A new Mapping Study by the EU has highlighted how the future of public health and the environment will be based on Safe and Sustainable-by-Design (SSbD), a holistic approach that will integrate the safety, circularity, energy efficiency and functionality of materials, products, and processes throughout their lifecycle (Figure 1).

Figure 1. ‘Safe and Sustainable-by-design’ (SSbD) is a new approach offering a step-change in delivering sustainable design solutions for EMI shielding

The introduction of the SSbD approach is relevant to the shielding of electromagnetic interference (EMI), particularly as it relates to the mobility market. Vehicles are undergoing two interrelated revolutions: the rise of the electric vehicle and an increase in autonomous functionality. Fully electric vehicles will inevitably include a lot of power electronics, while the safety of the vehicle will rely increasingly on sensors, actuators, wireless communications, and programmable electronics. The problem is that power electronics are a source of electromagnetic interference, while the sensors, actuators, wireless communications, and programmable electronics are all becoming increasingly sensitive to this EMI.

Shielding is the primary method to achieve EM protection and compatibility. It uses materials to protect sensitive devices from disruption, which means these EM shields inevitably impact on the weight, volume, and the performance of a vehicle. The design of the shield should minimise the discontinuities and seal the enclosures to ensure a homogeneous, conductive surface. New conductive plastics, foams, rubbers, and metalized surfaces are being developed. However, we do not yet have the indicators to quantitatively assess the performance of an EM shielding product, nor to design it first-time-right.

Europe’s EMI risk-management approach has become European law. This paradigm shift is being supported by the European Commission through several MSCA ITNs [PETER, ETERNITY, SAS, AutoBARGE], all coordinated by the Beneficiaries of PARASOL, who see the far-reaching consequences of the new SSbD approach. However, many companies are struggling. There is a lack of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), a lack of synergy across the lifecycle of EMI-shielding solutions and no clearly prescribed assessment methodology in place. Small and medium-sized enterprises are often unable to cope with such changes.

An interdisciplinary Safe and Sustainable-by-design (SSbD) approach is required. We must bring together expertise from four key areas: electromagnetic compatibility (EMC), materials engineering, system-safety engineering, and sustainability management. For SSbD to be managed through the design lifecycle, this systems-thinking process must result in new EMI-shielding solutions that respect the specifics of the product. The interdisciplinarity expertise required to achieve this is inherent to the PARASOL consortium.

The future of EM shielding solutions is at crossroads. The direction that we choose will impact directly on Europe’s ambition to play a major role in the safety-critical market for vehicles. The reliability and safety of the electronic equipment in these vehicles must be ensured, while at the same time sustainability must become fully integrated into the design process.

PARASOL is about introducing the SSbD approach to the design of shielding in vehicles. This approach is both necessary and mandatory.

The key objectives of PARASOL are:

  • Scientific: to develop solutions that include the SSbD approach in the design of safety-critical electronic equipment for mobility.
  • Training: to train a group of young European engineers to take up leading positions in the field of electronics for mobility.
  • Industry-academia network: to set up international links, involving people and technology, between leading European universities and industries across all sectors in the market for mobility technology.
  • Society: to enable safe, reliable, and sustainable mobility for all.

PARASOL is built on the two backbone principles. Firstly, it must address the SSbD approach for the complete lifecycle of shielding solutions and, secondly, be in line with the trends of the mobility-technology sector, which means that it targets electronic challenges linked to innovation for all types of transport systems (Figure 2.). This is to ensure the completeness of the programme in terms of research, training, industrial-academia network, and societal needs.

Figure 2. PARASOL’s multidisciplinary SSbD approach in multiple transport systems