The PhD thesis was supervised by Teresa Puig and Joffre Gutierrez from the Superconducting Materials and Large Scale Nanostructures (SUMAN) at ICMAB.
The PhD Committee that evaluated the Thesis was formed by Xavier Obradors, ICMAB, (President), Enrico Silva, Università Roma TRE, Italy (Secretary) and Walter Wuensch, CERN, International (Vocal).
Doctor Artur Romanov’s PhD thesis was part of the PhD Programme in Physics from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB).
From left to right: Walter Wuensch (on screen), Xavier Obradors, Enrico Silva, Artur Romanov, Teresa Puig and Joffre Gutierrez. | ICMAB
Why did you choose ICMAB for your PhD?
Juri Banchewski, a colleague and good friend from my physics studies in Germany, started his PhD at the ICMAB a year prior to my graduation. His first impressions were all positive and one could tell that he enjoyed working there. Of course, this had an impact on me. Once I finished the Master's degree, I looked into the research lines offered by the institute and pretty quickly the SUNAM group with their focus on superconductivity piqued my interest. The fact that the ICMAB is based in Barcelona certainly did not hurt my excitement to start the PhD.
How would you explain your research to a non-scientific audience?
Existing particle accelerators have exhausted their potential to find fundamentally new physics. Nowadays, their operation is focused on improving the accuracy of already found phenomena by repeating particle collisions that feed statistics. CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, plans to build a next generation particle accelerator of unprecedented scale and ambition. A bigger collider ring would allow higher collision energies which in turn opens up the door to explore known mysteries, like dark matter and supersymmetry, or it might let us stumble over not yet foreseeable surprises.
However, upscaling of a particle accelerator is not straightforward and requires rethinking of already established technologies. The beam screen chamber, a stainless steel pipe that houses the particle beam, needs to be coated with a highly conductive material to allow stable operation. Instead of copper, which is used in the current generation accelerators, we propose to use REBCO, a high temperature superconductor. In the past years, we have shown that REBCO offers a significantly higher surface conductivity than copper at operational conditions and addressed various issues that are associated with the usage of superconductors in the beam screen chamber.
What are the main applications of your research? Could you give us an example?
The most prominent application lays in next generation particle accelerators. Some years ago, the usage of REBCO in the beam screen chamber of colliders was nothing more than a far-fetched idea. Thanks to the work of our project consortium, nowadays, CERN is seriously considering the usage of superconductors for the screen pipe in the Future Circular Collider (FCC).
In general, all applications that require high microwave conductivity at high magnetic fields will benefit from the usage of REBCO superconductors. Case in point, we have demonstrated that the REBCO coatings increases the detection sensitivity of haloscope cavities. This could help to find Axions, particle candidates to constitute Dark Matter.
From the lessons learnt here, which one do you value the most?
The key to success is participation and involvement. There is a question round after a presentation? Ask question and resolve doubts! There is a contest for best poster of a conference? Send an application! Be proactive with all opportunities that might arise. Bringing you constantly in new situations will force you to take new perspectives and develop many soft skills. In addition, you might get surprised by how your question caused an interesting discussion or by winning an award for best poster of a conference.
What will you miss the most from ICMAB?
There are many things. The morning walks from the FGC station to the ICMAB. It goes over the UAB campus and usually under the sun. What a great way to start the day. I was also quite satisfied with the state of all the set-ups. Since ICMAB employs technicians for most vital set-ups, they remained most of the time operational.
However, the most important aspect is the working environment at the institute. Not only can you get help and advice by supervisors and colleagues when you are stuck with your research, with so many young and open-minded scientists it is always easy to find a compelling group to spend your lunch time with.
How do you think this experience will contribute to your training and to your future?
The PhD made me an expert on the field of high-temperature superconducters for beam screen coating and more broadly a physicist who can draw from rich soft skills and material characterization techniques. I am hopeful to use this training to lead small research groups in academia or industry.
What are your plans once you finish your PhD?
Visiting family and friends in Germany and traveling. Once those two things are checked, I'll start applying for jobs.
What do you wish you had known at the beginning of your PhD, that you can recommend to the ones who are starting?
Put a lot of focus on publishing. By submitting papers, you are forced to do literature research and organize parts of your work in a format which is close to the one required for a PhD thesis. This will spare you a lot of time and stress in the thesis writting process. More importantly, your research will have been peer reviewed. Getting feedback from experts is an opportunity you should not miss. They offer new perspectives which will almost certainly improve the quality of your work.
Why did you become a scientist? Who have been your role models?
My eleven years older aunt is probably a big factor for why I ended up in science. She decided to study physics and kept explaining me that it was a hard but very satisfying degree to tackle. Her influence combined with my natural curiousity and patience led me to follow her footsteps.
Let us know who are your favourite scientists (man and woman). Why?
I do not have a particular favourite scientist but I admire many for different reasons. For example, Marie Curie's genius was great enough to conduct disruptive research in a male dominated domain. Not only did she push the knowledge in physics and chemistry but the role of women in science. What an important contribution. J. Georg Bednorz and K. Alex Müller are the two physicits who discovered high-temperature superconductivity in ceramic materials. Their work revolutionized the understanding of the field I like so much. In general, I noticed that scientists strike me as impressive, if they manage to stay gentle and kindhearted despite the stress and pressure of everyday life.