Julien Bras, senior member of the IUF

Julien Bras was appointed a senior member of the Institut Universitaire de France (IUF, Academic Institute of France) at an official ceremony in October 2022 in the presence of Sylvie Retailleau, Minister for Higher Education and Research. This honour, given to only 2% of academic staff, was awarded in recognition of his work in the field of cellulose.
The objective of the INP Grenoble Foundation’s Cellulose Valley Chair, supported by several industrial companies, is to develop new, high-performance, recyclable packaging from cellulose. Riding on its success, Julien Bras, senior lecturer at Grenoble INP-Pagora and researcher at LGP2* (paper process engineering research laboratory), was appointed a senior member of the IUF at the end of 2022 for a period of five years. He is part of the IUF’s first intake from a new type of ‘Innovation’ chair, which aims to promote research serving innovation and technology transfer.
“For me, this IUF appointment perfectly complements the Cellulose Valley industrial chair, set up at the start of my two-year sabbatical with Nestlé in Switzerland where I contributed to the roadmap for the Institute of Packaging Science”, said Bras. “Just as my previous IUF appointment provided a boost to several ANR (French National Agency for Research) projects that I was running at the time, this new nomination should enable me to launch scientific projects leading to a better understanding of cellulose and nanocelluloses.”

Cellulose is yet to be fully exploited
Although it has been used for centuries to manufacture textiles, paper and cardboard, cellulose remains a complex substance that has yet to reveal all its secrets. Mass-produced in the natural world, it meets society’s needs perfectly: it is the only substance that is bio-based, biodegradable and recyclable. It can be used to make new materials and new 3D objects and will eventually replace plastic in many applications: transparent films, packing foam and even rigid objects such as bottles and stoppers. “Moreover, it can be specially treated to make it soluble and its functionality can be improved to give it the required properties: gas, water and water vapour impermeability. Its rigidity and its appearance can be modulated by altering fibrillation procedures or how it is dried, for example.”

Prix IUF As soon as he decided to become a researcher, Julien Bras wanted to help prepare for the post-oil era; he now wants to start scientific projects to move forward in various fields. “The challenge is threefold: using chemistry to improve cellulose’s functionality, using new processes to better prepare it and better characterising the resulting new, increasingly efficient, cellulose-based objects.” At the same time, Bras is pursuing numerous projects in collaboration with companies from the entire value chain: manufacturers of cellulose-based materials, packaging manufacturers using those materials and end-users. “At LGP2 we are fortunate in having close links with the industry and in having access to high-level pilot systems and technological platforms that give our research credibility.” Collaboration with international research laboratories is also very fruitful: LGP2 recently welcomed around 40 researchers and PhD students to a winter school on biomass use run by lecturers from Sweden, Finland and Austria.

*Laboratory run by the Agefpi (Grenoble INP-Pagora management association), the CNRS (French National Centre for Scientific Research), and Grenoble INP-UGA graduate engineering school itself.