The Centre for Textile Science and Engineering (formerly the Department of Textiles) of Ghent University is a reference in the textile world at European and global level. It is part of the Department of Materials, Textiles and Chemical Engineering of of Ghent University.
The Director is Prof. dr. Paul Kiekens.
Short history of the department
The textile laboratory at Ghent University was founded in 1929 by Prof. De Meulemeester and housed in the centre of Gent (Sint-Pietersnieuwstraat 41). In the beginning, research focussed mainly on the mechanical properties of natural fibres, such as cotton and flax.
In the 1950s, Prof. De Meulemeester was accorded emeritus status and the laboratory was named after him. The laboratory’s field of research was extended to the carpet sector and others.
The laboratory celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1979 in the presence of his Majesty Prince Albert, the former King of Belgium.
At the beginning of the eighties, the Belgian textile industry had to cope with serious problems and restructuring. To remedy this, the Belgian government set up the “Textile Plan”, which supported not only the textile industry, but also textile education and research. As a result, the university textile laboratory was able move to a new building at Campus A of the Tech Lane Ghent Science Park of Ghent University in Technologiepark 907, Zwijnaarde (Ghent).
That is where the foundation was laid for a new start of the research activities. Under the management of Prof. Paul Kiekens, the laboratory grew from a small to a medium-sized entity: the Department of Textiles.
Also textile education was renewed at the department, taking into account new international developments. The most remarkable example is E-TEAM, a two-year English Master training, which was started in 1998 and is supported by more than 20 European textile universities and meant for students from Europe and far beyond.
The new start had a positive influence on the number of Master students preferring education in textile technology. Moreover, the presence of enthusiastic researchers with a passion for their work in textiles stimulated a lot of them to start a PhD (about 20 in the last ten years).
The department is involved in or coordinating several national, European and international research projects and renders technical and scientific services to the textile industry. In 1997, the testing services of the department were granted an accreditation according to EN-45001, which changed in an ISO-17025 accreditation later on.
Ten years later, in 2007, Prof. Paul Kiekens created ERCAT, the European Research Centre for Artificial Turf, with the purpose of applying for accreditation in the field of artificial turf laboratory and field testing. Today, ERCAT is certified by FIFA (International Football Association), FIH (International Hockey Federation) and World Rugby. The group consists of 7 thoroughly trained researchers working in the lab and travelling the world to perform artificial turf field tests under the supervision of Lic. Stijn Rambour.
The research activities are evolving more and more into fundamental research having a clear multidisciplinary character and introducing several new technologies. For example, research into advanced materials for niche applications, where the unique quality and functional properties of the material are decisive for success.
Prof. Paul Kiekens started his research in composites in the mid-1980s, continuing this research for many years up to the 3DLightTrans project in 2010.
From the year 2000 onwards, Prof. Lieva Van Langenhove and her group were among the first researchers in Europe to devote their time to the research and development of smart textiles. In fact, Dr. Carla Hertleer suspended her work in industry and returned to Ghent University to start working on the first smart textiles project at our department and thus initiate her PhD research.
From 2005 onwards, Dr. Philippe Westbroek and later on Prof. Karen De Clerck explored the relatively new area of electrospinning and nanotechnology, stimulating a number of students to complete their university education with a PhD in this area.
“The Department of Materials, Textiles and Chemical Engineering”
This new entity likely is the largest academic structure in Europe in the fields mentioned.
The creation of a structure with almost 250 employees offers many opportunities due to the multidisciplinary character and the presence of high-level fundamental and applied research together with academic education. The knowledge and expertise of this department allow a strong interaction with (external) stakeholders which certainly can lead to a win-win situation for all parties involved.