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The UAM in the media

Alessandro Zucchiatti, newly appointed director of the UAM's Centre for Microanalysis of Materials


Alessandro Zucchiatti is a physics graduate of the University of Genoa, Italy, and holds a doctorate in science from the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. He recently joined us as director of the Centre for Microanalysis of Materials (CMAM) of the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (UAM). He was previously a researcher in the National Institute of Nuclear Physics in Genoa, an institution associated with the University of Genoa, where he taught, as well as teaching at other universities. He has also collaborated with internationally renowned research centres, and has been in charge of a large number of projects. He has had over 160 scientific pieces published in various international journals and has taken part in a large number of conferences and seminars.

Alessandro Zucchiatti

The Centre for Microanalysis of Materials (CMAM) is a multidisciplinary scientific facility established by the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. It was officially inaugurated in March 2003, having started operations in September 2002.

What are some of your priorities and objectives in your newly assumed post as director of the Centre for Microanalysis of Materials?

As director of the CMAM my aim is to consolidate the growth it has experienced since its establishment under its first two directors, Fernando Agulló and Aurelio Climent. I also want to contribute to strengthening the research activity that the Centre carries out and increase its involvement with the Spanish and international scientific communities. I have five years ahead of me in which to achieve this commitment step by step.

I am extremely pleased to be here facing this challenge, and I am grateful to all who have made it possible. The UAM does excellent basic research, as does the institution I come from, the Italian National Institute of Nuclear Physics, but in this university much attention is given to the applied part and to knowledge transfer, as I was able to experience first hand during my stay as visiting teacher in 2003 and 2004.

I've arrived at a very good moment for the UAM, which was recently proclaimed a Campus of International Excellence; a good moment for me too, because it's an opportunity to continue this activity in an extremely dynamic environment; and good for the CMAM, for which new growth opportunities are opening up.

What does the CMAM do?

The CMAM is a university centre that caters to the work of researchers of the UAM and associated institutions such as the CSIC and the CIEMAT. It aims to become an international benchmark in the study and modification of materials, thanks to the unique character of its facilities and the quality of its research staff. The CMAM was born with an international vocation, as shown by the large number of contacts with various European universities and research centres… and now by its having an Italian director.

The main purpose of this centre is to develop ion beam analysis (IBA) techniques and to study the modification (IBMM) of the physical properties of materials and surfaces brought about by ion beams. For this, the centre has a Tandetron type ion accelerator, a world pioneer, with a maximum terminal voltage of 5 MV.

And what are its aims?

The Centre's objectives correspond with those of the University. Firstly, to carry out leading edge research, which is already being done by an excellent group of researchers both from the CSIC and from the various departments of the UAM, and which was one of the reasons that persuaded me to take in the management of the centre. Another of its aims is to offer advanced training through master's degree courses and postgraduate studies, and in the classrooms in general, thanks to the work of my teaching colleagues. Lastly, its mission is to transfer knowledge to the university community, the business world and society as a whole. And in performing this task we are supported by the extraordinary experience of the Madrid Science Park, which makes it possible for many users to gain access to the techniques of the CMAM.

To which areas of knowledge are the results of the various kinds of research carried on in the complex applied?

The research projects carried out are based on the analysis or modification of samples from diverse sources, by means of advanced and original ion beam techniques developed in the centre. The scientific information is used in very diverse fields, including materials science, photonics, surface physics, biomedicine, energy, nuclear physics, environmental sciences, archaeometry, all of which are areas of research in which IBA techniques have already shown their enormous potential. For example, the results obtained have led to the production of new materials, the development of innovative optical devices for medical treatments and to analyse works of art, among many other applications. In short, the results being obtained in the various studies are very promising and contribute to improving people's quality of life.

The CMAM has an electrostatic ion accelerator which is a pioneer in Spain. How does this facility work?

The CMAM's accelerator is the first of its kind, and it makes it possible to study a wide range of interactions between ions and material. What it does is to create an electrostatic field in which ions generated from a particular source are accelerated, whereby they acquire energy, which enables the ion beam to penetrate into the material that you want to analyse or modify. By selecting the type of ions, their energy and flow, you can show various physical processes, allowing you to research on different scales: molecules, atoms, nuclei or crystalline phases. Equally, it is possible to carry out controlled structural modifications to the sample using ion beams. Depending on the reaction produced, different experimental techniques are used, allowing us to examine or modify the various parameters of the material being analysed.

How do you see the scientific scene in Spain generally? Do you notice any difference between Spain and the other European Union countries in terms of R&D&I?

Spain has quality research, covering a broad spectrum, with a very high degree of attention paid to the social and economic impact and with the support of the autonomous regional authorities and the central government. Moreover, Spanish research has a strong European vocation. In the course of my long career I have had the opportunity of working with many Spanish scientists, in Italy and in other countries, and I have seen their excellent training and the significant contributions and ideas they have brought to the various projects. Similarly, Spain plays a very important role in all the international organisations, and is also at the forefront in certain fields such as renewable energy sources. It's a great place to carry on researching, which is my lifelong passion.