We all know the feeling: You have plenty of exciting research ideas, and some are even more wild than the other. And often, the wilder the idea the more difficult it is to find required funds to finance your ideas. It are these research ideas that can be the start of something new, something special, something big!
The Faculty ET offered seed money to stimulate the initiation of challenging research ideas. We have challenged you to submit these exciting research ideas to us. The internal committee has granted on the following four proposals.
Dave Matthews: A great deal of attention is currently given to the design and fabrication of “optimised” surface textures for a wide range of applications. The reason is simple: surface design and engineering can functionally enable a product through the resultant surface topography. There is no doubt, the results can lead to remarkable improvements in product performance, but are they truly optimal? Life is dynamic, environments are transient, so surely the surfaces we interact with every day should be too. Environments change, a product’s functionality can change, for example due to the user or the usage and an optimized surface topography should be one that responds to those changes or functional needs. Taking the skin as a simple analogy, this project aims at deriving engineering surface topographies that cannot only be controlled spatially, but also temporally. The resulting surfaces will no longer be static but become responsive and offer dynamic functionality – for example, their wetting or antibacterial behaviour, how they feel, how they look, their colour or sound, their drag, fluid flow, friction, optical or (thermo-) electric properties would become tunable, switchable and even programmable.
Angele Reinders: In this project within the ET Research theme of Sustainable Resources, photovoltaic (PV) modules will be developed that are fully encapsulated by polymer materials and manufactured with the following scalable industrial production methods: injection molding and/or 3D printing. This will significantly reduce the production time and labor required for PV module manufacturing and moreover, improve PV modules’ recyclability and hence environmental impacts. The efforts will be focused on the development of luminescent solar concentrators (LSCs) with silicon solar cells, which have attracted a lot of attention due to their strong prospects for solar energy conversion in cloudy countries and design flexibility for building integrated photovoltaics and product integration. Current efforts in LSCs have been focusing on the module design and the underlying physical problems and have neglected the challenge of cost-efficient and design-oriented processing. With this project, we aim to fill this gap by developing a fast and efficient module manufacturing method. If successful, this method will revolutionize photovoltaic module manufacturing. The project will be executed with researchers from the Department of Design, Production and Management at ET, MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology and Fraunhofer Project Center at UT.
Claas-Willem Visser: Additive manufacturing techniques can now achieve intricately designed shapes, but manufacturing of nature-mimicking multiscale materials that consist of functional unit cells is out of reach. Realizing these materials at societally relevant scales would directly contribute to global UN sustainability goals 3 (good health and well-being, e.g. via tissue engineering), 9 (industry and innovation by process optimization), and 13 (climate action), for example via new concepts in tissue engineering, catalysis, and heat and mass exchange.
This crazy idea will explore and test general design principles for fractal-type mass exchange systems with lower losses, higher uptake, and smaller footprints. We will combine the UT’s unique capabilities for:
1. Multiscale additive manufacturing of functional materials, and
2. Optimizing networks for flow and mass exchange.
As a functional example, we will realize an optimized free-standing CO2-capturing architecture. This could be beneficial to transport CO2 from industry to greenhouses, where fossil fuels are now burnt to provide CO2. If successful, a conceptual leap towards materials that exhibit maximal heat/mass transfer and minimal viscous losses is realized. The one-step fabrication process is intrinsically scalable (kg/day) and minimizes material losses, thereby aiding future application. Nature-mimicking architectures at the micron-to-millimeter scale will be realized, which have received less attention than the nano-scale but will be essential for optimized functional performance in heat and mass transfer.
SyMBiOBot - Shape-Morphing Bioinspired Soft Robot for Minimally Invasive Surgery by Venkat Kalpathy Venkiteswaran
Venkat Kalpathy Venkiteswaran: The SyMBiOBot project aims to create a new class of minimally invasive surgical tools by leveraging the benefits of soft materials, bioinspired design and magnetic actuation. SymBioBot is a miniaturized bio-compatible robot that can move through small organs or vessels and can be wirelessly controlled from outside the body. SyMBiOBot can enter the body through a small incision, reliably move to a remote site within the body, transport necessary cargo, perform a specific surgical procedure, and if necessary, be retrieved with no adverse effects to the patient. The ability to transform its shape gives SyMBiOBot multi-functional capabilities. Inspiration for SyMBiOBot comes from our recent work on magnetically-actuated soft robots and grippers [1,2]. SyMBiOBot has the potential for strong social impact by transforming interventional procedures and providing personalized and targeted minimally invasive solutions for challenging therapeutical applications. SyMBiOBot is specifically targeted at high-risk, challenging interventions at remote sites deep inside the human body that cannot be tackled using existing minimally invasive surgical techniques.