New materials could lead to breakthroughs in healthcare and energy
EU-funded researchers are developing innovative materials that could herald improvements in energy efficiency and the environment, as well as the fight against bacterial infections in patients.
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From innovative glass structures used in bone implants to eco-friendly cement, researchers are advancing the science of materials, paving the way for innovative products, improved cost competitiveness and better environmental credentials.
The EU-funded COACH project is developing the next generation of materials that could bring about changes in healthcare, construction, energy and many other industries, as well as keep the EU at the cutting edge of materials science.
“The project’s results will have excellent potential for further research and development,” says COACH coordinator Milena Salvo, associate professor of materials science and technology at Italy’s Politecnico di Torino. “We are confident that we will see the new concepts used by industries involved in COACH, including Element Materials Technology, Colorobbia, Nanoforce, European Thermodynamics and our other partners.”
From dental implants to glass fibre sensors
One of the 15 COACH researchers is working on novel, mesoporous, bioactive and antibacterial glasses and nanostructured hybrid coatings, which can be used on medical devices and implants for dental, orthopaedic and tissue engineering processes. The glasses and coatings can help reduce bacterial infections and cut the use of antibiotics in patients.
Another researcher is developing innovative glass fibre sensors that can monitor the degradation of polymer composites in harsh environments, such as the materials used to build offshore oil rigs. COACH is also working on new, wear-resistant and thermal insulation coatings, which could extend the composites’ lifespan in hostile environments.
In addition, fellows are developing innovative thermoelectric materials using non-toxic elements and new manufacturing techniques. These could be used for more efficient thermoelectric devices such as those able to generate electricity from waste heat.
Other endeavours include the development of new glass-ceramic and ceramic materials that will be able to increase the reliability of solid oxide electrolysis cells, eventually boosting the amount of energy made by renewable power devices like solar panels.
COACH researchers are also working on energy efficient, low-cost and eco-friendly cement, as well as insulation produced from industrial waste like soda-lime glass, fly ash and red mud.
Throughout the project, researchers funded under the EU’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions programme are trained on how to transform their innovations into economically viable products. Moreover, each early stage researcher is expected to set up an exploitation plan for their particular research.
“COACH’s young researchers are exposed to a wide range of activities, which complements their individual research projects and diversifies their scientific knowledge,” says Salvo. “This will help their future career choices, avoiding the pitfalls of focusing on just one field.”