Sustainable materials

Sustainable materials form the backbone for a transition towards a sustainable and healthy society. The research topcis include, but are not limited to, organic optoelectronics, wide bandgap semiconductors, printing & coating technology, polymer upcycling technology, and innovative & smart packaging.

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Activities

Sustainable materials form the backbone for a transition towards a sustainable and healthy society. The research topcis include, but are not limited to, organic optoelectronics, wide bandgap semiconductors, printing & coating technology, polymer upcycling technology, innovative & smart packaging, valorization schemes for biomass, and advanced material characterization. On this page you can find out more about the aforementioned topics.

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Advanced organic/ hybrid materials for optoelectronics

Imo-imomec focusses on the development of novel organic and/or hybrid organic/inorganic semiconducting materials for optoelectronic device applications such as light-emitting diodes, photovoltaics, photodetectors, (electrochemical) transistors, etc. Our activities cover the whole value chain from material design and modelling to synthesis, structural and optoelectronic material characterization, (blend) film formation and analysis, device fabrication and analysis, large area printing, and reliability.

Understanding the intricate material and device properties is crucial to develop applications with the highest possible performance. Similar organic semiconducting materials are also developed toward advanced healthcare applications such as (image-guided) photodynamic therapy, likewise pursuing rational structure-property relations.

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Wide bandgap semiconductors

Diamond is considered the ultimate semiconductor for applications in high power electronics. Diamond-based devices can operate in harsh environments, where other materials simply fail. Ultra-hard diamond thin films are used as hard protective coating for tools or optical components providing extreme scratch resistant properties. Besides being the hardest material, diamond possesses the highest thermal conductivity, therefore it can enhance the thermal management of high-power HEMT devices. Diamond’s biocompatibility opens up a wide range of opportunities for its use for biomedical engineering. Learn more during our annual Hasselt Diamond Workshop.

Imo-imomec encompasses a wide range of wide band gap semiconductor topics, mostly focussing on CVD diamond, but also hBN, AlN, ZnO. The CVD of diamond films can be prepared in the form of monocrystalline to nanocrystalline, including low temperature (300°C) and large area (30×30 cm²) deposition. In addition, diamond doping with B, P, N, and novel color centers based on Eu, Ge, etc. are broadly investigated. Research topics include but are not limited to the influence of substrate orientation on growth and dopant incorporation mechanism, their thermionic emission and electronic transport properties, and the formation of heterostructures of BN/diamond and diamond/AlGaN/GaN.

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Printing and coating technology

To study the deposition of functional materials with industrial relevant production technology and in view of the sustainable usage of materials, different printing and coating techniques are studied. Screen printing is applied for deposition on rough and porous substrates such as textiles and paper. Ultrasonic Spray Coating deposits ultrathin coatings on large areas for organic electronics. Finally, drop-on-demand inkjet printing is studied towards conductive patterns and circuit tracks for flexible electronics.

Additionally, particular interest goes to the latter application; stretchable electronics. To unlock completely new application areas based upon the well-known advantages of traditional electronic circuits, research towards stretchable and soft electronics is achieved via innovative materials (liquid metals and stretchable metal-based formulations), integration of micro-electronic components, and optimized deposition techniques.

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Polymer upcycling technology

Vast quantities of plastics are continuously discarded, representing a massive loss of valuable resources. Research in the Advanced Functional Polymer Laboratory pursues new avenues for valorizing plastic waste streams. This is accomplished by chemically transforming waste plastic utilizing reactive functional groups along the polymer backbones. In this manner, new, high-value materials are generated in an upcycling process, breathing new life into otherwise useless refuse.

We focus on transforming large volume, technologically challenging waste stocks for developing new chemical transformation strategies. This includes primarily polyester and polyamide packaging and textiles. These represent high impact sectors, whereby the reduction of wasted materials contributes directly to reducing the carbon output associated with incineration. We target high performance copolymers with enhanced properties as outputs and have a full suite of advanced tools to assess the performance characteristics.

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Material properties modification by nanotechnology

This research topic is oriented towards the screening and improvement of physical and chemical properties of materials (also bioplastics) by nanotechnology and chemical modification. Important material properties such as gas permeability, mechanical and seal properties are monitored. Also other relevant characteristics of (packaging) materials or packaging concepts which can be determined in the lab of imo-imomec can be added, such as accelerated aging, transport simulation and performance testing.
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Sustainable, safe & smart packaging

One focus is on modeling the process, structure, property and migration relationships in functionalized (e.g. ZnO) polyhydroxyalkanoate nanocomposites, which are produced by extrusion and injection molding, centrifugal fiber spinning, ultrasonic spray coating, thermoforming, etc. Melt-processing can also be used to validate potential new applications of recycled (bio)polymers in a circular economy. Additionally, we’re also looking into functional barriers (e.g. EVOH) that can protect against migration from food contact materials.

Another focus is on active and intelligent fiber-based packaging. Using a multidisciplinary approach, intelligent packaging concepts were recently developed by the integration of screen-printed antennas and RFID chips as smart labels in reusable cardboard packaging. Other examples include the design and development of tamper-proof and temperature-threshold indicators smart packaging.

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Production of biomass via microalgae

Microalgae biomass shows great potential as a renewable feedstock for biochemicals (food/feed/fuel) and biomaterials. Through various biorefinery concepts, microalgae biomass production is studied in the context of wastewater treatment combined with co-production of biochemicals and/or biomaterials with added value that contribute to a circular bioeconomy. Our research efforts are focused on the development of circular and green processes that contribute to a more sustainable life cycle of algal biochemicals and biomaterials.

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Advanced material characterization

Within imo-imomec, particular expertise is built in the field of advanced material characterization. For more than 30 years, our experts play a prominent role within imo-imomec in the development of new material systems. In addition, they carry out applied and contract research on a daily basis in cooperation with industry. Thanks to the in-house preparation lab, we tackle even the most challenging problems and guarantee a short turnaround time.

We have in-depth expertise in analytical chemistry (NMR, FTIR, ICP-OES, GC-MS, TGA, etc.), analytical microscopy (SEM, TEM, XRD, X-ray, SAM, etc.), device engineering & physics (IR cameras, photo-electric setups, electrochemical analysers, etc.), and (packaging) material characterization (gas permeability testers, accelerated aging infrastructure (T, RH, UV), mechanical & optical characterization, etc.). An overview of the key equipment and expertise can be found in our scientific services tab.

Projects

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REPAC²

The objective is to support an accelerated implementation of highly functional and recyclable coated paper and cardboard materials for food packaging applications.

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CLEANH2

How can we meet a continuous growing energy demand and how to do so while reducing our environmental carbon footprint?

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BIOFUN

The goal is to broaden and improve the implementation of a new generation of biobased packaging materials by characterizing and clustering packaging properties.

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ACT-3D

Act-3D aims to provide an overview of the technologies to realize electronic tracks on plastic substrates and suitable interconnection technologies.

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Silcone Devices

The project aims to further develop our Silicone Devices POC (lab-scale) fabrication process for soft electronic circuits into a sheet-to-sheet process.

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PROCEED

This project aims to strengthen the perovskite research for solar cells and broaden the application field of the promising material towards other industries.

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EffSep

Efficient separation of macroconstituents from biomass by combining unit operations based on insights in structural organization.

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PAPERONICS

PAPERONICS aims to develop a platform for smart systems based on existing technologies such as sensors, light-emitting devices, RFIDS tags, etc.

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SPICY

The main aim of SPICY is to provide chemical industry with new or optimized processes to convert sugars into added value compounds.

Labs

Organic Semiconductor Lab

Our key competence relates to the synthesis and characterization of organic and hybrid organic-inorganic semiconducting materials and their integration in opto-electronic devices with focus on photovoltaic and healthcare applications, hereby pursuing rational structure-property relations. We conduct both fundamental and applied research and have a longstanding tradition in joint scientific R&D within European, national and regional projects, as well as servicing for industry and research centers. We can provide support in all steps from material development to advanced (structural and opto-electronic) material characterization, device analysis and prototype product manufacturing.

Advantages

The materials chemistry and (device) physics expertise related to organic and hybrid semiconductors, and the state-of-the-art research infrastructure available at the Institute for Materials Research imo-imomec, is unique in the Flemish/Belgian landscape and is competitive on the highest European level, as can be seen from our representation in various national and international networks, research programs and projects.

Applications

Organic and hybrid organic-inorganic perovskite photovoltaics
Photodetectors for visible and near-infrared range
Organic light-emitting diodes and devices for bio-sensing and bio-electronics
Organic photosensitizers

Customers

All types of companies interested in applying emerging and soft semiconducting materials in opto-electronic applications, for energy and advanced healthcare applications.

Printing Lab

The Functional Materials Engineering (FME) lab is housing a variety of printing and coating techniques for the deposition of functional materials on a broad scala of substrates. Inks from partners, industry or own formulations are studied in relation to the selected printing/coating technology and the interaction of the deposited material on the substrate. The full chain, from pre-treatment of the substrate to alter its surface free energy, optimal printing parameters, to post-treatment – via oven, hotplate or near-infrared – to achieve a functional print or coating are investigated. Morphological, opto-electronic and mechanical characterization of the layers and the final applications are studied in close collaboration with other research units within IMO-IMOMEC.

Advantages

Studying the full chain from ink formulation, over printing/coating parameters and post-treatment, full characterization, to specific applications, makes it possible to fully understand the interaction of functional materials with their substrate. In the team, experienced researchers with a background in chemical, electromechanical, electrical engineering and materials science and engineering, each have their roll to fully span the broad chain described above.

Applications

Substrate evaluation and pre-treatment

  • Profilometry
  • Contact angle measurement system
  • UV plasma pre-treatment
  • Corona pre-treatment

Printing and coating technology

  • Blade coating
  • Screen printing
  • Inkjet printing
  • Ultrasonic Spray Coating

Post treatment

  • Hot oven
  • Hotplates
  • Near infrared sintering

Characterization

  • 4-probe sheet resistance (Van der Pauw)
  • Stretch bench
  • Profilometry
  • Contact angle measurement system

Application areas

  • Organic Light Emitting Devices
  • Electroluminescent Devices
  • Printed sensors for on-body and wound monitoring
  • Stretchable Electronics

Customers

Spanning the full knowledge chain from substrate evaluation and pre-treatment over printing/coating to final applications, we also have customers from the full chain. Starting with partners that can deliver substrates, we can evaluate if functional coatings or printed electronics can be performed on their substrates. Further, evaluation of inks and formulations for contacts can be evaluated with the printing and coating technology. Finally, partners with a specific focus towards integration of (printed) light, functional coatings, (printed) sensors and flexible/stretchable electronics can get insights in how printing and coating technology can be applied for their markets.

Technical Notes

The most applied techniques are described below. These 3 systems are perfectly complementary such that formulations from low viscosity to high viscosity can be deposited for thin (30nm) to thick (10 μm) layers. Coatings (up to 20cm by 20cm) and printed patterns (50 μm in width) can be applied via these techniques.

Ultrasonic Spray Coating

  • Sonotek ultrasonic spray coating system applying a broad range of formulations (from 10cP.s to 1000 cP.s) in ultrathin (30nm) coatings ranging from 0.5 cm to 20 cm in length.

Inkjet Printing

  • Dimatix inkjet printing system for inks in the range of 8-12 cP.s, having 16 nozzles with a 1pL or 10pL cartridges to create 20 μm-sized droplets for deposition of thin (200nm) structures having a width of minimum 50 μm and an interspacing of 50 μm.

Screen Printing

  • Baccini screen printing installation to deposit viscous pastes (> 500 cP.s) for thick layers (1-10 μm) with minimum 50 μm tracks and an interspacing of 50 μm.

Advanced Functional Polymer Lab

The Advanced Functional Polymers (AFP) Lab infrastructure is designed for synthesizing and characterizing a host of advanced polymers intended for a wide range of applications. As such, it contains various state-of-the-art synthetic tools and advanced analytical capabilities. Our labs are well-positioned to synthesize, process and characterize new polymer materials with a wide range of molecular makeup and properties, including thermoplastic [elastomers], networks and gels, and composites. We have state-of-the-art synthetic setups, which include several air-free Schlenk lines capable of air/water sensitive transformations. Processing tools include a large (300 x 300 mm) hydraulic melt presses with various molds, and UV modules for crosslinking. Advanced characterization includes equipment for assessing molecular makeup and mechanical properties.

Advantages

In addition to advanced equipment, the polymer labs are supported by highly experienced chemists and engineers trained in the operation of equipment and skilled in interpretation. The extended team members have strong background in chemical analysis and synthetic protocols. This includes design of synthetic recipes for generating various polymer architectures, and utilizing a range of polymerization mechanisms (e.g., controlled radical polymerizations, ring-opening polymerizations, photomediated polymerizations, supramolecular interactions; crosslinking strategies). Furthermore, our team has extensive experience characterizing the mechanics of materials (e.g., tensile and compression testing; rheology; DMTA) and thermal properties (e.g., DSC, TGA). This is on top of routine molecular characterization, for which the Institute of Materials Research has strong expertise. With this full suite, we can carry out the full chain of polymer development, from design to application evaluation.

Packaging Technology Lab

More information on the MPR&S website.

Contact

dr. Lieve De Doncker

dr. Lieve De Doncker
Location
Wetenschapspark 1, 3590 Diepenbeek, Belgium
Function
Business Developer

imo-imomec

Gebouw IMO Foto1
Location
Wetenschapspark 1,3590 Diepenbeek, Belgium
Function
Research institute