Materials Research Activities

Armand biographical note

Michel Armand

Michel Armand, born in 1946, was trained as a chemist in a French grande école, the Ecole normale supérieure de Saint-Cloud. After a masters degree in inorganic chemistry (major in electrochemistry), he spent 18 months at Stanford University in the Materials Science and Engineering Department headed by Robert Huggins in 1971-2, where Stanley Whittingham worked as a post-doc.

On his return in 1972, he started doctoral research on intercalation compounds for solid state batteries at the Laboratoire d'Ionique des Solides, a large laboratory in Grenoble devoted to all aspects of solid-state electrochemistry.  In 1972, Michel Armand attended the NATO conference on Fast Ion Transport in Solids in Belgirate where he presented a new family of interstitial compounds derived from graphite as promising candidates for solid-state electrode materials. His paper and Brian Steele's paper were the starting point of a booming activity on intercalation chemistry during the 1970s.

In 1974 Michel Armand joined the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) where he spent his whole career in France (starting as a research associate up director of research) until he became Professor of chemistry at the Université de Montréal (Canada) in 1995.

In the 1970s Michel Armand turned his attention to polymers because soft electrolytes would be preferable to hard ceramic materials as intercalation compounds to be used in electrodes. He selected polyethylene oxide (PEO) after Peter V. Wright had shown in 1975 that it is a host for a number of salts. Armand established the electrical properties of the polymer-salt complex formed with lithium and pointed out that this material would be useful for batteries at the Second International Meeting on Solid Electrolytes held in St Andrews, 1978 (M.B. Armand, J.M. Chabagno and M. Duclot, in Second International Meeting on Solid Electrolytes, St Andrews, Scotland, 20-22 Sept., 1978, Extended Abstract; M.B. Armand, J.M. Chabagno and M. Duclot, “Poly-ethers as solid electrolytes”, in P. Vashitshta, J.N. Mundy, G.K. Shenoy, Fast ion Transport in Solids. Electrodes and Electrolytes, North Holland Publishers, Amsterdam, 1979).

At the time of the St Andrews meeting, Michel Armand and his collaborators J.M. Chabagno and M. Duclot filed a patent through the CNRS (Fr Pat. 7 832 976, 22 nov 78; the US file US 4 303 748 is available online). This patent ended up in a long litigation with the U.S. Patent Office, due to unknown premature disclosure. Nevertheless, it prompted a joint research project between the CNRS, the French oil company Elf-Aquitaine, and a Canadian electricity utility Hydro-Québec, aimed at designing a lithium-polymer battery for electric vehicles. Armand was in charge of the contact with Michel Gauthier, head of the research group at Hydro-Québec.

Between 1980 and 1986, 30 patents were filed but the collaboration between the state agency and industrial companies soon failed because the CNRS had ceded the property of the patent to Elf-Aquitaine who offered them to a Japanese Company, YUASA, in 1986. Hydro-Québec used its premptive rights but was forced into a collaboration with YUASA, leaving Elf-Aquitaine with a wide margin on royalties and down payment. Fortunately in 1989, following the Clean Air Act in California with the 0 emission objective, the U.S. Advanced Batteries Consortium (USABC) negotiated a contract with Hydro-Québec. By 1995, Michel Armand came to the Université de Montréal's Department of Chemistry to reinforce the research team at Hydro-Québec Research Institutes, and the manufacture arm created for this purpose, Argotech. The first electric and hybrid cars powered by an all-solid state polymer battery were available for test-drives at the 17th EV International Symposium held in Montréal in 2000. Designing a lithium-polymer battery for making competitive electric vehicles remains Michel Armand's main objective, his "dream". His research efforts, which owed him many academic honors and awards, also contributed to bridge the communities of organic and inorganic chemists in order to elucidate the mechanisms of conductivity in polymers. Thus his research style exemplifies the hybridization of fundamental and practical interests so typical of materials science and engineering.

This page was written by Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent and last updated on 24 April 2001 by Arne Hessenbruch.