Mattia ORTINO
About

Interested in whatever technology can anticipate (or at least promise to!) our next future possibilities. In love with science disclosure and outreach, I’m a nuclear engineer now currently doing a PhD in superconductors at the TU Wien in Vienna (AT).  

I analyse new superconducting wires for magnets applications, working with my colleagues to device innovative ways to improve their efficiency while enabling large-scale production. My daily headaches are Nb3Sn and MgB2: trying to reveal all pros and cons behind these two materials new manufacturing, bringing feedbacks to the companies producing them with the aim of optimising their performances. I lived in Italy, France and now Austria… What’s next?

Experience
Oct 2017 - present
PhD candidate in the Superconductivity and Low Temperature Physics group @ Atominstitut
TU Wien
Nov 2018 - present
Co-editor to the online scientific magazine "impactscool"
Verona, Italy
Sep 2015 - Dec 2016
Technical Student - Vacuum Surfaces & Coatings (TE-VSC) group
CERN
Expertise
Creativity
Creativity
Critical thinking
Critical thinking
Presentation
Presentation
Public speaking
Public speaking
Research
Research
Software
Software
Education
Oct 2013 - Dec 2016
MSc in Nuclear Engineering
Politecnico di Milano (Milan, Italy)
Nov 2014 - Nov 2014
Participant to ATHENS Programme
Czech Technical University (Prague, Czech Republic)
  • nuclear physics
  • nuclear fusion
  • lasers
  • exotic states of matter
Sep 2009 - Jul 2013
Bachelor's Degree in Mechanical Engineering
Università della Calabria (Rende, Italy)
Work on project

OrtinoMy work focuses on the study of superconducting technologies for the development of new applications. As part of my PhD thesis I am analysing the quality of superconducting wires, characterising their performance and giving input to the ongoing R&D development programme from the first prototype to the development of the final product that can be used in the cables of future high-field magnets. 

 

What's the key research question that you are trying to address?

Today the world is facing new challenges: energy supply, environmental risks, need to expand our spatial knowledge among others. Each of these topics require a tremendous scientific effort to come up with a solution that can work at large scales. Within these grand problems, superconductivity represents one of the most charming and crossing solutions. The property of materials to carry electric currents without resistance (way better than normal copper!) could generate ultra-high magnetic fields that could make a whole train to levitate! The fact that these materials allow larger amounts of electrical current to pass without any losses makes them interesting for super-fast electronic components in computing, electric motors, smartphones, medical imagining and quantum computers! That’s why superconductivity is the future. These materials can be tested in laboratories around the world calling for a well coordinated R&D programme while they can find immediate applications in big scientific laboratories and organizations including CERN, ITER or NASA and ESA. Given their practical applications, industry is also often engaged from the beginning of such R&D efforts. 

My work is focusing on the development of the applications of these materials including wires and cables. I analyse the quality of the superconducting wires, characterizing their performance with experimental measurements and then reporting back what I found to the companies supplying them. In this way, I follow the R&D of the product from its prototype version to the one closest to be used as a part of a cable, then of a high-field magnet for a future scientific tool like particle colliders and then maybe… part of a great discovery for mankind, who knows!

 

 

 

Which are the tools that you are using for your research?

I am working on the characterization of the magnetic and superconducting properties of the samples that I am receiving from partnering companies. The superconductors I’m studying (Nb3Sn and MgB2) work at very low temperatures (down to almost -270° Celsius!), so I need devices that can re-create this environment: the cryostats.

I put my samples inside these super low-temperature machines - which also produce super-high magnetic fields from few milliTesla up to 17 Tesla - to explore their physical limits. I prepare my specimens and set all the measurement settings, then I’m ready to run my experiments.  To detect the tiny magnetic signals one needs very high accuracy and this is you can often seen me in the lab following a single experiment that may even last more than one day. 

Following this process, I can evaluate the most important technical parameters like the maximum carriable electric current, maximum sustainable magnetic field and temperature dependence. This is critical as superconductors work only up to specific temperatures before the material loose this property. Moreover, as part of my research I am trying to identify 
local manufacturing problems (wire-layout, elemental inhomogeneities, etc.). This work is then followed by a data analysis and simulation part: I program and use the computing tools I need for my data evaluations, trying to model what is not yet known in literature and then discuss my results with the scientific community.

 

 

 

 

Which are the latest results of your research?

CERN (Ge, CH) next accelerator project will use 16 Tesla magnets, built with cables and wires made out of Nb3Sn: this really high currents and fields can be reached only if Nb3Sn wires get better performances rather than the ones now on the market. Some of the samples I’m working on, which profit from a new manufacturing technology – the Artificial Pinning Centres (APC) doping – finally reach the required performance! This nice and long awaited result is well shown on the following plot:

Image removed.

This graph shows how two different labs in the world (my one in Vienna and our collaboration in USA) can join the efforts in order to get to the desired goal: I measured electrical currents in the 0-7 Tesla range, whereas my colleagues measured between 19 and 24 Tesla. The target is in the middle, 16 Tesla: by evaluating together our experimental points we were finally able to benchmark the promising data, so that confirming the 1st accomplishment of a wire reaching the high currents required by CERN.


 

 

Which are the next steps that you envision for your research?

The next steps are related to further improvements and final release on the market of those wires: further characterizations are required, new cheaper layouts (but with same working principle and performance) to be produced, etc. Next year I’ll be closer to the manufacturing side (secondment in USA), understanding better and from a direct point of view how do they are produced and what are the margins for a further and quick acceleration of the mass production. Moreover, I’m taking care also of other Nb3Sn and MgB2 samples, which still need to be better investigated.

 

Which are the potential applications?

My work could contribute to the efficient realisation of CERN's next accelerator project. In the case of a future proton collider (FCC-hh), the magnet dipoles used to bend the super high-energy beams present one of the most difficult challenges.

Of course, this applies also for the other high-energy physics projects, where high-field magnets are required (in a historical moment where still High Temperature Superconductors –HTS- are too expensive). Not only: a better understanding of how to efficiently profit form the APC-doping on superconductors  will be useful for all the applications were higher performances are foreseen: high field NMR magnets, superconductors engines, flywheels. For example, the Magnesium Diboride (MgB2) samples I’m examining can be used on the open-system nuclear magnetic resonance system in hospitals. This would represent a significant relief for patients who will no longer have to be surrounded by the magnet, thus avoiding claustrophobia which so far is one of the main issues for this kind of diagnostics.