TU/e gains 40 million under Gravitation program; a quarter of total funding

TU/e will receive 40 million euros, or a quarter of the total of 153 million euros awarded under the Gravitation program (‘Zwaartekrachtsubsidie’) by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science today. TU/e is coordinator of one of the six projects to receive an award – the Research Centre for Integrated Nanophotonics – and is also involved in two other projects. “These awards are the icing on the cake for TU/e in what has already proved to be a highly successful year”, said TU/e Rector Magnificus Hans van Duijn.

The Gravitation program is the largest research subsidy in the Netherlands, and is intended for research consortia that are or have the potential to be among the absolute world leaders in their fields. In the current round the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science is awarding a total of 153 million euros to six projects, to be provided over a period of ten years. Because TU/e is involved in three of the six projects, it will receive subsidies with a value of almost 40 million euros in the coming ten years.

Highly successful year
TU/e Rector Magnificus prof.dr.ir. Hans van Duijn is delighted with the university’s success in the awards. “For TU/e these awards are the icing on the cake in a year that has already been highly successful. Elsevier weekly magazine named TU/e this year as the best university in the Netherlands, the inflow to our Bachelor’s programs increased by 20%, our Solar Team Eindhoven won the World Solar Challenge in Australia, we’re well on the way to a place in the top 100 best universities according to Times Higher Education, and the CWTS ranking for 2013 in Leiden rated us number 1 worldwide in cooperation with industry.”

“All this underlines the fact that we’re making the right choices. But we’re still ambitious, and we’re continuing to work on the quality of our education and research and on our relationships with industry. For example after a thorough review of our Bachelor education one-and-a-half years ago, we’re currently working on restructured our Master’s, designer’s and PhD programs in the form of a Graduate School. All this is aimed at ensuring we can train the engineers of the future who are needed by society”, said Van Duijn.

The future of internet
Prof.dr.ir. Meint Smit of TU/e is the lead applicant at the Research Centre for Integrated Nanophotonics, which receives a 19.9 million euro research subsidy from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. TU/e itself is investing a further 20 million euros in the project. Other groups involved at TU/e, as well as that led by Smit, are those of prof.dr. Bert Koopmans, prof.ir. Ton Koonen, prof.dr.ir. Erwin Kessels, prof.dr. Paul Koenraad and prof.dr. Harm Dorren.

Data traffic is increasing explosively worldwide, and with it the consumption of electricity, particularly in data centers. The increasing numbers of data centers in the USA account for 2% of the total electricity consumption, and demand is continuing to rise at an alarming rate. This is primarily due to communication between computers and processors. To prevent this increase from becoming unsustainable, researchers in Eindhoven intend to develop new photonics technology. Photonics transmits digital signals in the form of light, instead of the electronics used at present. The big advantage of using light signals is that much less energy is required. The main data traffic volumes worldwide already use optical signal transmission, through optical fibers, but signals in the data centers are still mainly transport electronically.

The Eindhoven-based researchers intend to come up with solutions at three levels. At system level they will investigate how they can introduce photonics connections in the whole network. At component level (microchips) the researchers plan to develop ICs combining both electronics and photonics, so the distances between them are as small as possible and the electricity consumption is low. And at material level they plan to look for new ways to reduce energy demand as far as possible, right down to the fundamental limits, by increasing understanding at the level of individual electrons and photons and their interactions. The results of the project will help to determine the future of internet.

Modeling and optimizing networks
TU/e is the largest party in the Networks project, which receives a grant of 22.7 million euros and involves the groups led by prof.dr. Mark de Berg, prof.dr.ir. Sem Borst, prof.dr.ir. Onno Boxma, prof.dr. Remco van der Hofstad, prof.dr. Johan van Leeuwaarden, prof.ir. Ton Koonen and prof.dr.ing. Gerhard Woeginger. The project coordinator is prof.dr. Michel Mandjes of the University of Amsterdam. Other parties involved are Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI) and Leiden University. Around 10 million euros of the subsidy will be allocated to Eindhoven, and TU/e will provide a further 2 million euros.

Networks has the goal of working on the urgent challenges posed by large-scale networks. Not only digital networks but also those in traffic, transport and energy systems are often insufficiently able to deal with unexpected situations. This research project focuses on modeling, understanding, controlling and optimizing networks which are complex and subject to rapid change.

Biomass and solar energy
The third project in which TU/e is participating to receive a subsidy is the Netherlands Center for Multiscale Catalytic Energy Conversion. The lead applicant is prof.dr.ir. Bert Weckhuysen of Utrecht University, and the joint applicants at TU/e are prof.dr.ir. Hans Kuipers and prof.dr. Rutger van Santen, working closely together with prof.dr.ir. Emiel Hensen. The project receives 31.9 million from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, of which approximately 10 million euros is allocated to Eindhoven. As well as Utrecht and Eindhoven, the University of Twente is also involved. The project brings together expertise areas which until now have not worked together closely in the Netherlands.

The aim of the project is to radically change processes to generate energy and produce future fuels and chemicals. The researchers will develop new catalysis processes and improve existing processes at all relevant scales: from the atomic level up to that of the actual reactor in which the catalysis takes place. The ultimate goal is to develop highly efficient catalysis processes for a range of energy and material sources such as fossil fuels, biomass and solar energy. The scientists believe the collaboration will also provide numerous unexpected applications.