Innovative physics research receives 3,5 million euros

16 May 2017

The NWO Science (ENW) Domain Board has granted funding for eight proposals in the NWO Natuurkunde Projectruimte, a granting instrument for small scale projects that propose fundamental physics research that is innovative and has a scientific, industrial or social urgency.

The following eight proposals were granted funding (in random order):

Catching doubly magic tin - dr. Julia Even (Groningen University)
The aim of this project is to use Penning trap mass spectrometry with unprecedented precision to measure the mass of Sn-100, which is the heaviest nucleus with an equal number of protons and neutrons. To tackle the challenge of producing samples of this doubly magic tin for mass spectrometry, the researchers will produce Sn-100 and its neighbor isotopes through fusion evaporation reactions and apply novel gas-chemical separation techniques.

Going beyond the Standard Model with noncommutative geometry  - dr. Walter van Suijlekom (Radboud University)
The so-called noncommutative geometric particle model connects the concept of curved space-time with other fundamental interactions in nature. This project aims to fully analyze and understand the model and its physical consequences, eventually allowing a confrontation between theory and ongoing experiments at CERN.

How to read and write mechanical information in DNA molecules - prof.dr. Helmut Schiessel (Leiden University)
With a computational approach, this projects aims to design DNA molecules with special mechanical properties, thus creating molecules that are much softer or stiffer than average or with specific conformations. The researchers will both demonstrate the theoretical possibilities of a mechanical DNA code and study to which extent such a code is used in nature.

Nematic superconductivity in topological materials  - dr. Anne de Visser (University of Amsterdam)
Topological superconductors offer new ways to test theories of unconventional superconductivity. The researchers will use the concept of rotational symmetry breaking to find solid proof for the so-called nematic superconductivity, which they discovered recently in Bi2Se3-based crystals.

Nuclear Parton Distributions from LHC Data - dr. Juan Rojo (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)
Building upon extensive expertise in the determination of proton structure, this project uses machine learning methods to achieve a state-of-the-art determination of nuclear parton distribution functions from proton-lead collisions at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The goal is to gain more insight into cold nuclear matter and provide essential input for the heavy ion program of the LHC.

Probing new physics with ultracold helium atoms - dr. Wim Vassen (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)
With atom interferometry, with Helium atoms cooled to Bose-Einstein condensation, this project aims to test the theory of Quantum Electrodynamics (QED) at its limits in search for physics beyond the Standard Model. The experiments should yield a fivefold accuracy improvement of the dimensionless fine structure constant α, which is important or testing the Standard Model.

Terahertz photo-magnonics - prof.dr. Bert Koopmans ( Eindhoven University of Technology)
In this project, the researchers will explore the potential of using spin currents, driven by femtosecond laser pulses, to excite spin wave modes with THz frequency, which quantum mechanically manifest as magnons. Combining their novel theoretical framework with nanoscale experiments, will open up a new field of THz photo-magnonics which is envisioned as a future energy-efficient and versatile information technology.

Pump up the volume: unravelling intrinsically disordered regions of the protein BRCA2 with Acoustic Force Spectroscopy  - Erwin Peterman (VU), prof.dr. Claire Wyman (Erasmus MC), Gijs Wuite (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)
This project combines state-of-the-art expertise in protein chemistry at Erasmus MC with Acoustic Force Spectroscopy developed at VU University, to unravel how (un)folding and conformational changes in the protein product of breast cancer gene BRCA2 affect its interaction with other proteins.

Caption to image, from research Pump up the volume, by Peterman, Wyman and Wuite: (A) Schematic of Acoustic Force Spectroscopy. Left: optical layout; right: flow cell equipped with piezo element that acts as a resonator for ultrasound waves. (B) Left: photograph of an actual resonator / flow cell. Quarter (US) shown for size comparison. Right: bright-field microscope view of many surface-tethered microspheres actuated by acoustic forces. (C) Cartoon of the proposed experiment: the unfolding of a single BRCA2 protein (thick black curve) by acoustic forces (grey arrow).

Source: NWO