Mathematicians awarded for their impact in society

Chalmers University of Technology

​The transition to more sustainable and bio-based materials has been pushed forward with the help of a computer program developed by Chalmers researchers. The research group behind the software, called Gesualdo, are this year’s winners of the Chalmers Impact Award. The computer program is currently used by several companies.

“This award shows that the work we have done with Gesualdo has been important, both in society, at the companies involved and for Chalmers as a university”, says Tobias Gebäck, senior researcher at Chalmers University of Technology.
Gesualdo has been developed at the Department of Mathematical Sciences within the Sumo Biomaterials research center and in the Vinnova project Cosima.
“This year’s award clearly shows that mathematical sciences can make strong contributions to utilisation and innovation and that they have had a valuable collaboration with other Chalmers departments, Chalmers Innovation Office and Chalmers Industriteknik”, says Fredrik Hörstedt, Vice President of Utilisation at Chalmers University of Technology.

Simulations provide increased understanding

One way to facilitate the transition to more bio-based materials is to use computer simulations. The problem Chalmers researchers tackled back in 2010 was that complicated material structures set high demands on the calculation software. That complexity could not be handled properly by the most popular commercial software in use at the time.
With the help of Gesualdo, it is now possible to create simulations of transport processes in different materials, which provides the opportunity to study the properties of different materials at a very detailed level.
“Now there are conditions to really understand different materials in depth and of course we hope that this means that the transition to more sustainable materials will be accelerated!” says Tobias Gebäck.
Developing materials with well-controlled properties is of great importance to for how the transport of molecules and liquids takes place, especially in the hygiene and pharmaceutical industry, the food sector and in the packaging industry.
A concrete example of when Gesualdo can be used is if you want to get a substance in a drug to spread more slowly from a tablet to the body. Other examples of products whose materials have been studied using Gesualdo are nappies, sanitary pads and food packaging.

Collaboration with industry partners – important and challenging

The development of Gesualdo has taken place in close collaboration with several industrial partners from different industry sectors.
“It’s a huge different if you compare with research you do entirely on your own, with an academic problem in focus. The issues we’re handling in collaboration with the companies are of a more practical nature. These are current and real problems that need to be solved, they are not only interesting from a mathematical point of view”, says Tobias Gebäck. He thinks it is an extra exciting challenge to work in collaboration with the industry.
​​”The calculations must not only pass a small test in a research environment, they have to work on a large scale, in a real material in a certain product. Therefore, I’m very proud to say that the computer program is used by all of our participating industry partners”.

Long-term perspective and cooperation are key factors

Industrial partners and Chalmers’ innovation ecosystem have been deeply involved in Gesualdo for a long time. Researchers from the departments of chemistry and physics have also played a major role in the project. Tobias Gebäck especially highlights the good collaborative culture at the research center Sumo Biomaterials. Like so many others, he also emphasises the importance of long-term perspective regarding both financing and collaborations.
“Long-term perspective and successful collaborations have really been key factors in this process. This type of research may not always lead to scientific publications in mathematical journals, so it’s fun that the benefits we have created together are made visible through Chalmers impact award”.
The award highlights the importance of utilisation and was established in 2018 to draw attention to research that has made a great impact in society.
“The award is important for Chalmers because it highlights a part of our business, to contribute to utilisation and innovation, which is increasingly sought after by research funders, partners, students and also within the Government Offices,” says Fredrik Hörstedt, Vice President of Utilisation.
Text: Julia Jansson
Photo: Yen Strandqvist
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