Materials science: How new materials shape our future
Tiny tubes, huge potential
Carbon nanotubes are only visible under a strong microscope, but the ultra-thin material packs a punch: A thousand times more conductive than copper, extremely strong and surprisingly flexible, it could soon revolutionise industries from microelectronics to medicine.
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.
The sail-shaped European Inventor Award trophy is crafted with different materials every year. For the June 2015 award ceremony, it was 3D-printed for the first time in order to achieve a unique woven structure.
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.
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.
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.
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.