There is a growing range of applications that would benefit from the use of nanostructured coatings. The functional performance of a surface is intimately linked with its structure. The ability to characterise nanostructured coatings is therefore an essential part of their future uptake. However, the ability to examine and characterise at the nano-scale is currently limited to sophisticated, time-consuming laboratory based equipment.
The standards body (ISO TC229) recognises that there are no current procedures that relate the functional performance of a surface or coating to its nanostructure, however, it is recognised that loss of the nanostructure frequently leads to a loss of performance.
The NATURAL project will develop methods that allow rapid evaluation of surfaces at the nanoscale and correlate the measured surface structure with functional performance. This step change in measurement methodology will enable new lifetime determination methods and enhance the knowledge base for providers of nanostructured coatings and surfaces to tailor their products and technologies towards the end-user needs. This will facilitate the entrance into the market place of novel nanostructured coatings with proven capability to improve properties such as fouling resistance. In order to achieve this, NATURAL will focus on the development of surface profilometry methods to allow the rapid resolution of surfaces at the nanoscale. These methods will be correlated with the physical and physico-chemical characteristics of surfaces to allow their rapid, reliable and accurate assessment. The change of the surface nano-morphology and the functional performance will be related to allow the estimation of durability and to enable the development of new methods for lifetime determination and, ultimately, prediction of in-service performance throughout the lifetime of the surface structure.
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