The expected advances will come from innovative techniques for ultra high precision surface structuring
The aim of the EU project LASER4SURF is to develop laser-based solutions for functionalizing metallic surfaces and improving their properties and behavior in the context of mass production. Some of the benefits of this project will be to provide electric vehicles with fast-charging batteries and build medical devices that will be more hygienic and help patients recover more quickly.
The anticipated benefits will be the result of the innovative techniques that the project’s researchers are developing for the ultra high precision structuring of surfaces (working at the level of the micron, or thousandths of a millimeter). Such a high degree of precision will yield a new dimension in interacting with materials, allowing material to be manipulated at the cellular level.
LASER4SURF uses femtosecond lasers to create stripes, lines and patterns with precision on materials such as aluminum, titanium, copper and stainless steel. The textures created by the lasers provide products with new functionalities, such as hydrophobicity, lubrication, anti-condensation, increased or reduced adhesion, and antibacterial properties. Microscope texturing can even affect optical behavior and create 'black metals' or anti-reflective metal.
"The real-world benefits of these tiny changes to surfaces are considerable", says Yago Olaizola, Ceit-IK4 researcher and LASER4SURF project coordinator. "Very small and predetermined corrugation on a pin used in a prosthetic device, for example, can guide the way that cells interact and join together. The resulting improvement in adhesion means the patient recovers more quickly, and it results in other post-surgical benefits, such as less money spent on aftercare and rehabilitation".
Medical devices are only one of the three areas of application being studied by LASER4SURF, which is also aiming to accelerate techniques for the sub-micrometric texturing of surfaces in advanced manufacturing and batteries. In a world that is increasingly turning to electric vehicles and looking for ways of transitioning to new sources of energy, the second of these is of considerable interest in terms of more widespread application. "By increasing the surface area of batteries, we can increase the capacity of current speeds, creating batteries that charge more quickly and last longer", Olaizola points out.
The LASER4SURF project is being undertaken by an eight-member consortium made up of technology centers (Ceit-IK4, MULTITELL and VISUM), a system integrator (LASEA), three industrial partners (FAGOR, RESCOLL and CIC) and a dissemination partner (ESCI).
The project began at the beginning of October and will run for three years (until October of 2020). Four million euros have been allocated to the project.