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uni'wissen 02-2012 ENG

Prof. Dr. Marie-Pierre Laborie completed her master’s degree in en- gineering at the École Nationale Supérieure des Technologies et Industries du Bois in Épinal, France. In 2002 she earned her PhD in wood science and forest products at Virginia Polytechnic and State University, USA, and then accepted a position at Washington State Uni- versity, USA. During a research sabbatical she completed her habilitation in materials and process engineering at the Greno- ble Institute of Technology, France. Since November 2009 Laborie has served as professor for forest bio- materials at the University of Freiburg. In November 2012 the Fraunhofer Ge- sellschaft awarded her and her colleagues Prof. Dr. Antonio Pizzi and Prof. Dr. Alain Celzard from the Université de Lorraine in France the distinction of German High-Tech Cham- pion in the category “Green Buildings.” Photo: Kunz Further Reading Lacoste, C./Basso, M. C./Pizzi, A./Laborie, M.-P./Celzard, A./Fierro, V. (2013): Pine tannin-based rigid foams: mechanical and thermal properties. In: Industrial Crops and Products 43, p. 245–250. Liu, H./Laborie, M.-P. (2011): Bio-based nanocomposites by in situ cure of phenolic prepolymers with cellulose whiskers. In: Cellulose 18/3, p. 619–630. Siqueira, G./Fraschini, C./Bras, J./Dufresne, A./Prud’homme, R./Laborie, M.-P. (2011): Impact of the nature and shape of cellulosic nanoparticles on the isothermal crystallization kinetics of Poly(ε-caprolactone). In: European Polymer Journal 47/12, p. 2216–2227. ones that have been studied most extensively so far are those extracted from the tropical woods mimosis and quebracho. The production of foams made of these tannins has been studied exhaustively. The problem is that these plant species are relatively rare even in the tropics. It would be possible to produce a maximum of only 220,000 tons of this type of tanning per year – much too little to be of any relevance for indus- trial applications. Laborie is thus taking a closer look at tannins found in pine and spruce trees. There is a large supply of these trees all around the world, and they are thus important for the timber industry. A Professorship Receives a New Emphasis Vegetable-based polymers, the material used to produce bio-based plastics, is a new topic for the Faculty of Forest and Environmental Scienc- es of the University of Freiburg. Research at the faculty previously focused more on macroscopic observation of trees, for instance growth behav- ior. Laborie’s first task was to give the Chair for Forest Utilization a new emphasis. When she ar- rived at the institute, the laboratories were not adequately equipped for the research she want- ed to conduct. Since then a lab at the institute has been renovated from the ground up for her analytical research. Laborie also received work- spaces in labs at the Institute of Inorganic and Analytical Chemistry and at the FMF, of which she is an active member. “That is a great help, but it’s only a temporary solution for the growing research group,” says the materials scientist. “However, I’m confident that we will soon receive the labs we need.” Laborie’s goal for the profes- sorship is to close the gap between forest and materials sciences: “I see Freiburg as the ideal location to develop a program of this kind. There’s an excellent tradition in tree research at the faculty, and the university is also very com- petent in polymer sciences,” she says. “I was “There’s an excellent tradition in tree research at the faculty, and the university is also very competent in polymer sciences” thus very happy to come here. And the students here are fantastic.” Equipping this field of research with the nec- essary capacities is a good idea, as bio-based plastics can be used to produce much more than just insulating material. Cellulose nanofibers, for instance, which are also found in plants, pos- sess outstanding optical characteristics and can be arranged to form complex structures. Light sensors are just one of many possible applica- tions for this technology. In addition, Laborie contributed a feasibility study to the development of the world’s first passenger jet built out of car- bon-fiber-reinforced plastic: the Boeing 787, also known as the “Dreamliner.” 31