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ERC grantee Erik van Sebille is developing advanced modelling tools to help assess the full extent of the problem of plastic pollution in our oceans and how it is affecting the marine environment. The tools will help policymakers design targeted measures to address a big and growing issue.
After the birth of quantum mechanics in the early 20th century, this branch of physics evolved from being primarily the conceptual framework for the description of subatomic particle phenomena to providing inspiration for new technological applications. New hybrid architecture of quantum systems is now being developed in order to foster the implementation of cutting-edge quantum technologies.
Ben Feringa is a Professor in Organic Chemistry at the University of Groningen and the pioneer of rotary molecular motors, the smallest machines in the world of the size of individual molecules.
In 2016, Prof Feringa was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on synthetic chemistry, leading to the design and synthesis of novel molecules and nanomaterials, with machine-like functions. These molecular nanomachines can respond to stimuli from their environment, be employed in the self-assembly of nanostructures or regulate DNA transcription, with potential applications in the medical field and targeted treatments.
Originally published in March 2017 as part of the multimedia campaign "ERC - 10 years – 10 portraits."
Catalysts are essential for a lot of chemical production processes, accelerating and enhancing chemical reactions to produce plastics, medicines and fuels more efficiently. Now, thanks to EU-funded research, catalysts are being made more precise and effective with potentially significant benefits for industry and the environment, not least through the development of ultra-clean fuels.
In physics, scientists can predict the existence of a particle which is eventually, soon after or considerably later, observed experimentally. The Higgs boson is one of the most striking recent examples. ERC grantee Leo Kouwenhoven has recently made such a demonstration proving the existence of the “Majorana fermion”, a particle theorised in the 1930s. Detecting Majorana’s particles is not only exciting for particle physicists; thanks to their properties they could prove useful as stable “quantum bits” of information that could make quantum computers a reality.
When Prof. Heino Falcke obtained an ERC grant to study and identify the sources of ultra-high energy cosmic rays, back in 2008, he could not imagine that his research would provide an important clue to better understand lightning and thunderclouds much closer to us. His team indeed realized that cosmic rays, originating in outer space and striking the Earth from all directions, can provide a near instantaneous 'picture' of the electric fields in clouds. The unexpected finding, to be published this week in Physical Review Letters, is the result of a fruitful collaboration between astronomers, particle physicists and geophysicists. The measurements were performed with the LOFAR radio telescope, located in the Netherlands, and partly funded by the ERC.
Nanotechnology — the science of making and manipulating the very small — has the potential to transform our lives. With the help of ERC funding, Dr Davide Iannuzzi is building microscopic moving parts on to the ends of optical fibres, leading to better instruments for observing and measuring at the nanoscale.
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN, Switzerland) recently reached an important milestone on its way to probing our understanding of the beginning and nature of our universe. Since last year this unique machine provides interactions of protons at unprecedented collision energies. The first collisions at 7 TeV took place.