December 10th, 2011

Synergies from joint research

The Centre pools together six internationally recognized research groups (see the descriptions below) from three Estonian universities: University of Tartu (UT), Tallinn University of Technology (TUT), and Tallinn University (TU). Joint interdisciplinary (physics, biochemistry, technology) research between the groups has led to a number of publications and doctorate degrees during the past 5 years. The groups have agreed upon an ambitious long-term research agenda resulting from in-depth consultations during the preparatory phase of the Centre. The CoE will encourage the mostly bilateral research connections to be considerably diversified.

The underlying principles of CoE are fixed by the Consortium Agreement (CA, attached to the present Action Plan). The CA regulates intellectual property issues among other strategic matters. The consortium is led by Prof Vladimir HiĹžnjakov (G1). The Steering Committee (SC) consisting of the leaders of the groups (G1-G6) is responsible for regular benchmarking and overall coordination of the activities of the Centre. The SC is also responsible for first-hand dispute resolution should a settlement according to the stipulations of the CA cannot be reached. The SC has initiated an International Advisory Board (IAB) consisting of 5 members acting as a body evaluating the scientific excellence of the research results. Prof Giorgio Benedek, Prof Ernst Sigmund and Prof Albert J Sievers are already confirmed members of IAB.

Figure 1. The joint research concept of the Centre. The CoE focuses on coherence, dynamic and structural properties of mesostrucures. The combination of different theoretical approaches from participating groups with computer simulations and experimental measurements results in a qualitatively new level of research of mesosystems.

Figure 2. An example of how a synergy of various expertises provides fundamentally new knowledge about complex mesostructures leading towards hi-tech applications.

Synergies from common infrastructure

The infrastructural resources of a single group are not adequate for investigating such complex objects as mesostructures. Hence, all available infrastructures for materials research should be considered. In recent years there has been a tremendous effort to modernize the research infrastructure in Estonia. This has widened our capabilities and better integrated our research with the European Research Area. Materials science and technology has been one of the priority areas of the modernization. The high-end set-ups (e.g. FIB-SEM system), realization of the roadmap programme (e.g. high-resolution TEM through NAMUR programme), and new possibilities for international collaboration and improved access to the large-scale European facilities (e.g. Estonian beam-line at Max-Lab, ESS) form a solid and comprehensive basis of experimental investigations of materials including mesosystems.

Figure 3. The combined research infrastructure of the participating groups as well as other collaboration schemes results in an experimental researhc and computer simulation capabilities never been possible before.

However, facilities for computer modeling have received relatively less attention creating sometimes a gap between the capabilities of theoretical predictions and experimental measurements. A significant fraction of the proposed investments will consists of new soft- and hardware that will facilitate more balanced development of materials science infrastructure. New capabilities will also facilitate large-scale simulations utilizing cluster, cloud, and super-computing currently not possible. Proposed investments into research infrastructure serve four major purposes:

  • Advanced simulation of materials characteristics (e.g. software Materials Studio)
  • Development of synthesis methods for fabrication of larger variety of mesostructures with precisely controlled parameters (e.g. controlled environment capabilities)
  • Characterization tools for better and deeper understanding of formation and dynamics of mesostructures (e.g. measurements kits for AFM, mass-spectrometer)
  • Set-ups for specific measurements for feedback to theoretical modeling (e.g. tip-enhanced Raman spectroscopy).

Impact on education and internationalization

The CoE is fully integrated into the Estonian and international R&D and higher education structure. A special note should be given to the high level of international collaboration, direct links to applied research through unique collaboration with two Competence Centres, ENCC and CCRMB, and integration into higher education system via common courses and other measures.

Figure 4. Partner networks of the CoE

Participating groups have traditionally been very successful in combining high level research and education. Through the CoE a particular focus will be put on increasing the level of internationalization of the teaching, one of the key priorities of the universities. E.g. 2 of 3 UT "strategic" professors working at the Institute of Physics, UT, Prof M.Brik and A.Romanov involved in G2. International collaboration through CoE will significantly accelerate the internationalization process as several new cross-border courses are planned, including Quantum Liquids together with Milano-Bicocca University (Italy), and a project in the field of superconductivity together with Lublin University of Technology and with the Maria Curie Sklodowska University in Lublin.

The CoE focuses on research topics that have fundamental importance not only for academics but also for a number of industries. The new quality of the research is based on international and domestic interdisciplinary collaboration, as well as from the rapid development of research infrastructures. The sustainability of the CoE is supported by several measures ensuring steady influx of young researchers.