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Smart ELECTrodeposited Alloys for environmentally sustainable applications: from advanced protective coatings to micro/nano-robotic platforms

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - SELECTA (Smart ELECTrodeposited Alloys for environmentally sustainable applications: from advanced protective coatings to micro/nano-robotic platforms)

Reporting period: 2017-01-01 to 2018-12-31

"SELECTA (""Smart ELECTrodeposited Alloys for environmentally sustainable applications: from advanced protective coatings to micro/nano-robotic platforms"", H2020-MSCA-ITN-2014 no. 642642) has been training 15 ESRs (Early Stage Researchers) in a highly inter-disciplinary research topic based on electrodeposition of a variety of materials under the umbrella of environmental sustainability. The action has brought together 15 institutions, 9 Beneficiary partners and 6 Partner organizations (including 4 private companies). These network institutions belong to 10 European Union countries plus Switzerland and Serbia. Besides the diversity of nationalities, the SELECTA research teams are experts in different fields, such as modeling, physics, electrochemistry, materials science, processing, micro/nano-tools and robotics. The main scientific goals of the project have been the electrochemical synthesis and characterization of metallic alloys, with tunable composition and microstructure, and their implementation in the following applications: (i) innovative protective coatings, (ii) resilient micro/nano-electromechanical systems (MEMS/NEMS), and (iii) wirelessly actuated micro/nano-robotic platforms for environmental healing. SELECTA has achieved the target purposes using a sustainable approach, designing alloy compositions without or with minimum amounts of scarce or toxic elements while employing environmentally-friendly electrolytic baths."
SELECTA has successfully achieved all the training and scientific objectives. During the first year of project the 15 ESRs were recruited, among them 7 were female (46.7%) and they came from 11 different countries, thus fulfilling EC requirements concerning gender balance and diversity. The top-class training provided by the network has encompassed theoretical, experimental and soft skills training and secondments to other partner institutions (46 in total). The project milestones have been properly accomplished, all the deliverables have been submitted and 8 network events have been organized during the action to properly train the ESRs.
The main scientific results achieved so far include: (i) selection of candidate materials for environmental applications; (ii) design and implementation of novel solutions for the electrodeposition of fully dense rare-earth- and noble-metal free alloys (coatings) on a variety of substrates (e.g. brass, steel, metallized Si, etc.); (iii) miniaturization of materials to produce small-scale robotic devices; (iv) microstructural characterization of the investigated materials; (v) in-depth characterization of the physical and physicochemical properties of the fabricated materials (magnetic, corrosion resistance, mechanical, etc.); (vi) implementation of the developed SELECTA materials in innovative technology and industrial products (up-scaling), such as water purification membranes, demonstrator magnetic MEMS/NEMS prototypes, miniaturized components integrated into hybrid (magnetic + photocatalytic) robotic platforms for use in environmental remediation, etc.
The results obtained by the network have been disseminated through the publication of 24 articles in peer-reviewed journals. At the moment, several additional manuscripts have been submitted (12) or are in an advanced stage of preparation (13). In addition, 96 presentations have been delivered in national and international conferences by the network members (39 posters, 45 oral talks and 12 invited talks). The most relevant achievements have also been communicated to the general public through outreach activities, the SELECTA website, Facebook and YouTube. Remarkably, the knowledge transfer from the academic sector to the industrial partners has allowed the successful implementation and exploitation of several research results by the companies of the network.
SELECTA has had a very positive impact on the ESRs, the network institutions and the society in general and the consolidation of the European Research Area (ERA). The 15 ESRs have taken advantage of the innovative training methods implemented. The training events provided top-class scientific/experimental knowledge and training in soft skills. The secondments plan specifically designed for each ESR has exposed them to universities, research institutes and companies from different fields. Besides, the individual training programme of each institution has ensured the acquisition of the knowledge and skills required to become autonomous researchers either in the academic sector or the industry.
The partner institutions have benefited from the network in several ways. Firstly, the Beneficiary partners have taken advantage of the work carried out and the results obtained by the ESRs hosted. In addition, all the organizations involved in the project have improved their competitiveness due to the cooperation and knowledge transfer between research teams. These synergies are intended to continue in the future (e.g. several partners have applied for new funding opportunities together at European level) further increasing the positive impact on the institutions of the network.
As expected, the SELECTA project has provided many benefits for the society. The results obtained by the network have been transferred to the industrial partners for their exploitation. Among others, some environmentally-friendly new materials have been electrodeposited for the first time. This new generation of electrodeposited alloys is expected to have a very positive repercussion by enhancing the competitiveness of the industry and reducing the environmental impact of the production process. On the other hand, the communication and outreach activities of the action have focused not only on publishing the results, but they have also aimed at improving the attractiveness and understanding of science by the society. The SELECTA website and social media networks (Facebook and YouTube) have also played an important role to share information with the society and increase its awareness.
The innovative training methods implemented during the project have also contributed to the consolidation of the European Research Area. SELECTA has promoted the implementation of the European Charter and Code and the EU Principles for Innovative Doctoral Training and it has improved the quality of training programmes and supervision arrangements. The Workshops and the secondments have enhanced the international, interdisciplinary and intersectoral mobility of researchers across Europe. The cooperation between research teams has also increased the competitiveness of the organizations and the achievement of several priorities of the ERA, such as avoiding fragmentation of the research activities and promoting integration of non-academic teams and researchers from new member states and associated countries. Additionally, the high-qualified researchers trained by the network will also enrich the ERA since most of them will continue their scientific careers in European institutions.