This interview focuses on fundamental research and applied science in the area of Elementary Processes in Gas Discharges (Assistant Professor Job Beckers), Plasma and Materials Processing (Full Professor Adriana Creatore) and Coherence and Quantum Technology (Associate Professor Servaas Kokkelmans).
What have you focused on during the past 12 months?
Job: “Our laboratory experiments have started to bear fruit: we now have some inkling of how particles of only a few nanometers in size charge when placed in a plasma and interact with the plasma. Exploring and understanding these mechanisms is crucial to making significant progress in the scientific field of Complex Ionized Media (CIM; i.e. plasmas with small additives), and the associated technological applications. It was also really gratifying to see that many of our industrial partners have intensified their collaboration with us by funding several PhD and postdoctoral positions during the past 12 months.”
Adriana: “I have pioneered the application of ALD in metal halide perovskite solar cells. These cells are extremely appealing because they are cost-effective and lend themselves to the large-scale manufacturing of tandem solar cells, in conjunction with crystalline silicon or CIGS solar cells. However, perovskite solar cells degrade very quickly in the environment. Thanks to our collaboration with the thin film solar research institute Solliance, we have extended the shelf-life of the solar cells by introducing an extremely thin ALD layer (less than 1 nm thick!) into the cell architecture. This major breakthrough is presently motivating several other studies where ALD is key to engineering interfaces and thin films in perovskite solar cells”.
Servaas: “I’m very proud of my involvement in TU/e’s Center for Quantum Materials and Technology, which opened last year. And of the success of our NWO Vici project, which is a model for a strongly interacting quantum gas. We call this gas a unitary Bose gas. The difficulty here is that the gas quenches to a unitary state in microseconds and then rapidly decays, so our only option for studying the interactive processes was to take ‘photos’ by using lasers to excite the atoms and thus produce shadows. Although the processes look random at first sight, we have discovered that they are systematic and ordered. This model will allow us to study similar physics to what happens inside a neutron star (the second heaviest object in the universe) and improve our understanding of the natural world and the universe.”
TU/e is obviously recognized as a leading university in Applied Physics. Would you recommend TU/e to other academics looking for research opportunities?
Job: “Although I have spent much of my academic career at TU/e, I am also familiar with CERN (Switzerland), San Diego State University (USA) and Sydney University (Australia). After gaining my PhD, I worked in industry for XTREME Technologies in Germany for a year before being appointed to my current position of Assistant Professor at TU/e. Based on that experience, I can wholeheartedly confirm that TU/e is an ideal environment for societally useful fundamental research in our field: a great place for colleagues looking for inspiring research positions and the opportunity to teach bright minds.”
Adriana: “I obtained my MSc and PhD in Chemical Sciences from the University of Bari in Italy, before being awarded a Marie Curie (FP5) postdoc fellowship at TU/e. I love my research work and I also very much enjoy teaching “millennials” and educating the new generation of engineers. If you believe passionately in something and convince your colleagues and mentors about your ideas, TU/e opens doors that let you achieve your dream. Moreover, TU/e is home to a unique mix of fundamental research, applied science and collaboration with industries.”
Servaas: “After gaining my MSc and PhD at TU/e, I accepted a position at a highly respected lab at Colorado University. That was followed by a period of post-doctoral research in Paris at Laboratoire Kastler Brossel. Then I was offered the opportunity of returning to TU/e as an Assistant Professor in 2004. I can heartily recommend TU/e and Eindhoven to colleagues looking for research opportunities: the level of cross-disciplinary collaboration and close ties to industry are eye-opening.”