The Director of Development and Production of nanofiber products at RESPILON, Matej Buzgo, talks about his career, nanofiber, and the future. Could a RESPILON nanofiber someday be shot into outer space? Is it possible to spin fiber using an ordinary nail? What nanofiber qualities and applications do we seldom hear about? On this, and much more, Matej Buzgo, who holds a Master’s degree in cellular biology, gives us answers.
What has RESPILON brought to you and what have you brought to RESPILON?
I bring especially my enthusiasm and experience in creating diverse nanofiber systems to RESPILON – I give research my all! I also bring my own views on the fine line between the world of research and application. It always has, and always will be important for me that the products which I am involved indeveloping are on a high technological level.
And what does the company bring to me? The possibility to make things possible. I can spin fiber, invent newer and newer things, and RESPILON lets me materialize them.
What was your motivation to join the RESPILON team?
When still in academia, I started to make various nanofiber delivery systems. I continued their production at several start-ups. Our cooperation however always failed in the end. While we had super technology, we just didn’t have the products.
My main motivation for joining the RESPILON team were the functional products the firm produces. Our cooperation is thus great on both sides – I bring technological knowledge to the team, and RESPILON then takes it and puts it into practice.
What would say is the most interesting part of your job?
Probably that in comparison with standard scientific work – where you start off with some hypothesis which you later test and look for answers – here it’s a highly creative process. In applications, you already know the answer, and you search for ways to implement it. What’s also interesting is that nanofiber is very similar to cooking – you can give your fantasies free rein.
Were you attracted to science as a child?
Very much so. I’ve been in love with science since primary school. I loved inventing things, I read a lot, and I clamored for scientific information, I kept wanting to learn more and more. So unequivocally, yes!
Why nanofiber? And what exactly is it?
Imagine a material which is made up of a massive amount of very thin fibers of very minute diameter, but incredibly long. Their structure is reminiscent of certain structures which make up the human body. About 40% of protein in the body is collagen of a nanofiber structure. So, actually, it’s completely natural.
And from the material perspective, nanofiber has a lot of amazing qualities due to its structure. Nanofiber is up to 100× thinner than the fiber used in ordinary non-woven textiles. And thanks to that, nanofiber material has many unique qualities which make applications possible for instance in medicine, such as filtration, catalyzation, etc.
So, nanofiber has many interesting and beneficial properties and applications. Could you name some for us?
Currently at RESPILON, we mostly make products for use in filtration, for reasons of simple application and huge demand. At the same time, we are actively looking at medicine – not only products such as various wound dressings or dermal fillers – but also in providing delivery of active substances. Nanofibers are able to encapsulate active substances very easily, and then release them as we wish. This means that we can ensure the release of active substances inside the body instantly – or in a few hours, days, weeks, or months.
If you were to look way into the future, where will nanofibers be used?
Basically everywhere. We can fly into outer space with nanofibers. We can make advanced textiles from them which will be able to repair themselves – wound dressings which will respond to a person’s given health status – and make drug delivery systems which will reduce patients’ need to take tablets daily down to once a week. That’s where we’re headed at RESPILON.
That’s surely connected to some ongoing research. What are you working on at RESPILON now?
Ongoing research is crucial in order for us to be able to create new, beneficial products. That’s why we carry out research constantly, all the time. Our work is not only about focusing on those products which will soon hit the market – we’re also concentrating on technologies which will only really arrive perhaps 10–15 years from now. We’ve got to work on that trip to outer space.
I hear you invented a way to spin nanofiber with a nail. What was that all about, and how did it happen?
(Laughter) That was a kind of happy accident. Spinning is the technology of making fiber; in our case, nanofiber. When we plugged in our first spinner (the machine for producing nanofiber) at RESPILON, I didn’t have a proper emitter (the part of the spinner where voltage is applied to the polymer solution, where electrostatic spinning takes place) at hand to produce the nanofiber. Then it hit me that I could use a nail with a flat head, so I tried it. And it worked!
In closing, a personal question. How do you manage work and your personal life? In the life of a scientist is there room for a family, and what do you like to do in your spare time?
It’s tough sometimes. Work for me is actually a hobby, I’ve got a family with two small children. I try to spend my free time with them. I must admit that sometimes it’s difficult to find that balance between work and one’s personal life. I hope that I can keep it at least at the same level it has been so far.
Otherwise, I love the great outdoors. I spend most of my leisure time outside, collecting fossils or other minerals. I also like fishing.
Interviewer: Veronika Maurerová