As the world is demanding more alternative energy sources, Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG 7) aims to ensure access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy for all countries especially least-developed and developing ones. It is important to expand the infrastructure and upgrade technology for supplying these sustainable energy services and fluorescence chemistry plays a huge role on creating this infrastructure.
In this interview, Series Editor of Springer Series in Fluorescence Bruno Pedras shares his insights on how research work done on fluorescence can help achieve this goal and discusses the most recently published book in the series "Fluorescence in Industry".
Research in the field of fluorescence has always been connected to major societal challenges, and areas such environmental monitoring or medical diagnostics have been the focus of many researchers over the years. In my particular fields of research, and as a PhD holder in Sustainable Chemistry, the pursuit of sustainable development is an ever-present concern. For instance, the development of fluorescence-based probes for metal ion detection finds application in fiber-optic chemical sensors for in-situ monitoring of heavy-metals in waters (SDG 6 and 14); oxygen and temperature nanosensors for intracellular mapping aim at monitoring abnormal oxygen consumption and temperature variations in tumorous cells (since their metabolic activity is altered), contributing to the development of novel diagnoses and therapies and providing solutions to healthcare-related societal challenges (SDG 3); TADF materials for OLED and sensing applications (SDG 7) and luminescence-based sensors for aeronautical applications (SDG 7 and 9) are also examples of how the research in this field may contribute to address some of the great societal challenges.
To the best of my knowledge, this is the first book that addresses fluorescence from an industrial point of view. It is aimed at filling a gap in the literature devoted to fluorescence, by providing different examples of its industrial applications, described by both industry-based researchers and academics who hold strong collaborations with industrial partners. Hence, this volume serves a wide variety of readers coming from both university laboratories (no matter how small or economically constrained) and companies with substantial funding for R&D activities. The former might have incomplete acquaintance with industrial applications and processes, despite their large experience in fundamental research; likewise, the latter may want to expand or update their knowledge on fluorescence science. In both cases, this book is intended to serve as a reference work and to stimulate an interplay of expertise.
As I see it, this book addresses even more than one SDG. Chapters such as Photoluminescent Glasses and Their Applications, Luminescence in Photovoltaics and Thermally Activated Delayed Fluorescence Emitters for Light-Emitting Diodes and Sensing Applications address SDG7 by focusing on sustainable and energy-efficient materials and devices, which are also ultimately connected to SDG13, stimulating the focus on climate change. SDG6 (related to the need for clean water and its sustainable management) is addressed by the chapter Applications of Submersible Fluorescence Sensors for Monitoring Hydrocarbons in Treated and Untreated Waters. The chapter Instrumentation for Fluorescence Lifetime Measurement Using Photon Counting is related to SDG9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure); while for instance chapters like Fluorescence in Pharmaceutics and Cosmetics or Application of Fluorescence in Life Sciences for Basic Research and Medical Diagnostics relate to SDG3 (Good Health and Well-Being).
Concerning SDG 7 specifically, great progress has been made in the design of new functional materials, such as charge-transfer materials that can be applied as electroactive components for energy devices, improving the efficiency of already existing nanostructured light emitters and absorbers, such as light-emitting diodes and solar cells. The challenges of continuously improving the energy efficiency of these materials, combined with a proper and effective translation to the market, while looking for environmentally friendly processing conditions might pave an interesting road ahead in this research field towards addressing SDG 7.
I would give the same advice that I give myself, even nowadays (not only valid for the field of fluorescence): look for what might be the added value of your fundamental research that can translate into an important practical application, for the benefit of the society as a whole, or your own as individual. This awareness is not always easy to achieve and, most of the times, even when achieved it is not put into practice either by insufficient funding or lack of suitable partners. Therefore, seek the adequate industrial collaboration and establish partnerships that epitomize your ideas into our everyday lives.
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Bruno Pedras (PhD, 2011) is a Researcher in the Biospectroscopy and Interfaces Research Group (BSIRG) of the Institute for Bioengineering and Biosciences (iBB) and Institute for Health and Bioeconomy (i4HB), and an Invited Assistant Professor of the Department of Chemical Engineering at Instituto Superior Técnico (IST), University of Lisbon, where he was awarded the Outstanding Teaching Award (2019/20 and 2020/21) by the Pedagogical Council of IST. He graduated in Chemistry from the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon, and completed a PhD in Sustainable Chemistry (2011, NOVA School of Science and Technology, FCT-UNL), with specialization in fluorescence-based optical sensors. During his post-doctoral period, Dr. Pedras specialized in advanced optical sensors for gas monitoring in aeronautical applications, both in the Chemical Optosensors & Applied Photochemistry Group of the Complutense University of Madrid, Spain, and in IST, where he developed strong collaborations with industrial partners. He is the author or co-author of 15 papers in international peer review journals, 2 book chapters, 1 edited book, and two patent applications, with over 500 citations, reflecting his work in the field of fluorescence and optical sensors, and has been involved in 12 research projects related to optical chemical sensing. Current research interests include: Advanced optical sensors for gas monitoring in industry; Dual oxygen/temperature nanosensors for intracellular mapping; TADF materials for OLED/sensing applications; Disposable sensors for stem cell culture monitoring in vertical-wheel bioreactors.