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Stimuli-responsive Membranes for consumer goods sustainability

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - SMARTMEM (Stimuli-responsive Membranes for consumer goods sustainability)

Reporting period: 2018-04-01 to 2020-03-31

SMARTMEM is a multidisciplinary project leveraging the emerging technology platforms around so-called smart membranes and evolving this platform to commercial use in consumer good products. Over the past 4 years, 5 PhD students have been trained in various scientific fields around membrane technology, involving disciplines from advanced materials synthesis, to membrane production, linking product application and product performance driving new consumer value. The training has been set up in a multi sector way for the students to learn the technical depth of the disciplines as well as the innovation cycle from idea to market application and commercialisation.
Smartmem team has achieved great results over the past 4 years, thanks to the research of these 5 PhD students:

1. 5 PhDs students got their industrial PhD in an emerging technology field with application in several industries: Food & Feed, Home care products, Beauty Care, water treatment, analytical separations…
2. The team has developed diverse screening techniques for polymers that enabled fast choices to focus on lead materials. These techniques will be used beyond Smartmem, since the multidisciplinary approach allows to reapply the learnings to other projects and fields. Having good screening methods is essential to move fast in research. On the one hand, they first identified the critical parameters required for their application. In a second step, they developed a methodology to measure that parameter in a reliable way and validated their approach.
3. The team has screened commercially available materials, with especial focus on sustainability, identifying new applications for them. So, the students had the possibility to participate in industrial events and interact with diverse suppliers, especially SMEs, to get samples for their research. When a material was successful, additional steps were taking to build the relationship.
4. Synthesis of novel materials enabled new uses that addressed consumer needs: these novel materials were designed to be light responsive. Light responsive materials were known, however the team designed them to be responsive to natural and artificial light and not only to UV light. In this sense, they were making the materials more suitable for daily applications.
5. New materials or known materials for new uses required the development of novel processes, so the team explored the available knowledge and further developed it to adequate it to the new materials and applications. Process parameters optimization for new chemistries has been key to achieve prototypes.
6. Prototypes for Home Care applications were prepared and tested with a consumer panel. Results were compared and validated with analytical measurements.
Smartmem ESRs were trained in industrial and academic environments, providing them with a better overview of both fields and enabling them to make their career choice. They gained not only technical knowledge, but they also grew as professionals, especially in soft skills and communication. They had the opportunity to attend many internal and external events, disseminating SMARTMEM results through posters and oral presentations.

Additionally, several papers have been submitted for peer review for their publication in diverse journals, being two being published (Perfume Encapsulation via Vapor Induced Phase Separation, Processes 2019, 7(12), 865, related to a novel way of preparing capsules, especially useful for temperature sensitive actives and Contrasting Photo-Switching Rates in Azobenzene Derivatives: How the Nature of the Substituent Plays a Role, Polymers 2020,12(5), 1019, related to a novel molecular design approach to create asymmetrical visible light-triggered azo-derivatives that can be good candidates for polymer functionalization..
Overall, Smartmem has met its objective and contributed to accomplish the goals of Europe 2020 strategy through:

- training highly skilful scientists in emerging fields such as stimuli-responsive materials
- placing Europe at the vanguard of innovation in sustainable consumer goods by smart controlled release

In the future, SMARTMEM partners are looking forward continuing their collaboration. In fact, already one PhD student joined Procter and Gamble research center and there are several projects being considered to continue the cross-fertilization and transfer of knowledge of the partners.