Mechanical forces transmitted through specific molecular bonds drive biological function, and their understanding and control hold an uncharted potential in oncology, regenerative medicine and biomaterial design. However, this potential has not been realised, because it requires developing and integrating disparate technologies to measure and manipulate mechanical and adhesive properties from the nanometre to the metre scale. We propose to address this challenge by building an interdisciplinary research community with the aim of understanding and controlling cellular mechanics from the molecular to the organism scale. At the nanometric molecular level, we will develop cellular microenvironments enabled by peptidomimetics of cell-cell and cell-matrix ligands, with defined mechanical and adhesive properties that we will dynamically control in time and space trough photo-activation. The properties under force of the molecular bonds involved will be characterized using single-molecule atomic force microscopy and magnetic tweezers. At the cell-to-organ scale, we will combine controlled microenvironments and interfering strategies with the development of techniques to measure and control mechanical forces and adhesion in cells and tissues, and to evaluate their biological response. At the organism scale, we will establish how cellular mechanics can be controlled, by targeting specific adhesive interactions, to impair or abrogate breast tumour progression in a mouse model. At all stages and scales of the project, we will integrate experimental data with multi-scale computational modelling to establish the rules driving biological response to mechanics and adhesion. With this approach, we aim to develop specific therapeutic approaches beyond the current paradigm in breast cancer treatment. Beyond breast cancer, the general principles targeted by our technology will have high applicability in oncology, regenerative medicine and biomaterials.
Metasurfaces, thin film planar, artificial structures, have recently enabled the realization of novel electromagnetic (EM) and optical components with engineered functionalities. These include total EM radiation absorption, filtering and steering of light and sound, as well as nano-antennas for sensors and implantable devices. Nonetheless, metasurfaces are presently non-adaptive and non-reusable, restricting their applicability to a single, static functionality per structure (e.g., steering light towards a fixed direction). Moreover, designing a metasurface remains a task for specialized researchers, limiting their accessibility from the broad engineering field. VISORSURF proposes a hardware platform-the HyperSurface-that can host metasurface functionalities described in software. The HyperSurface essentially merges existing metasurfaces with nanonetworks, acting as a reconfigurable metasurface whose properties can be changed via a software interface. This control is achieved by a network of miniaturized controllers, incorporated into the structure of the metasurface. The controllers receive programmatic directives and perform simple alterations on the metasurface structure, adjusting its EM behavior. The required end-functionality is described in well-defined, reusable software modules, adding the potential for hosting multiple functionalities concurrently and adaptively. VISORSURF will study in depth the novel and unexplored theoretical capabilities of the HyperSurface concept. Two experimental prototypes will be implemented: a switch-based fabric array as the control medium; and a Graphene based, making use of its exquisite properties to provide finer control. A real pilot-application will demonstrate the HyperSurface potential to adapt to changes in their environment, to interconnect to smart control loops and make use of Information Technology (IT) programming concepts and algorithms in crafting the EM behavior of materials.
An inspiration for INVADE are the world-wide agreements on minimisation of human caused effects to climate change and energy efficiency targets set at the European Union with ambitious goals for reduction of greenhouse gas emission and for increase of renewable energy share.
To enable a higher share of renewable energy sources to the smart grid and gain a traction in the market place a few critical barriers must be overcome. There is a deficiency of 1) flexibility and battery management systems 2) exploration of ICT solutions based on active end user participation 3) efficient integration of energy storage and transport sector (EVs), 4) novel business models supporting an increasing number of different actors in the grid.
INVADE addresses these challenges by proposing to deliver a Cloud based flexibility management system integrated with EVs and batteries empowering energy storage at mobile, distributed and centralised levels to increase renewables share in the smart distribution grid. The project integrates different components: flexibility management system, energy storage technologies, electric vehicles and novel business models. It underpins these components with advanced ICT cloud based technologies to deliver the INVADE platform. The project will integrate the platform with existing infrastructure and systems at pilot sites in Bulgaria, Germany, Spain, Norway and the Netherlands and validate it through mobile, distributed and centralised use cases in the distribution grid in large scale demonstrations. Novel business models and extensive exploitation activities will be able to tread the fine line between maximizing profits for a full chain of stakeholders and optimizing social welfare while contributing to the standardization and regulation policies for the European energy market. A meaningful integration of the transport sector is represented by Norway and the Netherlands pilots – with the highest penetration of EVs worldwide.
PROTECT aims to introduce to the market One step antimicrobial finish processes for polymeric materials used in i) specialty textiles for public areas and hospitals, ii) water treatment membranes, and iii) implantable medical devices. Compared to main existing manufacturing routes, the proposed one-step coating technologies are simple, fast, and reproducible. For this, PROTECT uses as a starting point four existing pilot lines emanated from high successful FP7 projects SONO, NOVO and BioElectricSurface. PROTECT will upgrade the nanocoating One step process platform comprising: two roll to roll (R2R) pilots (sonochemical and spray coating) for functional textiles production, a R2R thermo-embedding pilot for antibacterial/biofilm preventing water treatment membranes, and a batch sonochemical pilot for antibacterial/antibiofilm/biocompatible medical devices. This platform will cover a wide range of applications due to their specific characteristics by the following objectives:
a) Incorporating ‘antibacterial antibiofilm biocompatible novel nanoparticles’(NPs) of the following categories: inorganic (CuxZn1-xO ,5 Ga@C-dots, Si/TiO2 composite) polymer (polypyrrole, PPy)) and biologicals (antibacterial enzymes, functionalized lipids (FSLs), hybrid antibacterials) to obtain ‘biocompatible nanostructured surfaces with antimicrobial and anti-adhesive’ properties.
b) Implementing real time characterization methods for monitoring at the nanoscale to characterise relevant materials, process properties and product features for ‘real-time nanoscale characterization’ to ensure ‘reproducibility’ and ‘quality’ of the nano-coated products
c) Improving ‘coating efficiency, production capacity, reproducibility, robustness, cost-effectiveness, safety and sustainability’ of the processes in relation to the targeted applications.
d) Introducing a Labs Network (PLN) that will include also lab scale processes of the proposed technologies for ‘training and knowledge dissemination.
Context. Software quality is an essential competitive factor for the success of IT companies nowadays. Recent technological breakthroughs such as cloud technologies, the emergence of IoT and technologies such as 5¬G, pose demanding quality challenges in software development.
Problem. Optimal software quality asks for the appropriate integration of quality requirements (QRs) in the software life-cycle.However, software development methodologies still provide limited support to QR management which is utterly important in rapid software development processes (RSDP): faster and more frequent release cycles should not compromise software quality.
Concept. Q-Rapids defines an empirical-based, data-driven quality-aware rapid software development methodology. QRs are incrementally elicited and refined based on data gathered both during development and at runtime. This data is elaborated into quality-related key indicators presented to decision makers through a strategic dashboard with advanced capabilities. Selected QRs are integrated with functional requirements for their unified treatment in the RSDP.
Outcome. A TRL7 validated Q-Rapids framework, including cutting-edge tools and methods to smartly manage QRs along with functional requirements in a similar rapid and holistic manner.
Impact. Increase of software quality levels through continuous data gathering and analysis. Significant productivity increase to the software life-cycle by means of smooth and tool-supported integration of QRs in the RSDP. Shorter time to market due to reduction of quality-related maintenance efforts and more informed decision making in the planning of release cycles. Impact will be measured through 11 project indicators with defined target values.
Consortium. 3 research organisations,1 SME, 2 mid-caps and 1 corporative with balanced geographical distribution. The consortium combines long research tradition in software development and cutting-edge technological knowhow in versatile ICT sectors
The epithelium is a cohesive two-dimensional layer of cells attached to a fluid-filled fibrous matrix, which lines most free surfaces and cavities of the body. It serves as a protective barrier with tunable permeability, which must retain integrity in a mechanically active environment. Paradoxically, it must also be malleable enough to self-heal and remodel into functional 3D structures such as villi in our guts or tubular networks. Intrigued by these conflicting material properties, the main idea of this proposal is to view epithelial monolayers as living engineering materials. Unlike lipid bilayers or hydrogels, widely used in biotechnology, cultured epithelia are only starting to be integrated in organ-on-chip microdevices. As for any complex inert material, this program requires a fundamental understanding of the structure-property relationships. (1) Regarding their effective in-plane rheology, at short time-scales epithelia exhibit solid-like behavior while at longer times they flow as a consequence of the only qualitatively understood dynamics of the cell-cell junctional network. (2) As for material failure, excessive tension can lead to epithelial fracture, but as we have recently shown, matrix poroelasticity can also cause hydraulic fracture under stretch. However, it is largely unknown how adhesion molecules, membrane, cytoskeleton and matrix interact to give epithelia their robust and flaw-tolerant resilience. (3) Regarding shaping 3D epithelial structures, besides the classical view of chemical patterning, mechanical buckling is emerging as a major morphogenetic driving force, suggesting that it may be possible design 3D epithelial structures in vitro by mechanical self-assembly. Towards understanding (1,2,3), we will combine a broad range of theoretical, computational and experimental methods. Besides providing fundamental mechanobiological understanding, this project will provide a framework to manipulate epithelia in bioinspired technologies.
Piezoelectric materials transduce electrical voltage into mechanical strain and vice-versa, which makes them ubiquitous in sensors, actuators, and energy harvesting systems. Flexoelectricity is a related but different effect, by which electric polarization is coupled to strain gradients, i.e. it requires inhomogeneous deformation. Flexoelectricity is present in a much wider variety of materials, including non-polar dielectrics and polymers, but is only significant at small length-scales. Flexoelectricity has demonstrated its potential in information technologies, by flexoelectric-mediated mechanical writing in ferroelectric thin films at the nanoscale, or in flexoelectric electromechanical transducers. It has been suggested that flexoelectricity could enable piezoelectric composites made out of non-piezoelectric components, including soft materials, which could be used in biocompatible and self-powered small-scale devices. Flexoelectricity is a nascent field with major open questions. Furthermore, experimental devices and material designs are limited by what we can understand and analyze, and unfortunately, we lack general engineering analysis tools for flexoelectricity. As a result, current flexoelectric devices are only minimal variations of configurations conceived within the uniform-strain mindset of piezoelectricity. Our main objective in this proposal is to develop an advanced computational infrastructure to quantify flexoelectricity in solids, focusing on continuum models but also exploring multiscale aspects. We plan to use it to (1) analyze accurately flexoelectricity accounting for general geometries, electrode configurations, and material behavior, (2) identify new physics emerging flexoelectricity, and (3) propose, build and test a new generation of thin-film devices, composites and metamaterials for electromechanical transduction, genuinely designed to exploit small-scale flexoelectricity and make it available at macroscopic scales.