Three out of the five last week's awarded FOM Projectruimte grants go to PI's in Casimir


On 7 July 2015, the Executive Board of the FOM Foundation decided to award 5 out of 23 proposals in the FOM Projectruimte (a percentage of 22 percent). Three of these projects concern PI's in Casimir: Simon Gröblacher (Delft/QN), Michel Orrit (Leiden) and Jan Zaanen and Koenraad Schalm (both Leiden). A total amount of 2.2 million euros has been awarded to the projects, of which 1.3 million euros has been made available within the framework of the Sector Plan Physics and Chemistry.

The following research proposals have been awarded funding.

  • Highly efficient solar cells by understanding triplet Exciton Dynamics
    Bruno Ehrler (FOM-AMOLF)
  • Active nano-optomechanics
    Andrea Fiore (TU/e) and Ewold Verhagen (FOM-AMOLF)
  • Non-classical states of macroscopic mechanical resonators
    Simon Gröblacher (TUD)
  • An optical GPS for single electrons
    Michel Orrit (LEI)
  • The strange metals: when quantum entanglement reaches its extreme
    Jan Zaanen and Koenraad Schalm (LEI)

The Projectruimte is one of the grant instruments that FOM has to fund physics research. The Projectruimte makes it possible to realise small-scale projects of fundamental research with an innovative character and a demonstrable scientific, industrial or societal urgency.

The grant —around 500,000 euros for each project— comprises a PhD position for the full four years and a post-doc position one year, and some money for investments.

‘The main goal is to optically observe a single charge in a metallic island, which is often a golden nano particle,’ says Orrit. He will charge this nano particle through electron tunneling, and measure this with a single molecule. Orrit was thrilled to hear about the news. ‘I only saw it a few hours ago when I opened my email. I’m very happy with this grant and it couldn’t have come at a better time. With a new PhD student we have a perfect overlap. I was afraid of losing a lot of knowledge in my group because one of my researchers is leaving soon.’

Zaanen and Schalm receive the equivalent of five post-doc years to execute theoretical research on highly collective forms of entanglement in strange metals. These strange metals are famous for their very peculiar physical properties that cannot be explained with established many-particle quantum physics. Resting on mathematical methods developed in string theory (holographic duality) the two Leiden professors will explore the hypothesis that strange metals are maximally entangled states of quantum matter—a type of matter different from the everyday matter that we experience in daily life. Zaanen: ‘This research is the most exciting thing today in ultramodern physics. We might revolutionise our understanding of the world in the way Einstein did back in the 1910’s.’