Once upon a time if you wanted to see how a potential new polymer really performed, you had to first create it in a lab; and then you subjected it to all manner of tests based on the time-honored scientific principle of trial & error…but not anymore.
Today, a 20-strong team of researchers can be found in the sun-kissed Greek capital of Athens throwing shapes into space and helping the world of materials science literally see into the future. And it’s all thanks to the extraordinary work of Doros Theodorou, professor in Materials Science and Engineering at the National Technical University of Athens and the winner of the DSM Lifetime Achievement Award 2018.
Says Doros: “Computational modeling of materials is a complex field but essentially what we are doing is using modern computers to predict how material building blocks arrange themselves in space, how they will move and interact with each other – and what properties they have. Are they stiff and strong? Are they waterproof? Are they permeable? Do they have good flow for manufacturing purposes? Can they be tolerated inside the body?”
By using computational science to answer the thousands of ‘what if’ questions surrounding potential new materials, Doros and his team are enabling commercial science companies like DSM to bring game-changing (often life-changing) innovations - like biomedical devices to market faster.
While computation modeling might seem like a recent phenomenon, the first molecular simulations happened way back in the 1950s. “I just see myself as continuing this work,” he says. “The big difference now is of course the immense computational power we have at our disposal. It doubles roughly every 18 months, so, coupled with new methods and algorithms we are developing, it gives rise to endless possibilities!”
And what advice does Doros have for the next generation of researchers and scientists coming through? “Have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish; and keep an open mind.
“In my experience, minds are like parachutes. They function best when they are open!’”