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The Role of University of Latvia’s Institute of Solid State Physics in Advancing Medical Technologies and Beyond

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Through medical research, the University of Latvia‘s Institute of Solid State Physics encourages young scientists and business owners to create the technologies of tomorrow.

The University of Latvia established the Institute of Solid State Physics ( ISSP UL), an independent legal organization. With 46 years of experience in materials science and cross-disciplinary topics in Latvia, it is a leader with a reputation for being worldwide recognized. The Institute employs more than 100 Doctors of Science, conducting globally competitive research, educating students, and offering innovative solutions for business needs.

The ISSP UL values education and works with highly skilled academic staff. The master’s degree study programme, developed in co- operation with the Faculty of Physics, Mathematics and Optometry, the University of Latvia, is the basis for building fresh people’s knowledge and professional competitiveness in the future.

The Institute constantly collaborates with more than 100 international scientific organizations and universities to improve the credentials of students and scientists and draw in business and investors.

An average of 50 medical projects are developed by ISSP UL each year. About one-third of the projects are carried out simultaneously with businesses.

Along with advancements in clinical research, the ISSP UL has established strong partnerships with Latvia’s high-level innovation sectors. The ISSP UL’s technical and scientific research results are transferred to a number of spin-off businesses.

Big application- oriented priority directions of the ISSP UL’s activities:

  • Photonics;
  • Thin films, low dimensional ( 0D, 1D, 2D ) structures and sensors,
  • Energetics, and
  • Medical technologies ( diagnostics ) and microfluidics.

The four top priority research areas for ISSP UL have been carefully chosen to increase the strength of global scientific capacity and to reflect the most recent developments in material science, reflecting advancements in terms of scientific results, available infrastructure, and ongoing collaboration with scientific organizations and industry.

Photonics

The direction is related to essential clinical research in non-linear optics and the development of novel light sources and displays using sophisticated optical materials for organic and non-organic materials.

For the purposes of the next-generation electronics and photonics field, the Laboratory of Organic Materials conducts fundamental and applied research on healthy molecules, materials, and their structures.

The Micro and Nanodevices Laboratory performs and fabrication of several microscopic- devices and nanostructures: sensors, transistors, etc. Professional experience in the fields of photonics, semiconductors, and microfluidics.

The Laboratory of Visual Perception researches the visual quality of various optical systems, dynamic optics, wave- back phase retrieval, different light sources and their influence on visual perception, and different visual stimuli designed for studies on visual psychophysics. The laboratory combines knowledge in materials science, wave optics, vision science and optometry.

The Laboratory of Optical Materials studies frequent luminescence, the interaction of ionising radiation with crystalline, cylindrical and glass- like structures, and performs research on visual fibres and ultraviolet optics.

Thin films, low dimensional ( 0D, 1D, 2D ) structures and sensors

Applications related to this direction are coatings, narrow films for nanoelectronics, viral coatings, and chromogenic porous structures for clever windows. The spatial scaling of materials significantly modifies their electric, infrared, mechanical, and magnetic properties and their material- property relationship, which in turn alters the physical behaviour of nanoscale electronic and photonic devices. Major difficulties are present in integrating nanomaterials into composite systems at developed technology nodes as well as understanding and controlling material properties at the nanoscale.

The Thin Films Laboratory offers a thin film deposition service for a wide range of inorganic materials by utilizing various deposition methods, including the PVD vacuum multifunctional cluster SAF25/50, the G500M cluster, High Power Impulse Magnetron Sputtering (HiPIMS), PLD, MOCVD, and ALD.

The EXAFS Spectroscopy Laboratory uses synchrotron radiation X-ray absorption spectroscopy to study the structure of several materials.

One of the largest and best-equipped laboratories at the ISSP UL is The Laboratory of Spectroscopy. It combines several research techniques related to visual, electron and electromagnetic spectroscopy.

The Microscopy Laboratory focuses on studying material structures, morphology, and composition using current empirical and theoretical methods. This is, to a considerable degree, a method- based laboratory providing total- scale services to another research laboratories.

The Laboratory of Computer Modelling of Electronic Structure of Solids performs big- scale ab initio computer simulations on advanced materials, their surfaces, interfaces, and nanostructures.

Energetics

This covers several things, including fuel cells, photovoltaics, thin film batteries, lithium-ion and potassium-ion batteries, supercapacitors, electromechanical energy harvesters, lead- free ferrite ceramics for mechanical actuators and energy harvesting, hydrogen generation, hydrogen as energy storage technologies with a lower environmental footprint, thermoelectric generators, and advanced functional and construction materials for thermonuclear fusion.

The Energy Materials Laboratory studies the cathode and anode materials for Li-ion and Na-ion batteries, as well as materials and methods for storing hydrogen in metal hydrides and nanostructured composite materials.

The Laboratory of Optical Materials conducts in-depth scientific research on the use of transparent ceramics, the development of transparent crystals, and its applications in electronic and photonic devices. The laboratory concentrates on the thick films and lead-free ferroelectric ceramics.

Medical technologies and microfluidics

The Micro and Nanodevices Laboratory performs and fabrication of various microdevices and nanostructures: Microfluidic devices, sensors, transistors, etc. Cellbox Labs, a spin-off of Cellbox Labs, is creating organs- on a chip that could enable pharmaceutical companies to test new drugs more effectively. The Laboratory is also involved in the separation and detection of cancer biomarkers. Other significant ISSP UL laboratories were involved in the creation of this direction:

  • Laboratory of Thin Films,
  • Laboratory of Spectroscopy, and
  • Laboratory for Computer Simulation of Solids Electronic Structure.

Education is essential for the growth of the regional scientific industry.

Sustainability is highly dependent on the next generation, who will carry the scientific swagger along with it in ongoing research and development. Education is identified as a key to developing a regional high- tech industry by providing well- educated, competent, and skilled scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs. Since its foundation, ISSP UL has been actively teaching at the bachelor, master, and doctoral levels, with close links to scientific work at the Institute.

A sizable portion of the diploma defense at the University of Latvia is conducted here. A number of scientists at ISSP UL are involved in providing both bachelor’s and master’s physics programs. This interaction is crucial to the ISSP UL’s recruitment of students and young scientists.

The developed programmes are more cross- disciplinary and application- oriented and aim to produce well- educated, competent, and skilful scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs. The Department of Physics, University of Latvia, has accepted the courses from the new programs, and the students have a lot of appreciative feedback about them.

The modifications ‘ goals are elaborated to achieve scientific excellence and strategic relevance in light of ISSP UL’s and industry’s envisioned needs. Therefore, the program’s mandatory component is modern, extensive, and comprehensive to draw students with diverse physics backgrounds and a wide range of interests, from science to innovation and development. Both master’s and doctoral programmes are open to international students, as courses may also be taught in English.

The master’s programme includes general topics on quantum physics, solid- state physics, photonics, nanomaterials, electronics, and nanotechnologies. Additionally covered are important topics like the design of nanosemiconductor devices, the synthesis and characterization of thin films, nanoceramics, and spectroscopy. Additionally, courses have been established on the management of innovation processes and ethics.

The doctoral program was created in collaboration between ISSP UL and RISE scientists and KTH professors. It consists of studies with regular lectures in the existing doctoral programme,’ Functional Materials and Nanotechnologies’, based at the ISSP UL. The programme’s content was upgraded to include more elements of applied sciences, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

Another crucial component of scientific development is attracting the next generation of talented and passionate students into the STEM fields, enticing school students to study exact sciences and advance their professional development in industry and academia. In response, ISSP UL actively participates in conferences and exhibitions geared toward school youth and students in higher education and research institutions, sponsoring student grants, organizing excursions for school students, and giving lectures at schools and during career days. The Institute hosts Children of all ages at the Researcher’s Night each year and offers the opportunity to shadow scientists during Job Shadow Day. The Institute has been hosting a Solar Cup competition for school youth for 15 years, and it offers opportunities for secondary school students to conduct scientific research projects.

A collaborative innovation platform

In order to establish a single point of contact where science can benefit businesses, ISSP UL created the industry collaboration platform Materize in 2018. The platform gives users access to the Institute’s expertise and resources. For local and international businesses to develop cutting-edge ideas and meet the needs of the industry, accessible research and an innovative environment are a great combination.

The collaboration is straightforward and transparent within the framework of Materize: Business- customer- tailored processes, clear information for the industry, and a simple approach to ISSP UL competencies and infrastructure.

Materize offers ISSP UL scientific services in the following fields:

  • Materials for electronics and photonics,
  • Solutions for energy storage and hydrogen,
  • Coating development and testing,
  • Nanomaterial development and synthesis,
  • Synthesis and cell cycle of battery materials,
  • OLED full- cycle development,
  • Modern methods of material characterisation,
  • Theoretical modelling and design,
  • Prototyping and small- scale production,
  • Novel sensor material development, and
  • Protection of Intellectual Property.

By drawing on the experience of ISSP UL, Materize works alongside the industry to develop internationally competitive research innovations in the fields of thin films, electronics, light emitters, fibre optics, sensors, and photonics, which have applications ranging from ICT to energy harvesting and storage.

The Institute has already gained experience in co- operation with international market players in high- technology areas, such as GroGlass, Sidrabe, NacoTechnologies, Baltic3D, LightGuideOptics International, EuroLCDs, CeramOptec, RD Alfa Microelectronics, Dinex Latvia, Giraffe360, Latvenergo, Canatu OU, and others.

The CAMART2 Excellence Center for Advanced Manufacturing Research and Technology Transfer ( CAMART2 )

CAMART2, the largest project in the Latvian science’s history at the time, was one of the ten projects that received funding through the WIDESPREAD 1- 2014: Teaming competition. This was launched at a ceremony attended by representatives of the European Commission, Latvian government officials, foreign co- operation partners and guests, as well as the project’s orchestrators, i. e., the employees of the Institute of Solid State Physics, University of Latvia. Through the transformation of the center into a regional institution of European renown in the field of materials science and technology transfer, the project’s goal is to strengthen the position of the Institute and the Latvian state within the European science sector.

The high standards of the scientists involved in the CAMART2 project, a clear strategy for imparting this knowledge and experience, and fostering cross-cutting between the academic and business sectors, are its strengths. This project has all the characteristics required to make it exemplary: High- level science, the potential for innovation, the business sector, new enterprises, and powerful partnerships, as well as a convincing management structure, which is vital for a project of this scale.

The project’s implementation has facilitated the establishment of a more extensive innovation and technology transfer ecosystem in the field of modern materials ‘ research and the use of such materials in novel products. Thus, it has already opened the door for the establishment of new high-value manufacturing companies and advanced technology. This endeavor exemplifies the goals for which Teaming was founded.

The goal of CAMART2 is to establish the ISSP UL as a significant hub for modern materials research and transfer in Latvia and the Baltic Sea region. The Swedish Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) and the Research Institutes of Sweden ( RISE ) served as project partners and the establishment of the material science center.

CAMART2 and ISSP UL have collaborated on an innovation development system since 2017 to transform the new discoveries from fundamental research into potent real-world innovations, thereby disrupting the field. To shift the mindset and become aware that fundamental research should also be focused on technological needs and industrial challenges, a new approach was required. The established system has contributed to the development of advanced, unique, and commercialisable technologies.

Verónica Castro-Allende

With a rich background in urban technology and IoT, Veronica brings a unique blend of expertise and innovation to our platform. Her work focuses on integrating advanced engineering solutions into smart city infrastructures, emphasizing sustainable and efficient urban development. Her insightful contributions shed light on the future of urban living, blending technical prowess with practical urban applications

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