STATE-OF-THE-ART EQUIPMENT WILL SUPPORT RESEARCH IN SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

TWO PROJECTS WERE AWARDED TO OUR ACADEMIC INSTITUTION IN THE VI CONTEST OF 2017 SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNOLOGICAL EQUIPMENT, INITIATIVES THAT WERE PROPOSED BY ENGINEERING AND CHEMISTRY.



October 6, 2017

Advanced technology equipment to extend and deepen research will be incorporated by our University, thanks to two projects awarded to the Faculty of Engineering and the Institute of Chemistry of Natural Resources, in the VI contest of 2017 Scientific and Technological Equipment.
 
 
It is an integrated system to test fuel batteries of polymer membrane, unique in Latin America, and a nuclear magnetic resonator (NMR) of 500 megahertz (MHz), the most powerful of Chile.
 
 
In total, the assigned value amounts to 439 million 979 thousand pesos (US$ 670,000, approx..), which will be complemented by the Corporation in order to acquire the two devices, whose cost amount 1,384 million 925 thousand pesos (US$2,130,000, approx.)
 
 
"The award of a 500 MHz NMR to our University means that this type of equipment will be located here, the country's most powerful, and this opens up a huge possibility of working on issues that until now were not possible to do. It is not only good news for the University, but for Chile," said Professor Guillermo Schmeda, author of the project.
 
 
"NMR is a very powerful technique that allows us to "assemble" the structure of compounds on the basis of the evidence that is obtained with the equipment," he said. In this way, it will be possible to deepen the knowledge on bioactive compounds of plants, micro-organisms, food or pharmaceutical products.
 
 Higher resolution
 
 P
rofessor Schmeda added that it will also be possible to develop studies that require an instrument with a high enough resolution to separate signals from substances, such as protein’s structural details, which are very similar in the spectrum. "This equipment is 20% more powerful than those who are operating in Chile, in Santiago, Concepción and in the U. Federico Santa María, which allows to separate these signals," he said.
 
 
"With a 500 NMR clinical diagnoses can also be made that until now were not made in Chile," he added.
 
 
In addition, the academic emphasized that the contribution that the university makes to acquire new equipment demonstrates its interest in making quality science. "It means that there will be more scientists and also more PhD students with better background and, in addition, it will be able to increase collaboration with other institutions," he said and indicated that the equipment will be accessible for internal and external researchers.
 
 
"It is a big challenge and also a great responsibility," he said, adding that the NMR – with German technology -- will be installed in a specially conditioned space at the new Center for Advanced Scientific Instrumentation (CICA) to better equip it, which is currently under construction at the Talca Campus.
 
 Energy System
 
 The other equipment is part of a multidisciplinary project that seeks for Chile to be incorporated into the study of an energy system called hydrogen fuel cells, devices that converts the energy of this element into electrical energy, having as residues water and heat.
 
 
This equipment is not only the only one of its kind in Latin America, but one of the few installed in Universities at the global level and will position the faculty of Engineering as a pioneer in the field.
 
 
"It will allow us to buy a device that characterizes hydrogen fuel cells and their components, control the flow of oxygen and hydrogen gases that are generated, the temperatures and humidity, in addition to monitoring all internal variables, such as workflows, electrical currents and voltages of each cell, which means doing tests to know the status of a particular fuel," explained academic Carlos Restrepo, from the Laboratory of Applications in Intelligent Networks (Lari), who submitted the proposal.
 
 
The project incorporates six different lines of research that include a network of scientists. This University itself, three other Chilean universities, in addition to centers from Latin America, Europe and Australia.
 
 
"We're integrating specialists who study from the production of hydrogen to storage, in addition to the design of special membranes, other researchers who develop internal parts of the battery, such as bipolar plates, as well as professionals who analyze the modeling and control of these energy systems, so that we can move forward in the development of technologies that contribute to the expansion of uses of these batteries," said Professor Restrepo.
 
 Uses
 
 
in other countries there are vehicles that are operated with such batteries and that require loading hydrogen rather than gasoline.
 
 
"Fuel Cells have existed for many years, but there are still several improvements that are required in the systems, such as for example to increase their life time, which today is below 5 thousand hours, which means, in a car, a useful life of about 150 thousand kilometers," said Carlos Restrepo.
 
 
Along with this, the scientist from the University said they are interested in analyzing its use as an add-in solar plants or other types of renewable energy, in addition to the creation of internal parts in the battery that have a lower cost than the ones being built in the world today. All this with the possibility of working in a network with academics incorporated into the project.
 
 
For his part, the Director of Research of the University, Ivan Palomo, stated that "all the equipment awarded during the period allow for better research, and therefore, create better publications and, in that way, have a better chance in the awarding of competitive grants".



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