Developing new sensors for industrial applications, particularly in the fields of water management, foundry and materials engineering is the goal of the NCC for MATCA's next project, Senzorika pro 21. století (Sensing for the 21st century). It was selected as one of twelve projects supported under the National Recovery and Resilience Plan. The NCC for MATCA, coordinated by the Institute of Physics, received 144 million crowns for the project. It will run for 3.5 years and is funded by the European Union.
Maintaining a healthy modern society and economy in the 21st century comes with an increased demand for new multifunctional materials and interfaces with precisely customizable properties and multiple physical, electronic, chemical and biological functions. This requires materials and technologies that go beyond the current state of knowledge. The implementation of the project and its expected results aim to help solve these problems – either through specific products or through better optimisation of manufacturing processes, their monitoring and control.
"In the Division of Optics of the Institute of Physics, in the field of sensors, we can rely on many years of experience and a team of world-renowned experts. Whether it be for the development of biosensors, chemical sensors, in the field of biophotonics or artificial intelligence processing the obtained outputs. Connecting the results of our scientists' research with practice is a natural thing for us, so I am extremely pleased that thanks to the NCC for MATCA and funding from the National Recovery and Resilience Plan we can further expand our collaboration with our partners from the private sector and contribute to higher competitiveness of Czech companies and to improving the everyday lives of all of us," said Alexandr Dejneka, Head of the Division of Optics and NCC for MATCA Principal Investigator.
In cooperation with partners from research institutes and industrial companies, scientists within the NCC for MATCA will develop, for example, sensors for monitoring the quality of wastewater. They will enable rapid continuous testing, measuring the presence of pathogens in water management systems and biological samples, and possibly identifying other health-threatening substances. The technology will be efficient, fast, reliable and ultimately more affordable than comparable competing solutions. The main benefit, however, will be a faster and more effective response to potential threats, thereby preventing potential damage to health and property.
Gas detection in plasma and melting processes
The experts in the NCC for MATCA will develop new advanced materials, manufacturing technologies and methodologies for a new class of chemical sensors for a wide range of applications. They will be used, for example, for environmental monitoring within the Smart City concept, in alert systems for industrial plants or for early warning systems for the police, rescue system and military. Moreover, the production of sensors and sensor platforms is not yet widespread in the Czech Republic, and there is not even a single commercial manufacturer in the field of gas detection in the country. The project will thus lead to the development of unique know-how in the production of chemical sensors and to the training of qualified specialists who will have understanding of the entire chain – from basic research to production and installation in practice.
Quality control of combustion processes
In addition to the development of the borescope itself, which will allow real-time visualisation of the flame and combustion parameters under extreme conditions, a very important part of the project will be the development and manufacture of a protective casing that shields the measuring system from the heat source. This is because it will be used in different types of kilns – cement, foundry and steel, and possibly in other plants that work with high temperature fire.
Development of thin layers
As part of the project, a team of experts will develop and test sensors for measuring the ionization degree of the plasma during the thin film coating process. This will allow researchers to suggest adjustments to the deposition conditions in order to increase the ionisation of the sputtered particles hitting the substrate. The resulting layer will thus be thinner, saving deposition time and material, and therefore overall production costs. The new specialised versions of coatings will be applicable in the areas of power reaming, deep drilling and tapping where the existing arc coatings are unsuitable due to unsatisfactory roughness and magnetron sputter coatings do not have the required performance.
"This sub-project covers highly topical issues that are in demand throughout society and in huge demand from industry. In the area of chemical sensor development and production, we are, moreover, coming up with a topic that Czech industry has worked with only minimally so far, helping to introduce a new field with high added value to the domestic economy. That is why collaboration between the academic and private sectors makes sense," said Tomáš Jetmar, General Manager of NCC for MATCA.
Fifteen academic and industrial partners are involved in the project. Its results will be applicable to a wide range of everyday activities – from nuclear and photovoltaic power plants to environmental care, indoor climate monitoring and healthcare. It will result in 13 deliverables – functional samples, utility models and proven technologies. The project will suitably complement the area of the AV21 Strategy (Breakthrough Technologies for the Future – Sensing, Digitisation, Artificial Intelligence and Quantum Technologies), in which the Division of Optics of the Institute of Physics is engaged.