ERC Starting Grant for Tristan Petit: The researcher is investigating a new class of materials for energy storage at Helmholtz-Zentrum

03. September 2020

ERC Starting Grant for Tristan Petit

The researcher is investigating a new class of materials for energy storage at Helmholtz-Zentrum

Dr. Tristat Petit © HZB/M. Setzpfandt

Dr. Tristat Petit receives the ERC Starting Grant from the European Research Council for his research on a new class of materials for the storage of electrical energy, the so-called MXenes. © HZB/M. Setzpfandt

Dr. Tristan Petit has received a prestigious Starting Grant from the European Research Council for 1.5 million euros over the next five years. The materials researcher will use the grant to investigate a new class of materials known as MXenes for storing electrical energy. MXenes can store and deliver large amounts of electrical energy extremely quickly. They might play an important role in energy storage alongside batteries and supercapacitors. The ERC Starting Grant is one of the most important European research grants.

A supply of climate-neutral energy that relies on solar and wind energy must be combined with efficient energy storage. The class of materials referred to as MXenes – which was only discovered in 2011 – offers interesting properties. MXenes are able to store large amounts of electrical energy very quickly, and thus might play a role in future energy storage alongside classic electric batteries (slow charging and discharging) and supercapacitors (fast, but low energy).

Solutions for the energy transition

“The properties of MXenes are not only extremely exciting scientifically, but also promise to contribute to the Energy Transition. I am very pleased about the ERC Starting Grant. It gives me the opportunity to understand how MXenes work and to advance the development of these materials,” says Petit.

MXenes consist of two-dimensional flakes of metal carbide and nitride thatcan be stacked on top of each other like puff pastry.Electrochemical reactions are able to take place between these layers.Petit now wants to find out what these reactions can be and exactly how they take place using the Starting Grant funds for his NANOMXM project (“Nanoscale Chemical Imaging of MXene Electrochemical Storage by Operando Scanning X-ray Microscopy”).

Analysis at BESSY II

“The soft X-rays from BESSY II are particularly well suited for studying photo- and electrochemical processes in nanomaterials. We are constantly improving the instruments and methods for this purpose,” explains Petit.

He intends to use BESSY II to analyse the processes at the interfaces between the MXene surfaces and a liquid electrolyte in a realistic environment (in situ) and during real-time charge and discharging (in operando). In addition to various methods of X-ray spectroscopy, he will employ scanning transmission X-ray microscopy (STXM). Petit will develop an electrochemical cell for this purpose that can be used to study the properties of MXene.

“We warmly congratulate Tristan Petit on his research plans. BESSY II is an ideal platform for carrying them out, and they will dovetail perfectly with our other energy research. If the project is successful in mapping electrochemical reactions in MXenes and applying this understanding to advance the development of these materials, it will be a great step forward,“ says Prof. Bernd Rech, Scientific Director of the HZB.

About Tristan Petit

Tristan Petit completed his initial studies in Zurich at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) and his doctoral studies at the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Cachan near Paris. Following research residencies at ETH Zurich and the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), he came to Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) on a Humboldt Fellowship in 2013. He received a Freigeist Fellowship from the Volkswagen Foundation in 2015 and established a new Helmholtz Young Investigator Group on carbon-based nanomaterials at the HZB. Together with his team, he developed the idea for the EU NANOMXM project and also conducted the initial experiments on MXenes.

Further information:

  • This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 947852).
  • Interesting MXene results from the Petit Young Investigator Group on Nanomaterials: Fast and furious: “New class of 2D materials stores electrical energy”


Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie

Dr. Tristan Petit
Institute Nanospectroscopy
Phone: +49 30 8062-15805 / -43038

Press officer:
Dr. Antonia Rötger
Phone: +49 30 8062-43733


Press release HZB, 3 September 2020

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