A research team of materials engineers and performance scientists at Swansea University has been awarded £1.8 million to develop new products - in areas from the motor industry to packaging and sport - that make use of micro and nano materials based on specialist inks. For more information see the IDTechEx report on Graphene, 2D Materials and Carbon Nanotubes.
One application already being developed is specialist clothing that will be worn by elite British athletes in training and at the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The researchers will be incorporating advanced materials such as graphene into flexible coatings which will be printed and embedded into bespoke garments to enhance the performance of elite athletes.
The purpose of the project is to serve as a pipeline for new ideas, testing to see which of them can work in practice and on a large scale, and then turning them into actual products.
The gap between initial concept and final product is known in manufacturing as the "valley of death" as so many good ideas simply fail to make it. The pipeline will help ensure more of them make it across the valley: off the drawing board and into production.
This project is unique in that it is driven by market requirements. As well as the wearable technology, identified by the English Institute of Sport (EIS), two other areas will be amongst the first to use the pipeline: SMART packaging, with the company Tectonic, and the car industry, with GTS Flexible Materials
The project is a collaboration between two teams in Swansea University's College of Engineering: the Welsh Centre for Printing and Coating (WCPC) led by Professor Tim Claypole and Professor David Gethin, and the Elite and Professional Sport (EPS) research group, namely Dr Neil Bezodis, Professor Liam Kilduff and Dr Camilla Knight.
The WCPC is pioneering ways of using printing with specialist inks as an advanced manufacturing process. Their expertise will be central to the project.
Professor Tim Claypole, Director of the Wales Centre for Printing and Coating, said: "The WCPC expertise in ink formulation and printing is enabling the creation of a range of advanced products for a wide range of applications that utilise innovative materials".
Sport, which is one of the areas the project covers, has been a test bed for technology before. For example, heart rate monitors and exercise bikes have now become mainstream.
EPS project lead Dr Neil Bezodis underlined the importance of links with partners within the overall project: "Collaborations between industrial partners which are driven by end users in elite sport are key to ensuring our research has a real impact".
Source and top image: Swansea University