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TUT wins H2020 FET funding for research on ordered arrays of nanostructures

Researchers at TUT are participating in the NanoStencil project to develop a groundbreaking method for fabricating functional nanostructured surfaces. The project has been awarded competitive FET-Open funding under the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme.
Researchers are working to organize disordered arrays of nanostructures to an ordered state with the help of light.
Researchers are working to organize disordered arrays of nanostructures to an ordered state with the help of light.

The European Union’s Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) programme offers fiercely competitive funding for high-risk research. FET supports the development of breakthrough technologies with far-reaching potential. The NanoStencil project, which begins in October 2017 and stretches over three years, has landed the largest ever FET-Open grant for TUT. The University will receive roughly 600,000 euros of the 3.2 million grant.

The NanoStencil project seeks to initiate a new process paradigm for the production of dense arrays of identical nanostructures. The goal is to develop a single-step, cost-effective, state-of-the-art method for growing ordered arrays of nanostructures on the surface of materials.

“The reviewers of our funding proposal hailed the solution as a next-generation fabrication method.  Expectations are running high,” says Professor Erkki Levänen from the Laboratory of Materials Science at TUT.

Light lends a hand

The revolutionary idea behind NanoStencil is to apply laser interference and supercritical carbon dioxide to produce nanostructures. The method exploits laser interference to construct a nanosized scaffold on which nanostructures, such as nanowires, are grown.    

“This type of research is not conducted anywhere else in the world. The Ceramic Materials Research Group at TUT has a long history of fabricating ceramic materials using supercritical carbon dioxide. We’ve been working on the topic, for example, during a recently concluded project funded by the Academy of Finland, an ongoing project that holds the Academy’s key project status, an EU project, and research supported through the TUT President's Graduate School. The NanoStencil project combines our existing expertise with laser interference, which opens up exciting new avenues for research,” says Levänen.

The current methods for fabricating ordered arrays of nanostructures are time-consuming and involve multiple steps. Conventional single-step methods result in disordered arrays of nanostructures, whereas the laser-based method used in the NanoStencil project will enable the efficient fabrication of ordered nanostructures over large surfaces. If successful, the method will have a broad range of potential applications, for example, in electronics, optoelectronics, sensor technologies and medicine. The functionalities of nanostructured surfaces are diverse.

“Surfaces could, for example, be locally photoactive or have the ability to grab certain molecules. They could include nanopillars used in solar collectors, or their properties could perhaps be modified with light. The potential applications defy the imagination,” says Levänen.

Leap into the nanoworld

The project brings together TUT, the universities of Sheffield and Bedfordshire from the UK, Asociacion Centro Tecnologico CEIT-IK4 from Spain, and InnoLas Laser Gmbh from Germany.

“InnoLas Laser is one of the world’s leading companies in its field. They will hopefully provide TUT with state-of-the-art research equipment for conducting NanoStencil research. The British partners have performed similar research as we at TUT, but they have used different fabrication methods. Our research activities complement each other perfectly.”

NanoStencil involves 3-4 researchers from the Laboratory of Materials Science and the Laboratory of Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Systems at TUT.

“We’ve worked in close collaboration in the area of laser-induced surface modification, but our focus has largely been on industry-scale operations. Now we’re taking over the nanoworld,” Levänen says.

The projects that receive FET-Open funding were announced in June. Read more on the EU’s H2020 website >>

News submitted by: Sanna Kähkönen
Keywords: science and research, materials science, mechanical engineering and industrial systems