Stakeholder Spotlight – ZOEK

Tell us a little about your organisation. How do the areas of nanotechnology and sustainability impact your work?

ZOEK gGmbH is a technology transfer institute engaged in bringing the latest research into industrial innovation. This includes new technologies and novel materials, as well as analysis and development of processes and products in the wide field of organic and printed electronics (OPE). Nanotechnologies are involved in most of our projects since, often, dimensions of devices are in the nano range and materials we apply are nanomaterials. In our field, sustainability is a topic of increasing interest. There are potentially great benefits of OPE in that regard, but it still has to be identified better and most of all demonstrated more effectively.

What is the newest/most innovative development in nanotechnology that you and/or your organisation is excited about now?

One focus of our latest R&D work lies in printed haptic feedback sensors based on electro-active polymers (EAP) realised by screen-printing. Those sensors are flexible, thin, lightweight and promise low voltage operation, opening up new applications in smart textiles or medical technology. However, they have to be printed in multi-layer structures to yield a significant feedback. To reveal the full potential in terms of low voltage, we are working on scaling the active layers down to nanometer range.

Stretchable Circuits
Haptic Feedback
Flexible Electronics

What, in your opinion, is the most important thing (tool, process, support, etc.) that is needed right now to help grow and strengthen the nanotechnology community?

The existence of an interactive and diverse (international, for technical and social background, industry, researchers, and so on) community is very important; a constant information flow must be seen as a value for everyone’s development and success. This can be accomplished with the establishment of a network which goes across different sectors. Communication is a key factor.

What, in your opinion, are important factors or influences that will affect the direction of the nanotechnology community in the future?

Market needs and trends often go hand in hand, and as in many industries and other communities also the nanotechnology community is and will be affected by them. The motivation and drives come not only from the opening of a new market or the winning of a slice in an existing one. Influences arise from need for improvements in performance or costs, but also very important from sustainability needs, not only of the sole product, but along the complete value chain including underlying technology, the processes, the sourcing, and many more. In industry but also in society, the perception of sustainability has changed to a “must have”. Politics are giving more and more regulations or guidelines. Within this framework, nanotechnology has a huge potential, if they can demonstrate their benefits in this regard.


Interviewee person: Dr. Anne Umbach (Managing Director at ZOEK)

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