Wood K plus receives a grant for the COMET Module i³Sense

The Ministry of Climate Action and the Ministry of Digital and Economic Affairs are investing twelve million euros in six new COMET modules in the coming years. With this funding decision, the two ministries are following the recommendation of an international jury of experts. "Climate-friendly innovations are the best way for Austria to prepare for the future. With the COMET programme we have the optimal tool to support our companies in research and development and thus to develop new products and processes that offer solutions to the problems of today and tomorrow. In this way, we enable domestic companies to become more competitive overall and to continue to make progress at the top internationally," emphasised Climate Action Minister Leonore Gewessler in the context of the announcement of the funding decision.


"In our COMET centres and modules, the best minds from business and science join forces. With their expertise, they provide important impulses for the competitiveness of our companies. COMET is a successful model for 'research made in Austria' and makes a significant contribution to bringing innovative ideas from universities, research centres and companies into the economy and society as new products, applications and services," said Federal Minister for Digitisation and Economic Affairs Margarete Schramböck.


Through the funding from the COMET programme, the Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Climate Action initiate very important new research cooperations between science and industry. "A primary goal of the COMET modules is to enable high-risk research and to translate research results into concrete applications and products. The COMET modules are intended to establish forward-looking research topics and build up new fields of strength in order to strengthen Austria as a research location for future challenges," explain Henrietta Egerth and Klaus Pseiner, managing directors of the Austrian Research Promotion Agency FFG.


On the part of Wood K plus, the i³Sense application was successful as one of the six projects addressed and will start on 1 January 2022. The application is co-financed in equal parts by Carinthia, Lower Austria and Upper Austria.


Here is an excerpt from the application:


The aim of i³Sense is to unlock the full potential of sustainable composites in a wide range of applications and offer safe alternatives to traditional high carbon footprint systems with intelligent, integrated and impregnated cellulose based sensors.


Load-bearing wood and natural fibre-based composites are inherently sustainable, making this class of materials a natural choice for future high-performance structures if current limitations due to environmental factors such as moisture absorption can be overcome. In timber construction, this is currently only achieved by observing substantial safety coefficients and, sporadically, by means of external bulky sensors in critical areas. In the more delicate NFC, however, these sensors even more act as disruptive factors weakening the overall structure.


To solve this challenge, we will take a radically new approach that turns the sustainable materials themselves (wood, the reinforcing fibres and/or the matrix) into an imperceptible, embedded sensor system. Capable of measuring changes in humidity, mechanical stress and temperature in situ without adverse impact on structural integrity of the high-tech composites, our approach will allow us to close the gap between sustainability and performance.


The research goals are:


  • to understand how hygrothermal and mechanical stresses change the electrical properties of the poly­meric matrix or adhesive, the composite and the materials used,
  • to explore how these properties can be used (modified) and read out,
  • to use this knowledge to detect the changes in state in real time,
  • explore how the modification interacts with the matrix and alters the properties,
  • to monitor structural integrity over long periods of time.


The participation of leading companies from the timber construction, automotive or aerospace industries underlines the importance of the research topic, ensures the exploitation of the results and paves the way for natural-based materials in high-tech applications. The module thus strengthens the competence of Wood K plus at the interface of materials and the digital world, and thus expands the scientific fields of Wood K plus, enables new partnerships and creates a basis for future projects. All areas of Wood K plus are integrated in i³Sense, which is led by Arunjunai Raj Mahendran and supported by Claudia Pretschuh, Franziska Hesser and Martin Riegler.