ERC Consolidator Grant for Kunal Masania's living composites
Associate Professor of Aerospace Structures and Materials, Dr Kunal Masania envisions a world where rigid, lightweight composite structural materials literally come to life. In doing so, he not only takes inspiration from Nature when designing the microstructures of materials, he actually integrates living organisms into the material. This link with biology allows lightweight composite materials, as used for example in aerospace, to adapt themselves to conditions such as load or damage. The European Research Council has awarded Masania an ERC Consolidator Grant of €2 million for his research proposal AM-IMATE. This research on living composites can lead to ground breaking technology for making aviation more sustainable.
Biological materials constantly adapt effortlessly to their environment, among other things, due to their remarkable mechanical properties. Masania: "Some fungi, for example, form incredibly elaborate networks that can repair themselves in no time if a connection is broken." Current engineering structural materials, such as lightweight composite materials used in aerospace, have limited ability to adapt and reinforce under load or to heal and repair in response to damage. For safety reasons, structures with these materials must always be extra sturdy - and therefore heavier than necessary.
The ERC Consolidator Grant enables Kunal Masania to apply the responsive power of biological systems to stiff, lightweight composite materials. As one of the first researchers in the world, Masania aims to create living composites for use in aerospace. With innovative manufacturing techniques such as 3D printing, these materials can actually be produced.
Using living composites can contribute to making aviation more sustainable in two ways. The new microstructures make it possible to use other, more sustainable natural materials, such as wood. But in addition, the self-repairing and adaptive ability of the materials can make stringent - and heavy - safety measures unnecessary and make for lighter aircraft. The work opens exciting new pathways that will surely revolutionise structures for mobility, wind and space.
ERC Consolidator Grant
The ERC Consolidator Grants are designed to support excellent Principal Investigators at the career stage at which they may still be consolidating their own independent research team or programme. Principal Investigators must demonstrate the ground-breaking nature, ambition and feasibility of their scientific proposal. The research programmes run for 5 years.