Applications and Societal Themes
Although curiosity driven, our research is generically inspired by potential future applications. We strive to contribute to major societal and economic themes ranging from Green ICT to smart mobility, and from materials for society to high-tech systems. In all our approaches nanotechnology is key in providing novel solutions, by engineering materials and devices at the nanometer scale. Our research is well positioned on the Dutch and European research agenda’s. It is well aligned with the Dutch top sectorhigh-tech systems, but also has links to energy and life sciences and health. Several questions starring prominently on the National Research Agenda, launched early 2016, are actively addressed by our researchers, such as: How can we exploit quantum physics in enabling spectacular, novel applications? Can we design smart materials with advanced properties? And, what will be the impact of the quantum internet? – many of them grouped in the overarching routes 'Quantum/nano revolution' and 'Materials - made in Holland'
Our modern society heavily relies on ever increasing data capacity, internet bandwidth, connectivity and computational power for business, entertainment, safety and communications. Energy management and environmental footprint are among the most notable obstacles that need to be addressed to sustain further growth. Novel scenarios exploiting the electron spin rather than its charge, dubbed spintronics, are believed to provide ultra-efficient (integrated) memory and logic solutions, paving the way towards Green ICT. As typical examples, so-called spin-transfer torque magnetic random access memory (STT-MRAM) is about to take off, while the envisioned magnetic racetrack memory might provide an entirely novel 3D memory architecture scaling in superior way. Our group works on fascinating development just very recently discovered, such as switching via the spin-Hall effect and exploiting chiral spin textures, which are widely believed to be essential to further boost the field.
Research within the NWO-Gravitation funded Research Center for Integrated NanoPhotonics is about creating the technology for connecting seven billion people with each other and with the data centres that will provide access to the world's knowledge and information. This technology will support the Petabyte datastreams exchanged, defining the future internet, and facilitating ‘the internet of things’. Within this center our group explores disruptive new concepts for hybrid spintronic-photonic devices, envisioned to interface high data-rate photonic communication with magnetic (buffer) memory in a highly energy efficient way.
In automotive sensors, new requirements of increased engine efficiency and reduced emissions (“Green Driving”) can only be met by more accurate control of engine functions, which could be realized by using modern magnetic nanostructures. However, the implementation of these nanostructures in automobiles is far from trivial, since excellent robustness against high magnetic fields and high temperatures are essential application requirements. Together with NXP semiconductors, at FNA we explore new routes to meet these fundamental challenges by atomic engineering of multi-layered nanofilms, advanced experimental tools and by modeling the underlying physics processes.
Controlling matter at the atomic / nanometer scale provides new routes to address the most important societal issues, including energy supply, scarce materials, fighting climate change, smart mobility and health. With the completion of our NanoAccess facility (enabled by NWO, NanoLabNL and TU/e and its completion strongly supported by NXP, DIFFER, Holst Center and various academic partners), we created a truly unique system for depositing atomically controlled nanofilms, and their in-situ characterization and manipulation at the nanoscale. This facility is especially set-up to host external users. Among them is the Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research (DIFFER, our neighbor at the TU/e campus), performing fundamental energy research on solar fuels. The facility will allow exploring novel materials combinations, to tailor catalytic structures at the nanoscale, and to investigate critical steps for the photo-catalytic reactions by means of electronic / spectroscopic characterization.
The group is proud of its high-tech experimental infrastructure, including the NanoAccess system, a dedicated (ultrafast) laser laboratory, and a suite of scanning probe and electron microscopy facilities. Many of the state-of-the-art-techniques are non-standard and are really performing at the forefront of technological abilities. As a consequence, experimental research and further development of technology go hand in hand. We feel privileged being able to directly work in collaboration with our supplying partners on pushing technology just a little bit further – boosting the development of high-tech systems. With FEI company we have been working on novel processes for 3D nanoprinting on the nanometer scale (so called FEBID), but also with our partners on the NanoAccess system, viz. Omicron nanotechnologies, RHK/Schaefer and Bestec, we foresee contributing to breakthroughs in, e.g., scanning probe methodology and thin film deposition.