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June 21st 2018

The following five proposals were granted funding (in alphabetical order by author):

Delineating entropic contributions in beta-strand formation – S. Abeln (VU)
In a healthy cell, proteins fold into compact structures with regions containing regular alpha-helical and beta-strand configurations. In diseases such as Alzheimer's, proteins misfold and bind to each other using this same beta-stranded structure. The underlying physics – particularly the configurational entropy that explains how favourable this beta-strand state is – is not properly understood. This project will tackle this problem by incorporating information extracted from unfolding experiments and from structural big data in large-scale computer simulations.

Dynamic phase transitions in tunable systems – H. Hilgenkamp (UT)
Detailed studies of electronic phase transitions (for example the transition from an insulating state to a conducting state when applying an electric field) are often hampered by defects in the materials. Making use of defect-free arrays of superconducting nanostructures allows a mimicking of interesting materials systems such as Mott insulators. What is especially interesting is the possibility of studying crystalline configurations that cannot (yet) easily be realised in real materials. This project, in which experimental and theoretical studies will go hand in hand, is of relevance for the development of new concepts and materials for energy-efficient electronics.

Ultrafast collective surface diffusion on mesoscopic length scales – A. van Houselt (UT)
Atoms on solids usually migrate via diffusion, hopping as it were from one adsorption side to the other. Nevertheless, researchers recent discovered that billons of atoms on a mesoscale move collectively with a much higher velocity than expected on the basis of the traditional hopping theory. This study uses a LEEM to perform an exact speed control check for these speed Merchants.

Advanced active antiferromagnetism: A new route for nanoelectronics – H.J.M. Swagten (TU/e)
Antiferromagnets have no macroscopic magnetism due to an internal spin texture with dipole moments – a characteristic that is extremely advantageous for a robust storage of data. The proposed experiments focus on using ultrathin antiferromagnets to read and write information at room temperature. This will lead to new fundamental insight into the complex interaction between electric spin currents and nanomagnetic textures.

Darwin on a chip – W. van der Wiel (UT), P. Bobbert (TU/e)
This project proposes a radically new, brain-inspired method for making scalable electronic circuits. Instead of standard electronic components, the researchers make use of chaotic, 'designless' nanopartical networks in order to able to solve complex problems efficiently by means of artificial evolution.

For more information about the Physics Projectruimte, please contact Anouk de Hoogh, a.dehoogh@NWO.NL.