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New engineered surfaces for a better life

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ENSUR4LIFE (New engineered surfaces for a better life)

Reporting period: 2015-05-01 to 2017-04-30

Home appliances industry is looking for new properties which will help the user:
- Higher energy efficiency.
- More hygienic (antibacterial) surfaces.
- Easy-to-clean surfaces.
Controlling the wettability, which is the ability of a liquid to maintain contact with a solid surface, can help to achieve those properties. Nature is an unlimited source of functional surfaces with controlled wettability properties.

The ENSUR4LIFE project focuses on the structuration at the micro-/nano-scale of three common low-cost industrial materials such as one metallic alloy and two thermoplastic polymers. The improvement of the functional properties of these materials will allow to offer to the European consumers the access to the easy-to-clean, more hygienic and more energy efficient home appliances in the near future.

The objective of the ENSUR4LIFE project is to change the surface roughness. Creating a nano-microscale structure in the surface of the materials, some functional properties can be achieved. The surface properties to be achieved by the project are anti-condensation and anti-biofilm. But these properties shall be durable, consequently the surfaces must have sufficient resistance to the chemical attack from gaseous and liquid environments under common operation conditions.

For the practical micro/nanofabrication of these patterns two relatively environmental techniques have been proposed: Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD) for the functionalization of the metallic alloy by the growth of nanorods made of the same alloy as the one used as the substrate; and Thermal Nanoimprint Lithography (Th-NIL) for the functionalization of thermoplastic polymers. The main advantages of these two techniques employed for micro/nanostructuration of materials are represented by the fact that they do not involve the use of any chemicals and because no other material except the ones micro/nanostructured are used. This way the bulk properties that recommended the use of these materials in industry in the first place are preserved into the micro/nanostructured surfaces ensuring long-term durability.
The participants of the project have been:
- the experienced researcher fellow Dr. Bobaru with previous expertise in PVD, characterization techniques and metallic materials,
- the industrial entity BSH Electrodomésticos España S.A. with competence in materials and surfaces research and development,
- and a partner from academia, the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) with expertise in Th-NIL and polymers.

The work performed during the project has combined theory, computer simulation and experimental research. Besides some managerial actions were required during the project such as to find solutions to the challenges faced during the project, the preparation and the presentation of the dissemination activities, the completion and the submission of the deliverables from the proposal.

As a summary, the main achieved results have been:
- First time growth of nanorods of a multi-component alloy by Glancing angle deposition (GLAD).
- Micro structuration of thermoplastic polymers by Th-NIL.
- Computer simulation for PVD and Th-NIL processes.
- Design of micro/nanostructures with the functional properties.
- Characterization of the materials.
- Tests to identify and to validate the new acquired functional properties of the materials.

Its promising results could impact the industry, not only home appliances sector, but also automotive (self-cleaning of windshields), aeronautic (water condensation control in planes), surgery (antibacterial properties), etc.
The significant results achieved have been:
i. Remarkable anti-biofilm functional properties for the nanorods of the alloy.
ii. Impressive results for the superhydrophobic properties of one thermoplastic polymer.
iii. Very good functional properties of the alloys nanorods regarding the resistance to aggression of reactive gasses and liquids.

Some results are very promising (interesting and useful), although further research and development activities will be needed to achieve the industrial implementation.
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