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Information für die Wissenschaft Nr. 58 | 2. November 2010
DFG Priority Programme “Design and Generic Principles of Self-healing Materials” (SPP 1568)

The Senate of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) has announced the establishment of a new Priority Programme entitled “Design and Generic Princi-ples of Self-healing Materials”. The programme is designed to run for six years (2×3 years).

“Self-healing materials” are able to partially or completely heal mechanical damage inflicted on them (in particular crack formation) in situ and to such a degree that the original functionality is restored – not necessarily the outer or inner microstructure. These materials would greatly improve materials’ reliability and lifetime by reversing damage development once or even multiple times. Self-healing ability is not limited to one specific material class: it is applicable to concrete, to polymers (and their composites), to metals and ceramics. However, up to now there is no cross-disciplinary, concept-driven, coordinated approach to the design and understanding of self-healing materials.

The main objective is to elucidate fundamental cross-disciplinary, material-independent princi-ples and design strategies and to apply the knowledge gained to new approaches in the different material classes. The ultimate goal is to provide a new generation of adaptive high-performance materials that can be used for various applications in technology and medicine.

Fundamental scientific questions and challenges concern the influence of the hierarchical structural order on the damage process (localisation by hierarchical borders), damage detection and signal transmission by complex 3-dimensional structures (detection), local stimulation of reaction processes in crack planes (activation) and efficiency of the achievable damage regeneration. Methodical questions include the generation and registration of the material damage being a prerequisite for evaluating the achieved healing efficiency, the activation of the healing reaction by external energy (laser beam, inductive or resistive heating, ultrasonically induced friction), the modelling and simulation of healing reactions by thermodynamic, reaction mechanistic, and kinetic approaches as well as the development of suitable manufacturing processes.

The research programme will be devoted to three material classes (polymers and composites, ceramics and concrete, metals). The investigation of the basic principles for all classes and the application of the principles for synthesis/fabrication of self-healing materials will be in the centre of interest. The interdisciplinary integration of the different material classes occurs in three cross-sectional areas:

  • Investigation of fundamental principles:
    Chemical and physical processes will be investigated that lead to local crack healing without the subsequent intentional addition of additional substances. Such processes will include, e.g., chemical reactions (e.g., polymerisations, redox reactions, cross-linking reactions, but not limited to these reactions), phase transitions (e.g., martensitic transformation), flow and sinter processes as well as stress relaxation.
  • Material realisation (synthesis/fabrication and characterisation):
    The synthesis and fabrication of self-healing materials (based on the fundamental con-cepts) will be investigated. One challenge will be the utilisation of bio-inspired structural models. The combination of top-down approaches (melt and powder methods, generative methods) and bottom-up approaches (self-organisation, directed addition, spinodal segregation, eutectic solidification) seem to be exceptionally promising. Being an important target, investigations on optimising material properties will first aim at mechanical properties, the extension of the lifetime, and reliability under static and cyclic stress.
  • Research projects targeting requirements of potential applications:
    This part will be of particular interest only in the second funding period.

Each research proposal should address, if possible, more than one of these cross-sectional areas, and should typically involve collaboration between several groups. Initially, the main focus is on mechanical properties, but later on additional functional properties should also be targeted.

The approaches must consider materials which do not require the addition of healing agents after damage.

The following topics will not be covered by this Priority Programme:

  • Pure (empirical) optimisation studies of self-healing materials for a particular application.
  • Proposals that are exclusively directed toward adaptive surfaces (e.g., high temperature applications of metals, ceramics).
  • Studies of crack propagation.

Characterisation projects will only be accepted when coupled to a related project focussing on synthesis/fabrication aspects. Projects that are exclusively directed toward modelling/simulation without validation are not preferred.

Besides individual projects, joint proposals (Gemeinschaftsanträge) and bundled proposals (Paketanträge) are particularly welcome in order to obtain the required high degree of multidisciplinarity. Proposals for an initial three-year funding period should be prepared in English according to the guidelines for individual research grants (1.02e, available from the DFG website) and submitted on paper (one hard copy) and CD-ROM (including the proposal and all appendices as PDF files) not later than 14 January 2011.

A separate paragraph should explain the special contribution of the proposal to the generic, material-independent targets of the Priority Programme.

Submissions, marked as “SPP 1568”, should be addressed to Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, attn. Dr. Xenia Molodova, 53170 Bonn. A copy should be sent to the programme coordinator, Prof. Dr. Ulrich S. Schubert, Laboratory of Organic and Macromolecular Chemistry, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, Humboldtstr. 10, 07743 Jena. A colloquium and the review panel meeting are scheduled for March 2011. The first funding period is planned to start in July 2011.

Further Information

General information and guidelines for proposals, in particular the naming protocol for proposal documents on the CD-ROM, are available at:

For scientific enquiries concerning the scope of the programme, please contact the Priority Programme's coordi-nator:

  • Prof. Dr. Ulrich S. Schubert
    Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena
    Laboratory of Organic and Macromolecular Chemistry
    Humboldtstr. 10
    07743 Jena
    Phone +49 3641 948-201
    Fax +49 3641 948-202

For administrative enquiries please contact:

  • Dr. Xenia Molodova
    Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
    53170 Bonn
    Phone +49 228 885-2374