Exploration of matter and universe


Fundamental research expands and deepens our understanding of the origin and evolution of the universe and how, at a fundamental level, matter and nature work. It is also a key investment for the future: many of the most pioneering and transformative scientific discoveries were built on fundamental science carried out decades or even centuries previously.

Advanced materials with high-performance characteristics are critical for industry, the economy and for helping to solve major challenges as diverse as energy, the environment and healthcare. Indeed, advanced materials has been identified as a key enabling technology (KET) within the EU’s current research and innovation program, Horizon Europe. Another KET is additive manufacturing, a new and growing industry sector with the potential to transform manufacturing and production into an agile and digitized economy with a reduced environmental footprint.

Magnetism research increases our understanding of the universe and also supports the development of magnetic materials with new and improved properties and characteristics. This portfolio of phenomena, effects and materials are then utilized within applied magnetism research for the exploration of potential next-generation technological applications and future devices in fields such as quantum, neuromorphic and reservoir computing, high-temperature superconductors, terahertz technology and domain wall-based logic.

The physics and engineering of life explore the mechanical, physico-chemical, structural and statistical properties of biological matter. They aim at the fundamental study of living matter, the development of new materials and the development of applications in the field of health, based on physical methods of analysis, numerical simulation, design – notably through nanotechnology, nanofabrication – and imaging and the use of large instruments (IBS, ESRF, ILL, etc.).

Infinitely small-scale physics research – studying the most elementary particles and the forces that govern their interactions – is essential in order to broaden our understanding of the origin of the structures of the universe, the cosmic phenomena that take place and the characteristics of the very first stages of the universe just after the Big Bang. The complexity involved in studying these greatest unsolved mysteries of the universe requires large-scale international collaborations and the development of sophisticated, state-of-the-art instrumentation.

Very large instruments, such as X-ray synchrotrons or neutron sources, play a critical role at the forefront of modern scientific research. The development of extremely sophisticated instrumentation within these research infrastructures provides academic and industrial researchers with unique techniques and powerful tools. The pioneering research carried out enables the structure and behavior of matter to be investigated at the molecular and atomic level and supports the discovery and characterization of new materials.


Focus on:

EPN (European Photon & Neutron) Science Campus: EMBL, ESRF, ILL (+ IBS)

International science hub in Grenoble, world-leading scientific instrumentation. The EPN Campus experiments breaking new ground in modern research, in fields as diverse as structural biology, fundamental physics, or the science of materials.


Instruments at the ILL provide detailed knowledge of the structure of solids at the atomic or molecular level, for example the arrangements of magnetic moments in complex magnetic systems, the location of light atoms in intricate structures, determination of the residual stress distribution in bulky mechanical parts, thereby enabling the development of new improved materials for a broad range of applications such as hydrogen storage materials, electrolytes and battery materials, and magnetic films.


X-ray scattering, imaging and spectroscopy facilities at the ESRF enable the structure of materials to be examined in a range of advanced technology fields such as energy research, catalysis, engineering, metallurgy, nanoscience, as well as fundamental structural physics and chemistry, archaeology and palaeontology.

Instruments at the ESRF also enable the chemical, electronic, magnetic and dynamic properties of materials to be studied, including under extreme conditions and in-situ. The properties are closely related to the functionality of the material and cover a number of fields of research: materials science, correlated materials, magnetism, superconductivity, catalysis, coordination chemistry, environmental science, geochemistry, geophysics.

High Throughput Crystallization and Fragment Screening Facility (HTX lab): EMBL

One of the core technical platforms of the Partnership for Structural Biology (PSB), offers access to fully automated, remote controlled crystallography pipelines integrating crystallization screening, crystal optimization, crystal mounting and cryo-cooling, and automated X-ray data collection into continuous workflows controlled though dedicated web interfaces. The protein-to-structure pipeline minimizes delay and accelerates the progression of challenging projects. CrystalDirect technology also enables fragment screening and screening and structural characterization of ligand-target complexes.

Example of collaborative project:

Laboratory Subatomic Physics & Cosmology (LPSC): CNRS, Grenoble INP, UGA

Fundamental research into the most elementary particles and the forces that govern their interactions in order to broaden our understanding of the universe, its structure and its evolution and including some of the greatest unsolved mysteries of the universe, e.g., the unification of forces, the origin of the mass of particles, the origin of the matter-antimatter asymmetry in the universe and the search for dark matter and energy.

LabEx FOCUS (Focal Plane Array for Universe Sensing): CEA, CNRS, Grenoble INP, UGA (+ Institute for Millimetric Radio Astronomy (IRAM), Université Savoie Mont Blanc)

With expertise across the entire detection chain, LabEx FOCUS brings together experts from 9 major laboratories (of which 6 are in Grenoble) to make a major contribution in the field of near-infrared to submillimetre from the design to the characterisation of detectors with the best performance for astrophysics.

Local research partners: IPAG, Institut Néel, LPSC, IMEP-LAHC, CEA Leti, IRAM