28 January 2016

Smart materials may yield new Mistra programme

Interest in smart materials is growing, and there are hopes that they will contribute to a better environment. Mistra is now investigating whether there is a need for, and an interest in, a programme in this area. At a workshop at the end of November, prospects for this kind of initiative were discussed.

Society requires more and more materials, while demands regarding their properties and performance are constantly rising. Tomorrow’s materials must be increasingly adapted to various physical standards, and also resource-efficient and sustainable, both physically and environmentally, and when they are no longer usable the material must be recoverable.

Mistra now wants to find out whether new, innovative materials can also help to bring about a more sustainable society. To sound out the research community’s views on the matter, a workshop was held on the theme of ‘Smart Materials’ in Stockholm on 30 November. At the same time, Mistra has appointed an international working group with the assignment of compiling documentation for a call for proposals in the materials area.

During the workshop, there were discussions on Sweden’s scope for hosting a programme, existing strengths and weaknesses in the area and which smart materials may be worth investigating further.

Another purpose of the workshop was to identify the environmental problems associated with specific materials and the relevant issues in Swedish materials research.

Investigation by international panel

Interest in a programme in smart materials is keen among Swedish researchers.

‘There is a great need to develop materials with new functionality in both new and old technical applications. Making these smart, sustainable and environmentally sound is a very interesting challenge,’ says Susanna Wold, an associate professor at the Division of Applied Physical Chemistry at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm.

The international panel, comprising David Cardwell of Cambridge University, Steffi Friedrichs of the OECD and Mir Wais Hosseini of Strasbourg University, also attended the workshop. They are now drawing up a background document intended for use by Mistra’s Board as the basis for the possible launch of a new research programme on smart materials.

‘It was an exciting workshop that gave us intriguing angles for the continuing process. We arranged a working meeting at this early stage because of our wish to give all the researchers who are interested in taking part a chance to prepare for it and come into contact with possible partners,’ says Christopher Folkeson Welch, Mistra’s Programmes Director.

Text: Per Westergård

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