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Professor Philippe Dubois is awarded an FNR PEARL Chair

Producing new sustainable composite materials out of renewable resources

Luxembourg National Research Fund

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The PEARL programme, funded by Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR), provides competitive funding to attract top researchers in strategic research areas for Luxembourg. Philippe Dubois, currently full professor and director of the Center of Innovation and Research in Materials & Polymers at the Mons University, has an undisputed international reputation as research leader in the field of polymers and related materials , including composites and nanocomposites. His scientific track record is impressive, with more than 600 peer-reviewed scientific papers. He is also co-inventor of more than 65 patents, about 20% of which have led to industrial processes and/ or products, including the launch of a spin-off company in Belgium. This record, as well as the "Prix Quinquennal" in applied exact sciences recently awarded by the Belgian FNRS, attests for Prof Dubois' activities bridging academic and industrial research, making him a perfect fit with the research philosophy of LIST.

"The objective is to exploit renewable carbon, biomass that is available at the surface of the planet rather than underground and to transform this renewable carbon into bio-composites and bio-plastics. We try to get rid of fossil carbon, in favour of renewable bio-resources like plants, woods, leaves, seaweed, etc." explains Philippe Dubois.

Bio-plastics can currently already be found in low added value applications like packages or textile fibres. But this only represents less than one percent of the world production of plastic materials. "The ambition of the SUSMAT project funded by PEARL is to give added value to these materials in targeting more noble applications, for example, as multifunctional bio-composites that can be used in the automotive and aeronautical sectors, or in the field of construction and electronics. This renewable carbon can then be found in computers, car linings or planes."

In fine, it means to reuse the carbon that already exists in our atmosphere (carbon dioxide, CO2) in order to transform it into materials. Philippe Dubois has been appointed scientific director of the National Composite Centre of Luxembourg (NCC-L) in January 2016. The NCC-L has the objective to accelerate industry-oriented RDI projects, which is in perfect complementarity with the SUSMAT research unit covering lower TRL scale. Via his strong international network and involvement in both NCC-L and SUSMAT unit, Prof Dubois will catalyse fruitful synergies which will allow for largely increasing the international visibility of the RDI activities of Luxembourg in the field of materials.

In the past, Philippe Dubois declined several job offers in various international laboratories, but the perspective of working in Luxembourg is a very enticing challenge for him. "I'm looking forward to coming to Luxembourg because there I will be able to continue fundamental materials research with applications of that research in industry. Even if Luxembourg is a small country, its activities in the field of materials are internationally renowned. Nearly 30.000 jobs are directly or indirectly linked to materials, what proves Luxembourg's potential in that domain."

"I am very pleased that we could convince Prof Dubois to join LIST and take up a leading role in the new National Composite Centre. This very high-profile recruitment illustrates once more FNR's strategy to build up research excellence in key strategic areas for Luxembourg", underlines Dr Marc Schiltz, Secretary General of the FNR

"We are very honoured to welcome Prof Dr Philippe Dubois at LIST. Indeed, it is essential to attract internationally renowned high profile researchers to Luxembourg, especially in domains that are of strategic importance to the country's economy. The creation of the SUSMAT unit provides a huge potential for development and dynamism, not only at LIST, but also for industrial companies in various sectors like aeronautics, automotive, construction and others," says Professor Dr Gabriel Crean, CEO of LIST.

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