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Materials Systems of the Future

The vision of the Cluster of Excellence Living, Adaptive and Energy-autonomous Materials Systems (livMatS) is to combine the best of two worlds – nature and technology. livMatS develops life-like materials systems inspired by nature. The systems will adapt autonomously to their environment, harvest clean energy from it, and be insensitive to damage or recover from it.

The purely technical, but behaviorally quasi-living materials systems that are being developed in livMatS meet people's demands for future-oriented environmental and energy technologies. Research into the acceptance and social relevance of these autonomous systems and their sustainability are thus important components of development.

To turn this vision into reality, livMatS has assembled a team composed of researchers from six faculties at the University of Freiburg:

Faculty of Engineering
Faculty of Chemistry and Pharmacy
Faculty of Mathematics and Physics
Faculty of Biology
Faculty of Economics and Behavioral Sciences
Faculty of Humanities

Two Research Centers at the University of Freiburg

Freiburg Center for Interactive Materials and Bioinspired Technologies (FIT)
Freiburg Materials Research Center (FMF)

Two Fraunhofer Institutes in Freiburg

Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE)
Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials (IWM)

Öko-Institute e.V. -  Institute for Applied Ecology

Key Principles

Energy harvested from the environment

In the livMatS context, energy has to be harvested from the immediate environment. To convert and store the required energy, energy harvesting functionalities must be an integral part of the materials systems to provide true autonomy. Internal control over energy distribution, and active adaption to external signals will require the installation of chemical, structural, and microsystem-based regulatory networks, which will allow for self-regulating properties and generate adaptability.

Self-improving through training

Ultimately, such materials systems may exhibit self-improvement, and capabilities for simple forms of “learning” and training. However, materials systems envisioned will allow a (manual) override via human intervention when properties other than those generated automatically are desired. Such an approach will far surpass current technological pathways to so-called “smart” materials and embedded systems. Our approach will also go well beyond biology. By using the strengths of synthetic and robust materials, applications can be envisioned in environments where biological systems would clearly fail such as extreme heat or dryness.

Longevity, robustness and resilience of the system

The compartmentalization, miniaturization and integration into complex assemblies allow for the introduction of redundancies into the systems, which in turn will enable the systems to survive (limited) damage without encountering a complete system failure. This combination of fault tolerance and self-protection/-repair will increase the longevity, robustness and resilience of the system and ultimately lead to systems with self-improving properties.

The progress of livMatS science and technology will thus offer novel systems that integrate well with the human environment, feed on clean ambient energy , and serve human needs. Consequently, an integral part of livMatS research will be to reflect on the challenges and implications of these developments for the environment and society in general.

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