Professor Urszula Stachewicz becomes laureate of prestigious ERC grant

AGH UST professor Urszula Stachewicz has become a laureate of the prestigious ERC Starting Grant of the European Research Council. The AGH UST scientist will conduct research into innovative insulation materials that will make it possible to reduce daily energy consumption. It is the first ERC grant awarded to an AGH UST scientist. 

The research project of professor Urszula Stachewicz, who works at the Faculty of Metals Engineering and Industrial Computer Science, is inspired by nature. It had been preceded by research on polar bear hair and penguin feathers, rich in precious keratin, which have a specific geometry ensuring unique thermal properties. The aim of the research project will be the development of a material that will copy the thermal properties known from nature. The material will be based on fibrous membranes efficiently carrying away or releasing heat – depending on the need. This, in consequence, will lead to the reduction of energy consumption. This type of solution can be used by the construction industry in the insulation of buildings, in electronic devices, or in wiring systems. 

The key to the production of composites is electrospinning, which enables designing innovative composites based on porous membranes. Polymer nanofibers that will be used to develop the material will consist of fibres that will be a million times smaller in comparison to a human hair. They will be able to change the efficiency of thermal energy management, making it possible to increase savings in everyday life. An important aspect of the new materials will be their biodegradability and recycling possibilities. It will enable the reduction of the environmental footprint in case of a lot of devices that we use on a daily basis. 

“Obtaining the ERC grant is for me a great distinction, and it gives me an opportunity to fulfil my scientific dreams. My research projects are often inspired by nature and solutions that have existed in the natural world for billions of years. I am very glad that the European Commission noticed a potential in this field of research, said Urszula Stachewicz, AGH UST professor. 

One of the previous projects of the scientist was obtaining water from fog, in which polymer nanofibers were also used. 

The ERC granted professor Urszula Stachewicz the amount of 1.7 million euros for a project that will last five years. The research will be participated in by 10 scientists, and work will commence at the beginning of 2021. Apart from the AGH UST professor, this year’s Polish laureates of the ERC grant are Dr Michał Pilipczuk and Dr Wojciech Czerwiński of the University of Warsaw. 

In this year’s edition of the competition, the European Research Council granted in total the amount of 677 million euros for 436 groundbreaking projects in 25 countries.