Laurent Bernard draws solid electrolytes futur
28 years-old, Laurent Bernard was awarded the YESS Award 2018 first prize. The competition is organized by the RS2E and highlights each year two unique projects from young researchers. Laurent Bernard proposed this year an ambitious project to understand and overcome the ionic conduction mechanism of the new “hot” lithium solid-state batteries material: the solid polymer electrolyte from the start-up Ionic Material.
Congratulations for you prize, M. Bernard. The jury really appreciated your project.
How did you have the idea to focus on the solid electrolyte from Ionic Materials?
I had this idea reviewing papers for my thesis [CEA-Liten and INAC] that I will support in December 2018. During three years, I realized a multi-scale study on the structure and the ionic transport of liquid crystals uses as electrolyte for Li-ion solid batteries.
In this field, the Ionic Materials electrolyte makes us dream [Renault, Saft and Total have already invested in the start-up]. Its conductivity is awesome in comparison with the other known solid organic electrolyte. (10-3 S/cm vs 10-6 S/cm on average at room temperature).
Curious, I looked through the patents of the American start-up. Combining all the data I found, I could determine the product composition.
Tell us more!
I will just say that the material is already used in several fields. In particular, in microelectronic. However, to use this product in the batteries field is a unique solution. Someone had to think about it.
Strangely, Ionic Materials seems not to be interested in the ionic conduction mechanism behind the strong performances of its electrolyte.
My goal is to go beyond that: Understanding the conduction mechanism to find new replacements and to optimize batteries performances.
Is an ambitious project, isn’t it?
Thanks to my thesis, I have now all the needed skills. I take advantage of this interview to thank my CEA tutors for their teaching and their support for the last 3 years. This project owes them.
At CEA, my works were on the elaboration and the characterization of a new kind of solid organic electrolytes, which were made of ionic liquid crystals, both solid and liquid. In some directions, they behave like crystals. In other ones, they are disordered.
I succeeded in making lithium conduction “highways” in this new material [Enhanced conductivity, cation diffusion axes under control]. In addition, I could determine the electrolyte structure by SAXS (Small-Angle X-ray Scattering) and SANS (Small-Angle Neutron Scattering). I tried then to understand the diffusion mechanism of Li, at the atomic scale, between the anions using the measurement tools at the Laue-Langevin Institute in Grenoble. My engineering education taught me how to extrude composite and polymeric materials.
Those skills are priceless to study all kind of organic electrolyte and in particular the ones developed by Ionic Materials. Eventually, the only things I need right now are a lab and money.
You worked on the electrolytes for the YESS Award 2018 and your thesis is about the same thing. Why are you so interested in this batteries part?
When I began my thesis three years ago, researchers were focused on cathodes. They wanted to elaborate new materials with higher energy density. Then, researches went to the electrolytes because many things were already known about cathodes. The electrolytes, which are at the heart of the batteries, have not changed a lot since the first lithium batteries. Nevertheless, theirs properties limit the storage devices today. According to me, solid electrolytes will be the next important revolution in our smartphones, laptops and car batteries!
RS2E (@EnergyRS2E) October 3, 2018