Sophie Jullian
Chemistry and Energy: Bond and Boundary from Oil to Biomass

Sophie Jullian


Life has evolved within a bounded biosphere, practically unable to exchange matter, and limited to energy exchanges of radiative nature, with the outer space. Chemical bonds store electro-magnetic energy at various levels in molecular or condensed species, according to favourable redistributions of electrons with respect to isolated atoms. Differences in chemical potential maybe converted into work, at rates controlled by the heights of energy barriers separating products from reactants in the free energy landscape. Catalysts are chemicals able to reduce such barriers specifically. Living organisms evolve through a selection of catalysts, and sustain themselves as highly negentropic (organized) chemical open systems. Any available form of inert chemical energy (fossil hydrocarbons, mantellic gases, sulfides) may be exploited by foodwebs, but most of them rely primarily on solar energy input through photosynthesis. The overall minimal production of entropy by life did not significantly affect neither local nor global dynamic equilibria until the pre-industrial era, on the contrary it seems as if life had optimally organized its biosphere (e.g. from CO2 rich to O2 rich atmosphere, vegetal cover, fertile soils...).

"Homo Sapiens Technicus" (HST) is now changing rapidly and industrially its environment, through its exponential expansion and entropy production (proportional to its energy consumption), for the better and for the worse. This technological amplification relies on the emerging Science, including Chemical Science. Conscious Science must be promoted in order to avoid all kinds of ruins. It inspires in particular environmentally friendly technological innovations.

IFP Energies nouvelles (IFPEN) has been founding its action in this spirit for more than five decades. It is concerned with the production and use of energy, mainly chemical and for transportation end uses. Its five strategic priorities have been set therefore so as to develop processes and vehicles aiming at minimal entropy production (Eco-friendly Production, Eco-efficient Processes, Innovative Transport), and to contribute securing accesses to primary energy (Renewable Energies, Sustainable Resources). Examples will be given to illustrate how fundamental chemical knowledge is harnessed and developed by IFPEN so as to reach its targets: advances in chemical analysis for identifying and quantifying the relevant bonds to break or create, so as to upgrade fossils hydrocarbons or degrade biomass into clean fuels; advances in catalysis for process intensification and atom economies, including local characterization techniques of solids, computational chemistry, and high throughput experimentation; advances in multi-scale modeling as a crucial toolbox of optimal process design and control. Last but not least, Cycle Life and Impact Analysis methodologies have become essential in our effort to measure the environmental boundaries of our innovations.

Tentative prospects will cover dreams and nightmares, i.e. the desired smart energetic uses, and unwanted entropic misuses, of chemical bonds, to sustain the next generations.

Sophie Jullian - Short Biography#

Sophie Jullian, 52, graduated as an engineer from the École Supérieure de Chimie Industrielle de Lyon (CPE) and as a doctor of chemistry from the Pierre et Marie Curie University in Paris, France. She has also been an auditor at the Institut des Hautes Etudes pour la Science et la Technology (IHEST, the class of Hubert Curien 2009). She joined IFP in 198 3, working in the field of separation by adsorption processes within the applied Physical Chemistry and Analysis Division and became project manager for gas treatment processes. In 1998, she was appointed head of the Thermodynamics and Transfers Department, before becoming Director of the Development Division at IFP-Lyon in 2001, then Director of the Process Research Division in 2005. She had been Director for Development at IFP-Lyon and Vice-chairman for the Axelera competitiveness cluster since 2008.
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