by NICOLA CATENARO
We interviewed MariaPia Pedeferri, the president of AIMAT (Italian Association of Materials Engineering), at the conclusion of the national conference held in Catania at the Hotel Plaza from May 28th to June 1st. The future and importance of materials, sustainability, current challenges in the field, and contributions to research were discussed. Here is the result of a full conversation with the association's leader.
President, what is the significance of the materials theme today?
«The theme of materials permeates every kind of research. The importance of materials engineering, which combines knowledge of material science and technology, is crucial for making the best choices and designing materials for today and tomorrow. We aim for materials to be as sustainable as possible, with high durability and meeting the increasing performance requirements over the years. These are the hot topics discussed in various contexts during the conference we organized, ranging from 'Made in Italy' to aerospace. It is no coincidence that the new president of the Italian Space Agency, Teodoro Valente, who was appointed during our meeting in Catania, is a professor in our scientific field. This indicates the importance and role of materials in today's society».
Is sustainability the common element in all material-related challenges?
«One adjective alone cannot include all the facets. There are words and expressions that have become common parlance, such as sustainability and circular economy, but it is undeniable that designing and producing materials to the best of our ability is essential for society as a whole».
What competences must a materials engineer possess today?
«They must undoubtedly have strong technical and scientific fundamentals. The field of materials is vast and has evolved over time. Engineers who specialize in this area must have a general foundational knowledge and then focus their attention on specific research fields and applications. They must also stay up-to-date with the latest technologies and developments in basic science that are interconnected».
Aerospace, automotive, construction: which of these sectors will see the earliest changes in terms of the materials they use?
«All of them are changing, but at different speeds and through different means of communication. It is undeniable that some sectors, such as aerospace, are experiencing increasing rates of innovation and material utilization. Other sectors are more established and characterized by a slower pace of application. However, all sectors are inclined to use new materials to meet challenges that we can no longer define as just future-oriented, but rather as concerns of the present».
What contributions is Italy making to research in these challenges?
«Italy is making significant contributions, as demonstrated by the highly participatory conference we organized. There is a great deal of enthusiasm and fervor among professors and researchers in the field of materials, as well as a notable interest in the applications derived from materials engineering and the synergies with collaborating companies».
Who could do more in these challenges?
«It's too easy to answer that question. If there were more funding for research, we would all be much happier. As it is well-known, Italy does not shine in this regard. Collaboration with businesses and the entire national system, along with increased funding for research, are crucial for accelerating research and knowledge transfer».
MariaPia Pedeferri is a full professor of Materials Science and Technology at the Politecnico di Milano. She graduated with honors and obtained her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the Politecnico di Milano and ETH Zurich. She served as the director of the Department of Materials Chemistry and Chemical Engineering "Giulio Natta" at the Politecnico di Milano and was a member of the Academic Senate of the Politecnico di Milano. She is currently the delegate of the Rector of the Politecnico di Milano for Promotion and Orientation. She is a member of the Scientific Council of the Institut Mines-Télécom and has been involved in numerous research projects in collaboration with the industrial sector. Her scientific activity has covered areas related to materials science and technology, materials durability, and materials for design. She is the author of over 200 national scientific publications and numerous books, and she serves as the Editor-in-Chief of the journal "Journal of Applied Biomaterials and Functional Materials." Since 2021, MariaPia Pedeferri has been the President of AIMAT, the Italian Association of Materials Engineering.
06 June 2023