Jan Lagerwall receives prestigious ERC grant

08 February 2022

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ERC proof-of-concept grant.

Jan Lagerwall is among the 166 researchers who have won an ERC proof-of-concept grant. This top-up funding will help bridge the gap between the results of pioneering research and the early phases of commercialisation.

Professor Jan Lagerwall, a physicist at the University of Luxembourg, has secured a proof-of-concept grant from the European Research Council (ERC).

The ERC grant will support REVEAL, which stands for “Revealing complex strain patterns and dangerous loads using cholesteric liquid crystal elastomers”. With this project, the researcher and his team seek to produce sheets and fibres of smart sensors using cholesteric liquid crystal elastomers applicable to various materials and suitable for health and stability monitoring in buildings and in smart textiles.

A strong market opportunity for suitable mechanical sensors

On a large scale, mechanical sensors are used to monitor the structural condition of our built environment, such as houses, bridges and event enclosures.

Distributed strain sensors are highly useful for detecting and monitoring cracks in concrete structures as a function of ageing and wear, and after extreme events like earthquakes, hurricanes, or flooding they can help identify whether buildings have undergone dangerous plastic deformations.

With the next generation of smart buildings designed to address these issues and current low spatial resolution one-dimensional solutions, there is a strong market opportunity for suitable mechanical sensors.

Coming up with two new concepts for non-electronic strain sensing

Jan Lagerwall and his team’s solution provide distributed two-dimensional strain sensing with high resolution, as well as a one-dimensional version with great potential for smart textiles. Their two new non-electronic strain sensing concepts, both based on the mechanochromic response of cholesteric liquid crystal elastomers, change colour in response to mechanical deformation.

REVEAL’s value proposition includes simple, scalable procedures for manufacturing large cholesteric liquid crystal elastomers sheets and fibres of various lengths.

Jan Lagerwall

Through the proof-of-concept, we will produce large-size cholesteric liquid crystal elastomers sheets and long fibres, and assess their application potential, for instance in the monitoring of structures, smart clothing and sports gear.

We aim notably to ensure that the cholesteric liquid crystal elastomers sheets show consistent and tuneable colour with sufficient time stability.

Finally, we will assess how useful and efficient the products are in specific target applications.

Jan Lagerwall

The research project will continue until 2024, after which a commercialisation phase will start.

It marks the third ERC grant Jan Lagerwall has received. In 2015 he was awarded an ERC Consolidator grant to conduct fundamental research on liquid crystals and their composite materials. He was then awarded an ERC proof-of-concept grant based on the research of the Consolidator grant.

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