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Development of Smart Nano and Microcapsulated Sensing Coatings for improving of Material Durability/Performance

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - SMARCOAT (Development of Smart Nano and Microcapsulated Sensing Coatings for improving of Material Durability/Performance)

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

The application of coatings to specific substrates can have different purposes, including protection against aggressive and external factors, enhancement of performance-relevant properties or simply aesthetics. In the case of high-performance coatings it is important not only to have a coating capable of withstanding extreme conditions, allowing the underlying substrate to perform at high level, but also a self-sensing capability that allows the monitoring of substrate condition.
In this context the main goal of SMARCOAT is to design, synthesize, develop and scale up a set of innovative materials for sensing substrate degradation. The concept explored in SMARCOAT accounts for a careful design and selection of systems with smart release functionalities.

The importance of this project for society can be envisaged from different perspectives. Mobility is a key aspect when considering the demands for supply of goods and accessibility to different places for professional and touristic reasons. On the other hand, the rise of fossil fuel consumption with the consequent detrimental effects for the environment requires the development of new materials capable of imparting significant weight reduction, while keeping good performance throughout the whole service life of the vehicles. This cannot be done only at the level of design of new structural materials, but in an integrative way that accounts for several steps across the whole product life cycle. In SMARCOAT, the focus relies upon improving the detection of degradation of light weight metal alloys and fiber-reinforced plastics, materials which are commonly used in combination as hybrid structures in the aerospace and automotive industries. An early, cost-effective detection of degradation can allow for cheaper yet safer preventive maintenance operations.

The overall technical objectives of the project are:
-Synthesis and characterization of micro and nanocapsules for controlled release of active species upon stimuli by different triggers;
-Incorporation of capsules in different coating formulations and characterization of sensing functionalities;
-Correlation between sensing and level of degradation; optimization of coating components to fine tune the desired level of detection;
-Study of the coating properties considering different aspects;
-Scale up of most promising technologies;
-Industrial validation and standard testing.
SMARCOAT project is divided into six inter-related, complementary work packages.
In WP1, Coordination and Management, all the activities were performed according to the plan. The coordinator, University of Aveiro (UAVR), was supported by all the WP leaders and partner representatives to carry out daily coordination, dissemination and risk management.

In WP2, Development of sensing micro and nanomaterials, the main focus leaned on the synthesis of silica nanocontainers and layered double hydroxides with pH indicators, polymeric capsules for impact detection and porous titania and zinc oxide materials for detection of UV degradation related processes. These syntheses were successfully achieved and the encapsulation of active species performed. Later, four different systems were selected for upscaling activities.

In WP3, Coating preparation and characterization, pre-treatments were for developed for different metallic and FRP substrates. In addition, different coating formulations were selected and the incorporation of additives developed in WP2 tested. The concept of sensing systems with visual response upon mechanical impact was demonstrated, while pH-sensing nanoadditives were found to sense corrosion in different magnesium (Mg) and aluminium (Al) alloys. Moreover, a complete coating system combining anticorrosion protection and different sensing functionalities was developed.

In WP4, Impact sensing verification and modelling, the concept of mono-sensitive system with a function of visual response to mechanical action was realized by developing model systems. Furthermore, the modeling of mechanical properties of a single microcapsule was carried out and several semi-empirical and constitutive models were analysed for calculation of the elastic moduli of particulate composites with spherical inclusions. Later, the micromechanical models used to explain the behavior of composites with spherical inclusions were validated. In this WP, the verification of impact sensing was also performed and the correlation between sensor response and magnitude of stimuli was studied for both mechanical and corrosion degradation processes. Finally, a manual with experimental and modelling guidelines for optimization of capsules, particles and coatings was prepared.

In WP5, Upscaling and validation, several samples of upscaled nanoadditives were supplied to different partners and the most promising systems were used to prepare batches of coating formulations, later applied into prototypes and subjected to standard testing.

In WP6, Dissemination and Exploitation, several actions were performed to disseminate the results of the project. A list of publications, communications in conferences and workshops is publicly available in deliverables D6.1 D6.2 and D6.4. Regarding the exploitation of most promising results, the most important outcomes of the project from a market perspective was assessed by the industrial partners.
SMARCOAT led to the development of user-friendly smart sensing coatings for corrosion sensing and mechanical impact, with the correlation between the level of degradation and signal measured being established. Furthermore, one of the main objectives that SMARCOAT addressed was the integrated formation of people, to instigate them to use their know-how to generate new products, create new companies and re-inventing the European “industrial tissue”. The sensing coatings upscaled and validated in industrial environment in SMARCOAT can become commercially available within a 3 year timeframe for an important branch of the coating market: smart-coatings for the vehicle industry.

In addition, SMARCOAT contributed to broaden the skills of participating teams. Having a balanced exchange scheme for staff to move within the consortium, from early stage to experienced and senior researchers, it gave the opportunity to individuals to contact and experience different environments, allowing for a better understanding of cultures, as well as expectations within different partner organizations and respective countries.

Finally, the impact of different measures for communication of results can be considered at different levels:
1-Direct recognition of the quality of scientific knowledge generated and its technological relevance. To achieve this goal project results were disseminated in more than 40 scientific conferences and published in around 30 peer-reviewed journals.
2-Involvement of society in topics such as materials science, nanotechnology, entrepreneurship and job creation based on competitive research and innovation activities. To this end, the SMARCOAT project was present in different social media and promoted workshops related to these topics.
3-Ultimately, the advertisement of results will give the involved companies a competitive relevance with respect to other entities working on the same field, which may bring positive effects such as new clients and allow establishment of partnerships with other industrial partners.