CMU Nanotechnologies and Material Science Team visits Portugal

Between June 19 and 23, a delegation of four faculty members from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) visited  19  Portuguese Labs, Research Centers, and Institutes in the areas of nanotechnologies and material characterization. Over four intensive days,  the CMU Professors engaged in brainstorming sessions and meaningful discussions with the Portuguese Researchers, identifying common interests and directions of  future research directions and collaborations under the scope of CMU Portugal Program.

The CMU delegation consisted of Theresa S. Mayer, Vice-President of Research at CMU and Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Department of Materials Science and Engineering; Elizabeth Dickey, Department Head, Teddy and Wilton Hawkins, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering; Gary Fedder, Faculty Director, Manufacturing Futures Initiatives, Howard M. Wilkoff Professor, in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering & the Robotics Institute; and Gianluca Piazza, Nanofab Director and STMicroelectronics Professor at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Throughout the visit, they were accompanied by José M. F. Moura, Director of the CMU Portugal Program at CMU, Philip L. and Marsha Dowd University Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Sílvia Castro, the CMU Portugal Program Executive Director in Portugal. 

This visit followed the visit by Elvira Fortunato, the Portuguese Minister of Science, Technology, and Higher Education, and Madalena Alves, President of Fundação para a CIência e a Tecnologia (FCT)  to Carnegie Mellon in March. The discussions then suggested that the CMU Portugal Program explore nanotechnologies and nanomaterials as potential new areas of future collaboration.

On June 20th, the delegation’s first stop was at the International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory INL, where Madalena Alves (FCT’s president) and Paulo Freitas, INL Deputy Director General, welcomed the group. The visit started with a comprehensive presentation of INL activities and infrastructures by Paulo Freitas and leaders of INL’s research groups related to nanostructures and advanced materials. The delegation had the opportunity to visit several INL laboratories and INL’s research core facilities, engaging with their principal investigators and research teams. 

The CMU faculty followed then with a visit to CF-UM-UP (Physics Center of Minho and Porto Universities), where they were received by António Onofre and Mikhail Vasilevskiy, the current and former CF-UM-UP Directors, respectively, along with research group members at the Gualtar campus of the University of Minho. Mikhail Vasilevskiy presented the institution’s main research fields and strategic lines of research.

Transitioning from the Universidade do Minho Gualtar Campus in Braga to the Azurém Campus in Guimarães, the group was welcomed by Pedro Arezes, the President of the School of Engineering of the Universidade do Minho, and representatives from five different Institutions:  Pedro NunesIPC (Institute for Polymers and Composites), André Matos – DTx (Digital Transformation CoLab),  António J Pontes, DONE Lab (Advanced Manufacturing Laboratory of Products and Tools), André Catarino – 2C2T (Centre for Textile Science and Technology) and Pedro Mimoso – PIEP (Centre for Innovation in Polymer Engineering). The CMU group had the opportunity to interact with members of each institution, visit their research facilities, and gain insight into their capabilities and accomplishments.

On June 21st,  the CMU delegation made their way to Porto, starting their visit at CEiiA (Centre of Engineering and Product Development), where they were received by Rui Magalhães,  Director of the Space & Ocean Unit. Rui Magalhães provided an overview of CEiiA’s foundations and the ongoing work in aeronautics, mobility, naval/offshore, and automotive sectors. The visit concluded with a guided tour of CEiiA’s facilities and manufacturing plant.

The CMU delegation next visited the Fraunhofer Portugal AICOS in Porto, a non-profit private association founded by Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Europe’s largest organization for applied research. The delegation was welcomed by Liliana Ferreira, the Director of Fraunhofer Portugal AICOS, and her team. They presented the Center’s research work, including two projects developed within the scope of FCT’s international partnerships. One notable project was TAMI,  a CMU Portugal Large-Scale project that uses AI tools to develop a platform to support medical decisions.

The CMU delegation’s next destination was Aveiro, the hometown of Universidade de Aveiro, where they visited two institutions. First, they visited CICECO -Aveiro Institute of Materials, where they were welcomed by Artur Silva, Universidade de Aveiro Vice-Rector, to research, innovation, and third cycle training. João Coutinho, Director of CICECO, provided an overview of the institution’s organization and facilities. Several CICECO group leaders briefly presented their main activities and research topics. Rute Ferreira, the Vice-Director of CICECO, then guided the group through a visit to some of its facilities and laboratories, giving them a firsthand experience of the institution’s research capabilities. Next, the group explored I3N Aveiro, where António Luís Ferreira, the Vice-Coordinator, presented the institution and the research lines being conducted at the Aveiro campus. The meeting was attended by some of the institution’s principal investigators, who guided the group through a visit to their respective laboratories. This allowed the delegation to gain insights into the ongoing research activities and collaborations at I3N Aveiro.

On June 22nd,  the tour headed to the city of Coimbra, home to the  Universidade de Coimbra. Founded in 1290, it is one of the oldest universities in Europe and has been classified as a World Heritage site by UNESCO. The Universidade de Coimbra tour included stops at CFisUC (Centre for Physics of the University of Coimbra), hosted by José Paixão, Head of CFisUC. Researchers from the institution joined the discussion, where they elaborated on the research lines of the five working groups within CFisUC. Continuing their visit to Coimbra, the delegation then proceeded to  CEMMPRE (Centre for Mechanical Engineering, Materials, and Processes). Albano Cavaleiro, the Center President, and colleagues from the research center received them. During their visit, the group discussed the research lines pursued by CEMMPRE, focusing on examples of nanomaterials and nanotechnology applications. This gave the delegation valuable insights into their cutting-edge research and innovations in these fields.

After visiting Coimbra, the delegation moved on to the Lisbon area, where they visited two  universities: Universidade de Lisboa and Universidade Nova de Lisboa. Starting at Universidade de Lisboa, their first stop was at the Laboratory for Robotics and Engineering Systems (LARSyS) at Instituto Superior Técnico, where José Santos-Victor, the President of LARSyS, hosted them. Pedro Lima, President of the ISR (Institute for Systems and Robotics), Alexandre Bernardino, who had previously led CMU Portugal research projects, and Nuno Nunes, CMU Portugal Co-Director and ITI president, also participated in the visit.

The delegation then had the opportunity to discuss research lines and opportunities with CeFEMA (Center of Physics and Engineering of Advanced Materials). The discussion was led by João Seixas, the President of CeFEMA, and researchers from each of the seven research topics being developed at the institution actively participated.

The day concluded with a visit to the facilities of INESC-MN (INESC Microsistemas e Nanotechnologies), where they were received by João Conde, President at INESC MN, Virginia Chu and Susana Cardoso. The discussion  revolved around micro- and nanotechnologies and their applications in electronics, biology, and biomedical devices.

June 23rd marked the last day of the tour, and the final visit was to FCT NOVA, where the group had the opportunity to visit CENIMAT hosted by Rodrigo Martins, Director of CENIMAT | i3N. The delegation familiarized themselves with the work of the six research groups organized into four thematic lines at i3N, particularly focusing on the ones based at CENIMAT, as they had previously visited the i3N polo in Aveiro. The visit also included a tour of the facilities and laboratories.

The visit concluded with a wrap-up meeting and lunch at Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (FCT) with Elvira Fortunato, the Portuguese Minister of Science, Technology, and Higher Education; Madalena Alves, the President of FCT; and Francisco Santos, the Vice-President of FCT. The group was joined by Inês Lynce, CMU Portugal Co-Director; Mariana Carmo, CMU Portugal Communications office; and Ana Reis, from FCT Department for International Relations. During the working lunch, Theresa S. Mayer summarized the visit to the 19 institutions, highlighting the collaboration opportunities that had emerged from the trip. Gary Fedder and Gianluca Piazza supported Mayer’s conclusions, adding potential future intersections with the work being developed at the institutions that they lead at CMU. The fruitful discussion on the outcomes of the visit led the Minister to emphasize the importance of this new area of research. 

CMU Portugal would like to express its gratitude to all the Portuguese teams and institutions for their warm welcome, insightful presentations, and for the invaluable opportunity to explore their research facilities and share their expertise and dedication to advancing scientific research that inspire groundbreaking work.

The visit to Portugal’s research institutions showcased the country’s strong commitment to scientific advance and innovation. The fruitful discussions, valuable exchanges, and exposure to cutting-edge research conducted by the Portuguese institutions demonstrated the opportunity for meaningful interdisciplinary collaboration and the potential for synergy between CMU and the Portuguese institutions.  The discussions highlighted emerging research areas, including nanotechnologies, advanced materials, robotics, engineering systems, and intelligent manufacturing where products, processes and entire factories are automatically updated by collecting data on their digital twins.  This visit by the CMU Professors further strengthened the ties between CMU and the Portuguese institutions, fostering a spirit of collaboration, knowledge sharing, and mutual growth.