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The ESRF Young Scientist Award 2023 goes to Tilman Grünewald


Tilman Grünewald, a materials scientist at the Institut Fresnel (CNRS / Aix-Marseille Université / Centrale Marseille) in France, has been awarded the ESRF Young Scientist Award 2023 during the ESRF User meeting. He received the award “for his outstanding contribution and scientific leadership in the development of x-ray diffraction techniques and their application to the understanding of biomaterials”.

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Grünewald talks about the ESRF as a ‘constant partner’ in his research over the past decade. It is also  where he started his scientific career: “I came to the ESRF as a post-doc with lots of ideas and I had the chance to explore them thanks to the astonishing set of tools the ESRF offered me to do my research, including complementary beamlines and excellent support groups”, he says.

“I am very honoured to receive the Young Scientist award, a recognition to my career, which has been defined throughout the years thanks to supportive mentors and collaborators, s such as Helga Lichtenegger (BOKU Vienna), Henrik Birkedal (Aarhus University), Virginie Chamard (Institut Fresnel, Marseille) and Marianne Liebi (EPFL/PSI)” he adds.

His research is focused on understanding the hierarchical structure of biomineralised tissues and the interplay between structure, function and formation. One of the key features of biomineralised tissues is that they have a hierarchical organisation that goes from the micrometre scale to the nanoscale and that is crucial for their mechanical properties.

“My long-term vision is to understand these structures to the point where we are able to use them to make man-made materials stronger and in a more eco-friendly manner”, he explains. 

ERC grant to look into enthesis

Last year, Grünewald received an ERC Starting grant to develop the new technique of texture tomography, a new 3D x-ray diffraction imaging method to understand the structural make-up of the enthesis, the biological connection between tendon and bone. When enthesis ruptures, there is currently no long-term treatment to repair it.

The ESRF will play an important role in his ERC project. “EBS is just what I need right now for my research. It feels as if someone had lifted the curtain and set the stage for a whole new kind of experiments”, explains Grünewald.

He will use beamlines ID15A and ID13 intensively to develop the technique of texture tomography, with the aim of resolving the local structure of biomineralised material and its crystallographic texture spatially while keeping a large field of view. This technique, combined with micromechanical, will enable him and his collaborators from the Institut des Sciences du Mouvement, in Marseille (France) to couple the hierarchical structure with the mechanical behaviour of the enthesis.

“Fourth generation x-ray sources like the ESRF-EBS are really door openers in my research”, he says. “Being able to go to sub 100 nm x-ray beam sizes with high flux at ID13 or having a sub-micron beam at 100 keV at ID15a is really a game changer and the only way for me to achieve my scientific goals”, he concludes.

Tilman Grünewald's work at the ESRF benefits from the ERC Starting Grant  TexTOM: X-ray texture tomography as a tool to enable, multiscale, in-situ imaging of the enthesis, a biological hinge between bone and tendon.

Text by Montserrat Capellas Espuny


Top image: Tilman Grünewald, on ID15A. Credits: S. Candé.