EU grants for smart materials and next generation LEDs
Two Aalto University researchers, Assistant Professor Jaana Vapaavuori and Postdoctoral Researcher Konstantinos Daskalakis, have each received 1.5 million ERC Starting Grants from the European Research Council. Both projects will take five years.
Jaana Vapaavuori carries out pioneering research with functional fibres. The study aims to develop smart materials that react to changes in their environment, exploring how soft materials change colours or move in response to changes in light or temperature. These fibres will be built into modular multifunctional textiles using traditional techniques, which enable more complex networks when compared to widely used knitting and weaving techniques.
‘I am extremely eager to study functional materials, because by developing them it is possible to improve the environmental friendliness of buildings with material that autonomously change according to weather conditions. I am grateful to the EU for this funding, which enables research that is still in its initial stage, but which has potential to develop smart and energy-efficient applications which interact with their environment.’ Materials that react autonomously could be used to develop solutions like blinds that react to temperature changes, or protective textiles for the needs of agriculture.
Postdoctoral Researcher Konstantinos Daskalakis is aiming to make OLED lighting cheaper, brighter and more efficient.
Lighting consumes one-fifth of the world's electrical energy and it produces a total of 400 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year. Efforts to make lighting more efficient have led to the development of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that emit intense light when a small amount of electric current passes through them. LED lights are made of highly pure, crystalline inorganic semiconductors which consume a lot of energy to make.
‘The manufacture of the organic or carbon-based white OLED (WOLED) lights is more environmentally friendly, compared with traditional LED lights. I plan to develop truly ecological and easy-to-manufacture WOLEDs that can be also safely disposed of after use.’
Existing WOLED light solutions are costly and inefficient. Expensive and non-renewable rare earth and toxic heavy metal traces are often used, and the manufacturing processes are difficult.
‘My core competence areas are photonics and light-emitting materials, and I use my expertise to address the challenges of WOLED lights. Through experimental research, I aim to demonstrate the transition from traditional LED lights to affordable, efficient, stable, and bright carbon-based OLED lights which emit white light.’
Pekka Peljo, who has served as an Academy Research Fellow of the Academy of Finland, also secured ERC funding. He has taken up a post of Assistant Professor at the University of Turku.