FOM awards innovative Projectruimte research grants to Jan Aarts (Leiden) and Cees Dekker (Delft/BN)


The Executive Board of the FOM Foundation decided to award ten proposals of this year's FOM-Projectruimte call. Two of the ten awarded proposals were submitted by Casimir PIs.

Jan Aarts (Leiden) will receive funding for his proposal that was entitled: "Magnetization dynamics with spin‐polarized supercurrents." Together with Patrick Oonk (Groningen), Cees Dekker (Delft/BN) will conduct research in: "Biomimetic nanopores ‐ resolving the puzzling selectivity of the nuclear pore complex." The Projectruimte grant makes it possible to realize small-scale projects of fundamental research with an innovative character and a demonstrable scientific, industrial or societal urgency.

Jan Aarts

Experimental physicist Jan Aarts has been awarded a grant of 545.000 euro. He will use the money to research the interplay between superconducting currents and ferromagnetism. In the future this could lead to computer memory with negligible power consumption.

One of many ways for computers to store their memory is with the use of ferromagnets. They read and write data by flipping small ferromagnets using electric currents. Inevitably, this goes hand in hand with the loss of energy. Except of course if these ferromagnets are superconducting and let currents flow without any resistance. Physicist Jan Aarts and his team already showed that this is possible by growing layers of the ferromagnet chromium dioxide and inducing so-called supercurrents. However, to use this in real-life computers, thin but wide layers are not useful.

In a recent development, the team learned how to grow wires instead of layers. With the FOM Projectruimte grant, Aarts is now able to hire a PhD student and a postdoc and purchase new equipment, so that he can research supercurrents through chromium dioxide devices based on wires. By studying the interplay between superconductivity and ferromagnetism, he aims to lay the groundwork for future applications, like solid state drives that read and write data without loss of power. Aarts’ research group is at the moment the only group in this research field with the skills to fabricate the necessary wires, giving them a head start on their mission.

Electron microscope image of a chromium dioxide devices based on wires. The green wire is the chromium dioxide ferromagnet. The orange wires are superconductors and are necessary to produce a superconducting current through the green wire.