ERC Advanced Grants for Laserlab researchers
The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded several high-profile researchers within LASERLAB-EUROPE an 'Advanced Grant'. ERC Advanced Grants allow exceptional established research leaders to pursue frontier research of their choice.
|Diederik Wiersma, currently director of LENS in Florence, has received an ERC Advanced Grant of 2.2 million euros. Wiersma intends to use the grant to create a whole new research area, photonic micro-robotics, by creating microscopic structures which can perform robotic tasks and are entirely powered and controlled by light. For the project, the expertise available at LENS on complex photonic materials and direct laser writing will be combined and applied to create microstructured patterns in liquid crystal elastomers: rubber-like polymers with liquid crystalline properties. Direct laser writing will allow Wiersma and his team to realize structures with sub-micron resolution and nanometre scale accuracy. By using elastomers, it will be possible to create robotic elements that respond mechanically to optical triggers. These elements will be combined with static (photonic) structures, opening up a new strategy to make robots of various kinds.
|Giulio Cerullo, professor at the Politecnico di Milano, has received an ERC Advanced Grant of 2.5 million euro. The grant will allow him to develop a method to study DNA and proteins using ultrashort ultraviolet laser pulses. The proposed technique, 2DUV spectroscopy, can be seen as an extrapolation of the well-established 2D Nuclear Magnetic Resonance technique, which has been a great help to structural biology as it allows to resolve complex molecular structures with high spatial resolution. Using IR and visible laser light, 2D spectroscopy has already had a large impact on our understanding of the structure of peptides and proteins, as well as the mechanisms of energy relaxation in photosynthetic complexes and semiconductors.|
|Theodor Hänsch, Director at MPQ Garching and professor of
Experimental Physics at
the Ludwig-Maximilians Universität in Munich, Germany, has been awarded an ERC Advanced Grant. Hänsch will use the grant of 2.39 million euros for new applications of frequency combs, of which he has been one of the inventors.
In 2005 Hänsch received the Nobel Prize in Physics for his contributions to laserbased precision spectroscopy. A laser frequency comb makes it possible to measure the frequency of any laser source with a precision that enables stringent tests of the fundamental laws of physics. This technique also paves the way for the creation of all-optical clocks and improved satellitebased navigation systems. Frequency combs are currently used by hundreds of laboratories worldwide.
|Prof. Rienk van Grondelle (LaserLaB Amsterdam) received an ERC
Advanced Grant of almost 3 million euro, which will fund his research
into the role chlorophyll-binding proteins play in determining the
success of photosynthesis.
The research will hopefully lead to the implementation of photosynthesis in food and/or fuel production. The biological machine driving photosynthesis comprises an intricate constellation of pigment-protein complexes that includes chlorophyll and carotene. The success of photosynthesis depends on ultrafast events (on the order a picosecond), in which solar energy is converted into electrical energy. The study will be conducted using ultrafast and other spectroscopic techniques housed at the LaserLaB Amsterdam and the CEA Saclay, where part of the project will be carried out in collaboration with Dr. Bruno Robert.
|Dr. Luis Silva, Instituto Superior Tecnico (IST, Lisbon), has been awarded an Advanced Grant from the European Research Council to explore particle acceleration in relativistic shock waves driven in astrophysical scenarios or by ultra-intense lasers. The team of Luís Silva at GoLP/Instituto de Plasmas e Fusão Nuclear at IST, one of the new partners in LASERLAB-EUROPE II, aims to study and to identify the key mechanisms for particle acceleration in relativistic shocks with massively parallel numerical simulations. It has been proposed that acceleration in collisionless shock waves is the critical mechanism for the acceleration of cosmic rays, the most energetic particles in the Universe, but the acceleration mechanisms in these nonlinear waves remain to be clearly identified. The work to be developed in the ERC Advanced Grant "Accelerates" aims to understand the physics underlying shock formation and the microphysics determining particle acceleration in relativistic shocks. The IST team will also address the possibility to generate these shock waves using ultra intense lasers with the goal of further exploring shock acceleration in laboratory conditions and of harnessing shock acceleration to optimize novel laser-based energetic particle sources.|
|Prof. Marcus Aldén from the Combustion Physics Group of Lund Laser Centre in Sweden got 2.5 million euros for studying combustion processes in gas turbines and engines with lasers. Due to turbulence, the conditions in the combustion flame vary rapidly in time and from one place to another. To study the combustion process, a spatial resolution of the order of micrometers and timescales of microseconds is required. Aldén will use 'high reprate' lasers and several types of infrared spectroscopy to investigate the combustion flames in a non-intrusive way, thereby generating the knowledge needed to enhance the efficiency and reduce the amount of pollution resulting from burning fuels.|
|Prof. Thomas Elsaesser from the Max Born Institute for Nonlinear Optics
and Short Pulse Spectroscopy in Berlin received a grant of 2.49
million euros for a project aiming at elucidating processes which
determine the properties of hydrogen bonds in molecular systems.
Elsaesser studies ultrafast processes in condensed matter. His project
is devoted to unraveling changes of molecular structures on the length
scale of a chemical bond and the ultrashort time scale of molecular
motions. Within the project, novel methods of ultrafast optics in a
wavelength range from the far-infrared to hard x-rays will be applied
for investigating hydrogen bonds. A key goal consists in measuring
molecular structures in realtime by initiating and reading out
structure changes with ultrashort light pulses.
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|Prof. Massimo Inguscio from the European Laboratory for Nonlinear Spectroscopy (LENS) in Florence will use his Advanced Grant to study disorder in ultracold quantum gases. Disorder is ubiquitous in nature and has a strong impact on the behaviour of many physical systems. However, due to unavoidable interactions, the effect is hard to study in real condensed-matter systems. Inguscio will use ultracold atomic quantum gases, both bosonic and fermionic, as model systems to understand the physics of disorder. These quantum gases are easily manipulated and a variety of diagnostic techniques is available to gain detailed information on the system.|
|Motion in the microcosm is to be recorded by a team
at the Laboratory of Attosecond physics of LMU and MPQ by means of ultrashort flashes
consisting of individual elecrons. The project is being funded with 2.5
million euro in an "ERC Advanced Investigator Grant" awarded by the
European Union to Prof. Ferenc Krausz.
Electrons, atoms and molecules play the leading roles in the films to be produced by a team of laser physicists around Prof. Ferenc Krausz and Dr. Peter Baum in the project “4D Imaging of Fundamental Processes on the Atomic and Sub-atomic Scales”.
|Prof. Niek van Hulst (ICFO, Barcelona) has been awarded one
of the 2009 European Research Council Advanced Investigators Grants to
pursue his project "Nano-Optical Antennas for Tunable Single Photon
Super-Emitters". The ERC Advanced Grants aim to allow top-level
established scientists to carry on with pioneering frontier research
projects. According to Van Hulst, recent advances by PhD- and
Postdoctoral researchers, together with the excellent reputation of
LASERLAB-EUROPE partner ICFO, were crucial in obtaining this
prestigious grant of 2.5 million euro.
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|Professor Anne L’Huillier’s work at
the Lund High-Power Laser Facility of the Lund Laser Centre
(Sweden) has chiefly been on the generation of high harmonics and
attosecond pulses, but with the proposal that got her the
Investigators Grant, she wants to push attosecond physics into a new direction. “The idea is to create controlled sequences of pulses, and to use them to coherently control electronic processes.”
The concept of coherent control stems from the chemistry community, says L’Huillier. “The idea of coherent control in chemistry is that you force chemical reactions to go in a certain direction.” In chemistry, this concept has been demonstrated to a certain extent. Instead of chemical reactions, though, L’Huillier would like to control electronic processes.
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|Professor Victor Malka from the Laboratoire d’Optique Appliquée (LOA)
in Palaiseau near Paris received his Advanced Investigators Grant for a
proposal appropriately called PARIS (PARticle accelerators with Intense
lasers for Science). In the coming five years he will use the money to
develop compact particle accelerators based on the wakefield of laser
pulses. Shining a laser into a plasma creates an electric field that
can be used to accelerate an electron beam. Using this method, one can
produce electric fields that are up to 10,000 times larger than those
used in conventional particle accelerators. This means one can
create accelerators that are much more compact than accelerators based
on other techniques.
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|Prof. Dr. Mauro Nisoli from the Politecnico di Milano was awarded an
Advanced Investigators Grant from the European Research Council for
'exceptional established research leaders' last year. In winning this
grant of 2.44 million euros, he joins three researchers from
LASERLAB-EUROPE who received that same grant in the first round. Nisoli
is planning to take attosecond laser physics to the next level.
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|The Chemical Physics group in the Lund Laser Centre, led by
Professor Villy Sundström, focuses on research
to sunlight: they look for new materials for solar cells, and are trying to mimic natural photosynthetic systems in order to produce fuel – such as molecular hydrogen – with sunlight.
They also investigate the harmful effect that sunlight has on human skin. Sundström says this research involves studying both the structural and the electronic dynamics of the reactions. The Advanced Investigators Grant will be used to develop a table-top setup in which sub-picosecond x-ray pulses are employed to probe the dynamics of reactions.
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