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Researchers receive ERC starting grants

Two promising researchers at the Faculty of Science have been awarded a prestigious grant from the European Research Council, providing each person with up to 1.5 million euros in funding over the next five years.
Faculty of science building

Jesper Wallentin, an Associate senior lecturer at the Department of Physics was awarded the grant to examine whether nanowires can be used as high-resolution X-ray detectors.

Nanowires are tiny crystals with a diameter of less than one-tenth of a micrometer – compare that to a strand of hair that has a diameter of 50 micrometres.

“We have some initial results that show that we can actually get an electric current from nanowires that are exposed to X-rays. The fact that we can measure a signal in a single nanowire is fascinating”, says Jesper Wallentin.


If real detectors for performing nanoscale X-ray microscopy are developed in the future, perhaps we will be able to make X-ray imaging of the connections between neurons in brain tissue.

For now, the grant will finance one PhD student, one postdoc position and an X-ray lab, among other things.

Korinna Zapp, a researcher at the Department of Astronomy and Theoretical Physics, recreates the conditions that existed for only a few millionths of a second after the Big Bang.

Large Hadron Collider LHC at CERN can create a head-on collision, at almost the speed of light, between heavy lead nuclei containing 208 protons and neutrons. The density in these collisions is so high that protons and neutrons 'melt'. This creates a quark-gluon plasma - resembling our universe very shortly after the Big Bang. In this way the properties of the quark-gluon plasma can be studied in the laboratory. The most important discoveries have been that the quark-gluon plasma behaves like a liquid, and that it attenuates very fast particles passing through it.

“It was a major surprise when scientists discovered that collisions of the small protons in many aspects closely resemble collisions of the large lead nuclei”, explains Korinna Zapp.

The density in proton-proton collisions is so much lower that it is believed to be impossible to create a quark-gluon plasma. Still, proton-proton collisions show signs of formation of liquid and hot matter, but do not attenuate fast particles.

“The question I want to attempt to answer is: do proton-proton collisions create a miniature quark-gluon plasma, or has the data been misinterpreted? Or perhaps nature has something in stock for us that we haven't thought of yet”, concludes Korinna Zapp.

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