2016 Piero Baglioni

Piero Baglioni (Firenze)

Piero Baglioni was awarded the 2016 Overbeek Gold Medal in recognition of his outstanding contributions to colloid and interface science. Piero, born and educated in Florence, Italy, became Professor at the Udine University, after which he returned to his Alma Mater, where he teaches Physical Chemistry since 1992. He has been appointed as Visiting Scientist/Professor at the University of Houston, the Weizmann Institute, the College de France, and the M.I.T. He is the founder and Director of the Italian National Center for Colloid and Surface Science (CSGI). Piero Baglioni has served with passion and dedication the science of colloids and interfaces for almost 40 years; his scientific record includes more than 400 publications, 23 patents and several books. 
    The most distinctive feature of Piero’s research accomplishments is the transfer of fundamental knowledge reported in his publications in the leading journals of the field, to applicative areas, driven by genuine curiosity and deep motivations and beliefs about the role of a scientist in the society, which should not be restricted to laboratory. Both his publications and patents nicely illustrate the diversity of his scientific interests, oriented towards the applications of Colloid Science in various and apparently very distant areas, but with similar conceptual and methodological underpinning. His patents concern the preparation of aqueous suspensions at high concentration of particulate, the therapy and photodynamic diagnosis of tumors, the conservation of cultural heritage, the setup of a new process for the treatment of textile industrial waste, production of emulsions from Bio Crude Oil, the preparation of nanoparticles and novel nano-coatings via flame-spraying, magnetoliposomes for drug delivery and targeting and so on… 
    From a fundamental point of view, he studied the effect of ion scavenging groups such as cage molecules (calixarenes, cryptands etc.) at air-water interface and in micelles and microemulsions. He contributed to the understanding of ion-specific effects in colloids, system, showing the interaction of co-ions at interfaces. He investigated novel bioinspired amphiphiles, such as vitamin-C and nucleoside derivatives. In this latter case, he has highlighted for the first time that these systems show a recognition pattern (in water solutions) between complementary bases similarly to DNA and RNA (Watson-Crick molecular recognition), opening a new route to the pharmacological and gene delivery applications. In the field of inorganic materials, he has discovered a method to increase the metastable regime of nanoparticles, in particular of calcium and magnesium hydroxide and carbonates, and applied these novel nanoparticles systems to the Conservation of Cultural Heritage (frescoes paints, paper and wood de-acidification). These nano-systems, used for the conservation of the Cultural Heritage, granted international resonance, and the methodologies devised are used worldwide. Recently, he proposed a new method based on the free water index analysis that allows quantitative information on the cement setting process and on the efficacy of additives used in cement industry, which is one of the largest industrial activity. 
    In these last years, Piero has pioneered the applications of Colloid Science to Conservation of Cultural Heritage. Thanks to his energy, his scientific expertise and exceptional communicative skills, Colloid Science has taken and will more and more have the central stage in this area. These new methods and materials are nowadays very popular to scientists and to the general public, and received many highlights and reports from several newspapers (such as New York Times, El Pais, Le Monde, Corriere della Sera, Frankfurter Algemeine, etc) TV documentary (such as Discovery Channel, Fox News, Dwelle TV, etc.), movies and scientific Journals (Nature, Nature Materials, Nature Nanotechnology, Scientific Americam, etc.). 
    The new conservation methodologies mainly based on novel or revisited colloidal systems can be considered as an advanced palette available for the most relevant conservation issues, that is cleaning and consolidation, and have been successfully used in different restoration workshop, such as in the treatment of frescoes by Beato Angelico, Masaccio, Piero della Francesca, Maya wall paints in Calakmul (Mexico), deacidification of paper documents and wood from the VASA warship, and in several others workshops distributed worldwide. From the Conspectus” of his 2010 paper in Accounts of Chemical Research: “Modern civilization” inherited artworks have a powerful impact on society, from political, sociological, and anthropological points of view, so the conservation of our Cultural Heritage is fundamental for conveying to future generations our culture, traditions, and ways of thinking and behaving.” 
    Previous awards for Piero’s scientifc achievements include the Rhodia Prize from the European Colloids and Interface Society (ECIS), 2002, the European Grand Prix for Innovation Awards; the 2011 Journal of Colloid and Interface Science award for Lifetime Achievement; “The Caballero Aguila” (highest award from the INHA, Mexican Federa agency for the conservation of Mexico Cultural Heritage), 2010; the “Catedra de Fisica, University of San Luis Potosi, Mexico, 2012; Chen Distinguished Lectureship on Neutron Science and Technology, Taiwan Ministry of Science and Technology and National Tsing Hua University, 2016. Last but not least, he teaches Physical Chemistry and Colloid Science to Chemistry undergraduate students and Restoration Chemistry to students attending a Science for Restoration master degree (which he contributed to set up in Florence). His lectures and scientific passion have inspired generations of scientists.