Six new principal investigators in physics and chemistry receive START-UP grants

6 February 2019

NWO has awarded three million euros to six recently appointed physics and chemistry researchers via the START-UP programme. Their studies range from research into the use of CO2 as a raw material for the production of chemical components to the use of light to direct sound waves. START-UP originated from the Physics and Chemistry Sector Plan.

START-UP funding is intended to support recently-appointed university lecturers, senior lecturers and professors working in physics and chemistry.
The START-UP grant allows researchers to explore creative, speculative ideas within the research areas described in the Physics and Chemistry Sector Plan. The seven approved projects cover the full breadth of these research areas within physics and chemistry.

Twelve proposals were submitted in this third START-UP round. The committee invited twelve candidates for an interview; six of the twelve were awarded START-UP funding. The deadline for the next submission round is 4 April 2019. The specific preconditions for a submission are detailed in the call for proposals. In each round, the NWO makes a maximum of three million euros available for START-UP.

Awarded projects

CO2 as raw material for chemical components
Danny Broere (University of Utrecht)
A variety of techniques have been developed to capture the greenhouse gas CO2 that is emitted during electricity generation. But what are we to do with this gigantic amount of CO2? The researchers in this project will develop new catalysts to use CO2 as a raw material for the production of important chemical components.

Bending and breaking membranes for cellular self-defence
Arjen Jakobi (Delft University of Technology)
Intracellular pathogens cunningly exploit their host cells by hiding inside membrane vesicles. The cell can nevertheless sometimes open these vesicles, exposing pathogens to the immune system. This research will use electron microscopy to image this mechanism at high magnifications in order to understand it better.

Light-directed gigahertz phonons on an optical chip
David Marpaung (University of Twente)
Using light to direct coherent sound waves in integrated circuits could lead to new non-linear physical processes that could be used for all kinds of applications, such as hypersensitive sensors and high-level information processing. This proposal researches into both the theoretical and experimental aspects of this new and ground-breaking form of photon-phonon physics.

Probing the physics of exotic superconductors with microchip Casimir experiments
Richard Norte (Technische Universiteit Delft)
I will use microchips to perform experiments which look at the interplay between two famous quantum effects: Casimir forces and superconductivity. No one knows anything about how the two effects coalesce and now many physicists suspect that this unexplored regime of experiments could be where the next scientific breakthrough lie.

Intermediate reaction products and mechanisms in photocatalysis and electrocatalysis
Jana Roithová (Radboud University, Nijmegen)
More efficient and less energy-intensive chemical reactions are some of the core challenges in chemistry. The emerging fields of photocatalysis and electrocatalysis offer ‘green’ access to high-energy intermediate products from which desired end products can be efficiently formed. This project will develop methods to research into these intermediate products, to better understand the nature of the underlying reactions.

The role of small ions in perovskite solar cells
Shuxia Tao (Eindhoven University of Technology)
Hybrid perovskites are one of today’s most promising materials for the production of cheap and efficient solar cells, but their instability is hindering their wider application. The addition of small inorganic ions appears to improve stability, but the underlying mechanisms of this effect are still unknown. This research will use large-scale computational analysis to answer this question.

Source: NWO