Implementation of new class of smart actuating materials in biocompatible devices

Tuesday 24 Apr 18


Nini Pryds
Head of Section, Professor
DTU Energy
+45 46 77 57 52


Vincenzo Esposito
DTU Energy
+45 46 77 56 37

Project partners in BioWings

DTU Energy (coordinating), DTU Physics, Lund University (Sweden), Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (Switzerland), Weizmann Institute of Science (Israel), two start-up companies Acousort AB (Sweeden) and Piemacs SARL (Switzerland) and the Italian Innovationlab Day One SRL

Researchers from DTU Energy and DTU Physics have received a FET-Open grant from EU to pioneer research in biocompatible actuating materials that can be used for intelligent devices for use in the human body.

Miniature devices are revolutionizing the health sector and are constantly getting closer and closer to the human body. Many exciting and novel applications of miniature devices find use in diabetics, breathalyzers for alcohol screening, continuously monitoring the patients' heartbeat or via releasing drugs directly into the bloodstream.

And that's only the tip of the iceberg.

Global demographic development with a sharp increase in the number of elderly people puts the global health sectors under pressure, increasing the need for intelligent, efficient and affordable biomedical devices that can meet the challenges of lifestyle diseases, aging and the overall pressure on healthcare systems.
Biowings, a recently granted research project led by DTU and supported by the EU program FET-Open, is aiming at developing a new kind of biocompatible actuating materials for microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), enabling development of advanced non-toxic miniature devices with integrated diagnostic, pronostic and therapeutic functions.

The goal is to make these devices suitable for use outside and inside the human body.

"There are already a number of microelectro-mechanical systems in the market, but they often contain elements such as lead (Pb) which is harmful to the human body. The goal is to develop biocompatible materials with actuating properties similar or better than the one which already exist today (Pb[Zr(x)Ti(1-x)]O3, known as PZT), and which do not contain any harmful elements, "says Professor Nini Pryds, DTU Energy, coordinator of project BioWings - Bio-compatible electrostrictive smart materials for future generation of medical micro-electro-mechanical systems”.

"Cerium-based oxide materials are non-toxic, environmentally friendly and well-functioning in low energy units, and as such they are perfectly suited as biocompatible materials in BioWings"
Vincenzo Esposito, Professor, DTU Energy

Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) program under the European Commission Horizon 2020 is a very challenging and competitive grant and the access to the millions of euros awarded annually in this type of program is extremely hard to get, yet this year DTU professors Nini Pryds and Vincenzo Esposito succeeded to be awarded by this grant.

The reason is that DTU Energy is experts in these types of oxide materials, and DTU Energy has recently intensified the research into actuation materials following a number of groundbreaking discoveries of the electromechanical properties of cerium-based oxide materials.

"The cerium-based oxide materials are non-toxic, environmentally friendly and well-functioning in low energy units, and as such they are perfectly suited as biocompatible materials in BioWings", says Professor Vincenzo Esposito, who is the coordinator of the activity on electromechanical conversion at DTU Energy.

These actuating materials, Cerium-based oxide, are also fully compatible with silicon, which allows the integration of these materials directly onto silicon technology without the need of any intermediate expensive layer which is otherwise used when PZT is implemented on Silicon.

In collaboration with DTU Physics and six international partners, the DTU-researchers aim for a better understanding of the electrostrictive properties of cerium-based oxide materials and how to use these properties to create new types of MEMS for the medical industry.

If the group, consisting of industrial, medical and research partners, succeeds in making a prototype able to integrate cerium oxide in biomedical electromechanical systems, it will lead to a big step forward for the use of new and non-harmful materials in implanted diagnostic systems.

"It is a very ambitious project, and we are entering this project with great enthusiasm to make it successful. The award of the FET Open opens up for us the opportunity to collaborate with some of the world's leading institutes in this field, and with this grant we can now focus on solving a fundamental issue by introducing new, environmentally friendly and bio-compatible based materials into the health field instead of lead-based", says Nini Pryds and Vincenzo Esposito.

FET-Open under Horizon 2020

FET-Open is one of three FET programs under the Horizon 2020 main program, which provides support for research into groundbreaking and visionary technology. FET Open is open to ideas in all technology areas, so there is great search from all EU countries. In this call, there were 395 applicants and BioWings with DTU Energy as coordinator was among the best 2.6 percent and was therefore selected to receive the support. A total of 26 projects received support with approximately three million euros each.
In addition to the support for the DTU Energy project, Professor Anders Kristensen from DTU Nanotech receives 99,000 euros for the coordination and support project
“Digital resonant laser printing for mass costumization of flat optics.”