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Periodic Reporting for period 2 - MICACT (MICroACTuators)

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

The EC MSCA-ETN project Microactuators (MICACT) project is training a new generation of multidisciplinary engineers and material scientists focus on miniaturized low cost soft devices for applications like medicine, biomedicine, environmental monitoring, IoT devices and other technologies which already have impact and will even more influence our everyday life in near future.
Electroactive polymers (EAP) are materials that can change shape or stiffness in response to electrical stimuli, and can sense mechanical and/or environmental stimuli. These polymeric materials are mechanically flexible (can be stretched to twice their initial size). Their properties include low density, a high grade of processability, scalability, microfabrication readiness and, in most cases, low cost. A new broad range of applications opens with micro EAPs for which large strains and forces are necessary.
The network will provide ESRs multidisciplinary training in materials science, microfabrication technology, control theory, applications and industry experience. It also provides the soft skills and network of contacts in academia and industry to launch their R&D careers.
The main objectives of the research programme was:
To provide ESRs with a deep understanding of miniaturized polymer actuators, modelling methods, fabrication techniques, characterization tools, and novel device architectures;
To improve polymer actuator and sensor architectures to improve the performance and lifetime of miniaturized transducers, including self-sensing and self-commutation.
To develop novel microactuators and architectures for miniaturized soft robotics, including energy harvesters.
To investigate materials that allow reliable low voltage operation and have a long lifetime, for further successful use in industrial applications.
To develop lumped-parameter electromechanical, physics- and electrochemistry-based models to allow for accelerated design and optimization for a range of applications.
To achieve the overall objective and the sub-objectives, this research programme has been divided into 4 Work Packages (WP’s): dielectric materials, ionic materials, microfabrication technologies and prototyping of devices.

MICACT should stress out the extensive training about soft skills for our fellows. The network provided them training in commercialization, scientific writing, presentation skills, startup building, business accelerators and gender issues.

On a technical level, the ESRs have demonstrated a great deal of innovation, with results that push forward the state of the art in microfabrication technology, material science and control theory of soft transducers, and have been widely recognized in our scientific community for example in journals like RSC Advances, Advanced Functional Materials, Journal of Visualized Experiments, etc.

All the fellows have attended four training schools: one on dielectric EAPs, and one on ionic EAPs, one for microfabrication and one for applications with talks both by leading experts in the field, as well as sessions on transverse and soft skills. As an outcome of the training schools fellows have state-of-the art knowhow about several EAP material properties, knowhow about fabrication and characterization methods, as well as basic knowledge of key modelling strategies for control.

The network is training the 15 early stage researchers in areas of miniaturized polymeric materials and devices. The 21 institutions host and actively participate in the fellow's training. .

We have organized several outreach events for wider public mainly targeted to young people to encourage them to choose their career path in high-tech and science. Our fellows have presented their work to the scientific community in more than 30 presentations at conferences and workshops.
MICACT Coordinator: prof Alvo Aabloo, IMS lab, Institute of Technology, University of Tartu, Estonia

Project Webpage:

Project video:
MICACT Consortium has recruited 15 early stage researchers into 14 institutions all over the Europe. For example they work at decreasing the applied voltage in case if dielectric materials, integration of actuation and sensing into same device, improvement of several microfabrication methods suitable for specific materials and applications. A significant effort has been devoted to development of physical, electrochemical and lumped parameter models the results are published in more than 40 research papers and presented more than 50 conference presentations

The network has organized 4 training schools 4 yearly events. ESRs and and supervisors have participated dozens of outreach events for industry and educational publicity.

As a main result of the project there will be at least 13 young people with PhD degree by the end of 2019, 60% of them will continue their career in industry.
The researchers have developed new technologies for smart textile, novel microfabrication methodologies and self-sensing devices based on electrochemical models. MICACT is on track to improve the career perspectives (in academia and in industry) of 15 young researchers by training them at the forefront of research in the field of smart soft systems made of EAP microactuators for advanced miniaturized devices. Besides professional training MICACT provides training of soft skills. The network provides fellows opportunity of training by organizing outreach events for young generations.