Network Develops New Functionalities of Microstructured Surfaces

Within the framework of the WIR!-Bündnisses „GRAVOmer – Kompetenzregion mikrostrukturierter Funktionsoberflächen“ companies and research institutions from all over Central Germany have developed various projects that could contribute to CO2 avoidance, waste reduction and the saving of resources.

Three projects of the GRAVOmer network were recommended for federal funding and will be supported with 15 million euros in the future. These include projects dealing with the precise embossing of surfaces, paper made from waste generated in biogas plants and a training and further education program on microstructured functional surfaces.

Central Germany as Competence Region for Microstructured Functional Surfaces

GRAVOmer is a network for the “application-oriented design of surfaces on an industrial scale” based in Leipzig. Possible applications of specific surface structuring include self-cleaning decorative coatings, optical and haptic surface effects and flow-optimized microfluidic channels (microfluidics comprise the behavior of liquids and gases on micro levels).

Together with the WIR! alliance, GRAVOmer has set itself the goal of developing an innovation region for microstructured functional surfaces and promoting the intensive exchange between industry and science. In addition, the network aims at long-term networking with regional companies:

“With the Gravomer network, we want to enable companies from Central Germany to establish regional value chains around the production and application of complex surfaces,”

explains Prof. Dr. Engisch, co-initiator of the WIR project and Professor of Materials at the HTWK Leipzig.

Currently, 40 companies and institutions, mainly from Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia, are working in the network on innovative ideas for microstructured functional surfaces. The aim is to achieve permanent cooperation between the network partners:

“With our GRAVOmer innovation network, we would like to initiate sustainable cooperations, especially between alliance companies. The cooperation should extend along the entire value-added chain from the material or tool manufacturer to the producer of the final product”,

explains Ulrike Helmstedt, head of the alliance.

The following future projects will be funded by the federal government:

New Methods of Microstructuring

New methods of microstructuring are decisive for the innovative projects of the GRAVOmer network. These are laser chemical processes in microelectronics, which enable “photochemical influencing of very small spatial areas on various substrate materials commonly used in microelectronics” (source: Spektrum).

With the help of laser technology, cylinders of embossing machines can be processed so finely that surface structures are given completely new properties. For example, glass surfaces can be provided with a functional surface that is invisible to the human eye. In this way, birds can be protected against collision with glass panes, for example. Other areas of application include surface structures that prevent fogging and icing of external sensors in autonomously driving cars. Precise embossing in the decorative and packaging sector can also produce antibacterial structures for packaging or wall surfaces, which can then be used in hospitals.

The GRAVOmer network is also working on content for an education and training program on microstructured functional surfaces. Among other things, the linking of existing courses of study to new training formats is being planned, which will deal with the interaction of materials, surface structures and production processes to create innovative surface functionalities.

Paper from Waste Generated in Biogas Plants

Microstructuring methods also play a role in the production of paper from waste generated in biogas plants. Manufacturers have already been able to develop bio grass paper, which consists mainly of fibers, from the residues of biogas plants. However, this can only be used for a few, mostly decorative purposes. In the project of the GRAVOmer network, entrepreneurs and scientists are currently working on a method for treating rough surfaces made of natural fibers. The aim is to develop a printable paper made from plant by-products for industrial mass production. Upcycling at it’s best!

We wish the GRAVOmer network every success in the implementation of the projects and are pleased to report about the first results! Do you know other projects dealing with microstructuring? Write us a comment!