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Funds for Innovation
October 29, 2010   
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Three young researchers have each won a scholarship of zl.30,000 in a program called Innodoktorant “Innovative Ph.D. Student” aiming to transfer innovation from science to industry.

Michał Budzik, a researcher at the Gdańsk University of Technology’s Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, has written a doctoral thesis in which he described his research into methods of joining construction materials with different chemical, physical and mechanical properties.

Budzik’s thesis specifically deals with fractures that occur in asymmetrical adhesive joints. Such joints are an increasingly popular method used to join materials, as they allow lighter structures and eliminate structural notches; they are also resistant to corrosion, the researcher says. Growing numbers of such joints are used in various structures in transportation, medicine, power engineering and the building industry.

“Apart from offering better durability, adhesive joints cause little or no extra strain on structures,” says Budzik. “That is a huge advantage over traditional methods, which, like welding, radically alter the joined materials.”

Adhesion is the only method that can bond two completely different materials such as aluminum and steel without exposing them to corrosion, Budzik says. The growing availability of new-generation glues that are durable and tough makes adhesive joints the most attractive method of joining hi-tech construction materials. Any joining attempt other than “gluing” would ruin these materials, Budzik says.

Cracks in bridges and buildings could be easily fixed with composite materials resistant to weather conditions, Budzik says, and adhesion is the only method available in the case of complicated ceramic insulation tiles used in space shuttles, for example. “These need to be attached to the fuselage somehow. Aircraft fuselages and frames as well as car bodies are made of advanced, weight-reducing materials to enhance their performance, and such structures too will need adhesion joints.”

Alongside his research in Gdańsk, Budzik is studying to obtain a Ph.D. degree in mechanical physics under Prof. Martin Shanahan at the University of Bordeaux in France.

Early damage detection

Paweł Malinowski from the Polish Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Fluid-Flow Machinery in Gdańsk is looking for ways to improve early damage detection in structural components.

When an airplane, helicopter, wind turbine or a pipeline breaks down, financial losses are inevitable and they are often accompanied by the loss of human life. Consequently, companies need appropriate technology to improve the safety of structures they design and build, Malinowski says.

“At an early stage of development, new technology requires considerable investment,” says Malinowski. “But it may quickly pay off because it prevents dangerous breakdowns and makes it possible to predict stoppages required for maintenance service.”

Malinowski’s research combines mechanics, electrical engineering and computer science. He aims to develop an effective method to determine the site of damage in components such as aircraft plating and wind turbine blades.

“My method employs functional materials such as piezoelectric transducers, which induce and receive elastic waves,” says Malinowski. “Such transducers are attached to structures and start emitting waves when their electrodes are connected to an electrical power supply. At the same time, the deformation of the transducers produces electric charges on their plates and thus turns them into wave receivers.”

According to Malinowski, the findings of his research should be of interest to the gas and oil industries as well as the transportation and power sectors, especially companies that deal with renewable energy and make use of wind turbines. Practical application of the research will show if the damage detection methods work in real life, Malinowski says.

Hi-tech laser device

Robert Barbucha from the Center for Plasma and Laser Engineering at the Institute of Fluid-Flow Machinery is working on an innovative laser device to produce miniature printed circuit boards. Such boards are part of most electric and electronic devices, but since electronic parts keep getting smaller, scientists have been seeking ways to ensure the best possible performance of printed boards on the microscale.

One of the most important stages in the production of printed circuit boards is when conductive pathways of copper are laminated onto the boards. In small devices like cell phones, such pathways need to occupy as little space as possible, says Barbucha.

“The traditional method, called photolithography, does not guarantee that, which explains why I have developed a new method and apparatus to produce miniature printed circuit boards,” says Barbucha. His research concerns laser projection of pathways onto printed circuit boards covered with a layer of photopolymer. The research involves the design, construction and testing of an innovative laser. Barbucha is working with the Tele and Radio Research Institute in Warsaw as part of the project.

Barbucha plans to produce miniature printed circuit boards on an industrial scale. To this end he has started working with a manufacturer in Gdańsk to produce a prototype of his apparatus.

Piotr Bartosz
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