Jean-Michel Kiat

It is with the greatest sadness we announce that our dear colleague and friend Jean-Michel Kiat (1956-2018) passed away on the afternoon of Tuesday 13th, 2018 following a month of complications after heart surgery. Jean-Michel will always be remembered in the scientific community as a significant contributor to the ferroelectric community, as crystallographer, and through his precise and useful structural characterizations of various ferroelectric materials using both x-ray (laboratory and synchrotron) and neutron diffraction techniques.

Jean-Michel graduated in Electronic Engineering from ISEP (Institut Supérieur d’Electronique de Paris) in 1979 and received his MSc of Physics of Solids from University of Orsay in 1980, his PhD and habilitation in 1988 in Materials Science from University Pierre-et-Marie-Curie. His thesis work was done at Ecole Centrale Paris (a top-ranked French “Grandes Ecole”) in collaboration with the French National Centre of Telecommunication Studies (CNET) on the incommensurate and metastable states in barium sodium niobate and lead orthophosphovanadates of interest for their electrooptic and nonlinear optic applications.

In 1983, he joined the laboratory of Chemistry and Physics of Solids at Ecole Centrale Paris and the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) as senior scientist. In 1990, he also became Associate Researcher at Laboratoire Léon Brillouin, the French national laboratory of neutron scattering, and took responsibility of the thermal neutrons 4-circles diffractometer (6T2) that he co-developed technically. In 1999, he became Research Director at the CNRS and the first Head of Structures, Properties and Modelling of Solids (SPMS) lab at Ecole Centrale Paris promoting the ferroelectric activity making SPMS one of the main French player in this field.

Jean-Michel conducted research on the physics of phase transitions in ferroelectrics including incommensurate phases in ferroelectrics, quantum paraelectrics, relaxors, piezoelectric and morphotropic phase boundary materials and multiferroics in different materials forms (powders, single crystals, thin and thick films, nanoparticles, core-shell structures or more exotic nanostructures such as nanodonuts). He used in situ high resolution x-ray and neutron scattering techniques under external constraints including low and high temperatures, high pressure, or electric-field and his crystallographic expertise for analysing the data using Rietveld refinement or Gram-Charlier expansion analysis for instance. More recently and still very creatively, he started a fruitful research activity on capacitive energy storage and electrocaloric refrigeration. He co-authored over 150 publications with a large number of colleagues from many countries and he supervised more than 20 PhD students, who now have successful careers both in academia and in the industry. He was also involved in applied research by promoting start-ups.

In addition, he served the ferroelectric and neutron communities by being involved as member committees and organizer of conferences or schools (EMF International steering Committee, “Ecole et Rencontres Rossat-Mignod”, “Journees de la diffusion neutronique”, …)

Jean-Michel also had a passion for Japan where he spent several (short and long) stays and learnt to speak Japanese, fully immersing himself in this country and its people. He was an expert of aikido (7th Dan, Seitaï branch) and he became instructor of this Japanese martial art.

We will remember his great scientific skills, his kindness, his modesty, his simplicity and his shyness and occasional cautiousness, as well as the friendly and open scientific atmosphere he created around him. All this will remain an inspiration for us all for a long time to come.

Jean-Michel is survived by his two children, Virginie and Sylvain and their mother Aline as well as all the people who knew him in France and in so many other parts of the world, in his work or aikido environment, as well as in his friends and family life. We will all keep a part of him in our memory.