Team TU/e wins Collaborative University Competition

The winning team, from left to right: Martijn Goorden, Luc Wijffels, Henk Huinink, Alex van Herk, Stephen Wheeler (AkzoNobel), Ellen Hoefsloot

A team of honors students of the Eindhoven University of Technology, supervised by Alex van Herk (Department of Chemistry) and Henk Huinink (Department of Applied Physics), has won the Collaborative University Competition (CUC) last Tuesday. The winners have received in Karlskrona (Sweden) a price of 20,000 euro for the most promising solution for an environmental coating.

The CUC is a concept in which four teams of different universities try to solve a problem for a company. In this contest collaboration and knowledge exchange is stimulated. The other teams were from the universities of Napoli (Italy), Lund (Sweden) and Nanjing (China). The competition covered six months in which experimental work on coatings was done.

The challenge was to help AkzoNobel to develop a concept for a coating in which Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) are not needed anymore. At this moment waterborne coatings still contain significant amounts of these VOC’s, because the organic molecules are needed to ensure that the final coating has good mechanical properties.

The Eindhoven team, consisting of Ellen Hoefsloot, Luc Wijffels and Martijn Goorden, has developed the most promising solution. Interestingly, none of the students in the team had a background in physics or chemistry, but are following courses such as mechanical engineering, innovation sciences, etc. As such they could look to the problem with a fresh view.

Dr. Henk Huinink cannot give information about the exact solution  proposed by the Eindhoven team. “The problem of VOC is one of the top five problems of the coatingsindustry. In case that a company is able to solve it, he can become leader of the global market. Therefore we had to sign a secrecy agreement before joining the competition”.

The Honors students have done the work within the context of their Honors research project and will continue the work on this topic for six months. AkzoNobel will start up a discussion with Van Herk and Huinink in the near future. The company will gear up the development of environmental friendly coatings by “open innovation”.