Grenoble INP is known internationally for its expertise on architectured materials. Thanks to its teams and tools, the school is preparing for the upcoming shift towards smart materials.
“A material is matter that fulfills a function,” explains Yves Bréchet, member of the Academy of Sciences, a professor at Grenoble INP, a researcher at the SIMAP and the high commissioner for atomic energy. Materials have always been classified according to two categories: 1) structural materials used for their mechanical properties and 2) functional materials used for properties such as conductivity. Smart materials are ones that are capable of interacting with the external environment by acting as sensors, triggers or even processors.
Grenoble INP in the starting-blocks
Grenoble INP has been involved in the CEMAM label for architectured materials since 2011 and the institution is ready to overcome new challenges presented by the shift towards smart materials. By combining materials, new smart architectured materials will meet growing needs for materials with multiple functions in terms of mechanics, acoustics, thermal isolation and electromagnetism.
As part of the CEMAM label, researchers are exploring the future of this field. “There are numerous possibilities. You can create materials that interact directly with their environment. They can adapt to external stimuli (thermal, chemical or mechanic) or modify external properties,” explains Jean-Jacques Blandin, a researcher at the SIMAP and professor at Grenoble INP - Phelma.
Research work has already begun on certain projects such as studying the surface impact of a prosthetic bone on bone regeneration and the body’s acceptance of the prosthesis. Another path towards future development could be materials that can communicate externally. “We can imagine materials that are capable of sending self-diagnostic information to warn for example of a crack in the material.” Exploratory research in this direction has been launched by laboratories co-piloted by Grenoble INP.
Promoting expertise, tools and skills
Grenoble INP is home to remarkable tools that can create 3D multi-function materials. The school is for example the only French university to fully master Electron Beam Melting technology. In addition, the institution has a wide range of expertise on printed electronics and thin film deposition. “Printing processes are becoming all the more common to create electronic objects. Paper is no longer simply used to convey printed information. It now benefits from a wide range of applications such as the creation of paper screens,” explains Nadège Reverdy-Bruas, a professor at Grenoble INP - Pagora, a researcher at the LGP2 and head of the MINT chair. “As an alternative to traditional electronics, printed electronics are particularly well suited to the low cost mass production of flexible products with simple functions.”
Scientists at the LGP2 laboratory were asked to adapt traditional printing processes to deposit “functional” inks on a variety of substrates such as plastic, paper, polymer or fabric. Research work has also been carried out to create a variety of inks and support materials. Possible applications for such technology include smart packaging that can interact with potential customers, low cost printed sensors or network communications that can be integrated in insulating materials to provide information about the material’s state.
“A thesis carried at LGP2 in partnership with the Arjowiggins papermaker helped develop and patent a paper on which an RFID antenna could be printed thanks to conductor ink and a silicon chip with encoded information.” Since 2012, a printed electronics module enables Grenoble INP - Pagora students to learn about current challenges and stakes in the field of printed electronics. In addition, the MINT research chair was launched in 2016 thanks to a partnership between the Grenoble INP Foundation and Schneider Electric. The chair aims to overcome challenges tied to integrating electronic functions in Schneider Electric’s 3D electronic boxes.
Date of update July 17, 2017