The research efforts in the Smart Functional Materials Group of CEMATEP are focusing on the on the exploitation of advanced thin films, nanostructures and nanocomposites suitable for applications like solar control coatings, supercapacitors, photocatalysis, electrocatalysis, optoelectronics, HV insulators and dielectrics for electrical systems. In particular, materials and devices are investigated regarding the following applications:
Smart windows for energy saving
Idea: The control of the incident solar radiation is a key element for the achievement of indoor well-being and more generally of greater energy efficiency in buildings. In winter, solar heat harvesting through windows can reduce energy consumption for heating. During summer, especially in warm countries like those in Mediterranean Sea, excessive solar radiation passing through the glass can cause overheating of the indoor environment, resulting in high consumption for air conditioning. Smart windows can dynamically change their optical properties as a function of some physical parameter, allowing therefore the control of the amount of light/heat that enters a building. CEMATEP team is working on the development of two types of smart windows, thermochromic, which change their transmission in the IR with the temperature and electrochromic, which change their transmission in the visible and the IR with an applied voltage.
Idea: When exposed to light, certain semi‐conducting materials, the so called photocatalysts, trigger or accelerate chemical reactions, resulting in a decomposition of organic molecules as well as antibacterial and antifouling action. Due to their large surface area, their energy band gap and other appropriate physical properties, nanosized catalysts show a significantly enhanced reactivity compared to larger particles or bulk material. CEMATEP team is working on the development of novel photocatalysts, with properties and functionality targeting particular applications like photocatalytic cements and coatings, filters for air-conditioning systems and antifouling coatings for nets used in fish farming.
Composite materials for high voltage applications-outdoor composite high voltage insulators:
Idea: Composite materials comprising nano-scaled particles has gained increased attention in power and high-voltage applications. As an example, the use of nanotechnologies offers new approaches towards improved insulation systems that can operate with better stability and longer lifetime, while, modified dielectrics can improve the operation of the power systems. Moreover, the evaluation of the long term performance of these composite materials requires novel remote, real time and on-the-field diagnostic tools. CEMATEP team is working on the development of both new composite materials with modified dielectric constant and new diagnostic tools for the evaluation of the functionality of commercially available composite insulators.
Processing of nanomaterials for printing/spraying applications:
Idea: Today, the controlled development of functional materials with reproducible properties, using raw nanomaterials commercially available, can be achieved today using state-of-art engineering of solutions and suspensions needed for spraying, printing and other low cost and easily to scale-up deposition techniques. CEMATEP team is working on the engineering and optimization of the suspensions for particular applications and the solving of scientific challenges related to this. As an example, the team succeeded recently state-of-art engineering of graphene based composite materials layers suitable for electromagnetic shielding applications.