Prestigious European grant for Dick Broer
This week it was announced that prof. Dick Broer was awarded a prestigious Advanced Grant by the European Research Council. By means of this subsidy, amounting to almost 2.5 million euro, he will in the next five years try to develop ‘oscillating’ coatings on the basis of liquid crystals which are capable among other things of making surfaces self-cleaning.
Broer, working in the Functional Organic Materials and Devices group (Department of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry), intends to use the ERC Advanced Grant for designing materials that make oscillating movements under the influence of light or heat. On the basis of liquid crystals – materials whose properties position them between solid substances and liquids and which are known especially from LCD screens – he wants to make a coating in which minuscule oscillating ribs are generated when they are exposed to light or put under electric tension.
This would make it possible for instance to clear sand from solar panels after a sand storm. “Then again, you could also use these materials for a touch screen that gives mechanical feedback to your fingers”, says Broer. “Or as a braille display for visually disabled persons.” In addition, the emeritus professor wants to apply self-oscillating materials in membranes for the separation of gases.
What makes Broer’s approach special is that the frequency of oscillation is determined by the properties of the material, not by the frequency of the stimulus. This makes it possible for the researchers to generate oscillations by means of a continuous energy source, such as sunlight.