The PhD thesis was supervised by François Fauth, ALBA-CELLS, Spain. The PhD Committee that evaluated the Thesis was formed by Alois Kuhn, from the Universidad CEU San Pablo (President), Dino Tonti, from the Solid State Chemistry (SSC) Group at ICMAB-CSIC (Secretary), and Jean-Noel Chotard, from the Université de Picardie Jules Verne (Vocal).
Raphaëlle Houdeville’s PhD thesis was part of the PhD Programme in Materials Science from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB).
From left to right: François Fauth, Dino Tonti, Jean-Noël Chotard, Raphaëlle Houdeville, Alois Khun and M. Rosa Palacín
Why did you choose ICMAB for your PhD?
I did a 6-month internship at the end of my master at ICMAB and the opportunity arose, thanks to the DOC-FAM program, to do a PhD between ALBA-CELLS and ICMAB. Since I really enjoyed the work at ICMAB during my internship, I naturally applied.
How would you explain your research to a non-scientific audience?
When a battery is charged/discharged, its electrode materials are modified by the reactions taking place. To understand these modifications, one can use X-ray diffractions. Some electrochemical cells allow the collection of X-ray diffraction data in operando, i.e. when the battery is running, and you can almost see the electrode material evolving live. The aim of my PhD was to implement a tool to control the temperature in those kinds of cells.
What are the main applications of your research? Could you give us an example?
Those cells can be used by the scientific community to study thermally induced ageing of electrode materials, as well as electrochemical systems with slow kinetics such as calcium. Another application would be the study of materials that present a temperature dependent phase transition.
From the lessons learnt here, which one do you value the most?
A bad result is still a result you can use to get information on what you are studying.
What will you miss the most from ICMAB?
I am not leaving ICMAB at the moment, but if I did, I would surely miss all my colleagues and their kindness.
How do you think this experience will contribute to your training and to your future?
I learnt a lot about batteries and different analysis techniques, which will surely be useful in my career. On another topic, I was able to present my work in seminars and conferences which helped me gaining confidence.
What are your plans once you finish your PhD?
I will stay at ICMAB for a bit more than a year, still studying electrodes materials, but this time I will also synthesize them.
What do you wish you had known at the beginning of your PhD, that now you can recommend to the ones who are starting?
It is never too early to write drafts for your thesis.
Why did you become a scientist? Which have been your role models?
Ever since I was young, I wanted to understand how everything works so doing science came naturally. Although he is not my role model, I would like to quote Richard Dawkins since I 100% agree with him: “Isn’t it a noble, an enlightened way of spending our brief time in the sun, to work at understanding the universe and how we have come to wake up in it?”
Which is your favourite female scientist? And why?
During my master, my electrochemistry teacher was the one who gave me this passion for electrochemistry and suggested I could work in battery research. If it wasn’t for her, I would probably do something different today.
Describe in 3 keywords…
- Your research: diversified
- Barcelona: cosmopolite
- Your experience at ICMAB: enlightening