HomeNews & EventsInnovative Advanced Materials: Building Blocks for a Sustainable Future

Innovative Advanced Materials: Building Blocks for a Sustainable Future

Materials are key enablers for shaping the world we want to live in.

An exhibition powered by European Innovation Council and EuroTech Universities Alliance

Materials are key enablers for achieving various goals set by the European Union, in sectors like health, energy, mobility and housing. Especially when it comes to sustainability, they have a crucial role to play and can contribute significantly to improving people’s well-being, fighting climate change, and increasing industrial competitiveness.

The European Commission has launched several initiatives designed to strengthen the development of advanced materials and address shortages of critical raw materials, e.g. the Materials 2030 Roadmap, the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability, the Critical Raw Materials Act, and the Net-Zero Industry Act.

Against this backdrop, the European Innovation Council and the EuroTech Universities Alliance teamed up to highlight the importance of innovative advanced materials for shaping the world we want to live in and for securing European tech sovereignty in crucial fields. By means of a selection of compelling demonstrators and informative posters and videos covering various high-tech fields, we showcased the outcomes of research and innovation done in Europe in a visual and tangible way.

Innovative Advanced Materials

Building blocks for a sustainable future

From 26 to 30 June 2023, the following projects, demonstrators, and initiatives were presented in the Atrium of the European Commission’s Covent Garden building in Brussels, in a joint exhibition of the European Innovation Council and the EuroTech Universities Alliance. The exhibition was opened with an opening event on 26 June with high-level speakers and a live demonstration (see impressions here).

We are grateful to the EIC for their trust and support.


Green hydrogen is a key ingredient towards the decarbonisation of the European economy. ANEMEL, a project funded by the European Innovation Council, will explore new methods to generate green hydrogen from low-quality water sources, such as seawater and wastewater. With a total budget of almost €5 million – of which €2.96 million come from the EIC – ANEMEL will develop efficient electrolysers and expedite the design of prototypes during the next four years. Altogether, the project will catalyse the commercialisation and exploitation of the technology. ANEMEL will gather expertise in the field of membranes and electrolysers – the overall goal is a prototype that yields green hydrogen from low-grade water with minimal treatments. Additionally, the oxygen obtained could find uses in the treatment and purification of the water sources. The membranes designed by ANEMEL will avoid using persistent and pollutant products like poly-fluorinated materials, as well as critical raw materials – favouring the use of abundant metals like nickel and iron. All this will reduce the cost of the electrolyser components and improve their recyclability, thus reducing waste and providing a competitive advantage.

Funding acknowledgement:
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon Europe research and innovation programme under Grant Agreement No. 101071111.

Further information:

DROP-IT proposes a drop-on demand inkjet technology platform of lead-free metal halide perovskites (LFPs) on flexible substrates, as the most promising route to revolutionize the fields of printed flexible photovoltaics, optoelectronics & photonics.

DROP-IT proposed four main objectives: (i) synthesis of LFPs in the form of nanoparticles and polycrystalline films, (ii) formulation of suitable inks of LFPs and adequate charge transport layers, (iii) inkjet printing and processing of LFPs for optimizing optoelectronic properties, (iv) validation of the technology by three proofs of concept in photovoltaics, LEDs and photonics.

Along the project we have proposed and tested many perovskite materials. We focused on several of them:

(1) 2D/3D perovskite compounds (R0.5-BA0.5)2FA9Sn10I31 with R = PEA, TEA, DIP cations for allowing crystallization and stabilize the tin-perovskite phase for doctor blade and inkjet printing deposition techniques.

(2) PEA2SnI4, (4F-PEA)2SnX4 (X: I, I-Br) and TEA2SnI4 for red and orange emitting LEDs and photonics (emitting devices and photodetectors)

(3) Cs3Cu2Cl5 CsCu2Cl3 Rb3InCl6:Sb for green and blue LEDs.

(4) Cs2SnI6: spectacular nonlinear optical properties.

(5) Surface-passivation of perovskite nanocrystals, lead halides and lead-free halides, patent application.

(6) PdOx formulated with several precursors and obtaining sufficiently high conductivity under low processing temperatures (patent application).

In photovoltaic devices, important advances were achieved: world record efficiency for flexible lead-free perovskite solar modules of 5.7 % under 1-sun and an impressive 9.4 % for 2000 lx. This was possible through the in-situ synthesis of SnI2 (patent application).

For lead-free LEDs: (i)-(ii) First inkjet-printed Pb-free perovskite LED emitting at red wavelengths and first on a flexible substrate, (iii) First orange emitting Pb-free perovskite LED, (iv) Fabrication of a Pb-free perovskite LED with the highest reported brightness (300 cd/m2).

Several advances were achieved in photonics: (i) Vertical lasing and near single-mode operation were observed for inkjet-printed films of a 2D/3D LFP, (ii) This 2D/3D LFP also leads to good flexible photodetector performances (iii) inkjet-printed films of 2D tin-perovskites (TEA2SnI4 among them) are exhibiting efficient two photon absorption mechanism at room temperature and also leading to efficient photodetectors.

Funding acknowledgement:
DROP-IT has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 FET-OPEN research programme under grant agreement No 862656.

Further information:

The SHINTO team develops a new type of plastic that can heal itself just like our skin and bones can heal back together. When the plastic is scratched or cut, the plastic will heal this wound until it is as strong as it was before the damage; this is called self-healing. This is possible because the chemical bonds in our material that were broken can be reattached by heating it up; this can be done theoretically infinite number of times.

We can make a wide variety of flexible and stiff self-healing materials. These different self-healing materials can also heal to one another, not needing any glue. The materials can be recycled very easily (low temperature, no pressure required) and can be made from bio-based building blocks.

The materials have a wide variety of applications; we have applied it first in soft grippers. Soft grippers are plastic hands that can grip objects when they are pressurized by air; they are typically used in factories, logistics centres or in agriculture. When the finger is punctured, the mechanism no longer works. Grippers made of our self-healing materials can heal themselves and continue their work.

Funding acknowledgement:
The SHINTO project is funded under the European Innovation Council (EIC) programme of the European Union (Grant Agreement ID 101057960).

Further information:


For many years, engineers have attempted to create efficient and sustainable lightweight materials with improved mechanical properties for various applications on damping, vibration control, breaking systems, biomedical and energy devices. More recently, several research groups around the globe, including our group, have been trying to add more functionality to such materials via alternative, external loading stimuli (such as magnetic, electric or thermal stimuli).

In the present work, the interest is in magneto-mechanical coupling at the macroscopic (order of millimeters and centimeters) scale when magnetorheological elastomers (MREs) are subjected to combined magneto-mechanical external stimuli. The MREs are essentially two-phase composites having metallic magneto-active particles suspended in a magnetically passive but mechanically soft elastomer matrix. These composite materials are lightweight and can deform at very large strains due to the presence of the soft polymeric matrix without fracturing.

Fields of application:

Due to the coupled magnetoelastic response, MREs are finding an increasing number of engineering applications. As one such application, these materials can be stimulated from distance with small magnetic fields allowing to study biological processes such as cell migration or simply reach areas in human bodies for targeted drug delivery that are diff icult to access without open surgical interventions.

Presented by:

PhD student: Zahra Hooshmand Ahoor
Principal Investigators: Prof. Kostas Danas, Prof. Laurence Bodelot, Laboratory of Solid Mechanics (LMS), École Polytechnique

Funding acknowledgement:
European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe research and innovation program (grant agreement No. 636903 - MAGNETO and No. 101081821 - MagnetoSense).

Institut Polytechnique de Paris (Ecole Polytechnique)

Further information:


According to the World Economic Forum, 1-2 billion people in the developing world require vision correction yet lack access to corrective eyewear. This is estimated to result in an economic loss of more than 1.2 trillion dollars per year. The current fabrication method of lenses relies on grinding and polishing processes that require heavy infrastructure with signifi cant water and energy use, and are thus not suitable for low-resource sett ings. In addition, traditional machining approaches result in signifi cant waste, with 80 – 90% of the base material discarded.

The Fluidic Shaping method
We developed a simple method, which allows shape liquids into ophthalmic (eyewear) lenses in minutes, without the need for any mechanical processing. We inject a liquid polymer into a bounding frame submerged within an immiscible immersion liquid with equal density. Under these neutral buoyancy (weightlessness) conditions, surface tension dominates, and the polymer liquid takes a shape determined by the geometry of the frame and the polymer volume. Our models provide the conditions required in order to create any desired spherical and/or cylindrical prescription. After the desired shape is achieved, the liquid is cured under UV light to produce a solid lens.

Fluidic Shaping in space
In collaboration with NASA, we are exploring the use of Fluidic Shaping for in-space manufacturing of optics, as well as for the creation of liquid-based space telescopes on scales of 50–100m. In April 2022, we achieved a major milestone when astronaut Eytan Stibbe used Fluidic Shaping to fabricate the fi rst lenses in space.

Fields of application:

Fabrication of high-quality corrective eyeglasses in low-resource settings

  • Green on-the-spot fabrication of lenses in the developed world.
  • In-space manufacturing of optical components
  • Creation of large-scale space telescopes on the order of 100m

Presented by:

PhD students: Mor Elgarisi, Omer Luria
Principal Investigator: Prof. Moran Bercovici, Fluidic Technologies Laboratory, Technion - Israel Institute of Technology

Funding acknowledgement:
We gratefully acknowledge the funding of the European Union (ERC, Fluidic Shaping, 101044516). We also thank our collaborators NASA, RAKIA, and the Israeli Ministry of Innovation, Science and Technology for their valuable contributions to the space activities associated with this research.

Further information:


There are a variety of important separations that, if improved, can have an immense global impact – have a look at the fields of applications below to see some of them. Unfortunately, separating targeted species from complex gas and liquid mixtures is not an easy task. In fact, ~15% of the world’s energy is expended on separation processes alone.

Given this, our goal is to reduce the energy and economic cost of existing separations and make impossible separations possible. To do so, we synthesize highly porous sponge-like materials called MOFs (Metal Organic Frameworks). These sponges exhibit world record porosity. In fact, their pores are 50’000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair and one gram of these sponges can have an internal surface area of up to 7’800 m2; that is more than a football field! As chemists, we decorate the inside of our sponges with different chemical functionalities that will allow the sponge to selectively remove large quantities of targeted species from gases or liquids. We can also tune the pore size and shape of our sponges to have better control over the targeted guest. This gives our sponges great tunability and selectivity, which make them impressively versatile in a number of globally important uses.

Fields of application:

  • Removal of heavy elements & organic micro-pollutants from water and industrial waste

  • Recovery of precious and critical metals from waste (e.g., gold recovery from e-waste)

  • Capture of carbon dioxide from industrial flue gas and air

  • Purification of oxygen from air (e.g., for medical treatment or oxyfuel combustion)

  • Evaporative refrigeration (e.g., for vaccine and food storage/transport)

  • Capture of water from air (e.g., for water delivery in dry, remote regions)

Presented by:

PhD student: Anne Belin
Principal Investigator: Prof. Wendy L. Queen, Laboratory for Functional Inorganic Materials, EPFL

Further information:


Since Prof. Nakamura invented the blue light-emitting diodes in 1994, a huge interest has been addressed towards high quality white light-emitting diodes (WLEDs) as alternative to old-fashion lighting technologies, mainly because of their high efficiency, low energy consumption, long lifetime and high reliability.

However, the limitations of WLEDs are their sustainability and their impact on the human health due to the use of yellow-emitting rare earth based inorganic phosphor (IP) color downconverting filters that represent 30-40 % of the final LED cost and provide low white color quality. Here, hybrid WLEDs have aimed at replacing IPs by organic materials with a moderate success since 1998. Bio-HLEDs based on fluorescent proteins stabilized in polymer coatings as color filters have recently been enhanced, reaching stabilities of >3000 h due to the slow deactivation of the natural chromophore in polymer matrices.

The European FET-OPEN project ARTIBLED focuses on the application of Artificial Fluorescent Proteins for white Bio-HLEDs. We aim at engineering fluorescent proteins with selected highly performing emitters, in order to fabricate white Bio-HLEDs with the desired efficiencies and color quality features for commercialization. Furthermore, the bacterial production of the AFPs will further solve the dependence on expensive emissive materials. A careful stabilization of the AFPs in polymer/biogenic matrix and a deep optimization of the devices might solve the sustainability and health issues of the current LEDs.

Fields of application:

  • Indoor and Outdoor Lighting
  • Photodynamic Therapy
  • Indoor Farming
  • Photonics: Light Management

Presented by:

PhD students: Sara Ferrara, Marco Hasler
Principal Investigator: Prof. Dr. Rubén D. Costa, Chair of Biogenic Functional Materials, Technical University of Munich

Funding acknowledgement:

S. F., M. H. and R. D. C. acknowledge the European Union‘s Horizon 2020 research and innovation FET-OPEN ARTIBLED under grant agreement No. 863170. R.D.C. acknowledges the ERC-Co InOutBioLight No. 816856.

Further information:


Inhalation anaesthetic gases are indispensable in modern healthcare. These gases are not absorbed in the body and are usually vented out into the atmosphere after use. However, the gases are potent greenhouse gases with up to 2,000 times the climate impact of CO2. In Europe alone, the emission of anaesthetic gases is equivalent to 6.6 million tons CO2 per year. CO2 reducing solutions have therefore become a high priority for hospitals worldwide.

The WAGER (Waste Anaesthetic Gas Elimination Reactor) technology we have developed destroys anaesthetic gases and creates an eco-friendly and harmless by-product. The waste anaesthetics are collected and destroyed on-site with a unit placed on the roof or in the basement of the hospital. In previous feasibility tests conducted at laboratory scale as well as in preliminary on-site hospital tests, the technology has achieved the proof-of-concept target, destroying 90% of anaesthetic gases in a two-reactor prototype. Reactor 1 uses UV light to create fluorinated by-products - carbonyl fluoride (COF2) and/or hydrogen fluoride (HF). Both are very toxic and corrosive and can therefore not be vented into the atmosphere. The second reactor converts the by-products into harmless products, by removing the fluoride with water.

WAGER is rooted in a cross-academic collaboration between the Technical University of Denmark and the University of Copenhagen, along with clinical expertise from the Capital Region of Denmark.

Fields of application:

Elimination of anaesthetic gases from all institutions that use these gases, including hospitals, dental clinics and veterinarian facilities.

Presented by:

Master's student: Christina Würtz Bjerre
Principal Investigator: Prof. Seyed Soheil Mansouri, DTU Chemical Engineering, Technical University of Denmark

It has been a holy grail for many decades to demonstrate light emission from silicon. As a consequence, silicon-based chips are lacking light emitters and lasers. Merging of integrated photonics in silicon electronics promises improved performance in computing and sensing, while simultaneously reducing cost by mass production in existing silicon foundries.

For quantum computation, a silicon-based integrated architecture that combines static (electronic) and flying (photonic) qubits on the same chip is lacking. Hexagonal crystal phase silicon-germanium (hex-SiGe) has recently emerged as a new direct band -gap semiconductor with excellent optical properties (Nature 580, 205-209 (2020)). It shows efficient light emission in a broad spectral window from 3.4-1.5 μm. The high quality of this material is evidenced by the fact that we recently observed strong indications for lasing in hex-SiGe from a single hex-SiGe nanowire. Recent work shows hex-Ge/SiGe quantum wells as a first step towards hex-Ge/SiGe quantum dots for single photon emitters.

Fields of application:

  • All silicon based integrated photonics circuits
    - Integrated photonic network on Si-chips
    - Low-cost disposable sensors
    - Integrated LiDAR at low cost
  • Integration of spin qubits with fl ying qubits
    (quantum computation)

Presented by:

PhD student: Wouter Peeters
Principal Investigators: dr. J.E.M. Haverkort, Prof. E.P.A.M. Bakkers, Physics Department, Eindhoven University of Technology

Funding acknowledgement:
H2020 FETOPEN Opto silicon project 964191,
Horizon Europe Onchips project 101080022

Further information:



THE AMBITION: The AMI2030 initiative aims to set up a systemic approach to develop innovative sustainable Advanced Materials to offer faster, scalable, and efficient responses to the challenges and opportunities for Europe’s society, economy, and environment. Instrumental to this will be a pan-European multi-sectorial accelerator for the discovery, design, development and uptake of sustainable Advanced Materials towards a circular economy, enabling the green and digital twin transition. The initiative relies on an open and inclusive forum, seeking to transform the European Advanced Materials sector sustainably, implementing a common framework and integrating all strands of Advanced Materials stakeholders - from upstream developers and manufacturers to downstream users and citizens, with all stakeholders in between.

AMI2030 promotes

  • strong coordination between all stakeholders at European level to avoid the current fragmentation within the advanced materials value chain
  • co-creation along the whole value chain to feed the ‘by-design’ approach for safety and sustainability
  • an inclusive and transparent platform developing an holistic roadmap for advanced materials, in close cooperation with existing initiatives
  • direct involvement and leadership of industry in setting up the Strategic R&I Agenda at TRL 3 -8 of the innovation cycle to accelerate the green and digital twin transition and boost European competitiveness
  • ambitious structuring projects to accelerate innovation uptake

Further information:

German Canadian materials acceleration center (GC-MAC) brings together capabilities and infrastructure among research communities in Germany and Canada on a topic of utmost strategic importance: harnessing artificial intelligence and advanced machine learning to accelerate the discovery, design, device integration, and demonstration of materials for sustainable energy technologies. The Centre assists in aligning approaches and directions; promote common methods, standards, and collaborative actions; and establish a new regimen for the training of scientists and engineers who will lead future developments at the interface of materials science, energy technology and information science. Our focus includes R&D strategy for digitalization of materials in energy applications; Materials acceleration platforms (MAPs), self-driving labs, and AI-enabled accelerated materials discovery; Lab bench to industry: scale-up and commercialization; Technology-specific challenges [H2, CO2, energy storage].

Further information:

Cordis Results Packs

Advanced materials research for industrial applications and society

This Results Pack on Advanced Materials highlights seven Research and Innovation (RIA) and two Innovation Action (IA) EU Horizon 2020 funded projects. It focuses on high-performance engineered advanced materials that hold great promise for a variety of industrial fields, including medicine, electronics and energy, among others, and are helping to secure EU leadership in these high growth global markets.

Photo: © European Union, 2023

Open Innovation Test Beds to accelerate European innovation

The development of advanced materials is essential to meet Europe’s long-term goals. Europe’s tech industries face high capital costs and complex regulation. Knowledge sharing hubs can lower these barriers and bring products to market faster. This Results Pack on Open Innovation Test Beds showcases 10 EU-funded projects that are helping to bring new innovations to the market faster.

Photo: © European Union, 2023

Impressions from the opening event