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22 December 2016

New programme on smart materials

Smart materials are the focus of a new Mistra research programmes. The hope is to find methods and materials with the potential to remove environmentally harmful substances from air, water and soil. The new initiative will be headed by KTH for four years.

Interest in smart materials is growing — not least because there are hopes that it might help to bring about a better environment. Mistra shares this view and has therefore decided to start a research programme in this area.

When Mistra’s Board met in early December, it was resolved that a consortium named Mistra TerraClean should be put in charge of the new programme. This choice was in line with the evaluation, carried out by an international review panel, of all the applications submitted. According to the panel’s final report, TerraClean’s was the strongest application and the one best corresponding to the specifications defined in the text of the funding call. Simultaneously, the researchers applying are well established and world-leading in their respective subject areas.

‘It’s pleasing that we can now launch a research programme on smart materials. This is both an exciting and an important area, while there is a great need for new, effective methods of removing pollutants in our environment. We therefore hope the programme will help to bring about clear benefits in the environmental sector,’ says Mistra’s Programmes Director Christopher Folkeson Welch.

SEK 60m altogether

The programme period will be four years and there will be a total budget of SEK 60 million. Of this total, SEK 51m will come from Mistra and the remaining SEK 9m from collaborating parties.

The Mistra TerraClean consortium comprises several universities and research institutes. They include KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Uppsala University, the Swedish Toxicology Sciences Research Center (Swetox), IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute, Innventia AB, Acreo Swedish ICT AB and SwedNanoTech, the umbrella organisation for Swedish operators in nanotechnology.

The aim of the programme is to develop four different materials that have in common their porosity and capacity to adsorb environmentally harmful substances from air, water or soil. One example is Upsalite. This material is a nanostructure of magnesium carbonate with the advantage of having a large area in relation to its volume, which gives the material a good adsorption capacity.

Other materials to be developed and tested in the programme are nanocellulose, activated carbon and zeolite. Some of these materials occur naturally, while others have been invented and developed in Sweden.

New materials to combat environmental problems

The research on smart materials will range widely, from studies of properties at molecular level to the macroscopic properties of larger structures. Using smart materials to solve environmental problems is considered to have a great potential: they may help to improve the quality of life while a successful programme can, at the same time, enhance Sweden’s competitiveness.

Mistra TerraClean’s vision is to establish a strong research and innovation environment in Stockholm and Uppsala, thereby accelerating development and use of smart materials. This in turn may enable Sweden to achieve its national environmental objectives regarding air and water quality. The programme is expected to start in spring 2017.

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