Foto Vibeke Hempler

148 mio. DKK for two new Centers of Excellence

Optics Semiconductors Catalysis Micro and nanotechnology
The Danish National Research Foundation has invited applicants to enter contract negotiations to establish two new Centers of Excellence at DTU.

The board of the Danish National Research Foundation has decided to invest DKK 657 million and allocate an additional DKK 440 million to 10 new research centers, the so-called Centers of Excellence.

With the new centers, the foundation looks forward to contributing to Danish research in collaboration with universities and other research institutions, the foundation writes in a press release.

“The DNRF’s Centers of Excellence enjoy great recognition in the international research landscape, and at the board, we are convinced that the future centers and center leaders will live up to this reputation and contribute to strengthening Denmark’s position as a leading knowledge society,” said Professor Jens Kehlet Nørskov, chairman of the board of the Danish National Research Foundation who is also a professor at DTU Physics.

“In Denmark, we are adept at creating the framework for excellent and interdisciplinary research environments that enable breakthroughs and the development of innovative solutions. Therefore, we look forward to continued fruitful cooperation with the research institutions,” said Professor Nørskov.

Fellow at Haldor Topsøe, Stig Helveg, receives up to DKK 85.8 million to establish the Center for Visualizing Catalytic Processes (VISION). In connection with the creation of the center, Stig Helveg will shift to a professorship at DTU Physics. 

The Center will explore how nanoparticles can drive catalytic processes and aim to make groundbreaking scientific discoveries in thermal catalysis and electrocatalysis that are needed to address the major sustainability challenges of our time. Catalysis - a method by which chemical reaction rates can be controlled - is essential for producing sustainable chemicals, fuels and energy.

Effective catalysis of chemical reactions can occur on the surface of nanoparticles, but understanding how their size, shape and structure affect catalytic processes is a huge scientific challenge. VISION will tackle this challenge by combining new experimental and theoretical platforms to observe the atomic structure, dynamics and functions of individual nanoparticles while the catalytic process is in progress.

VISION aims to answer the ultimate question in catalysis: How do the individual atoms in the surface of nanoparticles catalyze chemical reactions under the right reaction conditions? This fundamental knowledge can then be used to design the necessary catalysts to support the conversion to sustainable energy.

VISION embraces a strong team of researchers from DTU Physics and DTU Nanolab and, in collaboration with a number of research groups at DTU and leading international profiles, will produce, investigate and calculate the catalytic properties of well-defined nanoparticles. Co-applicants are: Peter Christian Kjærgaard Vesborg, Professor, DTU Physics; Jakob Kibsgaard, Associate Professor, DTU Physics; Karen Chan, Associate Professor, DTU Physics; Christian Danvad Damsgaard, Associate Professor, DTU Physics and DTU Nanolab.

Professor Jesper Mørk from DTU Fotonik receives up to DKK 62.5 million to establish the Center for Nanophotonics (NanoPhoton), which will investigate the interaction between light and semiconductor nanostructures.

NanoPhoton will "capture and retain" light in semiconductor nanostructures. It is generally assumed that light cannot be concentrated to a spot less than half the wavelength of the light, leading to fundamental limitations in the uses of light and providing a minimum scalee.g. for lasers.

Based on a recent discovery, NanoPhoton will explore a new approach whereby light can be concentrated to a volume several orders of magnitude smaller than the so-called diffraction limit. This extreme concentration greatly increases the interaction between the light and the semiconductor and opens a new field of research with unanswered basic questions.

An important application perspective for NanoPhoton is to enable the integration of electronics and photonics, so that data in future processors are transported by light, resulting in large energy savings. This is extremely challenging as the wavelength of light is a hundred times larger than the characteristic dimension of a transistor, but made possible by NanoPhoton's new approach.

NanoPhoton is a close collaboration between DTU Fotonik, DTU Nanolab, DTU Mechanical Engineering and DTU Electrical Engineering around the development of new theory, topology optimization, nanofabrication technology, and visualization to explore and understand a entirely new regime of light-matter interaction. Co-applicants: Ole Sigmund, Professor, DTU Mechanical Engineering; Ole Hansen, Professor, DTU Nanolab; Olav Breinbjerg, Professor, DTU Electrical Engineering; Kresten Yvind, Professor, DTU Fotonik; Elizaveta Semenova, Senior Researcher, DTU Fotonik; Søren Stobbe, Associate Professor, DTU Fotonik; Martijn Wubs, Associate Professor, DTU Fotonik; Andrei Lavrinenko, Associate Professor, DTU Fotonik.

About the application process

The Danish National Research Foundation (DNRF) uses a two-stage application process for the establishment of new Centers of Excellence. In the first stage, potential center leaders are invited to submit outline proposals. For this current application round – the 10th - the DNRF received 133 outline proposals. Of these, 23 applicants were invited to submit full proposals, and from these, 10 applicants have been invited to enter contract negotiations to establish new Centers of Excellence.

The new centers will be established for a period of six years, with a possibility of an extension for another four years, with the prerequisite of a satisfactory midterm evaluation. The DNRF is investing DKK 657 now and allocating another DKK 440 million for the possible extension of the centers.

Source: The Danish National Research Foundation.