In memory of Bengt Kasemo

​Professor Emeritus Bengt Kasemo passed away on 26 November at the age of 78. He is most closely missed by his wife Lena and their children Andreas, Jonas, Anna and Totta, with families, including 10 grandchildren. Bengt Kasemo was one of Chalmers' most brilliant profiles and shaped for decades the Department of Physics and Chalmers.
Bengt was born in Dalsland in 1942 and grew up on the shores of Ånimmen and Vänern. He got his interest in nature, fishing and hunting from his father. He attended senior high school in Åmål and after graduation, he began studies to become a medical doctor. However, after a year he switched to Physics. After graduating in 1966, Bengt began his PhD-studies on a project related to thin film physics, with Ingvar Marklund as his supervisor. After a while he met one-year-older Stig Andersson and together they initiated research projects in surface physics, focusing on atomic and electronic structure, which at that time was a completely new field of research. Bengt gradually established his own line of research connected to light emission during surface reactions. This provided information on the dynamics of surface reactions and in 1974 he defended his thesis “A study of surface layer structures and chemisorptive luminescence in surface reactions”. Bengt became an associate professor in 1975 and with his sharpness, combined with a rare dynamic and enthusiastic personality, he quickly established himself as an authority in surface physics with many national and international collaborations. Bengt became Professor of Chemical Physics at Chalmers and Gothenburg University in 1983.

With surface physics as a base, Bengt developed activities in several directions. Ultra-high vacuum studies of the dynamics of surface reactions and reaction kinetics on model surfaces were among his main interests. Inspired by discussions with Per-Ingvar Brånemark, he began research on biomaterials and especially biomaterial surfaces based on titanium in the 80-ties. This led to his research in biophysics and studies of biological membranes, which in the 90-ties grew to a large part of his activities, mainly thanks to his innovative contribution to the development of the quartz crystal microbalance (QCM-D) technique. During the period 1990-2010, Bengt was a pioneer in the study of catalytic reactions at atmospheric pressure on model catalysts and electro/photocatalysis, where he used nanofabrication and nanoplasmonics to study surface phenomena. With these new areas of research, Bengt's division grew to around 40 coworkers with almost as many nationalities. He was a clear and caring research leader, with many ideas and an incredible conviction. He also had a unique ability to encourage and develop his coworkers, especially doctoral students, which resulted in over 50 dissertations under his leadership. The large division, and the many external assignments, needed time. For many years, Bengt commuted weekly from his home in Tjärkil outside Mellerud and worked long days when he was in Göteborg. In fact, it was only for three days in October during the moose hunt that Bengt was unreachable. The best occasions to discuss physics and science with Bengt were between midnight and 2-3 in the morning in his office, when no phone calls or scheduled meetings disturbed the discussions.

A part of Bengt's success and great importance for our department and Chalmers was his vision and ability to create interdisciplinary activities that included method development, connection to theoretical models and contacts between basic and applied research questions. Bengt was, for example, one of the founders of the Competence Center for Catalysis, which combined industry-oriented and research-driven research in the field of catalysis. Similarly, he conceived and led the Swedish Biomaterials Consortium, an interdisciplinary research and development program with industrial and academic partners. In the field of method development, he was very proud of his work on the QCM-D and indirect nanoplasmonic sensing techniques. Bengt was, moreover, a co-founder of several start-up companies that originated from basic research and method developments at Chemical Physics. Q-Sense and Insplorion are two successful examples.

Bengt became professor emeritus in 2009, however, he continued to be active as a researcher and a member of IVA and KVA. He chaired, for example, the project at IVA and KVA that produced Energiboken. This is a popular science book that has been printed in 60,000 copies and is used in the education of high school teachers. Bengt published as late as September this year, a research paper with models for the spread of aerosol particles, as carriers of Covid-19 virus, through the atmosphere.
Bengt was an honorary doctor at DTU and some of his awards include IVA's large gold medal, George Winter's award from the European Society for Biomaterials, Georg Engström's ASEA award for Energy Research and the Chalmers medal.

We are many who are very grateful to have had the pleasure of working with Bengt and he will continue to influence the department and Chalmers. Six of his former students and postdocs are now a part of the faculty at Physics; Dinko Chakarov, Fredrik Höök, Julie Gold, Lars Hellberg, Christoph Langhammer and Björn Wickman. We are, of course, many more who have been inspired by Bengt's achievement as a researcher, research leader, mentor, teacher and coworker. He was a strong and kind person with a rich life. His friends will always remember his love for his family. Family, science and service to the society were the holy trinity in his life.

On behalf of colleagues and friends at the Department of Physics
Igor Zoric and Henrik Grönbeck

A memorial for Bengt Kasemo will be arranged at Chalmers when circumstances allow us to meet in larger groups again.

Photo: J-O Yxell​

Page manager Published: Mon 21 Dec 2020.