DESCRIPTION OF THE EU-PROJECT CONTEXT

Since the end of 2019, the spread of COVID has deeply changed our lifestyle, resulting in historical events and decisions, such as the EU block of non-essential travel among countries (COMM (2020) 499), affecting the whole EU society economically and psychologically. However, as reported in the HERA target priorities, the persistence of the emergency status requires daily actions that tackle the spread of COVID.

In this economic, societal and clinical context, the project MIRIA aims to develop wide-range-antimicrobial nanocoatings to be used in hospitals and other environments where cross-contamination and contagion risk are significant issues.

In the wake of the covid outbreak, there has been significant concern about infection spread of pathogens (i.e., bacteria, fungi, virus, and specifically SARS-CoV-2) via high traffic surfaces (i.e., medical equipment). State-of-the-art and commercial product coating solutions targeting a range of mixed pathogens and different surfaces (e.g., glass, metal, textile) are unfortunately scant. MIRIA solutions aim to fill this void, impacting on EU health, both directly (by creating safe public environments) and indirectly (by reducing COVID spreading and decreasing ill-related work absences and psychological pathologies). A reduction of at least 5% work absence concerning the 2020 value (15M in EU) is expected.

MIRIA main challenging ambition is to develop nanocoatings with a 99.99% effectiveness against a wide range of pathogens, especially SARS-CoV-2. This will be based on a four pieces puzzle: the knowledge in anti-microbial materials, nanopowders, nanocoating and pilot plant conduction. These nanocoatings will be brought to pilot scale (TRL6) and, within 3 years after the end of the project, they are foreseen to enter the market (TRL9). The exploitation of MIRIA outputs deeply involves SMEs, and the dissemination plan will follow a spill-over strategy to involve public and private stakeholders. In this context, INSTM will perform durability tests over the developed and produced nano-coatings comprehensive of wear performance assessment and nanomechanical response testing.

EU-PROJECT DURATION

48 months

RESEARCH FELLOWSHIP ACTIVITIES TITLE

Nanomechanical and wear characterization of antibacterial coatings.

ANNUAL RESEARCH FELLOWSHIP ACTIVITIES DESCRIPTION

MIRIA’s project activities will be performed at Roma Tre university INSTM operative unit. The experimental investigations will include abrasive and adhesive wear testing on coated surfaces (UNI EN 1071-13 and UNI EN 1071-6), as well as scratch adhesion testing (UNI EN 1071-3) and nanoindentation (ISO 14577) to assess mechanical properties and durability of MIRIA’s developed nano-films. Alterations of the materials resulting from environmental, chemical, and mechanical solicitations will be measured: coating integrity, surface roughness, and changes in composition (CEA and INSTM) using AFM, electron, and confocal microscopies. Therefore, nanoindentation systems and advanced tribo-machines at STM group facility will be employed to perform nanoscratch, micro-scratch and ball-cratering/ball-on-disc tests in correlation with microscopy facilities to cross-correlate wear morphologies and failure modes.

Required professional

INSTM is seeking a young, motivated scientist or engineer to be the main responsible for those activities and support the team leader in the data analysis and reporting. The researcher will work within the Materials Science and Technology (STM) group, part of the Engineering Department of the University of Roma Tre, which the Ministry selected from among the 180 Winning Departments of Excellence in the selection for “Departments of Excellence 2018-2022” of MIUR for the area “08 – Civil Engineering and Architecture”. The group comprises four staff units (a full professor, an associate professor, two research fellows, and a specialized technician) that, in close cooperation with Ph.D. students and research fellow, are carrying out several national and European research projects. It boasts a wide range of state-of-the-art tools for microstructural, compositional and mechanical characterization that are integrated and complementary, on which methods and techniques for analyzing and manipulating original and innovative materials have been developed. Among these, it is worth mentioning electron beam microscopies (in scanning – SEM and in transmission – TEM -), ionic microscopy (FIB) and stylus microscopy (AFM), nanomechanical and surface energy characterization, ray diffraction X. Characteristics such as durability and operating behaviour can then be simulated thanks to other available resources, such as a newly developed tribometer developed and patented by the group itself. Therefore, the researcher will not only be able to take advantage of the group’s expertise in surface technologies but will also be able to improve its knowledge in the use of advanced equipment for correlative analysis (mechanical/morphological).