Q&A with Tapish Saboo, PhD, R&D Scientist, Tronox

Tell us more about your education/background as it pertains to the TiO2 industry. What experience did you gain as a PhD student?

My PhD thesis, entitled “Surface organometallic chemistry on Titania,” mainly focused on surface treatment of Titanium Dioxide (TiO2) with novel metal precursors to obtain a well-defined catalyst with high activity and robust performance. During my PhD, I learned synthesis and characterization of TiO2 as well as its application in the field of catalysis. All of this, when put together, gave me a decent background on how to work with TiO2 and its wide-spread applications.

What was your first impression on your new role, in particular the new working environment that is quite different from what you have experienced so far (industrial site vs. academic labs)?

To start with, it is all about efficiency within the framework of environmental and economic factors in an industrial site, unlike academic labs. Customer satisfaction and working in a safe environment are two of the primary goals in an industry. The goals in an industry are quite different then what you would observe in an academic lab.

What is your experience in catalysis and why does it interest you?

So far, I have performed photocatalysis using TiO2 as a catalyst to obtain H2 (used as a clean fuel) from H2O. Catalysis is a great tool to modulate a reaction. It helps us to achieve better control of the process and optimizes products’ yield efficiently. This is interesting because in doing so, you can develop sustainable products and processes through catalysis that have lesser environmental impacts. For example, thanks to the DeNOx catalysis we now have lower NOx emissions in the atmosphere that can significantly influence the global climate change.

What do you expect to bring to Tronox and specifically to specialty titanium-based products?

I joined the company recently and therefore am still learning from Tronox. Specialty products are really exciting. They can be fine-tuned to obtain products which are dedicated for specific application. Using my skills and the knowledge obtained from Tronox on specialty products, I would like to develop a wide variety of these specialty products for different applications in the most economical, safe and sustainable way.

Can you share your role in the setup of Tronox’s brand new R&D facility in Thann, France?

Since the beginning, I was actively involved in bringing advanced tools to the facility for better understanding and rapid development of new products, a key parameter for any R&D facility. I enthusiastically participated in all the ongoing projects for new products as well as learned in-house techniques to further my understanding about the processes.

How is life in Thann and the surrounding area for an Indian national?

Thann is a small, beautiful town located in the Haut-Rhin region of France sharing borders with Switzerland and Germany. The town itself has stunning views of wine yards on mountaintops but at the same time provides opportunities to explore Europe due to its close proximity with two other countries. Being a travel enthusiast myself, the location of the town perfectly resounds with my interest. The population in the town is mainly French but does have some big cities around with diverse culture.

What do you most enjoy about your work?

Challenges with a learning curve. It’s really exciting to learn and solve both scientific and non-scientific challenges. On a personal level, it widens your perspective and problem-solving skills. My position allows me to interact with my colleagues from different departments which helps me to better understand the problems and how to solve them. To work with people at the Thann site in itself is really joyful.

How do you see the catalysis market moving over the next few years?           

Since I started my career recently, I am still in the learning phase. Therefore, I believe right now I don’t have enough knowledge to comment. But, from my point of view, with a steady increase in population the global demand for finished goods is likely to increase – the production of which at some point involves catalysis.

What excites you the most about working with CristalACTiV™ products?

The most interesting feature of CristalACTiV™ products is there is something for everyone. There is a large portfolio of products available on the platform that can be used for different applications ranging from electronics to cleaning the air.

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Cristal, now as part of Tronox, is continuously developing new CristalACTiV™ materials to meet existing and future environmental regulations and respond to the needs of innovative applications.

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