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Renowned guest professor visits TUM Campus Straubing

TUMCS | PM | 2024-02-01

Prof Brook Kennedy, an internationally renowned designer, recently visited the TUM Campus Straubing (TUMCS) for Biotechnology and Sustainability. The award-winning pioneer of industrial design spent three weeks as a guest at Prof Cordt Zollfrank’s Chair of Biogenic Polymers and explored possible collaborations with the researchers in Straubing.

Prof Brook Kennedy (l.) with Prof Cordt Zollfrank from the Chair of Biogenic Polymers at the TUM Campus Straubing. (Photo: Jan Winter/TUM).

Prof Kennedy works as a designer at the Virginia Tech in the USA. There he conducts research into sustainable design and the circular economy. He is particularly interested in the potential of biodesign, biomaterials and new uses for archaic technologies. As well as working as a consultant for companies, start-ups and non-governmental organisations, Prof. Kennedy is also co-founder of the BioDesign Research Group, a research consortium that explores the interfaces between biology and design and focuses on next-generation renewable materials and resource management. Kennedy also teaches on life-friendly design. Here, design and new technologies are used in such a way that they benefit entire ecosystems and not just people alone.

Prof Zollfrank and his department are developing innovative structural and functional materials based on renewable raw materials. The focus is on the development of biomacromolecules and their conversion into composite materials for technical and biomedical applications, including, for example, new types of bioplastics – an “exciting, forward-looking field of research” for Prof Kennedy, where synergies with his work arise.

Prof Kennedy is impressed by the breadth of research at the TUM Campus Straubing with a focus on biotechnology and bioeconomy. “TUMCS is playing a pioneering role in the development of tomorrow’s materials. That impresses me,” says the top designer. “Germany itself is a global leader in sustainability. The USA can still learn a lot from Germany,” says Prof Kennedy.

The inventor – Prof Kennedy holds around 25 patents – has already received a number of highly decorated design awards. One of his best-known award-winning products is the so-called fog harp, which collects drinkable water from fog. Prof Kennedy wants to use such fog harps worldwide on a large scale, similar to wind and solar farms. “With billions of people suffering from water shortages today, fog collection is playing an increasingly important role – especially in Africa, Australia and the Arabian Peninsula,” says Prof Kennedy, whose fog harp has been mentioned in media such as the New York Times, Washington Post and BBC.

Prof Kennedy is already looking forward to his next visit to Straubing to expand the research activities with the scientists on the TUM campus and, in particular, the Chair of Biogenic Polymers. According to Kennedy, the next trip to Straubing will take place in the summer in the coming years. A visit to the Gäuboden folk festival will then also be on the agenda.