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NWO-Veni grants for Leiden postdocs Corentin Coulais and Johannes Jobst

[17-07-2015]

Corentin Coulais and Johannes Jobst both have been awarded a Veni grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). Veni grants are allocated to very talented researchers who have recently obtained their PhD degree.

Corentin's research proposal is entitled: 'Aperiodic Mechanical Metamaterials: Bridging the Gap between Matter and Machine.' Mechanical metamaterials are artificial structures with extraordinary properties. However, their functionalities are intrinsically limited by their periodicity. Corentin's project aims at enhancing what metamaterials can do by making them aperiodic. Combining cutting-edge additive manufacturing techniques, desktop scale experiments and numerical optimization, he hopes that this project will lead to novel materials with complex mechanical functionalities: machine materials.

Johannes Jobst will use the grant money to study how electric switches affect free-flying electrons in graphene. This contributes to the development of a new concept for faster computers. In the below you can read more about Johannes' research. 

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By: LION News 

Graphene is made up of just a single layer of carbon atoms, and has shown great promise for a wide range of applications since its discovery in 2004. The material even earned a Physics Nobel Prize in 2010, awarded to Kostya Novoselov and Dutchman Andre Geim. One of the amazing properties of graphene is its incredible conductivity; electrons travel large distances without changing direction. Compared to conventional semiconductors, that are commonly used in electric devices, this promises great performance improvements.

The key to improving computers is the computer chip – a series of many tiny electric switches, or transistors. Simply put: the faster transistors switch, the faster computers are. And more of them means a more powerful computer. We cannot make traditional silicon transistors any faster, and for the past years the main effort has been put into making them smaller in order to squeeze more on a chip. However, we’ll soon reach a minimum size beyond which this transistor faces limitations, putting technology progress to a halt.


The solution may lie in graphene transistors. They switch faster than silicon and therefore increase computers speeds. ‘In theory they are a thousand times faster,’ says Jobst. ‘So instead of three gigahertz computers, we'd have clock rates of three terahertz. And because electrons fly freely in graphene without scattering, they produce much less waste heat, meaning a lot less power consumption.’


But computers should also work in practice, not just in theory. What will happen when we actually use graphene in electric switches? How will the electric field, used to switch such transistors, affect the free-flying electrons? By using a novel technique, based on low-energy electron microscopy (LEEM), Johannes Jobst is going to find out what happens. The Veni grant enables him to perform his research at LION and Columbia University, New York for three more years as senior postdoctoral researcher.

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