Materials Week 2024 Conference – RELIANCE results presented by the Defence Institute for Biomedical Sciences, Italy

The 1st International Conference “Materials Week 2024” took place on June 17th-21rst 2024 at the “Crowne Plaza Hotel” Limassol, Cyprus. It was an international conference on innovative and sustainable materials, a nexus of nanotechnology, digital Transformation and collaborative approaches. The main goal is to bring together the various small and large Research and Innovation (R&I) communities, driving advances in materials innovation across different value chains and industrial markets. The conference provides a cross-disciplinary meeting venue for communication and collaboration over and beyond traditional community boundaries. The aim of the meeting is to combine insights, theories and methods from different fields to address complex issues. In addition, the meeting emphasizes the fluidity of disciplinary boundaries and encourages the free flow of ideas and methods between different fields.

The recent international conference on innovative materials represented a significant advancement in the field of material science and technology. The event brought together experts, researchers, and industry leaders from all over the world to discuss the latest progress and future trends in sustainable materials, nanotechnology and digital transformation. The conference highlighted the importance of sustainability in material development, emphasizing the importance of environmentally friendly and high-performing materials.

Nanotechnology was a central theme. This cutting-edge field offers the potential to revolutionize material properties, providing unprecedented levels of strength, flexibility and conductivity. Discussions centered around the application of nanomaterials in various sectors, such as healthcare and aerospace, to enhance product performance and durability.

Digital transformation’s role in material science was also explored extensively. The integration of digital technologies in material development processes can enhance efficiency, predictive modeling of performance, and collaboration across disciplines and borders. Collaboration was a recurring theme throughout the conference, with many speakers advocating for a multidisciplinary approach to material innovation. By merging knowledge from different fields, researchers can accelerate the development of new materials and find holistic solutions to complex problems.

The conference concluded with a call to action for continued collaboration and knowledge exchange. The establishment of international partnerships and networks was encouraged to foster innovation and drive progress in creating materials that will shape a sustainable and technologically advanced future.

The insights and discussions from this conference have set the stage for a new era of material science, characterized by innovation, sustainability, and collaboration. Moving forward, the integration of these elements will be crucial for developing materials that meet the demands of our evolving world.

During the Conference, a joint meeting of Innovation and Collaboration took place among five sister projects: RELIANCE, NOVA, STOP, SUSAAN and NANOBLOC – fostering an environment of mutual growth and discovery though the exchanged insights and experiences. The gathering became a platform for discussions on common challenges, exploring synergies and brainstorming for future cooperative endeavors. It provided an opportunity for each participant to bring their unique perspectives to the table, contributing to a collective pool of knowledge that could drive their projects to new heights.

Such gatherings are crucial in today’s fast-paced world, where interdisciplinary approaches and Collaborative efforts can lead to breakthroughs that no single entity could achieve alone. By collaborating, RELIANCE, NOVA, STOP, SUSAAN and NANOBLOC enhance their individual projects and at the same time contribute to the broader goal of advancing their respective fields.

The day was filled with engaging conversations, interactive sessions and workshops allowing participants to delve deeper into specific areas of interest. The exchange of ideas extended beyond present projects to potential future collaborations that could reshape the landscape of antimicrobial nanocoating innovation.

Undoubtedly, the spirit of cooperation during this joint meeting influenced the following conference days, inspiring attendees with the demonstrated power of unity in diversity. The bar was set high, making it exciting to see what new developments unfold as these organizations continue to interact and learn from each another.

The main topics the conference tackled for the rest of the week were as follows:

  • Market Needs, Challenges & Opportunities for Materials R&I
  • Digital Innovation – Catalyzing the Green & Digital Transition for Innovative Advanced
  • Materials and Products
  • Digital Transformation – Computational Tools & Platforms for Materials R&I
  • Acceleration
  • Digital Transformation – Towards a common Materials’ Data Ecosystem
  • Frameworks & Methodologies for Materials Safety & Sustainability
  • Sustainability & Circularity driven by Advanced Materials
  • Materials Innovation & collaborative Approaches for Resilience
  • Infrastructure & Methods Requirements for Materials Innovation

RELIANCE partners from the Defence Institute for Biomedical Sciences (ISBD) of Italy attended the conference and reported on results obtained within the project through the presentation of two scientific posters.

New antimicrobial surfaces based on silica mesoporous nanoparticles functionalized with bioactive compounds

These nanoparticles (SMIN), containing metallic copper (Cu) within their structure, are modified with the addition of active compounds of biological origin. These compounds include essential oils (EO) and antimicrobial peptides (AMP), synergistically enhanced with Cu to improve the overall antibacterial and antiviral efficiency of the materials. The functionalization of EOs into the porous substrate enables controlled release of the bioactive compound, regulated by variations in pH or temperature. Additionally, AMPs and Cu, known for well-documented antimicrobial properties, ensure long-term duration of the action. Upon contact with bacteria, Cu ions are released, interfering with various cellular processes essential for microbial survival, including cellular metabolism and DNA synthesis. This synergic action results in growth inhibition or bacterial death. Regarding the viruses, Cu ion binding and cross-linking between the genome strands lead to the damage of viral genomes. Moreover, Cu toxicity from generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) represents another mechanism for destroying viruses. Therefore, the effective viral inactivation occurs through the combined action of Cu ion attack and ROS generation.

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Paper-based electrochemical sensor for the detection of essential oils and SARS-COV-2 virus

These biosensors are capable of selectively detecting target analytes in different fields, including biomedical, environmental, agrifood and defence. The ability to detect analytes of different natures, such as organic molecules or biomolecules, makes these sensors extremely versatile and useful in a variety of contexts, from medical to environmental, to food industry and food safety. Colleagues from UNITOV and ISBD have developed an electrochemical paper-based device for the detection of essential oils (thymol, eugenol and carvacrol), by adding few μL of solution onto the electrode preliminary modified with carbon black, as well as by sampling the target analyte on the surface and in the aerosol phase. To assess the efficacy of surfaces treated with antimicrobial agents, as part of the RELIANCE project objectives, it is crucial to monitor the proliferation of pathogenic bacteria and viruses. In pursuit of this in an eco-friendly manner, a paper-based origami immunosensor to reveal Spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 has been designed.

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The Advancing Antimicrobial Nanocoating Technologies Community Day was held as a key event during the Materials Week 2024 conference in Cyprus, from 17 to 21 June 2024. It was organized by the Horizon Europe projects NOVA, RELIANCE, STOP, SUSAAN and NANOBLOC, as a thriving networking opportunity, tailored to a diverse interdisciplinary audience while aiming to bridge communities, from scientists to industry leaders, in their collective fight against the transmission of disease through surfaces.

More than 30 people joined the event in person at the beachfront Crowne Plaza hotel in Limassol, eager to hear the latest insights from the community working on groundbreaking nanocoating innovations. The attendees were honored to have as opening keynote speaker Prof. Rui Reis, University of Minho in Braga and Guimarães, founding Director of the 3B’s Research Group, part of the Research Institute on Biomaterials, Biodegradables and Biomimetics of the university. In his engaging talk on “Tissue engineering and antimicrobial strategies stemming from natural sources and biomimetic materials”, he highlighted the significance of advanced research approaches to combating the growing peril of antimicrobial resistance.

The first morning session, moderated by SUSAAN’s Fotis Katsaros, Research Director at the National Center for Scientific Research “Demokritos”, unraveled the complexities of the next generation of antimicrobial nanomaterials and showcased the main innovation materials appealed to in each of the sister projects through an overview of the inorganic and biobased nanocoatings towards industrial and medical applications.

A specialized session designed for materials scientists interested in microbiology, microbial resistance and antimicrobial mechanisms delved deep into the critical challenges posed by microbial resistance. The presentation of Prof. Izabela Radecka, University of Wolverhampton walked participants though the multifaceted interactions between pathogens and antimicrobial surfaces, examined the escalating threat of resistance and addressed the hurdles in testing antimicrobial efficacy. Microbiological knowledge was flawlessly transferred to the field of materials science, fostering interdisciplinary understanding and innovation.

The topic of harmonizing antimicrobial efficacy with environmental integrity and health took the floor in the afternoon. The conversation encompassed the intricate interplay between antimicrobial action and its implications for living organisms and ecosystems, starting with an overview of the Safe and Sustainability by Design concept in the EU and further highlighting life cycle and social impact assessments through the lens of SUSAAN, RELIANCE, NOVA and NANOBLOC projects. Special emphasis was placed on the current regulatory frameworks that govern the deployment of these newly developed innovative materials and the challenges to commercialization stemming from the results heterogeneity from lab to pilot to industrial scale. The discussion derived a central conclusion that most regulations do not yet account for the technology used to produce the novel nanomaterials.

                                                                     Giovanni Maria Condina, Regulatory Expert, Intertek

The absence of clear guidelines and comprehensive regulatory frameworks for complex antimicrobial nanomaterials could pose significant impediments to the go-to-market pathway of novel biocidal products, leading to potentially lowering the innovative approaches applied in the field.

The Community Day ended with industry experts outlining industrialization requirements, while underscoring the importance of a unified approach to validating antimicrobial performance under specific use conditions. During the coffee breaks, participants enjoyed an abundance of information on the works within each of the projects, presented in a session of 14 impressive posters.    

The sister projects present and involved in the organization of the Community Day at Materials Week 2024 Conference are committed to a common goal:

●          Synergy Creation: to cultivate a collaborative ecosystem among projects, industries and scientific bodies working on antimicrobial coatings

●          Networking & Alignment: to strengthen connections and harmonize objectives within the antimicrobial coating community

●          Knowledge Sharing: to share lessons learned and promote smarter, more effective future endeavors while establishing a shared space for disseminating research, findings and upcoming events.

●          Awareness & Dialogue: to enhance mutual understanding and foster open discussions on community challenges.

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TEKNIKER presenting RELIANCE results at the European Polymer Conference 2024 on Polymer Brushes

The international European Polymer Conference 2024 took place at the University Residential Center of Bertinoro, Italy from 26 to 30th of May 2024. Organized by the European Polymer Federation (EPF) in collaboration with the Italian Association of Macromolecular Science and Technology (AIM), this year’s edition went under the theme of “Polymer Brushes”.

The development of surfaces with well-engineered properties is a significant challenge for chemists and physicists. In this context, polymer brushes, which consist of thin organic layers of polymers tethered by one end to a substrate, represent an extremely versatile tool in surface engineering. The impressive progress in precision polymerization methods, organic reactions and supramolecular strategies provide for achieving excellent control over the composition, architecture and length of tethered polymer chains, leading to an unprecedented variety of polymer brush structures.

EUPOC 2024 offered a great platform for discussing the main challenges this research field faces by bringing together worldwide scientists and students working on different aspects of polymer brushes (PB):

  • Synthesis and processing of Polymer Brushes
  • Advanced characterization of PB
  • PB theory
  • Modeling of PB Properties
  • Bioinspired PB
  • Responsive PB
  • Cutting-edge applications of PB

Before an audience comprising mostly researchers like PhD students, postdoctoral and permanent scholars and professors as well as industry professionals committed to providing adapted responses to the new requirements, Maialen Argaiz from TEKNIKER presented an oral lecture titled “Smart leaching of essential oils from mesoporous silica nanoparticles”. It demonstrated the stimuli-responsive behaviour of polymer brushes attached into silica nanoparticles – a topic which is in the core of RELIANCE project.

The conference program comprised also lectures given by professors who summarized the latest polymer brushes updates and oral presentations delivered by researchers who updated the attendees with the most recent advances in the field of polymer brushes.

An exciting two days organized into two morning and afternoon conference sessions, featuring 30-minute plenary lecture and 20-minute oral communications, along with a separate poster session. The atmosphere was one of innovation and collaboration among a heterogeneous community of scientists from all over the world.


RELIANCE partners meet in Athens for their 7th management meeting

Warm and sunny Greece welcomed RELIANCE consortium from 5 to 6 June to discuss project’s work progress, challenges and next tasks. The event hosted by the University of Patras marked the middle of the project and was held in a hybrid mode in the modern industrial setting of T16 Boutique Office in Athens.

SCALABILITY – the key word of the meeting

RELIANCE has entered its result prolific phase where most of the lab work on the synthesis of the mesoporous silica nanoparticles has been completed and we have started making steps towards scaling up, nanoparticle synthesis process optimization and functionalization of the nanoparticles with copper. The coming months will be challenging as for scaling up, the project researchers will study the behavior of different types of polymers in terms of their response to temperature and pH changes by a smart release of the loaded essential oils. The surface modification with antimicrobial peptides (AMP) from chicken feathers and upscaling activities are also expected to be exciting due to the variability in the results when it comes to bacteria and viruses. The optimization of the scaling up processes is led by the objectives of safety, sustainability, yield, cost and of course, the key objective – bioactivity.

The upscaling of coating formulation synthesis continues vigorously as well as the development of hybrid sol gel inorganic coating for glass or stainless-steel surfaces. First results with samples will soon be tested by Arcelik on home appliances, to include assessment of the aesthetic requirements which must be met along with a preserved repellency. Some samples of coating deposition by PU digital printing were brought by Centexbel who have already achieved the desired scaling up of the coating formulation preparation and move on with performing tests with antimicrobial additives.

Promising findings were shared by partners regarding the nanotoxicity and ecotoxicity studies performed on lung cells and with algae and microorganisms found in nature, respectively. We also briefly touched upon the forthcoming regulatory evaluation in the context of regulatory perspectives of the newly developed within RELIANCE biocidal additive and regulatory roadmap per sectors and application.

Lastly, the consortium made some serious steps towards finalizing the initial exploitation plan for RELIANCE results and dedicated energy in discussing follow on dissemination and synergy activities with sister projects.

The hard-working days were rewarded with an enlightening tour of the Acropolis Museum organized by our gracious host. For about two hours, we got lost in the lands of ancient Greece and Greek Gods, travelling through time, hearing lots of interesting myths and legends, and seeing some cool and preserved artefacts. We ended the experience with a social dinner, immersing into a gourmet culinary experience and lively talks, overlooking the magnificent Acropolis, sinking in the dim light of the sunset.  


RELIANCE partner Centexbel presenting the project at Polymers 2024, Athens

Polymers 2024 Conference was co-organized by the MDPI open access journal Polymers, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and BIOMAC project, and Exelisis Co. from May 28 to 31, 2024 at the prestigious War Museum in Athens, Greece. This year’s motto of the event “Polymers for a Safe and Sustainable Future” reflects the research efforts of the polymer scientists to transition to producing environmentally friendly, safe, and non-toxic polymers that could be fully recycled or are completely degradable shortly after their use.

RELIANCE project was presented with an oral presentation by David De Smet, a researcher in Textile Functionalization and Surface Modification in Centexbel. The title of his presentation was ‘A pathway to green polyurethanes for textiles’, showcasing the results of the wash resistant biobased PU coating during the session dedicated to “Biobased and Biodegradable Polymers – Green Monomer Synthesis By Design”.

“Polymers 2024” is an international conference covering the latest progress and innovations in the fields of polymers for the production of new materials and additives for a safe and sustainable world. The latest findings in the scientific field of polymers, with a particular emphasis on the synthesis of safe polymers with unique properties for human health and environmental sustainability and green polymer chemistry were in the focus of the discussions and conference sessions.

Find out more about the conference here.


Synergy talks: empowering collaborations with MIRIA & NANOBLOC projects

The spring blossoms in May, flourishing in possibilities for RELIANCE synergy activities as well. As an important tool to broaden the impact of collaborative EU projects, they remain key enablers for knowledge exchange and capacity-building, fostering opportunities for enlarging their reach.

RELIANCE and sister project MIRIA recently held a dedicated meeting to discuss more closely potential cooperation. MIRIA focuses on developing a wide range of antimicrobial nanocoatings for use in hospitals and other settings where cross-contamination and contagion risks are significantly high. The coatings they develop will be validated in a semi-real environment of an operating theater, very closely resembling the ones in hospitals. In addition to the differences in the coating deposition techniques applied in the projects, MIRIA’s coatings are primarily based on the use of nanopowders, with graphene being in the limelight. Besides having Millidyne as a common partner, another point of convergence relies on the employment of sol-gel coating formulations on various substrates, such as textiles, polymers, glass, and metals, while using same antiviral material like the Influenza virus and SARS-CoV-2.

Some actions deliberated upon by the projects’ teams were joint presentations in workshops and webinars, working together in the area of socio-economic impact analysis of the innovative coatings, testing and validation of these new technologies, comparing the antiviral and antimicrobial aspects and the efficiency of the different coatings.

Just few days earlier, RELIANCE and NANOBLOC coordination and Communication-Dissemination teams conducted a productive introductory discussion to explore the potential cooperation. Both projects focus on designing and developing high-performance, sustainable nanocoatings with enhanced antimicrobial, antiviral, and antifungal properties for various industrial applications. The teams discussed the differences in their coating deposition technologies too.

They identified high potential for collaborating, such as producing dissemination materials that highlight the variations in antimicrobial nanocoatings techniques and their impact on aging, durability, ecotoxicity, and microbial response efficiency. Another collaborative activity could involve publishing of co-authored recommendations for new standards in antimicrobial coatings characterization, tailored to specific applications.

By combining efforts, RELIANCE, MIRIA, and NANOBLOC can jointly explore diverse possibilities, enhancing the projects’ impact and working together to promote safer and healthier surfaces through innovative nanocoating technologies in the EU.

Stay tuned for more updates on our collaborative journey!


RELIANCE team from the University of Rome Tor Vergata presented 2 posters at the 5th CBRNE Research and Innovation Conference

The 5th edition of the International Conference “CBRNE Research and Innovation” was held at the “Palais de la Musique et des Congrès” in Strasbourg, France, March 19- 21, 2024. The event focused on addressing challenges related to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive materials and agents (CBRNE).

The conference covered various aspects including detection, identification, protection, decontamination, medical countermeasures, and risks and crisis management. Attendees, among whom researchers, responders and industry professionals, gathered to discuss and provide adapted responses to these critical challenges. The conference featured scientific updates, responders’ feedback, workshops, and demonstrations of innovative materials and technologies. Both civilian and military personnel contributed to an atmosphere of innovation and collaboration.

During the poster sessions, RELIANCE was showcased with 2 presentations from the University of Rome tor Vergata. Elisa Recchia presented a poster titled “Essential Oils as Potential Antimicrobial Agents for Biological Threats”. This topic was part of RELIANCE project activities, focused on the design and development of smart response self-disinfectant antimicrobial nanocoatings based on a new range of smart antimicrobial nanoparticles modified with bio-based bioactive compounds – antimicrobial peptides and essential oils.

Luca Fiore also presented a poster, titled: “Paper-based device for monitoring the effectiveness of environmentally friendly antimicrobial coating”, which demonstrated the ability to detect essential oils on the surface using a paper-based device, with the advantage of simplicity, sustainability, and providing broad and promising applications for detection of these compounds.

The conference provided a platform for sharing insights, fostering collaboration, and advancing research in the field of CBRNE agents.


Advancing Antimicrobial Nanocoating Technologies Community Day

Advancing Antimicrobial Nanocoating Technologies Community Day is a key event during the MaterialsWeek 2024!  Organized by the Horizon Europe projects  NOVA, RELIANCE, STOP, and SUSAAN, it is dedicated to the advancement of antimicrobial coating technologies.  An excellent networking opportunity, aiming to bridge diverse scientific communities, from scientists to industry leaders, in our collective fight against the transmission of disease through surfaces.

Join us on June 17th in Limassol, Cyprus as we explore the latest in antimicrobial coating technologies, fostering a safer future!

Conference Programme

Conference Registration


The School of Engineering and Architecture participated in the MPG Academy Workshop on Functional Coatings

RELIANCE project partners from The School of Engineering and Architecture (HEIA-FR) participated in the MPG Academy Workshop on Functional Coatings, organized by Molecular Plasma Group in Leuven, Belgium, on February 22 and 23, 2024.

Several leading-edge researchers presented their findings in an exciting program, in which the presenters shared their insights and expertise on utilizing Molecular Plasma Group’s cutting-edge plasma technology in their research endeavors. The presentations provided valuable information and served as a source of knowledge and inspiration for all attendees.

Among the participants representing universities, Research, and Technology Organizations (RTOs) who got actively involved in thought-provoking discussions and enthusiastic engagement transformed this event into a vibrant opportunity for collaboration and knowledge exchange.

The attendees’ expertise and valuable contributions played a pivotal role in making this workshop an exceptional success, with an impressive turnout of approximately 50 participants and an engaging lineup of 13 high-quality presentations.

The program included the following presentations:

  • Plenary lecture – Michael R. Wertheimer, Polytechnique Montreal: Industrialized Plasma Processing: A Personal Perspective
  • Fernando Alba Elias, Universidad de la Rioja: Applications of atmospheric cold plasma in the Food and Medical industry.
  • Roberto Quintana, LIST: Atmospheric plasma deposition processes engineering for functional coatings.
  • Navid Mostofi Sarkari, KUL-MTM: Application of MPG Aerosol-assisted atmospheric pressure plasma polymerization technology for developing ice phobic surfaces.
  • Tijs Dekoster, IMEC: Aerosol assisted plasma deposition from a physicochemical point of view.
  • Stijn Van Vrekhem, Centexbel: Plasma technology for the textile and plastics industry.
  • Guillaume Nonglaton, CEA-LETI: Advancing Micro and Nanotechnologies for Healthcare: CEA-Leti’s Cutting-Edge Surface Functionalization Platform.  
  • Camilo Rendon Piedrahita, LIST: Superhydrophobic coatings deposited using atmospheric pressure plasma.
  • Arunjunai Raj Mahendran, Wood Kplus: Enhancing the Properties of sustainable materials through Plasma Deposition: Development and Applications.
  • Lieze Dankers, KUL-MeBioS: Carboxylic acid linker-layer created with atmospheric cold plasma technology for standardized and improved biomolecule immobilization on polymer surfaces.
  • Elena Contreras Garcia, CTCR: Adhesion improvement of footwear through plasma technology.
  • Hatice Ferda Özgüzar, KUL-MTM: Aerosol-assisted atmospheric pressure plasma polymerization to create thiol-rich coatings on titanium implants using 3-(mercaptopropyl) trimethoxysilane.
  • Dirk Vangeneugden, VITO: Faster battery charging thanks to plasma discharge.

We are united in the goal of breaking new ground in the realm of functional coatings, paving the way for state-of-the-art innovations that transcend specific industries.

More moments of exchange during the workshop below.


RELIANCE partners joined the IAM4EU online info session on the proposed EU Partnership under Horizon Europe

RELIANCE project partners were excited to attend the info session on the proposed EU partnership under Horizon Europe programme “Innovative Advanced Materials for Europe” (IAM4EU)

Briefly, the agenda was focused on familiarization with the newly proposed public-private partnership’s ambition, its suggested implementation and first outline of the Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA), based on the input from all relevant stakeholders’ communities.

The session defined advanced materials as intentionally designed materials possessing new or enhanced properties and targeted structural features to achieve specific or improved functional performance. In the context of policy making, they are seen as key enablers and innovator drivers for the Green Deal and Digital Transition due to an increasing customer demand for circular, safe and sustainable products.

The partnership ambition was framed within strengthening the EU’s resilience and strategic autonomy through accelerating advanced materials research and technology development, scaling up their innovation and manufacturing capacity as well as stepping up their industrial uptake.

The meeting evolved with defining a common vision for relevant stakeholders in the field, namely, to ensure EU industrial leadership for advanced materials through mobilising R&I investments at all levels and supporting innovative EU companies to improve their competitiveness. It further elaborated on 5 pillar actions outlined in the draft strategy: European R&I, Lab to Fab, Capital Investment and Finance, Production and Use, and Governance.

Lastly, the attendees were introduced to the guiding principles of IAM4EU partnership:

  • Cover all the segments of the materials value chain, as well as technologies and infrastructures (making use of, supporting and/or developing) enabling an accelerated design, development and uptake of IAMs.
  • Support the full IAMs innovation cycle (from basic research to innovation uptake)
  • Recognize the key enabling role of all types of IAMs.
  • As a co-programmed partnership with industry, to ensure that research investments meet industrial needs and boost uptake into marketable products.