Laboratory of Complex Surfaces and Interfaces (COMPLEXURF) will organize the COMPLEXURF Day 2024 at KU Leuven Department of Materials Engineering (MTM) on April 24, 2024. The topic theme of this year’s event is “Surface treatment and characterization: Shape does matter” with talks from academia, research centers, and companies. The event will be held on site only at Thermotechnisch Instituut (TTI), Heverlee (Leuven).

The initial agenda of the event is:

This event is sponsored by Surface Measurement Systems

Registration is open for this day (Deadline: April 17, 2024) and it can be done through the form below:

David Seveno

David Seveno is an associate professor at the department of Materials Engineering, Faculty of Engineering Science at KU Leuven since 2018. He obtained his PhD from the Faculté Polytechnique de Mons and the University of Mons in June 2004. He coordinates a research group focusing on the physical chemistry of interfaces through the lens of the understanding and engineering of the liquid/solid interface, with the overall objective of unravelling the relationships between the interfacial properties and mechanical/functional characteristics of the material. His background in wettability, nano- and molecular-scale science and associated modelling required him to interpret and evaluate the complex processes occurring at these interfaces.

What did the COMPLEXURF project do for us and could do for you?

The COMPLEXURF project aimed at setting up a laboratory dedicated to the study of complex surfaces and interfaces, supported by a group of scientists and engineers offering complementary key expertise that contributes to acquire novel and holistic views to unravel highly complex physico-chemical interfacial phenomena. Surfaces and interfaces are indeed prone to unpredictable physical and chemical modifications due to interactions with uncontrolled atmospheres, surface re-organization, and contamination. High-impact research dealing with interfaces can therefore only be achieved if surfaces can be prepared, treated, and analyzed for both surface chemistry, physical characteristics and topography aspects at the same place. KU Leuven is very active in this field. This is supported by a pool of state-of-the-art equipment which contributes to improve our understanding of the atomistic mechanisms controlling interfacial properties. However, we still lack key tools to prepare, treat and characterize surfaces of materials with various more complex shapes (flat monoliths, fibers, particles) at a relatively large scale (20x20cm²), rapidly, and accurately. This also forms the missing link between fundamental studies and more applied research for which scale effects, repeatability, speed of measurements and versatility without compromising accuracy, play an important role.

Stijn Van Vrekhem

Stijn Van Vrekhem is an engineer and material scientist with a background in plasma technology. He obtained his PhD at the department of Applied Physics at UGent in 2018, focusing on plasma treatment of biomedical materials. In 2019, he started working as a researcher at Centexbel, where he is involved in national and international research projects concerning circular economy for coated textiles; plasma treatment of textiles and plastics; and smart textiles for medical applications.

Advancements in Textile Functionalization and Surface Modification: Exploring National and International Research

Through a blend of national and international collaborations, Centexbel navigates the frontiers of innovation in technical textiles. By focusing on four primary categories (circular economy, bio-based alternatives, composites and smart textiles), the research group “Textile Functionalization and Surface Modification” strives to propel the industry towards a more sustainable, efficient and technologically advanced future.   This presentation will explore the latest advancements in enhancing the recyclability of coated textiles, using bio-based alternatives for textiles, coatings/finishes and coating additives in a range of applications, including composites, and the use of conductive coatings and prints for the creation of smart textiles.

Gilles Koolen

Dr. Gilles Koolen is a Postdoc researcher at KU Leuven following a business incubation program to start a company based on the technology developed in his PhD research. He holds a Master Degree in Chemical Engineering Technology and successfully defended in 2022 his PhD on modification strategies for flax and hemp fibre reinforced polymer composites at KU Leuven Department of Materials Engineering. Shortly after, he was awarded funding from Flanders Innovation and Entrepreneurship (VLAIO) to commercialize the next generation of functionalized plant fibre reinforcements. Since 2018, he is also technical consultant of the Alliance for European Flax-Linen and Hemp which is invaluable to understand the market needs.

A researcher’s path to entrepreneurship: Experiences from a biocomposite start-up

With this presentation, I hope to inspire researchers to take the leap to entrepreneurship. The COMPLEXURF network counts many excellent researchers, and there numerous funding options and support initiatives to promote research exploitation. Yet, there are only few which consider this option. Among others, suggestions will be shared to train an entrepreneurial mindset and to identify business opportunities. Emphasis will be placed on the first steps towards research valorization since I am still early in my start-up journey.

Rik Verschueren

After obtaining his Master degree in Chemistry at KU Leuven, Rik Verschueren pursued a PhD in organic chemistry in the group of Prof. Wim De Borggraeve. His research focused on method development in medicinal chemistry, with an emphasis on solvent-free syntheses and alternative approaches to activate molecules (radical chemistry, photoredox catalysis, electrochemistry). In this context, he performed research stays at Max Planck Institute KoFo (PD Martin Klussmann – Prof. Ben List) and Cornell University (Prof. Song Lin). In his current position as Senior Scientist / Project Manager at PartiX, he designs new added value coatings using molecular plasma functionalization of particles and other small 3D objects.

Plasma Functionalization and Encapsulation of Particles as a Novel Coating Technology

PartiX present a new technology that integrates plasma coating and fluid bed reactor technology. This merger enables powder coating using a single step, solvent-free process that paves the way for particles with various targeted properties and diverse functionalities. The coating or grafting of new functionalities can be tailor-made to fit the application and omits the use of solvents. As a result, no drying is needed and agglomeration of fine particles is prevented.

Geert Deroover

Geert Deroover obtained his PhD in organic chemistry in 1994 at the University of Leuven. His expertise lay mainly in the field of organic synthesis, molecular modelling and physicochemical approaches in material science. Geert worked for 15 years as a senior scientist in the core R&D departments of Agfa. He was responsible for the research and development of functional dyes and pigments; dispersion technology; molecular modelling and project management of strategic interdisciplinary R&D programs. He was one of the co-founders of ChemStream in 2010.

A toolkit for pigment surface and morphology modification: tailoring the optical and physicochemical properties

The physicochemical properties of pigments are intricately linked to their crystal structure and morphology, which ultimately dictate their color, stability, and application potential. This presentation delves into the systematic investigation of the pigment crystal structure, analyzing how the shape (habit) of the crystals and the arrangement of molecules at the crystal surface influence their physicochemical properties. We reveal that subtle changes in crystal structure and morphology can lead to significant alterations in coloristic properties. Furthermore, the study explores how tailor made additives can  affect the morphology and surface chemistry of pigment particles, impacting their dispersibility and lightfastness. The findings of this research provide valuable insights for the development of new pigment dispersions with tailored properties for specific industrial applications.

Thomas Godfroid

Thomas Godfroid is an expert in coating, deposition processes and gas reforming based on plasma technology. He obtained his PhD in 2004 in the ChIPS (Chemical Interaction Plasma Surface) Department of the University of Mons, during which time he worked with the University of Montreal to develop microwave plasma processes for gas conversion. He joined the Materia Nova research center in 2004 as researcher for development of coating and is now scientific leader of the Materia Nova’s plasma department, which develops plasma processes for surface treatment and gas reforming with a focus on plasma process engineering and innovative solution for industry.

PVD solutions to coat objects with complex geometries

Physical Vapor deposition techniques like Magnetron Sputtering or Cathodic Arc Evaporation technologies are widely used to deposit layers on various substrates. These treatments enable a new functionality to be added to the surface of a material while limiting the amount of material added.  These technologies have already been developed to industrial scale and are widely used for example in the glass industry (low-E coating), microelectronics and tooling (wear resistance). While the technology is already mature for certain applications, it suffers from limitations when it comes to the homogeneous treatment of substrates with complex geometries. Today, the technology is mainly developed for the application of coatings on flat substrates or three-dimensional parts that can be treated by attachment.

The principle of these technologies is based on the use of a plasma to vaporize a target of the material to be deposited. The atoms or clusters of atoms emitted from the target then travel in a linear trajectory towards the substrate to be coated, placed in front to the sputtering or evaporation source. If several faces of a 3D object are to be coated, the object to be coated must be rotated to expose all the faces to the vapor coming from the target. This currently limits the use of the technology to the treatment of parts with strong shadowing (inner parts of a tube / cavity) or the treatment of small parts or powdery materials which, by definition, cannot be treated by attachment.

Materia Nova has developed the technology and deposition sources to address these specific geometries, which are cavities and powders.  In the latter case, the technology has been used to improve powder processing, correct their chemical composition, or provide new functionalities. Plasma treatments adapted to powder modification now enable Materia Nova to offer original powder engineering skills with applications in composites (filler treatment), additive manufacturing and spraying.