Essay Science

Life, a Model for Chemists
An Interview with Marc Fontecave

by Lucie Campos , 2 June 2014
translated by Kate McNaughton
with the support of Institut français

In the context of increasing uncertainty regarding how we will source our energy in the future, the bio-inspired chemistry of carbon and hydrogen is, according to Marc Fontecave, destined to play a major role in the development of renewable energies. His laboratory, which works at the crossroads of chemistry and biology, uses biological phenomena such as photosynthesis as its inspiration in inventing new materials, new catalysts and new reactions.

Marc Fontecave is a professor at the Collège de France, where he holds the Chair in the Chemistry of Biological Processes, and is a member of the Académie des Sciences. His laboratory, the Chemistry of Biological Processes Laboratory, works at the crossroads of chemistry and biology, following a multidisciplinary approach based on the methods of biochemistry, molecular and structural biology, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, and on various spectroscopies. He has in particular worked on the chemistry of metals in transition: iron, cobalt and nickel, and the role that these metallic ions play in cellular life, and also on the chemistry of carbon (exploitation of carbon dioxide) and of hydrogen.

For English subtitles, click on the “cc” button on the upper right-hand corner of the video.

Shooting & video editing: Ariel Suhamy.

by Lucie Campos, 2 June 2014

Further reading

Marc Fontecave’s page on the Collège de France website.

The inaugural lecture given by Marc Fontecave on 26th February, 2009: video and [the full transcript in French].

Le progrès scientifique face aux dogmes et au principe de précaution, an interview conducted in Fall 2013.

To quote this article :

Lucie Campos, « Life, a Model for Chemists. An Interview with Marc Fontecave », Books and Ideas , 2 June 2014. ISSN : 2105-3030. URL :

Nota Bene:

If you want to discuss this essay further, you can send a proposal to the editorial team (redaction at We will get back to you as soon as possible.

Our partners

© - Any replication forbidden without the explicit consent of the editors. - Mentions légales - webdesign : Abel Poucet