The Nanofibres, Applications and Related Technologies 2015 (NART) conference was held in Liberec from 31 August to 2 September. Together with the affiliated COST ACTION, which is focused on electrospinning technology, NART presented to participants the latest developments in the field of nanofibres. The main organisers of the conference were the Technical University of Liberec (TUL) and North Carolina State University. CzechInvest was among the partners of the event.
Among other things, the conference confirmed TUL’s status as a leader in the field at the international level. In addition to the university’s best-known invention of technology for producing nanofibres, which was commercialised by the company Elmarco under the name Nanospider™, TUL is also behind the improvement of spinning technologies and development of promising applications in the environmental and biomedical sectors. The university’s R&D findings have found everyday uses through cooperation with companies such as Škoda Auto and Magna.
Stanislav Petrík, director for promotion and relations with industry at TUL’s Institute for Nanomaterials, Advanced Technology and Innovation, describes the collaboration between TUL and North Carolina State University.
What is the essence of the current collaboration between TUL and North Carolina State University?
Our collaboration is based primarily on longstanding personal ties between TUL, or rather our Institute for Nanomaterials, Advanced Technology and Innovation, and the Nonwovens Institute (NWI) at North Carolina State University. The previous purpose of cooperation was educational stays and student exchanges, participation in assessments of specialist works and, for example, a specialised course that was established at the NWI and whose content was formulated by instructors from TUL. This year’s conference enabled us to use these relationships and to invite to Liberec many important persons in the field, with whom we were connected through more or less formal contacts in past years.
What could this connection lead to in future?
We would like to establish a tradition of conferences held alternately in Liberec and in Raleigh, North Carolina, which previously occurred through the Nanofibres for the Third Millennium (N3M) symposium. For this purpose, during the conference we signed an agreement on cooperation and coordination activities with our American partners.
Do you have any other plans with respect to joint projects and other activities?
Non-commercial projects are hindered to a significant extent by a lack of financing for research between the Czech Republic and the US. On the other hand, the NWI is an inspiration for us, mainly through the affiliated consortium that it has built up. At present, it has more than sixty industrial partners to which the NWI provides services in R&D and offers possibilities of technology transfer. In Liberec we similarly established the Advanced Materials Industrial Association, which operates as a grouping of firms with common interests in basic research and we are working on expanding the ranks of its members.
Which moments of NART would you consider highlights?
I would primarily point out the involvement of key figures in the area of nanofibres, such as Seeram Ramakrishna of the National University of Singapore, Rajender S. Varma of the US Environmental Protection Agency and Masaya Kotaki of the Kaneka US Material Research Centre. For the Czech Republic, we can mention a new type of electrospinning presented by professor David Lukáš of TUL and commercialisation of new technologies presented by Ladislav Mareš of NAFIGATE Corporation, and a lecture given by Professor Lubomír Špaňhel, the initiator of the successful Horizon 2020 NANOMATCON project.
Another positive impetus for us was support from the American embassy in the Czech Republic, which hosted the closing reception of the conference, as well as the sponsorship provided by the American Office of Naval Research and several other Czech and foreign partners.