Materials science: How new materials shape our future

Last updated: 10.12.2019

Nanotechnology in the spotlight

From nano-capsules that transport cancer medications directly to a tumour to “biosilicon” that releases active ingredients slowly over time: Even the tiniest inventions can “make it big” at the European Inventor Award.

EIA trophy

Did you know?

The sail-shaped European Inventor Award trophy is crafted with different materials every year. Previously, the trophy has been 3D printed, crafted from sustainable wood, blown from Venetian glass, or moulded from concrete.

Richard Palmer and Philip Green

Flexible armour that hardens on impact

British material scientists Richard Palmer and Philip Green developed a material which is flexible but stiffens on impact. The unusual properties of dilatant liquids that absorb and disperse energy made this invention perfect for a wide range of protective applications. The inventors were finalists in the SME category at the European Inventor Award 2019.

Jane ní Dhulchaointigh

Multi-purpose mouldable glue

Irish product designer Jane ní Dhulchaointigh and her team developed a malleable multi-purpose glue that combines the strength of a super glue with the pliability of rubber. Named after the Irish word for play, Sugru opens up new possibilities to repair everyday items, helping reduce the waste generated when we simply discard and replace them.

Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre

Eco-friendly packaging from mushroom mycelia

Having seen how mushroom mycelia bind organic waste in nature, US entrepreneurs Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre invented a new class of degradable biomaterial that can be used as an alternative to plastic packaging.

Gert-Jan Gruter

Plant-based plastic bottles

Dutch chemist Gert-Jan Gruter solved a problem that had baffled chemists for nearly 150 years. His solution helped develop a plant-based bioplastic that requires no petrochemicals, is completely recyclable and cuts associated CO2 emissions by up to 70%.

Ludwik Leibler

Synthetics for the future

A touch of science fiction: Vitrimers are a completely new class of polymer. When heat is applied, they become mouldable and self-healing – and can even act as “organ glue” to close wounds. Their inventor, Ludwik Leibler, received a European Inventor Award in 2015.

Hendrik Marius Jonkers

Concrete, heal thyself

Concrete can start to crumble over time, transforming buildings, streets and bridges into danger zones. Microbiologist and European Inventor Award 2015 finalist Hendrik Marius Jonkers developed an innovative solution: He mixes concrete with limestone-producing bacteria.

Wolfgang Krätschmer

The world’s smallest footballs

Buckminsterfullerenes – miniscule geodesic carbon structures – look like tiny footballs. Their unique and valuable physical characteristics make them true “champions” of science – and helped them score a European Inventor Award.


Nanotechnology and patents

The number of European applications filed for nanotechnology-related inventions has more than tripled since the mid-1990s. This brochure introduces the disciplines where nanotech is used and helps identifying and researching relevant patents.

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