Elvira Fortunato
Elvira Fortunato © Docentes FCT-UNL

Elvira Fortunato

I like to divert the ways materials are used, to manipulate them a little and use them for other purposes.

Portuguese scientist Elvira Fortunato is a pioneer in the field of paper electronics. After years of research, she invented the paper transistor in 2008 and has since become one of the greatest sources of inspiration for young people in her country. 

As part of the Night of Ideas, she will exchange views, on Thursday 27 January, with Estonian scientist Maarja Kruusmaa at the Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon. 

Updated on 26/01/2022

5 min

Born on 22 July 1964 in Almada, Elvira Fortunato is a Portuguese scientist who is currently a professor in the Department of Materials Science at the Nova University in Lisbon. In 1987, she obtained a degree in Materials Science and Physics before continuing her studies at the University of Lisbon. Four years later, she obtained a Master's degree in Semiconductor Materials, followed by a PhD in Microelectronics and Optoelectronics in 1995. In the same year, she joined the faculty of the university and became director of the Institute of Nanostructures, Nanomodelling and Nanofabrication in 1998. 

Recognised as a pioneer in the field of paper electronics, in 2008 she led the research team that invented the paper transistor. An elected member of the Academy of Engineering and the European Academy of Sciences in Lisbon, Elvira Fortunato is also Associate Editor of Rapid Research Letters Physica Status Solidi and co-editor of Europhysics Letters. 

Elvira Fortunato's research is focused on the exploration of new electronic active materials that are environmentally friendly and compatible with flexible electronics. This led Elvira Fortunato and her team to invent the first paper transistor in 2008, using a low-cost, flexible biopolymer as an insulating layer to replace silicon. Now one of the most innovative scientists in the field, Elvira Fortunato has succeeded in demonstrating that oxide materials can be used as true semiconductors. 

Thanks to this discovery, she is now at the global forefront of green electronics, a major sustainable development challenge for our society. In a country where female science students dominate the sector, Elvira Fortunato remains an authority and a source of inspiration for the new generation. 


Lauded both at home and abroad, Elvira Fortunato has received numerous awards for her work. In 2005, she was awarded the prize for scientific excellence by the Portuguese Science Foundation, and in 2009 she was cited by the Portuguese Parliament for her research. The following year, she was named a member of the Order of Prince Henry by the then Portuguese President, Anibal Cavaco Silva. 

In 2016, her work earned her the Blaise Pascal Medal in Materials Science from the European Academy of Sciences. Two years later, the European Research Council awarded her a grant of €3.5 million, the largest sum ever awarded to a Portuguese researcher. In 2020, she was awarded the Pessoa Prize for her contribution to the scientific development of Portugal. 

  • 1995


    Elvira Fortunato obtains a PhD in microelectronics and optoelectronics and joins the faculty of the University of Lisbon.

  • 1998


    She becomes director of the Institute of Nanostructures, Nanomodelling and Nanofabrication.

  • 2008


    She leads the team that creates the first paper transistor.

  • 2020


    Elvira Fortunato receives the Pessoa Prize, recognised as the most important award in Portuguese scientific culture.

The Institut français and the scientist

As part of the Night of ideas and the French presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2022, the Institut français organises 13 dialogues between European personalities. Theses dialogues will take place in European capitals during the evening of the night of ideas (27 January 2022). 

An annual meeting devoted to the free movement of ideas and knowledge, the Night of Ideas is coordinated by the Institut français.

Learn more about the Night of ideas 

Learn more about the Institut français cultural programme for the French presidency of the European Union in 2022.

L'institut français, LAB