As one of Solvay’s top senior scientists and member of the Fellows Network, Jean-Christophe Castaing, Research & Innovation Manager at the Solvay Novecare, maps in its journey to Soft Matter.




When did you decide to be a chemist?

J-C Castaing: After I graduated from the Centrale Paris School of Engineering, my professional life changed thanks to a chance meeting. During a fairly traditional course on solid-state physics, I was invited to write a thesis in the area of "Soft Matter", a completely unknown scientific field to me at that time. I started by attending a course at the Collège de France on adhesives and encapsulation systems.This stimulating course was given by the Professor Pierre-Gilles de Gennes, shortly before he received his Nobel Prize. These seemingly traditional systems became fascinating objects with which everything remained to be done in terms of innovation. This was the starting point of my career in the area of “Soft Matter.”


When did you start working at Solvay?

J-C Castaing: When I completed my thesis, I finally joined Solvay where I held a several different positions. My current responsibility consists of supporting of the business new projects launching, of forging ties with the outside world, and working on projects proper to the Agro sector.


What have been some highlights in your career?

J-C Castaing: A particularly remarkable experience in my career was the possibility of following an idea as it develops. The human experience makes also an exciting journey; the research scientists involved in projects.


What are your key areas of expertise?

J-C Castaing: My principal area of expertise is in the field of Soft Matter and formulations, which are the common language enabling us to understand the manifold properties of complex liquids found in a series of everyday applications such as shampoos, paints, etc.The challenge of this science lies in understanding the different components of a liquid formulation in order to make them co-exist and that each one makes its own specific contribution to the final properties desired. This is where my expertise comes into play as there are great many complex steps connecting the properties of the initial molecule to those of the final product that it applies to various market segments such as: coatings, oil & gas, mining, industrial formulations, agro, home & personal care, etc.


Besides your current position in the Novecare, you are part of Solvay’s Fellows Network. As a Fellow, what is your role and mission?   

J-C Castaing Being a Fellows is, in a sense, becoming and ‘apostle’ of creativity. It's the challenge of creating options for the Group by brainstorming, exchanging ideas, and imagining innovative, step-change projects and doing so from zero. It's an incredibly stimulating job for a scientist.