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December 29, 2009
Thomas Zemb Wins Humboldt Research Prize
Professor Thomas Zemb, founding director of the Institute for Separation Chemistry of Marcoule (ICSM) in France, is one of the recipients of the prestigious Humboldt Research Prize for his efforts towards French–German cooperation in research and teaching. The Humboldt award is granted annually by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation to scientists with internationally recognized academic qualifications. The winners of the prize are invited to spend a period of up to one year cooperating on a long-term research project with colleagues in Germany. Zemb, who is particularly known for his work in the field of colloid chemistry, will spend his research stay at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam.
Helmuth Möhwald, director of the German institute, is looking forward to this cooperation: "Zemb will be staying with us from June to September 2010 and again two months in 2011", he says. The two scientists will then continue their joint research activities, which started several years ago. In 2008, they co-founded the European Associated Laboratory 'SONO', where state-of-the-art research in sonochemistry is carried out. The effects of sonic waves on chemical processes and the use of ultrasound in separation chemistry are two of the main research interests of the French–German team. Zemb believes that the Humboldt Prize will allow him to intensify his research on assisted separation processes and contribute to a better scientific exchange between the two European countries: "This is a unique opportunity to continue mixing the German and French cultures in physical chemistry", he says.
After finishing his diploma thesis on neutron activation of materials at the Swiss Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zürich, Zemb moved to Paris to work at the Institut Curie, where he defended his PhD thesis in biophysics in 1978. He has been in charge of the colloid chemistry group at the French atomic energy commission (CEA) in Saclay since 1979 and was appointed full Professor at the Institut National des Sciences et techniques nucléaires (INSTN) in 1992. In 2003, he received the European Colloid and Interface Prize (Rhodia/ECIS) for his work on giant catanionic colloids.
"One of Zemb's most outstanding contributions has been the development of high-resolution X-ray to study forces and equations of state of colloidal systems", says Helmuth Möhwald. "His most exciting recent progress was the development of hollow nanocapsules (made of oppositely charged amphiphiles) with special and controllable spherical, disclike and polygonal shapes", he adds. During his stay in Germany, Zemb will work on the separation of colloids by ultrasound-assisted flotation. The French scientist explains that separation chemistry has important practical applications: "The physical chemistry of separation processes is crucial for renewable nuclear energy, closing the fuel cycle, separating wastes, and allowing more efficient mining", he says, thereby emphasizing the 'green' value of ultrasound-assisted processes: "Sonochemistry is a kind of 'stealth' chemistry, with minimum waste and after products but yet involving chemical reactions far from equilibrium".