After a delay of nearly 12 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 21st International Sol-Gel Conference was held in Lyon from 24th-29th July 2022, the fourth time in the >40-year history of the International Sol-Gel Confer-ence series that the event has been held in France. The conference was hosted by Professor Stephane Parola (Chair, ENS Lyon, CNRS, University Lyon 1), Professor Geneviève Chadeyron (University Clermont Auvergne, CNRS, SIGMA Clermont), Dr Xavier Cattoën (CNRS, University Grenoble Alpes) and Dr Philippe Belleville (CEA). Around 350 participants from 42 countries contributed to a vibrant program of high-quality science and technology.
Each International Sol-Gel Conference has demonstrated its own unique character, and this tradition was continued with the 21st iteration. The conference was underpinned by six Plenary lectures that emphasised the breadth of sol-gel science, together with 22 invited lectures, 170 oral communications and over 260 poster presentations. Around 30 % of the invited lectures were delivered by relatively junior scientists, thus promoting and helping to secure the future leadership of our community.
The specific topics addressed by the
various presentations includ-ed chemistry and fundamentals of the sol-gel process; porous materials; materials for energy, environment and health applications; characterisation techniques; aerogels; coatings; catalysts and pho-tocatalysts; sensors, optics, photonics and optoelectronics; nanostructured materials; industry applications; self-assembly; 3D printing; and hybrid materials, among others. Preceding the main conference were two one-day workshops. The first of these explored Sol-Gel Materials for BiEncapsulation and Bio-Delivery and was jointly organised by Professors Vadim Kessler (Sweden) and Insung Choi (Republic of Korea). The second, entitled “International workshop on Photonic Glasses by Sol-Gel” was organised by the International Com-mission on Glass (Professors Alessandro Martucci (Italy); Sidney J.L. Ribeiro (Brazil); and Andrei Jitianu (USA)) to celebrate the United Nations International Year of Glass 2022.
As with all International Sol-Gel Conferences, a special feature of the week was the presentation of awards for excellence at all career stages from recent PhD graduates to senior scientists. These included the Ulrich Awards, which were presented to Drs Na-taly Carolina Rosero Navarro (Japan and Spain) and George Hasegawa (Japan). Three new ISGS Fellows were also inducted – Professor Maria Zaha-rescu (Romania), Professor Masahide Takahashi (Japan) and Dr Michel Wong Chi Man (France). ISGS Lifetime Achievement Awards, which recognise excellence and sustained contributions to the sol-gel community over an entire career, were presented to Professor Sara Aldabe Bilmes (Argentina) and Professor Kazuki Nakanishi. Additional awards, including the 2022 ISGS PhD Thesis Awards, will be presented in the next ISGS Newsletter.
No International Sol-Gel Conference is complete without a strong social program, and seldom has this been more important for the members of a scientific community who had not gathered for three years. In Lyon the strong scientific program was complemented and enhanced by three events highlighting the rich cultural heritage of Lyon – the “Evening Lyonnais” Welcome Reception at the Lyon Town Hall; the Excursion to the “Hameau du Boeuf”; and the gala conference banquet at the Abbaye de Collonge (Bocuse). These events – and the post-conference tour that will be described later in this story – ensured that old friendships were strengthened and new ones forged. On the Friday afternoon following the close of the conference, Stephane became the 21st ex-Chairperson of the International Conference series. As a former exChairperson had already indicated to Stephane, one of the few things better than the privilege of serving as a Chair in this four-decade conference series is the relief that comes from becoming a member of the ex-Chairpersons’ group at the conclusion of a successful meeting. There are undoubtedly many possible ways in which to celebrate such success, but Stephane’s celebration of choice was to accompany around 30 conference delegates on a post-conference tour of Chamonix and the Aiguille du Midi. In addition to the breathtaking and majestic scenery that proved once again that nature’s artistry ex-ceeds anything that even the most talented sol-gel practitioner might achieve, the tour offered the opportunity for the Sol-Gel 2022 banner to be displayed one last time…on the roof of Europe at a height of 3842 metres above sea lev-el. The post-conference tour ended in much the same manner as the 21st International Sol-Gel Conference began – with Stephane taking the stage to farewell colleagues and new friends. But before that farewell, we were treat-ed to the unforgettable sight of the 2017 Sol-Gel Conference ex-Chair leading the 2022 Conference ex-Chair in a mad sled ride down the mountains of Chamonix, with images captured by another ex-Chair who has chosen to remain unidentified.
Stephane, and the many others who worked to organise the 21st International Sol-Gel Conference and ensure that it was an unforgettable experience for delegates, please accept our thanks and gratitude for the scientific, cultural and collegial experience that you provided for us in 2022. We now look forward to the 22nd Conference in 2024, which will be Chaired by Professor Nicola Pinna in Berlin (Germany).