Presentation

The Laboratoire Albert Fert is a joint research lab whose main legal bodies are the CNRS and Thales, and since 2021 the Université Paris-Saclay as a secondary legal body. It is located on the Thales Research and Technology site in Palaiseau, France.

The missions were defined jointly by the CNRS and Thales when the laboratory was created in January 1995. The research topics are updated each time the unit is renewed. Research programs at the Laboratoire Albert Fert are developed with the following generic objectives in mind:

• To develop technical innovation and basic research in the fields studied.
• Identify research areas with medium- to long-term technological applications.
• Strengthen the link between fundamental and applied research by developing collaborations with industrial and academic partners.
• Optimize existing technological systems through basic research.

The Laboratoire Albert Fert’s research focuses on various areas of condensed matter physics, i.e. spintronics, oxytronics, superconductivity and, more recently, neuromorphic physics, in which the laboratory is at the forefront in France and internationally.
This fundamental research is also aimed at developing applications and stimulating innovation in information and communication technologies, unconventional approaches to computing and beyond CMOS logic, and quantum technologies.

History

The creation in 1995 of this joint research unit, initially named “Unité Mixte de Physique”, between an academic partner and an industrial partner – one of the very first at the time – consolidated a collaboration that had existed for some ten years between Prof. A. Fert’s team at the Laboratoire de Physique des Solides of the Université Paris-Sud and a team from the Laboratoire Central de Recherche de Thales (then Thomson-CSF) led by Alain Friederich.

This collaboration, focused on studies of the development and characterization of the magneto-transport properties of magnetic metal multilayers, led first to the discovery of the Giant Magnetoresistance (GMR) effect in 1988, the subject of the Nobel Prize in Physics awarded to Albert Fert and Peter Grünberg in 2007. This discovery is also regarded as the birth of a new field of research now known as Spintronics.
In this field, the research carried out in the laboratory since its creation has led to numerous experimental and theoretical advances in the various types of magnetoresistive effects, i.e. GMR, TMR, AMR, etc. The study of heterostructures combining magnetic and semiconductor materials, organic materials or graphene, as well as spin transfer and recently spin-orbit coupling effects, or even sputtering, have also been studied. The study of heterostructures combining magnetic materials and semiconductors, organic materials or graphene, as well as the study of spin transfer. More recently, effects linked to spin-orbit coupling or ultrafast spintronics have rapidly opened up new research directions which have also developed rapidly. The studies carried out by the Unité Mixte de Physique have also led to the development of applications, notably in the field of magnetic sensors and, more recently, spintronic radio-frequency devices.

In 1996, the lab’s activities, initially focused on spintronics studies, were extended to the field of high-temperature superconducting oxides (HTS) with the arrival of J-P. Contour’s group from ESPCI’s Solid State Physics Laboratory. This new theme, “High-Temperature Superconductors and Exploratory Devices”, was part of the development of two new lines of research: the study of physical concepts applicable to exploratory devices in HTS, and the study of the growth of HTS cuprates. In April 1998, the Central Research Laboratory’s Superconducting Devices Laboratory joined the unit to ensure the technological development of research carried out in the superconducting laboratory towards microwave device applications.

In 2005, following the closure of the LURE synchrotron, a team of 3 CNRS staff working on LIGA technology joined the laboratory. This move was justified on the one hand by the links established between this team and several Thales TRT laboratories, and on the other by the team’s interest in remaining close to the Soleil synchrotron currently under construction.

When the lab was renewed in 2006, it was decided to formalize the existence of a “Multifunctional Oxides” topic in order to bring together the work that had gradually developed since 1999 on the basis of synergies between the two historical topics. When the lab was renewed in 2010, it was also decided to formalize the existence of two cross-disciplinary research operations: “Cognitive information processing” and “Hybrid superconductor/ferroic systems”. Since 2020, in view of the growing national and European interest in quantum technologies, the laboratory has launched an initiative to consolidate research activities currently underway or in development around the challenges of these technologies.

In December 2023, the Unité Mixte de Physique CNRS/Thales changed its name to Laboratoire Albert Fert CNRS/Thales.

Key figures

40

40 permanents
CNRS, Thales, Université
Paris-Saclay

Around 50

short-term researchers
(PhD students and post-doc)

> 300

publications
(2018-2023)

26

patents
(2018-2023)
(> 110 since the creation
of the laboratory)

36

PhD theses defended
(2018-2023)

Management team

Since January 1st 2020, the management team has been made up of:
Paolo Bortolotti, Director (Thales), Vincent Cros, Deputy Director (CNRS) and Anne Dussart, General Secretary (CNRS).