corrosion). The Centre will be assisted by its strategic partners: CEA France and VTT Finland. The Centre will carry out a broad scope of analyses, from computer simulations of material structure and their mechanical properties to studies of functional properties passing through advanced analytical characterization used for a detailed description of the materials structure.
Apart of scientific goals the Centre should also act as an example of modern organization of the research laboratory and a model of a national organization perfectly integrated within the European Research Area.
The importance of these studies is related mainly with the development of new technologies for nuclear industry, chemical and power engineering and in the development of new radiopharmaceuticals by irradiation of targets in nuclear reactors or cyclotrons. These aspects cover the axes of energy production for the next generations, effective use of the resources on Earth and health. The importance of these topics for society is obvious as well as the fact, that these topics are undoubtedly valid today and in the foreseeable future.
The situation in the world, which changed drastically as a result of the war in Ukraine, confirmed the correctness of the project concept. It is clear that Europe needs to become independent of fossil fuels as quickly as possible. The only rational option for creating a stable energy system independent of hydrocarbon fuels is nuclear power. Nuclear energy is also essential to reduce the rate of global temperature rise and reduce the risk of a climate catastrophe. The importance of material development for modern medicine, including new generations of radiopharmaceuticals for cancer diagnosis and control, is as evident as before.
The next phase of the construction of the CoE was focused on the consolidation of research groups and the transition from the investment phase to research. CERAD, a radiopharmaceutical production center, has passed the critical construction point with the installation of a new cyclotron. The program for the construction of nuclear power plants in Poland was confirmed, and the agreement signed.
The first part of the Teaming project was focused on establishment of the Centre of Excellence, creation of the operational procedures, organization of the working space and employment of the personnel. An important part of the work was also the development of the internal organization of work in the Teaming project; establishment of the mandatory project bodies, identification and creation of joint working groups. During the activities, it was also necessary to clarify the various legal issues. The research agenda was also modified and the first topics of doctoral dissertations were identified. The rooms provided by NCBJ at CoE's disposal were enlarged with new laboratories where SEM, TEM and XRD systems were installed. Website was created, hiring procedures were developed, materials necessary to popularize the project was designed and produced. Equipment in CoE offices was purchased and installed. The project suffered from Covid restriction, as a partial replacement of these activities, a regularly organized series of virtual meetings (webinars) was launched, which enjoyed great interest among employees of project partners, but also external research organizations around the world.
In the second stage of the project (RP2), the Center of Excellence achieved most of the assumed parameters, such as the employment (43 people, 35 planned), the organizational procedures were developed and implemented, the Center has its own office and laboratory space provided by the parent institution (NCBJ). Intensive modification and purchase of equipment for the NCBJ Material Research Laboratory is taking place (financed from external sources, not mandatory NCBJ contribution), this equipment is already being made available to CoE for joint research. The total value of modernization and investment expenditures has already reached approx. EUR 1.7 million. The construction of a large NCBJ research infrastructure is continued (Centrix, Cerad and Polfel projects), which will be made available to CoE. The Neutron Research Laboratory at the MARIA reactor is being modernized using devices obtained from the HelmholtzZentrum Berlin. The NOMATEN Center has obtained its first own research grants and first industrial contracts. The first defenses of doctoral dissertations are planned in 2022, a doctorate in the co-tutelle system together with Universite Paris Sud and CEA has been started.
In the third Reporting Period (RP3) the Centre reached its Growth phase defined as ability to operate all Research Groups and building a core team of researchers. Currently the Centre employs 54 persons, among them 44 in research positions. The Centre is supported also by NCBJ personnel on part-time basis. First two Ph.D. theses were defended and two D.Sc. degrees granted. The number of scientific papers published exceeded 80. The Centre operates currently three major devices: SEM/FIB/EDS/EBSD and TEM/EDS electron microscopes and XRD diffractometer. New rooms were made available by the NCBJ for the installation of the TEM bringing the whole area used by the CoE to about 1200 m2. New laboratory spaces for Radiopharmaceutical Research Group were made operational, more are being prepared in the next RP.
The whole NOMATEN ecosystem is composed of three main elements: organization (NOMATEN CoE), administrative and formal support (NOMATEN Teaming) and research project (NOMATEN IRAP+). The CoE benefits from the key element: support from widely recognized research organizations in Europe, French CEA and Finnish VTT. The unique opportunities offered by this concept are: combination of research and administrative support, multiannual project permitting establishment of long-term research agenda, numerous possibilities open for young researchers and, finally, construction of the research organization based on the experience of European partners. These elements constitute thus a complete novelty in Poland that’s why the CoE is expected to become an example of an entirely new, successful research laboratory, integrated within the European Research Area and serving the purpose of a model for new organization of research in Poland. This new concept will answer the needs of the major societal challenges: energy and health.
NOMATEN CoE is beginning to be perceived in Poland as one of the best materials research laboratories serving as an example of success resulting from carefully selected research topics, broadly understood international cooperation and the ability to obtain funds from very different sources. The closest cooperation links were established with the WUT, AGH and IPPT PAN, key institutions in the field of materials research in the country. Among foreign centers, it is worth mentioning the CEA, VTT, JAEA, KAERI, HZB and HZDR Harvard, MIT and INL. Numerous research projects in the CoE are conducted in the form of consortiums. Some examples are: SAFEG, INNUMAT, ATFCoat or N-HEA projects. We have also launched an activity integrating the materials research in various Teaming projects, the aim of these activities is to create a group with a "critical mass" capable of preparing new European applications.
Group photo at NOMATEN Winter School in Paris
Young scientist from NOMATEN CoE working at SEM Microscope
Group photo at Helsinki Workshop