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Priority Programme "Design and Generic Principles of Self-healing Materials" (SPP 1568)

(PresseBox) (Bonn, ) The Senate of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) has announced the establishment of a new Priority Programme entitled "Design and Generic Principles of Self-healing Materials" (SPP 1568). The programme is designed to run for six years; the present call invites proposals for the second three-year funding period.

"Self-healing materials" are able to partially or completely heal damage inflicted on them (in particular crack formation) in situ and to such a degree that the original functionality is restored - not necessarily the outer or inner microstructure. The healed functionalities range from mechanical properties to aesthetics, barrier function, conductivity, optical properties etc. These materials would greatly improve materials' reliability and lifetime by reversing damage development once or even multiple times. Self-healing ability is not limited to one specific material class: it is applicable to concrete, to polymers (and their composites), to metals and ceramics.

The main objective of this Priority Programme is (1) to elucidate fundamental cross-disciplinary, material-independent principles and design strategies and (2) to apply the knowledge gained to new approaches in the different material classes. The ultimate goal is to provide a new generation of adaptive high-performance materials that can be used for various applications in technology and medicine. Fundamental scientific questions and challenges concern (i) the influence of the hierarchical structural order on the damage process (localisation by hierarchical borders), (ii) damage detection and signal transmission resulting in autonomic self-healing, (iii) local stimulation of healing processes (precise local activation), (iv) determination of efficiency of the achievable damage regeneration and (v) self-healing of functional materials (i.e. functionalities beside mechanical properties).

The research programme will be devoted to three material classes (polymers & composites, ceramics & concrete & asphalt, metals). The investigation of the basic principles for all classes and the application of the principles for synthesis/fabrication of self-healing materials will be in the centre of interest. The interdisciplinary integration of the different material classes occurs in three cross-sectional areas:

- Investigation of fundamental principles Chemical and physical processes will be investigated that lead to local healing without the subsequent intentional addition of additional substances. Such processes will include, e.g. chemical reactions (e.g. polymerisations, redox reactions, cross-linking reactions, but not limited to these reactions), phase transitions (e.g. martensitic transformation), flow and sinter processes as well as stress relaxation.

- Material realisation (synthesis/fabrication and characterisation)
The synthesis and fabrication of self-healing materials (based on the fundamental concepts) will be investigated. One challenge will be the utilisation of bio-inspired structural models for the design of synthetic materials. Being an important target, investigations on optimising material properties will aim at specific properties (e.g. mechanical properties, conductivity, optical properties) of the materials, the extension of the lifetime, and reliability under static and cyclic stress (i.e. mechanical stress) as well as other harmful environmental conditions.

- Research projects targeting requirements of potential applications This part is of particular interest in this second funding period. The basic common concepts will be used to utilise the gained knowledge to design new self-healing materials for a potential application. The healing processes will be investigated considering the demands and constraints of a potential application.

Each research proposal should address, if possible, more than one of these cross-sectional areas, and should typically involve collaboration between several groups. Initially, the main focus is on mechanical properties, but later on additional functional properties should also be targeted.

The approaches must consider materials which do not require the addition of healing agents after damage.

The following topics will not be covered by this Priority Programme:

- Pure (empirical) optimisation studies of self-healing materials for a particular application.
- Proposals that are exclusively directed toward adaptive surfaces (e.g. high temperature applications of metals, ceramics).
- Studies of crack propagation.

Characterisation projects will only be accepted when coupled to a related project focussing on synthesis/fabrication aspects. Projects that are exclusively directed toward modelling/simulation without validation are not preferred.

Besides individual projects, joint proposals (Gemeinschaftsanträge) are particularly welcome in order to obtain the required high degree of multidisciplinarity.

A separate paragraph should explain the special contribution of the proposal to the generic, material-independent targets of the Priority Programme.

Proposals for the second three-year funding period can be submitted by 6 January 2014 through the DFG's electronic proposal processing system elan. In the elan system please select "SPP 1568" when submitting your proposal. All proposals must be written in English. Proposal guidelines and preparation instructions are outlined in DFG forms 54.01en and 50.05en, part B. Proposals by one applicant must not exceed 20 pages. Joint proposals may comprise five additional pages for each additional applicant.

A colloquium and review panel meeting are planned for March 2014.

Further information

The DFG's electronic proposal processing system elan with proposal instructions and guidelines can be found at:

Proposal guidelines and preparation instructions are outlined in DFG forms 54.01en and 50.05en, part B, which can be found on the DFG's website at: