Prof. Dr. Otfried Gühne - ERC Consolidator Grant (HORIZON 2020)
Research success for the University of Siegen. The physicist Prof. Dr. Otfried Gühne received a grant from the European Research Council (ERC). In addition to Prof. Gühne, four other researchers from North Rhine-Westphalia secured grants as well. Their research projects will be funded with up to 2.75 million euros over the next five years. These grants are among the most prestigious research awards worldwide.
"The ERC grants set standards for research excellence in Europe. I am therefore very pleased that our scientists have been able to prevail in this very important international competition, "said Minister of Science Svenja Schulze.
Altogether, 2,051 applicants from Europe applied for the coveted "Consolidator Grants", 302 of which were successful. With a total of 48 entrant grants, German facilities occupy the first place. The North Rhine-Westphalian winners are from Aachen (1), Jülich (2), Münster (1) and Siegen (1). At the University of Siegen, Prof. Dr. Gühne is the head of Theoretical Quantum Optics, which investigates fundamental phenomena of quantum mechanics. The supported ERC project deals with temporal quantum correlations. Measurements on a single quantum system at different times are examined and the corresponding correlations are considered, which are presumed to be resources for quantum information processing as well.
Quantum mechanics was originally developed to describe small particles such as atoms or electrons. Thus it has been very successful for about 80 years, but recently new questions have emerged. On the one hand, quantum mechanics produces some bizarre effects (such as entanglement), which are still poorly understood. On the other hand, it has been shown that some of these effects would be useful for possible applications such as the quantum computer or quantum cryptography. This is why research topics from the fundamentals of quantum mechanics are again highly up-to-date.
With their grants, the ERC supports innovative basic and pioneering research. They are allocated under the EU Horizon 2020 program. The Consolidator Grants are aimed at scientists who, seven to twelve years after their doctorate, have a promising scientific track record and an excellent research proposal.
Dr. Gilbert Nöll- ERC Starting Grant (FP 7)
Dr. Gilbert Nöll received the first ERC-Starting grant at the University of Siegen. The goal of his project was the construction of a molecular crane for the transport of single molecules based on the flavoprotein dodecin. Dodecin from Halobacterium salinarum binds not only native but also artificial flavins with high affinities in their oxidized state, whereas reduction of the flavins induces the dissociation of the holocomplex into apododecin and free flavin. A strategy for the successful realization of this project was to modify different electrode surfaces with flavin-terminated molecular wire-like units that can be used to bind and release apododecin by an electrochemical trigger. The ability to “wire” redox-active proteins to electrodes is the basic requirement for the development of enzyme-based electrochemical biosensors or biofuel cells.
Besides other systems also DNA was evaluated as “wire”, and it turned out that the conductivity of DNA is too low for an application as “wire”. Nevertheless gold electrodes modified with flavin-terminated DNA could be developed that allowed to bind and release apododecin multiple times via mediated electron transfer. Furthermore the binding affinities and kinetics of the apododecin-flavin system were studied in detail, and dodecin was introduced as a key element for the generation of electrochemically switchable protein-DNA nanostructures. For the chemisorption of DNA on gold surfaces different types of thiol anchors were employed, and it was shown that the relative orientation of surface grafted DNA with respect to the gold surface depends on the thiol anchor used for surface grafting.
Furthermore the possibilities to form more-dimensional nanostructured materials from DNA were evaluated, and a new approach for the generation of DNA hydrogels from simple linear DNA building blocks could be developed. These building blocks still had to be prepared by solid phase synthesis. DNA hydrogels are of strong interest for biomedical applications such as cell transplant therapy, biomineralization, tissue engineering, gene therapy, drug release, and biosensing. Depending on their sequences they are absolutely biocompatible and biodegradable, they are not immunogenic and their three-dimensional structures can be precisely controlled. Nevertheless up to now the biomedical industry refrains from exploiting the advantages of these materials because of their high production costs.
To overcome this problem a biotechnological strategy to produce DNA hydrogels from plasmid DNA has been developed. As by this strategy the production costs of DNA hydrogels can be decreased by orders of magnitude, the University of Siegen has filed a patent to protect this new hydrogel production strategy.
Prof. Dr. Holger Schönherr - ERC Starting Grant (FP 7)
Prof. Dr. Holger Schönherr from the University of Siegen (School of Science and Technology, Department of Chemistry Biology, Physical Chemistry I) scored with the prestigious promotion of excellence for young scientist "ERC Starting Grant". The chemist was successful with his application "ASMIDIAS" ("Asymmetric Microenvironments by Directed Assembly"). With almost 1.5 million Euros, he and his international team are able to research the self-organization of small microstructures for the production of asymmetric micro-environments.
At the core of the project is the fabrication, structuring and chemical functionalization of microscopically small building blocks (typical size: 10 micrometers, one hundredth of a millimeter long), which are arranged on surfaces by controlled self-organization to form 3-dimensional (3D) structures. In these structures, defined cavities are formed, the exact properties of which can be controlled down to the nanometer scale (nanometer: one millionth of a millimeter) by means of the mentioned fabrication, structuring and chemical functionalization. Due to the fact that the prefabricated building blocks are so highly defined, previously impossible high-complexity structures can be realized.
Such novel 3D structures are required for a basic understanding of cell behavior such as growth, differentiation, and cell death, and could be applied in the future to the growth of tissue outside of the body and stem cell research. The interaction of cells with the asymmetric micro-environments is described in ASMIDIAS et al. in close collaboration with researchers from the Biomedical Technology Center of the University of Münster. Furthermore, the results of the project are expected to provide valuable insights into the adhesion of bacteria to surfaces and their colonization, as well as basic insights into the control of self-organization.
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Max Christian Lemme – ERC Starting Grant (FP7)
Technology requirements for future IC systems include low power computing and communication, sensing capabilities and energy harvesting. These will unlikely be met with silicon technology alone. The InteGraDe project investigates graphene as a potential alternative technology and contributes to bridging the “valley of death” in innovation in these fields. In detail, the proposal focuses on the experimental exploration of novel (opto-) electronic devices and systems based on graphene. Strong emphasis is put on integration, defined as an interdisciplinary approach combining graphene material science, graphene process technology and manufacturing, device engineering and -physics as well as system design. This kind of approach is urgently needed in order to open new horizons for graphene, because it enables a transition from fascinating science to a realistic demonstration of graphene’s application potential in electronics and optoelectronics. The first requirement for the applicability of graphene in ICT is a scalable graphene fabrication technology that can be co-integrated with silicon. The second aspect investigated is the intricate relationship between process technology and graphene device performance. The third aspect to be considered when discussing integration is how devices can be integrated in existing or future systems, including questions of circuit design. Will graphene systems outperform existing solutions and thus replace them? Will new functionalities emerge and generate novel applications? Hence, the key objectives of this project are: 1) a scalable, CMOS compatible large area fabrication technology for graphene and graphene devices, 2) demonstration and assessment of performance advantages and new functionalities of electronic graphene devices, 3) demonstration of graphene-based optoelectronic devices integrated with silicon technology and 4) experimental exploration of the performance potential of graphene-based integrated systems.
The research carried out in InteGraDe has contributed to several breakthroughs. Results on electronic devices includes the first experimental demonstration of graphene hot electron transistors, a compact model for graphene field effect transistors and its implementation in an industrial environment and a first systematic comparison of reliability aspects in graphene transistors with silicon technology. Research on optoelectronics has resulted in several hybrid device concepts, utilizing existing silicon technologies. Several challenging shortcomings of graphene technology have been identified and pointed out to the community, such as electrical contacts, dielectric interfaces and contamination issues in CVD grown graphene. The InteGraDe project has further stimulated and enabled research into nanoelectromechanical sensors and printable electronics based on graphene: The InteGraDe team has demonstrated integrated pressure sensors with highest sensitivity and a new laser annealing technology for solution-based graphene thin films.