EUCYS : ILL laureate reports on his stay in Grenoble

Paul Olli won the EUCYS-ILL prize for his works on metal-air batteries

Never had I ever expected to be invited to visit Grenoble which is home to the greatest landmarks of modern science. After receiving the special prize from ILL at the European Contest for Young Scientists I had the golden opportunity to do so. Together with Teodor Kirilov, the winner of equivalent award from ESRF, we were up for an exciting week in ILL, ESRF, CEA and IBS.

Even though the ILL was undergoing an extensive renewal and upgrade process, we could spend a whole day at the facility, where Andrew Wildes gave us a splendid and thorough explanation of how the facility operates, and how the beamlines with the many devices connected to the beamlines work. Not only could we visit the beamlines, but also the reactor pool itself and converse with the experts operating it. Mind you, since we are talking about a nuclear reactor, extreme precautions were taken and proper protective equipment was used when entering the hall. It felt like a sci-fi picture.

In the ESRF, we could spend two very interesting days. After a brief general tour of the ESRF, we had a look of the different beamlines specialised from macromolecular crystallography to high-pressure extreme measurements, and as the programme was so elaborately organised, we also visited multiple beamlines working in my own specific area of interests – batteries, fuel cells, and materials science. It is truly inspiring to speak with people proficient and erudite in the field. Special thanks to Jakub Drnec and Samuel Tardif. Even though each beamline is distinctly unique, one could notice some general similarities: excessive amounts of optics – monochromators, lenses, etc, extremely stabilized shiny equipment in a very high vacuum, and excessive amount of protective lead.

Furthermore, it was my utmost excitement to be personally offered to spend a day at IRIG of CEA, where I could see the labs working on batteries, photovoltaics, nanotechnology, and materials science in general. I felt like a child in a toy store. Thanks to Pascale Chenevier for this amazing tour and an opportunity to speak with many of the current students. It was my last day in Grenoble and left me with the best of feelings.

After spending an intensive week meeting the top scientist, being introduced to their work and the myriad of opportunities the bleeding edge high-tech solution the Grenoble science hub offers, I know I wish to return there in near future. I wish to express my gratitude for the warm welcome and for making the week the most pleasant and memorable experience. It should also be noted that Grenoble itself is a glorious city with lovely streets, wonderful food culture, and a spectacular landscape in every direction.