The Micro & Trace Analysis Centre (MiTAC) was instituted in 1980. Since then, the Centre has been involved in the following areas of research in the analytical sciences with the ambition to become and to remain in the future one of the leading centres in Europe in this field of research.
The research comprises: fundamental research concerning these topics that lead to a better understanding of the processes and the parameters governing those methods of analysis (e.g. laser-solid and ion-solid interactions, processes in glow discharges); development of methods of analysis of the highest reliability and accuracy. Within the analytical sciences emphasis is given on:
- Trace analysis (elemental analysis, speciation analysis and, in particular areas, organic analysis) using mass spectrometry, nuclear, spectrometric and chromatographic methods of determination).
- Microscopical and surface elemental and molecular analysis using instrumental ("beam") analytical instrumentation relying on electron, ion, photon and X-ray beam bombardment (including the use of synchrotron radiation sources).
From its start as a research centre, MiTAC has been aware that the development of methodologies for chemical analysis cannot be pursued without definition of goals for their application in technology or in other areas of science. A number of well-defined areas of application were selected; these are adapted regularly taking into account the availability of research funding and the interests of members of the staff. At the end of 1998 they consisted in the application of the analytical methodologies in environmental problems including those concerned with the remote environment and in problems connected with the characterisation and analysis in the materials sciences. The Centre wants to do this as much as possible in co-operation with other laboratories and high-technology enterprises. The applications include also the use of methods of analysis and characterisation in archaeology and the study of art artefacts.
MiTAC strives to maintain an infrastructure and climate in which Ph.D. students find an excellent training environment for employment, after graduation, in industry and research laboratories. This is realised by high quality research but also by active participation in graduate study programmes (in the UA and other places) and by allowing students to spend time in other laboratories and at conferences.
In view of the highly specialised nature of the research, the Centre relies heavily on postdoctoral staff, graduated elsewhere. It is a deliberate policy of MITAC to involve in its research a number of guest workers from less developed areas of the world. It promotes active collaboration with industry on scientifically interesting problems, hence, strives to prevent repetitive and scientifically less interesting activities.
MiTAC was devised and has been operating until now as a loosely organised structure in which 4 largely independent research groups collaborate on the basis of the common use of the infrastructure (laboratories, equipment and logistics, technical and administrative personnel). In this way it wants to prevent building up unnecessary administrative structures between the Department of Chemistry and the operational units. The four units are responsible for the acquisition of funding through specific research projects and manage these projects independently. They share resources for the acquisition and maintenance of instrumentation. The groups bear individual responsibility for the scientific staff involved in their research (graduate and post-graduate students and research fellows) and their management of research projects. Together they bear the costs of the common research infrastructure and they collegially define the long-range strategic plans, the overall quality management and the further development of the Centre.
The different research groups have deliberately defined areas of overlapping activity in order to promote interaction and active co-operation.
The infrastructure in trace and microanalysis consists of a number of different instrumental techniques but this infrastructure is not comprehensive for the solution of most of the problems in the application areas. MiTAC has therefore instituted a number of collaborations with other laboratories in Belgium and abroad for the use of instrumentation that is not available in the laboratory. The Centre achieves this in the framework of scientific research communities, international collaborations in projects through common research projects (e.g. those of the EU or other international organisations or bi/multilateral agreements). In return MiTAC opens its infrastructure for these outside users.
Analytical chemistry, trace analysis, microanalysis, speciation analysis, chemometrics, environmental sciences, materials science