The Sardinian engineer and those patents for space travel

Michele Schirru, from Cagliari, 32 years old, after graduating in Mechanical Engineering from the University of his city set off towards new horizons of research. Now he works in Vienna, for a research company in the field of tribology: it is the discipline that studies the contact and friction between surfaces. Yesterday at the Office Park of the airport of the Austrian capital he received a prestigious award, assigned to the best researchers: «This recognition – he says – is awarded by the companies of the State of Lower Austria for technological innovations that favor national development. I have patented a new technology for the installation of miniaturized sensors in automotive components. The new system can help reduce CO2 emissions through intelligent friction control. In addition to the ecological value, there is the economic aspect: the earnings for companies in Austria alone would be around one billion euros per year ». Michele Schirru also received the “Tribology Bronze medal from the Institute of Mechanical engineers” three years ago, the highest achievement for those who do research in this field.

Why did he leave Sardinia?

“For lack of opportunities: I only found the usual unpaid jobs. After a difficult course of study like that of Engineering, I wanted more. I was able to access a PhD in Great Britain, at the University of Sheffield, funded by one of the largest chemical companies in the world, Lubrizol Corp. A week after the interview I was already in England ».

Where do you work today?

“A little over a year ago, I moved with my wife to Austria. I work in a research company, Ac2t, which is the largest in Europe in the field of tribology. I opened a laboratory for the development of sensors based on ultrasound technology. In parallel to pure research, I manage projects for a total value of around two million euros and I have contacts with various European institutes ».

What did you find outside Sardinia?

“I have fulfilled my dream of doing high-level research with the support of my mentor, Professor Rob Dwyer-Joyce, to whom I owe so much. My work in the UK was not limited to the university lab and teaching, but I have been involved in many consulting projects for major industrial giants, including Arcelor Mittal, Rolls-Royce and BP. This helped me to acquire valuable managerial skills. Now I am able to present and promote my projects at different levels ».

His interest also turns to the aerospace field.

‘I am part of a consortium of researchers engaged in research on “exotic” propulsion of Professor Woodward of Fullerton University and the Space Studies Institute. The project is funded by NASA. The engine under study is powered by particular vibrations. Rockets and satellites need fuel and eject matter to enter orbit, and this increases the weight of the cargo and the cost of missions. Alternative methods to this type of traditional propulsion are defined as “exotic” because they are in the experimental phase ».

What advice would you give to a young Sardinian who wants to face new experiences in the field of research?

“In addition to working hard, you need to explore multidisciplinary approaches to create innovation.”

How is the spirit of your land expressed in your work?

“Like the many Sardinian colleagues I have met over the years, I believe I am direct and loyal in professional relationships”.

Are you thinking of going home to put your acquired skills to good use?

«I have traveled a lot, but there is no land like Sardinia. I hope someday the opportunity arises to return. I want to give my contribution to make the island where I was born grow ».

Massimiliano Rais