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Dr. Gert de Cremer

DSM Science & Technology Award Europe (2010)

Research Scientist in Thermoplastics, DSM
Dr. Gert de Cremer (r) & Rob van Leen (r)

When Gert De Cremer won his award in 2010 it proved to be just the beginning. Since then the Belgian catalysis specialist has joined DSM to help develop polymers for DSM Dyneema.

I won my award for my PhD work in materials chemistry and especially for developing a new type of silver fluorescent materials that have the potential to replace more expensive and unsustainable materials - particularly in lighting applications (but also potentially in other industries like medical and solar).

My professor submitted me for the award and of course it was wonderful to win – up to that point I had never won a major award. Winning this award certainly raised my profile: Looking back, I can see that it opened some doors for me; and importantly it raised the profile of the work the team had been doing at my alma mater (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven).

This in turn has meant they have attracted some grants, put more scientists on the project, and are now working on specific development projects with this new material. As you can tell I’m still following developments pretty closely!

The work I do now has nothing to do with environmentally friendly silver fluorescents!

For about 18 months after my PhD I stayed on at the university doing post-doctorate work and then the opportunity came to come and work for DSM. My work now is as a polymer and catalysis scientist working specifically with Dyneema, an astonishing ultra high molecular weight polyethylene that’s 15 times stronger than steel.

My focus area is catalysis: Exploiting this process to optimize the molecular structure of the polymer, so that it can provide maximum performance for a range of very different applications – from life protection gear to sailing ropes and lines to protective gloves. The work is as varied and interesting as it sounds!

The first part of my career has gone really well. As for what the future holds, who knows?

As a scientist of course I’ve enjoyed the challenge of trying to make innovation a reality. We increasingly hear this word ‘interdisciplinary’ in research and it’s true: The ability of scientists to bring in different, complementary disciplines will become even more important to unlocking various challenges. In my case it was the interface between catalysis and fluorescents but of course you have to keep an open mind.

On the other hand, I love the commercial aspect of my new role. There’s no doubt that even at the high science level, you get a closer feeling for the relevance of what you’re doing – which is important.

“The winner’s special achievement is that he managed to resolve the issue of stabilization of small noble metal clusters.

The solution he developed is based on confinement of silver atoms in zeolite matrices, which is of high practical use since it enables the application of these silver clusters as wavelength converters and data carrier material.”