Innovative physics research receives over 3,5 million euros

16 March 2018

The board of NWO’s Domain Science has granted funding for eight proposals in the NWO Physics Projectruimte, a granting instrument for small-scale projects that propose innovative fundamental physics research that has a scientific, industrial or social urgency.

The following eight proposals were granted funding (in alphabetical order by author):

Determining the Higgs trilinear coupling with the ATLAS detector at the Large Hadron Collider
Dr P. Ferrari (Nikhef), Prof. B. van Eijk (Nikhef/UT)
In 2012 a Higgs boson was discovered at the LHC. It is of great importance to precisely determine the properties of the Higgs and search for deviations from standard model predictions. The researchers will perform a precision study of the Higgs trilinear coupling, which may reveal deviations from the standard model; a direct signal for 'new physics'. In the next decade, the High Luminosity LHC provides the best opportunity to perform this study. The project proposes new, innovative analysis techniques to substantially improve the precision of the measurements.

Unravelling the enigmas of correlated electron systems like the high-Tc superconductors and graphene 
Dr  C.F.J. Flipse, Prof. O.J. Luiten, Dr P.H.A. Mutsaers (TU/e)

In this project, the researchers look for short-lived, collective charge waves. These waves would form an important experimental verification of new theoretical insights of the "strange" metal behavior of the high-Tc superconductors and the viscous liquid behavior of the electrons in graphene. The researchers apply two completely new and complementary electron energy loss techniques, characterized by a high energy, momentum and time-resolving power. With this, the researchers hope to be able to take a big step in the understanding of these challenging quantum-critical electron systems.

Trapped ions in optical micro-traps
Dr R. Gerritsma (UvA)
Trapped ions rank among the best quantum computers to date, but scaling them up to a large number of quantum bits turns out to be hard. In this project, the researchers will use a new scaling approach by forming two-dimensional ion crystals. Tightly focused lasers will be used to manipulate the sound waves within the ion crystal, allowing the system to be used as a quantum simulator of quantum magnetism.

SINGULAR: Towards resolving and testing astrophysical and cosmological singularities
Prof. A. Mazumdar (RUG)
SINGULAR is an ambitious program. It aims at answering one of the key fundamental problems of the Einstein’s theory of general relativity: allowing formation of singularities in the context of a blackhole and the big bang cosmology. At the singularity the very fabric of space and time ceases to exist and does not make any physical sense. SINGULAR aims at deeper understanding of ameliorating the pathologies of spacetime near such singularities.

Imaging spin waves on the nanoscale
Dr T. van der Sar (TUD)
Spin waves – waves in magnetic materials – are promising on-chip signal carriers of the future. Spin-wave nanotechnology is however in its infancy, because they are challenging to control and measure at the nanoscale. In this project, the researchers will develop a microscope that detects spin waves by using a diamond sensor to image their magnetic fields at nanometer distances. The goal is to understand spin-wave transport in elementary spin-wave nanocircuits, made of recently developed, atomically-thin magnetic materials.

Planckian dissipation and quantum thermalization: from black holes to strange metals
Prof. K.E. Schalm, Prof. J.J. Zaanen (LEI)
The laws of quantum mechanics rule at the scale of the smallest particles. Those seem counterintuitive to us, since we are used to materials’ behavior at everyday length scales. We consider these ‘normal’. We don’t notice their microscopic behavior at the quantum scale. However, so-called ‘strange metals’— like high-temperature superconductors—behave ‘abnormal’ at everyday length scales. In this project, we will show that one type of this abnormal behavior—a relaxation time to thermal equilibrium which solely depends on Planck’s constant and temperature—indeed occurs because strange metals are completely made of quantum material. Surprisingly, these turn out to share this behavior with black holes.

Lego with atoms and electrons as constructs
Prof. D.A.M. Vanmaekelbergh, Dr I. Swart (UU)
With a scanning tunnelling microscope it is not only possible to “feel” all atoms on a flat metallic surface, but also to shift atoms or small molecules from one position to another, and map the resulting electron wave function. We will construct electronic systems with atoms or CO molecules as posts, mastering the surface electrons of the metal. We will thus engineer and measure man-made electronic systems with properties determined by geometry, spin-orbit coupling, and electron-pairing.  

New methods for precise predictions at the Large Hadron Collider
Dr W.J. Waalewijn (UvA) 
The Large Hadron Collider is entering an era where precision measurements are the key to possible discoveries. Indications of new physics may lie hidden as faint signals, that will be revealed as experimental uncertainties decrease, making it crucial to have the precise theoretical predictions to compare with. The researchers propose a new method to perform these calculations, that will make them easier and therefore available for more processes.

About the NWO Physics Projectruimte

The NWO Physics Projectruimte is one of the funding instruments that NWO has for supporting physics research. Researchers can continuously submit proposals to the NWO Physics Projectruimte until 1 May 2018. The proposals will be evaluated in the order in which they are received. From 1 August 2018 onwards, researchers will be able to submit proposals for two new funding instruments of the NWO Domain Science. Read more about the Open competition across NWO Domain Science.


For more information about the Physics Projectruimte, please contact Marieke van Santen,, 070 349 44 33.

Source: NWO