2012-02-01 21:10

From Belgium to Borås – expert in biotechnology reinforces

His background is both broad and varied and his expertise spans from physical chemistry and biotechnology to textiles and polymers. Since November 2011, professor Vincent Nierstrasz reinforces research at the Swedish School of Textiles.

In addition to conducting research in biotechnology and biomimicry, he will teach subjects to Bachelor, Master’s and doctoral students. He will primarily teach a biotechnological and biomimetic approach to surface modification and functiontionalisation for functional materials and smart textiles.

- In Europe, surface treatments are an important aspect of the textile industry. I think we should put more effort, in developing and strengthening this field , says Vincent Nierstrasz and continues:

- There is great potential for both biotechnology and biomimicry in design and development of functional and smart textiles. Biocatalysis is one example that has proven very useful in the pre-treatment of natural fibers, but application of enzymes is not limited to biological materials, relatively recently it has been demonstrated enzymes are able to modify the surfaces of synthetic textile materials as well.

Biotechnology is one of the drives for scientific and technological breakthroughs in our society. Industrial biotechnology is characterised by multi-disciplinary research, development and education as well as learning and inspiration from nature.. Biomimetics is an emerging domain engaged in the development and design of systems, materials and functionalities inspired by nature. Biomimetics involves reengineering the principles of biological design enabling the transfer of principles, functions or mechanisms from a biological to a technical context. Biomimetics in textile, fibre and polymer engineering is a novel and potentially booming multidisciplinary domain.

- Today’s scientific challenge is to make the enormous potential of biotechnology and biomimetics for production and synthesis of textile materials with advanced functionalities an opportunity for industry.

International relocations

Vincent Nierstrasz arrived here from a position at the University of Ghent, Belgium where his focus was on biotechnology and biomimetics for textiles and polymers. It was through Kenneth Tingsvik, international coordinator at the Swedish School of Textiles, that he came in contact with the School.

- We have known each other for many years, mostly because I teach at the E-team Master’s program. In the end, our discussions resulted in me relocating here.

Although his term of employment did not begin until November, he arrived here early. His family will move to Sweden just before Christmas.

- This is not the first time we move internationally, says Vincent Nierstrasz, who left his native Netherlands for Belgium and a position at the University of Ghent in 2007.

Ecological footprint

He brings up the discussion on ”our ecological footprint” and states that in his view it is not just about energy consumption, but also about water.

- We must find ways to protect our water and produce without consuming so much of it. Global resources will not last long if we continue exploitation of them the way we do now, says Vincent Nierstrasz and points out that it involves the traditional textile industry as well as the new one with smart and functional materials.

- Research and education in this modern and novel area offers strong potential for the development and design of novel functional materials and eventually smart materials. We need students who become well educated in this field and then go on to implement it in the industry. 

Written by: Therese Rosenblad
Photo: Henrik Bengtsson