Wooden clothes and the magnificent catalysts of nature

Vincent Eijsink, (Research project SNS-116: Exploring novel oxidative biocatalysts for tailored wood fibre modification)


SNS Nordic Forest researchEducation/job: Professor at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Ås, Norway. PhD from Groningen, Netherlands.
Age: 55.
Hobby: Orienteering.


Learn from nature to meet tomorrow’s challenges

Nature solved a lot of challenging problems in the process of evolution. So why not learn from the competent nature? The aim of Vincent Eijsink is to turn the secrets of enzymes into hands-on industrial applications.


Vincent and his research group wants to discover new enzymes and use them in industrial applications. The goal is to create renewable materials out of wood. The outcome of the efforts could for example be textile fibres, packing materials or nanofibres in films or gels.

The area of fibre engineering and renewable materials catches far less attention than the production of renewable energy, but it might turn out to be of higher value in the end.

– My basic interest is in understanding, engineering and applying enzymes, nature’s own magnificent catalysts.

Imitate nature
The question is: How does nature do it? And how can we imitate that in a factory?

There has been progress in the area of fibre engineering. Still, there is a lot more to do. For example, if we knew how microbes degrade wood, we would have the key to protect our houses. At the same time, we could use this knowledge to modify lignocellulosic biomass in refineries to produce not only sugar but also advanced fibers.

– I would like to figure out how our enzymes REALLY work and then apply that knowledge.

Longterm perspective
Vincent Eijsink thinks it’s important to know as much as possible about our materials: what wood looks like in an atomic perspective, how we can understand and valorize lignin. He wants the society to understand that science, and knowledge, is a longterm thing and has great value even when there is no direct application at hand. He thinks that it is important to keep universities independent and transparent.

The message for the politicians is: make a career in science attractive and support fundamental and independent science to make progress for society! And for the future scientists he says:

– Science is fun and important for meeting tomorrow’s challenges!

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