What has the ATTRACT seed funding enabled you to do so far?
Thanks to ATTRACT funding we are very excited to be finalising the construction of what will be the first nanotube-growing facility in University of Rome Sapienza. We expect it to be operational in the next few weeks. We can’t wait to start growing the first batch of nanotubes. At the same time, we have completed the characterisation of the response of silicon avalanche photo-diodes (APDs) to low-energy electrons. To do this we needed to upgrade the electron gun facility of University of Roma Tre, which was done with this grant. While we think that APDs will suffice for testing the NanoUV proof of principle, we are exploring the possibility of using state-of-the-art Silicon Drift Detectors (SDD) to improve the performance. To do so we have started a fruitful collaboration on the one hand with Fondazione Bruno Kessler (FBK), the leading Italian producer of silicon detectors for scientific purposes, and on the other with Politecnico di Milano, who are widely considered the Italian experts in using SDD detectors in particle physics. We believe these are important assets in view of possible future industrial applications of the NanoUV concept. Finally, we have started the construction of a demonstrator of the NanoUV proof-of-principle. The demonstrator should be completed in the next few weeks, and we will spend the remaining time of the project testing it thoroughly in our new lab in Sapienza.
What challenges have you faced so far?
Organising the construction of a Chemical Vapour Deposition (CVD) chamber for the growth of carbon nanotubes is a challenging task! It requires excellent planning, as all steps of the process (technical design, ordering the parts, construction, installation, commissioning) are complex and time-consuming. But we have succeeded: as you can see in the picture, the CVD chamber has been constructed and is ready to be commissioned.
Where does your ATTRACT journey go from here?
The most exciting part of the project is about to begin! We are looking forward to grow the first nanotubes in Sapienza and to test the NanoUV demonstrator.
Sum up in two sentences the advantages of the ATTRACT Programme over other research funding schemes.
The ATTRACT funding scheme delivers an initial sum to a large number of projects, giving them one year to prove the potential of their idea, and then grant the second instalment of the funding only to those projects which seem most promising. We are big fans of this funding scheme because we think it gives researchers a concrete chance to test the potential of their ideas on a short timescale. We think it’s a very efficient way to do things, and also (at least for us) proving to be lots of fun!