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Systems, grids, and energy efficiency


Published on 13 March 2024


Ultra-connected and mega efficient

​The energy transition will require a move from a centralized to a decentralized energy system. This shift creates additional complexity that must be managed while continuing to meet demand. Effective responses to this major challenge will have to address the energy system holistically and optimize system architectures for specific use cases, needs, and environmental objectives. Energy savings, efficiency, and sustainability will be the guiding principles of any new solution.

At CEA-Liten we take a system-level approach to these issues. Our objective is to speed up the development of new technologies and their deployment in a variety of use cases. Our research areas—energy systems and grids, thermal engineering and power converters, batteries and electrolyzers, and solar photovoltaic energy—are the multiple threads from which the fabric of a successful energy transition will be woven.

Systems, grids, and energy efficiency​​


Our energy systems and grids will need to be reimagined if we are to increase the overall renewable energy penetration rate and decarbonize heating, cooling, electricity, gas, and hydrogen production. At CEA-Liten, we believe that our agnostic multi-vector, multi-scale, and multi-technology approach to energy is the most effective strategy.

Our expertise covers the entire continuum from initial design to implementation and our capabilities include simulation, virtualization, operando diagnostics, and energy system control and management, positioning us to bring new solutions to their full potential. We have also developed tools for dimensioning, optimizing, and managing tomorrow’s more connected, smarter energy systems and grids—the pillars of a Net Zero economy. We can complete numerical simulations, do semi-virtual testing in representative environments, and build system demonstrators. We can combine these techniques to achieve coordinated management of complex systems that include multiple energy producers, consumers, and storage solutions and multiple energy vectors. What makes us uniquely qualified to tackle these complex systems is our deep knowledge of every sub-component of each of our technologies and our ability to benchmark solutions from the perspective of an integrated energy system. ​


Thermal engineering​​

At 1,950 terawatt-hours per year in Europe alone, annual heat production has increased dramatically. Now is the time to rethink how we produce this basic resource. Industrial processes—major consumers of heat produced using oil and gas—are on the front lines. Heat will have to be used more efficiently to reduce overall energy consumption. Ultimately, clean, renewable alternatives to fossil fuels will have to be found.

The upcoming challenges are clear, and we have the know-how to tackle them. We are focusing on the waste heat generated by industrial processes, and specifically, how to recover and reuse it. Heat exchangers that can withstand exposure to particle-laden fluids are at the center of our research, which spans design and materials. Our deep knowledge of simulation plays a key role in designing complex new heat-exchanger concepts and testing them on these fluids at the laboratory scale. We also develop software and other solutions for the often-complex management of thermal systems and can tailor them to meet the needs of specific use cases.

Last, but not least, we are working on waste-heat recovery and decarbonization with our partners from heavy industry. And, to ensure that we are addressing the widest possible range of use cases, we are also working on solutions for the food manufacturing and tech industries. When it comes to thermal energy storage—a solution that offers longer time horizons than heat production and recovery—we are working with partners like Grims on heat networks and on a variety of other projects.

But our energy storage research doesn’t stop there. Carnot batteries are another innovative solution we are exploring, initially for the conversion of surplus electricity into heat, which can either be used directly converted back into electricity for use when production cannot meet demand. ​

Power converters​

Power converters are crucial to the interconnectedness of energy systems. Tomorrow’s energy systems will have to be equipped for an energy mix that includes new sources of energy, for decentralized production and consumption, and for increased demand for electricity. They will also have to support the smart, efficient use of energy. To respond to these challenges, future generations of power converters will have to meet new efficiency, power density, reliability, and eco-design requirements.

Wide bandgap materials like gallium nitride (GaN) and silicon carbide (SiC), which can support switching frequencies and voltages unattainable on silicon, are providing a path toward this new era. Beyond the walls of CEA-Liten, the broader CEA organization addresses the entire power electronics value chain, from materials to implementation in specific use cases. CEA-Liten can draw on the CEA’s most advanced innovations to reinvent power converter designs and topologies.

This changing power-component landscape also raises questions about the role of direct current (DC) in medium-voltage applications. MV transformers often have DC stages and could be connected directly to each other to form networks. As there are currently no standards for DC in this area, we are investigating the issues around these types of architectures to assess their potential.

  • The purpose of the three-year TIGON project, which kicked off in 2021, is to prototype a medium-voltage (3,000 V DC and 1,500 V DC) dual microgrid with SiC power converters. 
  • Another project, DC Power, is focusing on two medium-voltage (3,000 V DC) pilot demonstrators with isolated converters to supply high-power hydrogen electrolyzers and datacenters.

And, as electric mobility gains traction, power electronics will become even more important. Tomorrow, electric vehicles—and more specifically, their batteries—will be considered components of the grid. With this scenario in mind, we are developing high-voltage (800 V) batteries and bi-directional chargers (either on-board or on charging stations). And, with exceptional efficiencies (up to 97%), these innovations can deliver high power density, reliability, and performance. ​

​At CEA-Liten, we see growing demand for electricity as an opportunity to put our capabilities to good use. Whether we are integrating components into systems, leading ambitious European research projects, or staying ahead of what’s next, our integrated approach is the key to our success. We are committed to working with our partners to design energy systems that use less energy more efficiently.​​