UK universities are investigating the use of nanoparticles to develop harder, stronger, more wear-resistant protective coatings, as part of a e7m (£4.7m) pan-European project.
The Napoleon project, which will run for four years and involves 21 industry and academic partners from across Europe, aims to create protective coatings for a range of applications, including cars and furniture, with an emphasis on wear-resistance and adhesion.
The coatings could also be applied to ships’ hulls to avoid the buildup of organic material, which reduces speed and increases energy consumption.
It is hoped the new materials will also have improved properties such as dirt resistance, higher impermeability to liquids and gases, and greater fire resistance. The researchers also hope the materials will use less energy to produce.
A team at the University of Surrey will lead research into the transformation of polymer nanoparticles into useful products. Dr Joe Keddie of the university’s department of physics, who is a member of the project’s executive board, said the Surrey team will focus on areas such as processing.
‘The aim of our work is to understand how nanometer-sized particles behave when immersed in water — how they dry, pack together and coalesce.’ The researchers will use two types of technology to achieve this. Atomic force microscopy will be used to look at the structure of materials, while MRI scanning will enable researchers to study the behaviour of particles.
Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Bath will investigate the biocompatibility of the materials, and a team at the University of Sheffield will carry out modelling work. It is hoped that small European companies will benefit from the new materials. ‘We are developing a new technology to make Europe more competitive in the global market,’ said Kiddie.