Juan Cesar Scaiano Organic Chemistry

World renowned photochemist who discovered the reaction causing paper to turn yellow over time and developed ways to make paper more stable

"What used to take a week to analyze now took a few hours. Imagine how much more testing could be done in the span of one week!"

The Story

Tito Scaiano first became interested in chemistry in high school, in Argentina. He came to Canada in 1975 as a visiting scientist with the National Research Council. Returning to the NRC in 1979, he developed an innovative new program studying organic reaction intermediates using laser techniques. He remained at NRC for 12 years, becoming Principal Research Officer and Head of the Reaction Intermediates Group before leaving to join the University of Ottawa as Professor of Chemistry.

Scaiano has shone new light into the complex field of photochemistry. He was the first to use two lasers to follow photochemical changes in short-lived intermediates during a reaction. This method allows scientists to measure photochemical reactions, where previously they could only observe them. As a result, he opened up many new areas of study in organic chemistry.

A practical result of Scaiano's research is improvement in the quality of newsprint. Newsprint differs from higher quality papers in that making it does not require removal of lignins from the wood pulp. Producing newsprint therefore costs a fifth as much as producing higher quality papers, and does not produce large amounts of environmentally harmful wastes. But newsprint, unlike higher quality papers, goes yellow over time. In 1992, Scaiano's team at the U of Ottawa discovered the mechanisms by which this occurs and went on to develop a new technology to prevent the yellowing process.

Most recently, Scaiano is collaborating with the Canadian Space Agency, Health Canada and companies involved in microelectronics to study molecules found in drugs, antioxidants, sunscreens, and several polymers. He is among the top 100 most cited chemists in the world, having written over 400 scientific papers and contributed over 20 articles in books. He holds two patents. Scaiano served as President of the Inter American Photochemical Society (1990-92), and is a member of the Editorial Boards of several journals as well as Associate Editor of Photochemistry and Photobiology. The title "Distinguished University Professor", awarded to Dr. Scaiano in 2000, was the first at the university, and was created to recognize senior scholars who are especially outstanding in their achievements and preeminence in their field of study.

Sources: ResearchPerspectives, Summer 2000; U of Ottawa news release, July 11, 2000; U of Ottawa biography; Photo: U of Ottawa news release.

The Person

January 4, 1945
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Family Members
  • Wife: Elda
  • Children: 4, each born in a different country
Distinguished University Professor
University of Ottawa
  • BSc (Chem), U of Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1967
  • PhD (Chem), U of Chile, 1970
  • Palladium Medal (Chemical Inst. of Canada), 1999
  • Sir Christopher Ingold Lectureship and Medal (Royal Soc. of Chemistry, UK), 1998
  • Killam Prize in Science, 1998
  • Porter Medal, 1995
  • Henry Marshall Tory Medal (RSC), 1995
  • Barringer Spectroscopy Award, 1995
  • U of Ottawa Award for Excellence in Research, 1994
  • Inter-American Photochemical Society Award in Photochemistry, 1993
  • Steacie Award in Photochemistry, 1986
  • Steacie Prize in the Natural Sciences, 1985
  • Fellow, Royal Society of Canada, 1985
  • Rutherford Medal in Chemistry, 1983
  • Fellow, Chemical Institute of Canada, 1983
Last Updated
December 6, 2011

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