Materials and natural resources

Top level research and societal impact merge in this focus area. Innovative materials and exploitation of natural resources have always been and will always be fundamental factors for human society.

In the Faculty of Science the basic research on molecular and nanostructures is of top level comprising both fabrication and structural characterization of these materials. By controlling the structure new functional materials are being developed, for example intelligent materials that sense and response to changes in their environment. The goal is a through understanding and control of the interrelationships “fabrication ↔ structure and composition ↔ properties ↔ functionality”.

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Research methods extend from quantum level computational basic research to final applications. Besides the facilities at the own campus, the research exploits large international facilities of European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), and European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom).

Among molecular materials the main focus is devoted to synthetic polymers and among biomolecules to natural polymers, but also other biomolecules are being exploited in increasing extent. In hybrid materials different material types like organic polymers and inorganic compounds are combined on molecular level. The most studied nanostructured materials are thin films, especially those made with atomic layer deposition (ALD), but recently nanofibers and other one-dimensional structures have gained increasing interest.

The rapid growth of the world population and simultaneous increase of living standard are based on exploitation of natural resources obtained from the Earth’s crust: surface and ground waters, energy resources, as well as minerals and rock materials. New methods are being sought to find, utilize, and recycle resources from sediments and bedrock. Sustainable growth is strongly present in the themes of this focus area and aims to meet society’s needs without compromising future generations. For the production of materials and energy these means those solutions that assure preservation of the environment and the continued sufficiency of natural resources.

The research looks for new ways to exploit renewable resources as raw material for materials, medicine and other chemical products as well as for energy production. Research on materials for sustainable growth comprises besides biomaterials also materials made with environmentally friendly processes, replacement of rare elements with more common ones, recyclable materials and solutions that either decrease material consumption or extend materials lifetime. Energy technology materials research focuses on exploitation of renewable energy sources (fusion reactors, solar cells, fuels cells). The work covers also materials that improve the safety of traditional nuclear power sources, like ion exchange materials for capture of radioactive nuclides.

The research projects involve two national Centres of Excellence “Computational Molecular Science” and “Functional materials" and a professor funded by ”Distinguished Professor Programme (FiDiPro)”.