Tatiana Budtova, CNRS 2020 silver medal
Tatiana Budtova, scientist at CEMEF, is recipient of the CNRS 2020 Silver Medal.
This award is a great honor and recognition of her work on bio-aerogels over the past 20 years.
We asked her some questions to know more about her research work.
What is your research devoted to?
I work on the development of new materials based on natural polymers, such as cellulose or starch. Currently, these polymers are used in the "too" traditional ways, with applications in textiles, food or cosmetics (as viscosity modifiers).
I'm trying to make biomaterials with higher added value and with new "unexpected" properties for their new applications. For example, we use pectin (which is a gelling agent in food) for making a thermal super-insulating material.
I am not performing chemical modifications of polymers; I am interested in the whole biomaterials’ production "chain", from their formulation (dissolution, properties of solutions such as flow and gelation) and shaping (3D printing, drying) to their final properties (porosity, mechanical properties, thermal conductivity, use for biomedical applications).
Can you describe your career in 5 dates?
1992: Defense of my doctoral thesis on polymers,
2004: Work begins on bio-aerogels
Here an interesting story should be told. Silica-based aerogels were invented in the 1930s and then forgotten. In the 1970s they reappeared and in the 1990s aerogels based on synthetic polymers were synthesized. First bio-aerogels were made in the early 2000s. The idea was to manufacture aerogels without chemical synthesis, based on "ready-made" polymers created by the Nature. This idea was born during a brain-storming meeting with colleagues from PERSEE/MINES ParisTech research center. They are experts in inorganic aerogels and aerogels based on synthetic polymers. On the CEMEF side, we are specialists in bio-based polymers and gels. Why not "marry" the "bio" + "aero" + "gel"?
The first research project on bio-aerogels was "AeroCell" funded by the European Commission and coordinated by Lenzing, the Austrian company expert in cellulose fibres. In 2004, CEMEF and PERSEE submitted a SOLEAU envelope. At that time, this new material was called "aerocellulose". All bio-based aerogels are now called "bio-aerogels".
2008: Creation of the Industrial Chair in Bioplastics supported and financed by Arkema, L'Oreal, Nestle, PSA and Schneider Electric.
2014: Discovery that pectin aerogels are thermal super-insulating materials (2013) and Innovative Environmental Techniques Award by Ademe.
What is your current research about?
The current challenges are the reduction of the costs related to the preparation of of bio-aerogels (by avoiding supercritical drying) and preventing their ageing. I am also interested in the development of bio-aerogels of complex shapes using 3D printing for biomedical applications. Finally, I am exploring other types of applications, such as materials for energy.
What is your major contribution?
The discovery and development of new bio-based materials: bio-aerogels.
What does this award mean to you?
I am of course very honoured by this award. I would like to underline that it is the result of teamwork: without my colleagues and their support, and especially without my doctoral and post-doctoral students, all these achievements would not have been possible.
What are your research plans?
I will continue my research on bio-aerogels, and on bio-based materials in general. I am passionate about this field of research and there is still so much to be discovered and developed. There is still a lot of work to be done before bio-aerogels can be put on the market.
Interviewed on March 3, 2020.
Tatiana Budtova will receive her silver medal at a ceremony organised by the CNRS in autumn 2020.
To find out more on Tatiana Budtova work :