Published on 23 November 2017

Cyrille Barreteau, a 2017 FET laureate, presents his COSMICS project

Cyrille Barreteau from CEA Paris-Saclay explains that with the constant downsizing of electronic devices, components reach a size down to the nanometer scale where quantum effects play a predominant role. A strong fundamental research effort as well as efficient modelling approaches are essential for further advances. In the search of approaches towards extreme miniaturization for shrinking electronic circuits, new fields have emerged. In the eighties, spintronics arose from the observation of spin-dependent electron transport phenomena, such as Giant Magnetoresistance (GMR) in solid-state devices that was rapidly integrated in spintronic components. Molecular electronics appeared at the same time as spintronics and is based on the integration of molecules in electronic components. COSMICS is a project in the field of molecular spintronics that combines spintronics and molecular electronics. Molecular spintronics emerged for several (sometimes contradictory) reasons. Probably the most important feature is that molecules are much more versatile than solid state solutions as they offer an almost infinite range of possibilities and their electronic, magnetic, and transport properties can be finely tuned. This profusion of molecule/substrate combination opens up new possibilities in terms of spintronic applications, most of them still unforeseen at the moment. However, in order to avoid getting lost in a myriad of options, a truly interdisciplinary approach as well as fundamental driving concepts are crucial to clear the way towards new practical solutions. In particular, an efficient modelling approach is needed to shorten the development process of materials-enabled products. Cyrille Barreteau explains that the COSMICS project involves a strong modelling strategy combined with close collaboration with experimental teams. The stringent confrontation of their models with the results of experimental benchmark will validate their approach and strengthen the reliability of their modelling tools.

The COSMICS project will be strongly driven by theoretical and computational modelling and aims at providing state-of-the-art and user-friendly modelling tools to a broad scientific academic and industrial community. COSMICS intends to develop a modelling platform around molecular spintronics and general concepts for efficient strategies to greatly optimize the magneto-transport properties of materials/devices. In addition, Cyrille Barreteau hopes that the project will help to identify some possible systems with optimal properties that could be integrated in spintronic devices.

Interview with Cyrille Barreteau, COSMICS Project Coordinator

Could you present your career background?

After studying engineering at Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées, I continued my studies with a PhD at Pierre et Marie Curie University (Paris 6) in physics on the "Theory of fast electrons propagation in alloys and its applications to transmission electron microscopy". Then, between 1995 and 1998, I did a postdoc at CEA Saclay and SISSA, Trieste. Since 1998, I have been working at the CEA in the Saclay Institute of Matter and Radiation (IRAMIS).


Why did you apply for this programme? How can it help you in your research?

I applied for a FET Open call since I believed that our group had reached a sufficient degree of maturity in the field of molecular spintronics to propose new ideas that could lead to disruptive innovations. In addition, we could manage to gather the right consortium with complimentary, yet overlapping areas of expertise and scientific interest.

This EU funding is a great opportunity to accomplish scientific and technological goals that would have not been achievable at the level of a national project, since we will have the possibility to both develop fundamental concepts and try to apply and implement them in applications.


What kind of new technology can it lead to?

We are aiming at two types of technologies:

  • Efficient, reliable and user-friendly modelling tools for the atomistic simulations of materials for technology development.
  • Development of new spintronic devices or systems:
  1. New hybrid organic/inorganic ferromagnetic interfaces to enhance and control the magnetic anisotropy;
  2. Integration of molecules in a spin valve device in order to make a new class of stimuli-responsive spintronic devices and rationalize their properties by advanced modelling.


At the interface of which disciplines can your project be placed?

The consortium of the COSMICS project gathers partners with strong expertise in a variety of scientific fields: theory and modelling in electronic-structure, transport, magneto transport, and magnetic properties of nanostructures and devices; software development: chemical synthesis of functional complexes and their integration in devices down to the single-molecule limit; advanced characterization methods at the atomic scale; as well as magnetic characterization and spin manipulation.


Have you encountered any problems, difficulties when writing your proposal and preparing for your project?

This project was my first European project and it took me some time to understand how to write a successful project! In particular, I found it hard to understand the rules and a certain technical jargon. In fact, my first application was rejected but I decided to pursue my effort and the second trial was successful. Globally, it took me several months (almost) full-time to prepare and write the project.


What were the supports you received to prepare your proposal?

I benefited from different types of direct and indirect support. First, I should say that most of the initial ideas at the origin of the project emerged during an ANR project (SPIn Resistance On Ultimate molecular devices: SPIROU) coordinated by Vincent Repain at University Paris-Diderot. Then, I was lucky enough to work within the framework of an “out-going” CEA Eurotalent project which allowed me to spend 2 years in the group of Mads Brandbyge at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU). During my stay in Denmark, I got acquainted with new tools and scientific teams and I quickly formed the consortium of the project. In the meantime, I received an ANR MRSEI grant that helped me to organize meetings to build the project. I was also able to participate in several workshops organized by DTU, ANR, and Université Paris-Saclay. With Université Paris-Saclay I participated in two workshops organized by the office of European Affairs, which allowed me to present and discuss my project with several experts. I was also able to benefit from the expertise of several people inside CEA Paris-Saclay.


Cyrille Barreteau is the head of the group "Modélisation et Théorie" which depends on the "Service de Physique de l'Etat Condensé" UMR 3680 CEA-CNRS.

To go further:

COSMICS website: