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On 28 September the Brightlands Materials Center held the first international Nanotechnology Crossing Borders event in Maastricht. TNO employee Pascal Buskens, recently appointed as part-time guest professor at Hasselt University, looks back.
The Brightlands Materials Center, initiated by Limburg province and TNO, brings together elite scientists and industry specialists to work on sustainable technological innovations in the field of plastics. In joint research programmes they focus on a wide variety of applications: from lightweight materials for the automotive industry to 3D printing and sustainable construction.
“We organised the symposium with Zuyd University of Applied Sciences,” explains programme manager and scientist Pascal Buskens. “We decided to create a mix of scientists, students and industry representatives. The first important subject was the use of nanomaterials for sustainable energy. Just think of solar panels, where nanomaterials ensure that more light penetrates the panels. The second important subject was nanomaterials for health applications. After all, in the region for which this event was intended – Aachen, Leuven, Maastricht and the Brightlands Chemelot Campus –sustainable energy and health are the most important applications.”
Among the speakers were some distinguished experts. For the eighty or so participants, Professor Marlies van Bael of Hasselt University presented the latest scientific developments concerning nanomaterials for energy storage in batteries. Dr Laura De Laporte of RWTH Aachen University gave a presentation on the practical application of nanomaterials; they can help interrupted nerve pathways in the spinal cord to grow back together. And Dr Felipe Wolff-Fabris of the German Plastics Center discussed the economic opportunities of nanotechnology in the polymer industry. Buskens: “The poster presentations by students of Zuyd University of Applied Sciences were also very inspiring. The three very best poster presentations were rewarded with an award.”
The symposium was so well received that the organisers have decided to make it an annual event, if possible with links to the universities of Aachen and Hasselt. It will no doubt help that last summer Buskens was appointed part-time guest professor at Hasselt University. “Based in the Chemicals group, I occupy myself with nanostructured optical materials. The guest professorship is important because in our work at the Brightlands Materials Center issues always arise that require fundamental research. If we run into an issue that we foresee will become important in the coming five to ten years, we like to forge strategic links of this kind with universities.”
Sustainable Buildings is an example of a programme for which the link with universities is important. Buskens: “In this programme we work with all kinds of products in which nanomaterials and coatings are used to help improve a building's energy efficiency. I warmly invite companies to get in touch with us if within the context of the Brightlands Materials Center they would like to collaborate and drive forward ideas with us on this and other issues currently facing the industry.”