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  • Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SELECTA (Smart ELECTrodeposited Alloys for environmentally sustainable applications: from advanced protective coatings to micro/nano-robotic platforms)

SELECTA Report Summary

Project ID: 642642
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.3.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SELECTA (Smart ELECTrodeposited Alloys for environmentally sustainable applications: from advanced protective coatings to micro/nano-robotic platforms)

Reporting period: 2015-01-01 to 2016-12-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The SELECTA project (H2020-MSCA-ITN-2014 no. 642642) is a highly inter-disciplinary action aimed at training 15 ESRs (Early Stage Researchers) in the field of smart electrodeposited metallic alloys suitable for environmental/sustainable development applications. The network offers the ESRs the possibility to pursue a PhD at different universities, research centers and companies across Europe. The main goal of the scientific project is the electrochemical synthesis and characterization of metallic alloys, with tunable composition and microstructure, and its implementation in the following applications: (i) innovative protective coatings, (ii) resilient micro/nano-electromechanical systems (MEMS/NEMS), and (iii) wirelessly actuated micro/nano-robotic platforms for environmental healing. SELECTA seeks to achieve the target purposes using a sustainable approach, designing alloy compositions without or with minimum amounts of scarce or toxic elements while employing environmentally-friendly electrolytic baths.
The network gathers together 15 institutions, 9 Beneficiary partners and 6 Associated partners. Among them, the Consortium includes 2 technological centers and 4 private companies, which play a key role in the knowledge transfer from the academic sector to the industry. The Team members of the Consortium belong to 10 European Union countries plus Switzerland and Serbia. Besides the diversity of nationalities, the SELECTA teams are also expert in different fields, such as modeling, physics, electrochemistry, materials science, processing, micro/nano-tools and robotics. This is important to enhance the cooperation between researchers and to allow the ESRs to learn the whole process from modeling of the basic materials properties to the final applications in industry.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The work carried out during the first two years of the SELECTA project has been in line with the initial plan of the proposal. The milestones of the period have been properly accomplished and all the deliverables have been submitted through the on-line platform of the Research Participant Portal. The recruitment process started in March 2015 and the 15 ESRs were hired before the end of the year. After the selection process, the elected candidates signed a full-time contract with the host institution and they were enrolled in a PhD programme. Importantly, the recruitment process fulfilled the EC requirements concerning gender balance and diversity of nationalities. Among the 15 ESRs, 7 are female (46.7%) and they come from 11 different countries. Regarding the network events, all the management and training events of the first two years have been successfully organized. The first event of the project was the SELECTA kick-off meeting organized by UAB. In addition, three Workshops, and the Mid-term review meeting and Workshop have been organized so far by FINK, IFW, HP and CHAL.
The main scientific results achieved so far include: (i) screening and selection of candidate materials for environmental / sustainable development applications, including density functional theory (DFT) calculations of the magnetic properties of e.g., Fe-Cu alloys and finite element modelling of porous Al-based foams (among others); (ii) design and implementation of novel aqueous electrolytes for the electrodeposition of fully dense rare-earth- and noble-metal free alloys, such as Bi, Mn-Bi, Mn, Fe-Mn, Fe-W, Fe-Cu, Sn-Fe, Fe-P or Fe-Cr-Ni films, on a variety of substrates (e.g., brass, steel, metallized Si, In-Sn oxide); (iii) miniaturization of materials using top-down and bottom-up approaches in order to produce small building blocks for miniaturized devices or small-scale robotic platforms; (iv) in-depth microstructural characterization which is essential in the assessment of the key structural parameters that affect e.g. magnetic behaviour and mechanical properties of the produced sustainable electrodeposited alloys and thin films; (v) in-depth characterization of the physical (magnetic, mechanical) and physicochemical (corrosion, wettability, catalytic and tribocorrosion) properties of the fabricated materials; (vi) implementation of the developed SELECTA materials in innovative technology and industrial products (up-scaling), such as water purification membranes, demonstrator magnetic MEMS/NEMS prototypes (e.g., sharp magnetic tips, watch components, micro/nano-helices, high-temperature magnetic actuators), miniaturized components integrated into hybrid (magnetic + photocatalytic) robotic platforms for use in environmental remediation, etc.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The SELECTA project is already having a very positive impact on the ESRs, the partner institutions, the society and the consolidation of the European Research Area (ERA). The 15 ESRs are taking advantage of the very high quality training provided by the network. For instance, the preparation of a PCDP (personal career development plan) and the implementation of a personalized training program, including a specific secondment plan. The ESRs also benefit from the training events organized by the network. Altogether, these methods are improving the development of their scientific projects and they will also be very useful in their future scientific careers.
The partner institutions are also taking advantage of the network. Firstly, the Beneficiary institutions are already obtaining promising research results due to the work carried out by the hosted ESRs. Additionally, the knowledge transfer, which is taking place within the network, is improving the competitiveness of the partner organizations. The good communication between the teams has also led to the establishment of several productive collaborations which are expected to continue after the end of the project, increasing the future positive impact of the project on the partners.
The society also benefits from the project. The main objective of the network is to find new sustainable approaches to be implemented by the industry in the field electrodeposited metallic alloys. Some environmentally-friendly new materials have been electrodeposited for the first time within the framework of the SELECTA network (such as BiFeO3 –so far only prepared by sol-gel or physical methods– and Fe-Mn films, certain austenitic steels, or nanoporous Cu-Ni nanowires). Thereby, the results obtained by the network enhance the competitiveness of the industry and reduce the environmental impact of the production process. The communication strategy of the network also benefits the society by increasing the attractiveness and understanding of science.
Remarkably, the project is also playing an important role in the development and consolidation of the ERA. The cooperation between the teams increases the competitiveness of the European organizations involved in the project. The exchange of knowledge, ideas, materials and the networking of the project promotes integration of non-academic organizations and institutions from new member states and associated countries. The mobility of researchers across Europe is also promoted through the secondments of the ESRs and the training activities. Furthermore, the SELECTA project will also contribute to the future development of the ERA because the links established between the teams will continue after the end of the project and also most of the ESRs trained will continue their scientific careers in European countries.

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