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P6 Nanotechnology for Critical Raw Materials and Sustainability

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About the Programme

This Programme addresses key challenges indicated by the European Commission on climate actions, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials. Critical Raw Materials (CRMs) are used in environmental technologies, consumer electronics, health, defense, space exploration, aviation… these materials are not only “critical” for key industry sectors and future applications, but also for the sustainable functioning of the European economy. For instance, the EU estimates that the demand for rare-earths (over 90% controlled by China) will rise ten-fold by 2050, boosted by the needs of key industries (energy, transport, aerospace).

The activities of this new programme are fostered towards the development of alternatives based on elements widely available in Europe and it has been created with two specific scientific lines: a) the development of advanced and novel permanent magnets; b) the development of (smart) bioinspired functional surfaces. All under premises of sustainability and reduced CO2emissions to achieve the European Green Deal objectives. This programme is in close collaboration with all research programmes.

A top priority for Europe is to develop permanent magnets free of rare earths. We fill the enormous performance gap existing between ferrites and NdFeB magnets. Among them, we are exploring: a) Improved nanostructured ferrites for electromobility; b) Novel manganese-based nanostructures combining physics, chemistry and metallurgy to synthesize engineered L10-MnAlC; c) synthesis of record magnets inspired by findings in meteorites: creation of the L10-FeNi phase. In addition, we explore additive manufacturing and 4D printing of multimaterials with new properties/functionalities, which permits the fabrication of objects with no restriction in shape, allowing for highly efficient devices and minimizing the use of critical raw materials.

In a transition towards a sustainable production, the demands on efficient surfaces treatments are increasing, specifically targeting and enabling end-products with the purpose of reducing the end-products’ energy usage and/or environmental footprint. Our activities on Functional Surfaces take advantage on nanofabrication technologies and particularly emphasizes on cost-effective scalable process to develop surface structured materials with new functionalities or with improved ones. Much of the work in the program is inspired on natural functional surface structures. The special competencies of the program include surface patterning techniques such as nano-imprint lithography, soft lithography and molecular patterning.

Programme Manager: Prof. Alberto Bollero.


Research lines