Launch of the Grenoble Battery Hub


On 24 November, the ESRF, the European Synchrotron, the ILL, Institut Laue Langevin, and the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to create a hub for research on sustainable electrical energy storage, the “Grenoble Battery Hub”, based on the use of cutting-edge neutron and X-ray techniques and instruments. The aim of this partnership is to accelerate Research & Innovation so that the next generation of batteries are more efficient, safer, cheaper and more sustainable.

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Towards the next generation of batteries

The 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to John B. Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham and A. Yoshino for their contributions in the development of lithium-ion batteries, a technology used widely in smartphones, medical devices, electric vehicles or even satellites.

In the transition towards a carbon-neutral society, batteries are a key enabler to help forge new sustainable and disruptive energy storage solutions while creating novel markets and jobs in Europe. In order to meet challenging consumer demands, these advanced battery technologies are expected to simultaneously fulfil a large number of criteria, such as high-power and high-energy density to improve the performances and autonomy, and also the use of abundant, easily obtained material to guarantee their low cost, whilst improving safety aspects and recyclability, according to the principles of the circular economy.

The founding partners of the Grenoble Battery Hub are the ESRF, the ILL and the CEA, thus bringing together the two world-class X-ray and neutron centers, facilities, with the CEA’s state-of-the-art facilities and their longstanding expertise. The Battery Hub provides an integrated (holistic) approach and offers continuity, flexibility, reactivity, repeatability and efficiency to the scientific community. The hub will address the complexity of the electrochemical processes that take place in modern batteries by using a unique combination of experimental methods that enable their investigation under real working conditions, and in parallel developing computational strategies such as the application of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to optimize experiments and deal with the immense amount of data that will be produced.

 “Our future critically depends on energy production, management and storage. Battery technologies are an essential element of any sustainable and environment-compliant strategy. Joining forces in Grenoble, and bringing together the expertise of the CEA and the European research facilities ESRF and ILL, is a great moment for science but also for the development of durable programmes with our industrial partners, as this joint work will be able to address and develop the most advanced and competitive battery solutions,” explains Francesco Sette, Director General of the ESRF.

“Developing new generations of efficient, sustainable and affordable electrochemical batteries is an integral stepping-stone on the path to carbon-free energies. In order to fully understand the complex interactions involved in batteries and to obtain insights permitting new breakthroughs, the most powerful and well adapted experimental methods must be deployed to assist researchers. By combining the unrivalled, complimentary neutron and x-ray techniques available at the ILL and the ESRF with the outstanding scientific knowhow of the CEA, a major step has been taken to provide Europe’s scientific and industrial battery R&D community with the tools necessary to meet this common objective”, says Jacques Jestin, Director of Science at the ILL.

“Faced with the climate crisis, the energy transition towards massively carbon-free production and use of energy must mobilize all forces. The contribution of innovative and more efficient electrochemical energy storage technologies is essential. To develop them, the CEA teams, in technological and fundamental research, are mobilizing with their academic and industrial partners. Accelerating innovation calls for advanced, more precise and faster characterisation of materials and systems”, says Stéphane Siebert, Director of the CEA technological research division.

An active partnership on strategic R&D challenges

This promising scientific partnership has already been launched.

At the ESRF, 19 beamlines or dedicated laboratories (out of 46 ESRF beamlines) are involved, covering 2D/3D experiments, operando investigation, and providing the multi-modal information needed (chemical, structural, morphological, electronic properties, transport properties, etc.). The ESRF provides regular access to the beamlines as requested for the projects selected on the basis of scientific excellence.

At the ILL, many different techniques are available to the research community through our scientific proposal system, involving a large percentage of ILL’s suite of 40 instruments. Also, long term projects requiring access to several instruments over a 2 or 3 year period is possible, as is direct proprietary access for industrial clients.

At CEA, several institutes are involved, from both technological research (CEA-Liten) and fundamental research (IRIG at Grenoble and Iramis at Saclay). Also, the CEA is very proud to associate its experts with those of the ESRF and the ILL to create the first circle of an innovative pilot project, the Grenoble Battery Hub. It is an exciting time.

Around 50 scientists are already working on strategic R&D projects:

  • Studies of the ageing and degradation of battery components, with the aim to understand the internal processes in batteries during charge, discharge and failure
  • Studies of electrochemical performances and conditions of battery cycling to improve the capacity, efficiency, cycling stability, lifetime and recycling of batteries
  • Studies of thermal runaway in batteries to improve their safety
  • Investigation of promising components that could overcome the obstacles of lithium-ion in batteries.

The Grenoble Battery Hub is linked to the European initiatives “BIGMAP”, co-funded by the European Union’s H2020 programme, and BATTERY 2030+. The next step for the Battery Hub is to open to the European battery R&D community to advance research in support of the European Green Deal, the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the European Action Plan on Batteries.