Sylvain Coulombe Interview

Our featured Scientist of the Week, Dr. Sylvain Coulombe ( has dedicated his entire career in studying plasmas and exploring potential applications. He is also chairing the 23rd International Symposium on Plasma Chemistry that will take place in July 2017 in beautiful Montreal, Canada. For more information visit:

I am a big supporter of this conference, as I have attended it several times since the late 1990s (see Throughout the years, this conference has given me the opportunity to expand my knowledge, meet and interact with plasma experts and learn more about the latest advancements in the field. I also had the chance to attend the Plasma Summer school as a PhD student and found the experience very positive!

Sylvain and the organizing committee are in the process of putting together a wonderful program, here are some of the topics:

1. Fundamentals of plasma-surface interactions
2. Diagnostics and modelling in plasma chemistry
3. Non-equilibrium effects and atmospheric pressure plasma processes
4. Plasma sources: design and characterization
5. Plasma processing for micro-electronics and –mechanics
6. Plasma deposition of inorganic films and hard coatings
7. Plasma deposition and treatment of polymers
8. Clusters, particles, and powders
9. Plasma chemical synthesis and conversion
10. Plasma spray and thermal plasma material processing
11. Plasma-aided combustion and aerodynamics
12. Plasma medicine
13. Plasma in liquids
14. Plasmas for resource recovery and upcycling
15. Green plasma processing

In his exclusive interview to The Science and Engineering Cafe, Professor Coulombe talks about his current research, how he got involved in plasma research and the upcoming ISPC conference.

Thank you Sylvain for the interview and good luck next year at the conference!

Daphne Pappas


Professor Sylvain Coulombe Interview

sc-11) Describe your current research.

My current work focuses on the development of plasma sources and processes for nanomaterial synthesis, electrical-to-chemical energy conversion, material circularity (i.e. resource recovery and waste valorization), and wastewater treatment. I am an application-driven person, and I do not hesitate to combine thermal and nonthermal plasma sources together to achieve unique processing conditions. The most fascinating part of my work is that, no matter how much effort we put in to design our sources and processes based on knowledge, we are always surprised by some new and unexpected behavior. This fuels our curiosity and desire to understand at the fundamental level. Lately, I have become quite excited about the plasma generation capabilities enabled by the new nanosecond high-voltage pulser we developed in my laboratory and that opens the door to more energy-efficient atmospheric pressure processes.

2) What is your personal motto?

Work hard, play hard, follow your instinct. I have always considered my laboratory as a sandbox where we can all express our creativity. Of course, we are always constrained by funding limitations, project milestones and deadlines. This is why we must work hard and well to both meet objectives and find time to experiment with new ideas.

3) What made you choose plasma as your field of study?

I grew up in a small rural town above the 48th parallel, in the Province of Québec. I remember playing hockey on the ice rink we made on the farm field. In February, when the temperature could drop as low -30C with clear skies, we had massive Northern Lights in the backdrop. As a teenager, not yet interested in science or engineering, I found these “dancing lights” beautiful and fascinating. I guess this seeded something in my head back then…

4) I heard that you are chairing the next ISPC conference that will take place in Montreal next year. Congratulations! Who should attend the conference and why?

The ISPC brings together scientists and engineers from all over the world, and has always been a conference where fundamental and applied research work in plasma technology share the same podium. Over the years, the organizers successfully managed to maintain a harmonious combination of recurrent topics forming the base and emerging topics. In 2017, we will be embracing the new activities in green plasma science and engineering, and material circularity. And… Montréal, a cosmopolitan city, is an amazing place to be!

  1 comment for “Sylvain Coulombe Interview

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: