Appendix B. Site Reports-Europe

Site: Centre National de la Récherche Scientifique (CNRS)
3, rue Michel-Ange
75794 Paris cedex 16 France
Tel: (33) 1-4496 40 00; Fax: (33) 1-4496 50 00 or

Date visited: 17 October 1997

WTEC: R.W. Siegel (report author), D.M. Cox, H. Goronkin, E. Hu, C. Koch, J. Mendel, D.T. Shaw



The panel spent the afternoon of 17 October from 13:30 to 17:00 at the headquarters of the Centre National de la Récherche Scientifique (CNRS) in Paris as guests of the CNRS Director General, Dr. Catherine Bréchignac. Dr. Bréchignac had the previous July taken over this important position after being Director of Physical and Mathematical Sciences at CNRS (the post now held by Dr. Jean-Paul Pouget) and Director of the CNRS Laboratory Aimé Cotton in Orsay. She graciously and generously assembled a group of nine senior leaders in the area of nanostructure science and technology to meet with the WTEC panel. The CNRS programs in the area of nanostructure science and technology are very extensive and range nationwide, from Lille to Marseille and from Rennes to Strasbourg, with the heaviest concentration being in the Paris area.


According to Dr. Bréchignac, who began with an overview of the CNRS activities, about 300 researchers in 40 physics laboratories and 200 researchers in 20 chemistry laboratories are involved in nanotechnology research with annual funding of about FFr. 18 million, much of which (~ FFr. 12 million) comes from the interdisciplinary Ultimatech Program within the CNRS. An additional FFr. 9 million is spent annually via contracts for nanotechnology research in about 45 laboratories paid on a 50%/50% basis by industry and the CNRS. These latter efforts appear to be particularly effective with regard to eventual technology transfer toward commercialization, in that this research is carried out within industrial surroundings, such as Thomson, St. Gobain, Rhône Poulenc, and Air Liquide. Particularly impressive was the degree of interaction and awareness apparent among the various participants in the French nanotechnology network, something clearly fostered to considerable advantage by the CNRS structure and its excellent management.

The CNRS research program ranges broadly across the full spectrum of nanotechnology. Synthesis of nanostructures using molecular beam, cluster deposition, and lithographic methods is being carried out, as are more classical chemical and electrochemical approaches. In addition, soft chemistry and biosynthesis efforts are underway. A wide range of scientific instrumentation for characterization and manipulation of nanostructures is being employed and/or developed. These include synchrotron radiation, near-field microscopies -- scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) and atomic force microscopy (AFM) -- and spectroscopies (STM, optical), magnetic and electron microscopy, and atom manipulation. The scientific and technological contexts of the CNRS nanotechnology research range over such diverse topics as nanomagnetism, molecular electronics, nanotubes, large-gap semiconductors, oxide layers, self-organization, catalysis, nanofilters, molecular sieves (zeolites), hybrid materials, therapy problems, and agrochemistry. Utilizing a roundtable format for the remainder of the discussions, the French participants described the activities in their own spheres of interest.


Dr. J.F. Baumard, Director of the Materials Program at CNRS and the Laboratory of Ceramic Materials and Surface Treatments (ENSCI) in Limoges, described the activities associated with the Department of Chemical Sciences at CNRS. The main research issues, under investigation at numerous university and industrial laboratories around France, are concerned with nanoparticles and related technologies:


Dr. Christian Colliex, the new Director of the CNRS Laboratory Aimé Cotton in Orsay, described the major types of research under development in France on carbon and other (e.g., BCN) nanotubes. The synthesis, elaboration, purification, and integration of nanotubes are being carried out by various methods at a number of locations:

In addition, a variety of nanotube applications are being investigated in the areas of nanoelectronics, nanocomposites, and storage media. Also, significant CNRS network research programs (so-called GdR or Groupements de Recherche) are underway or planned. One on fullerene research (1992-1996) ended recently, and another on single- and multi-walled nanotubular structures has been proposed at about FFr. 1.5 million. Both are led by P. Bernier at Montpellier, who is also the coordinator of a European effort on nanotubes for microstructure technology (NAMITECH) that includes laboratories from Montpellier, Stuttgart, Valladolid, Namur, Nantes, Orléans, and Dublin and is funded at about FFr. 1.5 to 2 million. In all these French efforts,research ideas come from scientists in laboratories --they "bubble up from the bottom."

A new NEDO (Japan) effort on production, characterization and properties of novel nanotubular materials, coordinated by Sumio Iijima (formerly with NEC-Tsukuba and now at Nagoya University), includes efforts at NEC-Tsukuba, Tokyo, MIT, Rehovoth, and Orsay.

Research on the Rheology and Mechanics of Nanoparticle Arrays

Dr. Henri Van Damme (CRMD-Orléans) discussed ongoing, broad-based French activities in the fundamental rheology and mechanics of ordered and disordered arrays of nanoparticles with controlled interactions. Various dispersed nanoparticle systems are being investigated:

An exciting effort by a 6-laboratory network, with some additional funding by industry, investigating the possibility of making ductile cement ("nanoconcrete"), which could have a strong future impact in this field, was also described.


Dr. François Gautier (Strasbourg) described the extensive work on magnetic nanostructures, including those for magnetic recording and sensors, being carried out in France through a wide-ranging CNRS network and EU-level interactions as well:

Most of the GMR work is being done in a joint laboratory at Thomson CSF (Orsay) led by Prof. Albert Fert, the pioneer of GMR, and jointly funded by CNRS, Thomson, and l'Université d'Orsay. Such laboratories are a special and apparently very effective feature of the CNRS national research program.


Prof. Jean-Pierre Jolivet (Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris) described the work on the chemical synthesis of nanomaterials being carried out in the area of chemistry of condensed matter at the University under Prof. Jacques Livage, Director. This research is jointly supported by the CNRS and various industries, such as St. Gobain and Rhône Poulenc. The main topics of this work are

Wide-ranging application fields include dispersions and coatings, high surface area materials, modification of bulk properties (mechanical, optical, electrical, and magnetic), and immunology. For example, hybrid networks of organic and inorganic materials interpenetrated at the nanometer scale (e.g., a Zr metal network and a polymerized organic network former) could be synthesized using a sol-gel route from heterofunctional molecular precursors and engineered to yield improved mechanical properties of coatings by varying the proportions of the two constituents.

Also discussed were research efforts on the mechanisms involved in the interactions between the precursors and the control of the size and dispersion of various nanostructured entities. The mean particle sizes of nanoparticles of magnetic spinel iron oxides, for example, have been controlled by means of controlling the chemistry of the oxide-solution interface to make composites in polymers or silica glasses; the magnetic behavior of the dispersed state in the nanocomposite is thus controlled.


Dr. Jacques Prost, Director at the Institut Curie (IC) in Paris, described work in progress at the IC on a variety of self-organized soft nanostructures, including lyotropic liquid crystals (softeners, detergents), block copolymers (polymer alloys), stealth vesicles (for drug delivery or gene therapy), and Langmuir-Blodgett films with grafted antibiotic surface layers. He went on to discuss a variety of related areas in analytical nanostructures, made by patterning surfaces with filled nanocavities, and in DNA-based bionanotechnology used to form nanoelectronics (wires, single-electron transistors), much of it done in the United States or Germany. He cited strong efforts in France at the IC, École Nationale Superieure, and Strasbourg on DNA molecule system micromechanics and on molecular motors for motility assays.


Finally, Dr. Albert Masson, CNRS Research Director and a close colleague of Drs. Bréchignac and Colliex at the CNRS and Laboratoire Aimé Cotton, then described extensive and impressive work on the growth of nanostructured materials by means of direct cluster deposition from molecular beams, research done only by the CNRS in France at Orsay and Lyon. A variety of nanomaterials, including metals, semiconductors, and insulators, have been synthesized and studied for a number of their properties. They have been well characterized by several methods, including transmission electron microscopy, Raman and electron spectroscopies, STM, AFM, EELS, and grazing-angle X-rays, along with simulations.


The WTEC panel's visit concluded with a general discussion among the participants. It was clear on the scientific side that much more theory, in both the modeling and ab initio areas, would be extremely useful to the future development of the nanotechnology field, in France and elsewhere. In terms of the functionality of national research efforts, in nanotechnology and otherwise, there appears to be excellent (and rather unique) networking in France across disciplinary lines and traditional areas, which seems to be largely a result of the highly effective GdR research groups set in motion with money from the CNRS. There is some concern about the effectiveness of transferring science to engineering and then to manufacturing, but the joint CNRS programs with industry can often (but not always) overcome this problem.

Published: September 1999; WTEC Hyper-Librarian