Yves Brechet awarded the 2022 Robert Cahn award

We are very pleased to announce Professor Yves Brechet as the 2022 recipient of the Robert Cahn Award. He will accept the award and deliver an accompanying keynote address during the NuMat event, to be held in Ghent, Belgium, from 24–28 October 2022.

The Robert Cahn Award recognises not just an outstanding scientist in the field of Nuclear Materials, but one who also has the ability to break down barriers between disciplines and people. Yves is currently Scientific Director of Saint Gobain, and a professor at Monash University. He previously served as the High Commissioner for Atomic Energy (Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, CEA, France) from 2012-2018 and as a professor at INP-Grenoble from 1988-2012. He received his PhD from INP-Grenoble in 1987 and from 1987-1988 was a postdoc at McMaster University in Canada where he worked with leading materials scientists including J. Kirkaldy and D. Embury on diffusion and recrystallization studies in materials, and explored critical current phenomena in Type II superconductors.

In keeping with the high ideals for the Robert Cahn Award (emulating the broad scientific and public policy impact pioneered by Robert Cahn), Yves is widely known and recognized for his forefront accomplishments both as a world-leading materials scientist and for his tremendous skill in effective communication of science to a broad audience, including breaking down barriers between different scientific disciplines. 

Yves is broadly known for his forefront seminal research on physical metallurgy of structural materials, with particularly insightful advances in our understanding of mechanical deformation mechanisms in structural materials. This includes development of comprehensive 3-dimensional work-hardening models for all stages of deformation (including the difficult-to-model post-yielding stages). His highest cited journal article to date (with well over 1000 citations) investigated the theoretical aspects of flow localization in materials during deformation and noted that the plastic stability could be interpreted in terms of the product of dislocation density and mobility.  Several characteristic length scales for spatial organization of dislocation structures were identified, depending on test conditions (tensile vs. cyclic fatigue conditions, etc.). He has authored (with Mike Ashby and others) multiple impactful papers that have analyzed the beneficial prospects of designing high-performance hybrid materials with heterogeneous architecture structures in order to achieve ultra-high structural performance. Yves has made significant advances to our understanding of precipitation effects on Portevin-LeChatelier serration effects during deformation of metals, along with modeling of friction stir welding phenomena in aluminum alloys.

One signature of his work is the broad range of materials systems that have been investigated, including austenitic stainless steels, nickel-base superalloys, bainitic and ferritic/martensitic steels, aluminum alloys, titanium alloys, zirconium alloys, pure metals (Cu, Ag, etc.), bulk metallic glasses, semiconductors, superconductors, and a variety of metal-matrix and ceramic-matrix composite materials. His analyses have provided enormous benefits for understanding thermomechanical processing and deformation mechanisms in a broad swath of materials systems and exposure conditions. Specific for nuclear materials, Yves has provided important insight on modeling and experimental analysis of irradiation hardening and flow localization in neutron irradiated austenitic steels. He has also made key contributions to understanding irradiation creep in austenitic steels and recrystallization processes in zirconium (zircaloy-4) alloys. He has also made valuable contributions to our understanding of radiation induced solute segregation in Fe-Cr alloys and magnetic field effects on corrosion of ferritic/martensitic steel by flowing Pb-Li liquid metal.

Yves is a member of the French Academy of Sciences. His numerous other distinguished awards include the European prize for materials science and technology (1995), the Sawamura and Guimaraes awards from the Iron and Steel Institute of Japan (2006), Max Planck Lecture in 2009, CNRS silver medal (2009), Chevalier de la legion d’honneur (2010), ASM Henry Marion Howe medal (2010), Poirson Prize for the French Academy of Sciences (2010), Lussac Prize from the Humboldt association (2010), and the Kelly invited lecture from Cambridge University (2019). He has received honorary doctorates from McMaster University and Universite Catholique de Louvain. According to Scopus he has written approximately 500 papers that have been cited over 18,000 times (h index of 72). He is widely regarded to be one of the very top researchers worldwide on structural materials for nuclear energy and other demanding applications. He has supervised or co-supervised 80 PhD students on a wide range of fundamental and applied materials research topics.

The Robert Cahn Award is intended to recognize an outstanding scientist who has also demonstrated the ability to break down barriers between disciplines and people. This has been amply demonstrated through the activities by Yves to bring together materials scientists, physicists, mechanical engineers and nuclear researchers. His ability to effectively bridge between fundamental research and practical industrial issues is reflected by his long-standing service as a member of the international scientific council of the international steel manufacturing corporation ArcelorMittal and as a scientific advisor to other major companies such as Rio Tinto Alcan, EDF and ONERA. He is currently serving as president of the scientific council of Framatome. He is currently president of the Scientific Council for Framatome.

The final criterion for the recipient of the Robert Cahn award is to be able to communicate science to a broad audience, including the general public and policy makers. Yves demonstrated this important skill on a daily basis when he served as High Commissioner for Atomic Energy of France from 2012-2018. Yves has taught a recurring course since 2018 on "Scientific analysis for political decisions" at the Ecole Nationale d'Administration. He is also currently serving as President of the Scientific Council of the non-profit "Maisons pour les Sciences" foundation for scientific education (founded by George Charpak). This extensive public service combined with his service on numerous other advisory committees and policy boards are excellent examples of his ability to communicate science to a broad audience.

I hope that you will join us in congratulating Professor Brechet on the recognition of his impactful achievements. Professor Brechet will receive the award in Ghent at NuMat 2022 where he will open the conference with the Robert Cahn Award Keynote Lecture.

Below is a selection of some of the impactful work that Professor Brechet has contributed over his distinguished career.