Prof. Gerasimos Konstantatos (ICFO), Prof. Daniel Maspoch (ICN2), and Dr. Klaas-Jan Tielrooij (ICN2) are among the 166 winners of the latest edition of the Proof of Concept Grants from the European Research Council (ERC).
The European Research Council, in its efforts to help ERC grant-holders bridge the gap between their research and the earliest stage of marketable innovation, created the Proof of Concept (PoC) funding scheme for researchers who have already been awarded an ERC grant. The programme helps ERC grantees explore the innovation potential of their research and/or commercialise the results of their ERC-funded research. In this call, three researchers from two BIST centres – the Institute of Photonics (ICFO) and the Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2) – have received these prestigious grants worth €150,000 each.
SWIRL Project (Prof. Gerasimos Konstantatos)
ICREA Prof. at ICFO Gerasimos Konstantatos has been awarded his third PoC to date, the twelfth award of this kind for ICFO since the launch of the programme, for the project titled SWIRL. The main goal of this project is to develop high performance, low-cost SWIR optical sources based on colloidal quantum dot technology.
Optical sensing and imaging has evolved from taking digital images to a powerful metrology, imaging, and data acquisition technique by expanding the spectral coverage from the visible to the short-wave infrared (SWIR). SWIR sensing and imaging is the cornerstone of advanced imaging techniques for 3D visualisation, night vision, imaging though adverse weather conditions, biomedical imaging, spectroscopy for food quality, and health monitoring, to name a few. The huge market size of such applications, especially by entering volume markets including consumer electronics and automotive, has led to the first commercial appearances of low cost CMOS compatible SWIR photodetectors and image sensors. Yet for the realisation of the afore-mentioned technologies the optical source is an equally important and crucial component to be considered at a system level.
By leveraging engineering at the nanoscale and solution processed materials, this project will develop in TRL4/5 SWIR optical emitters that are low-cost, high efficiency, even rivalling their epitaxial counterparts, and spectrally versatile across the SWIR. It will further demonstrate their use in key applications related to the automotive industry as optical sources for active SWIR imaging and in-cabin monitoring in the eye-safety infrared window.
SAFE-ON Project (Prof. Daniel Maspoch)
Infectious diseases are a rapidly growing threat to humanity. The current COVID-19 pandemic, caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2, has already killed over 4.5 million people since 2019 and is taking a devastating socioeconomic toll around the world. Similarly, nosocomial infections are among the major causes of death and increased morbidity, causing thousands of deaths every year in Europe. Recently, the use of antimicrobial coatings has garnered increasing interest as a simple prophylactic strategy to combat these infectious diseases. In this Proof of Concept project, ICREA Professor at ICN2 Daniel Maspoch will advance a new patented antimicrobial coating technology, called SAFE-ON, into the pre-commercial stage, with the aim of demonstrating its breakthrough innovation potential and bringing it to market.
The first part of this project encompasses optimisation of SAFE-ON technology as highly efficient, smart antimicrobial coatings. This entails the preparation of two antimicrobial coatings based on commercial formulations used in catheters and door-handle covers (one based on hydrogels and the other on silicone), and subsequent testing of their antimicrobial capacity. It also involves preparing the first two SAFE-ON prototypes: one coated catheter and one door-handle cover. The second part of SAFE-ON will be dedicated to intellectual property (IP) and market aspects needed for the pre-commercialisation of this new technology for antimicrobial coatings. This study will include a freedom-to-operate analysis and a market study to identify the antimicrobial coating producers that could ultimately serve as manufacturing partners.
COOLGRAELE Project (Dr. Klaas-Jan Tielrooij)
Devices such as mobile phones, computers, and batteries have become an integrated part of our society. An important challenge in such devices and device components is to avoid overheating by using suitable thermal management. This typically relies on heat dissipation by electrons in metals such as copper. More recent approaches have explored heat dissipation by phonons in graphene and related materials, which can have a thermal conductivity that is an order of magnitude higher than that of typical metals. In this project, Dr. Klaas-Jan Tielrooij and a multidisciplinary team aim to demonstrate thermal management technology, where heat dissipation takes place by graphene electrons, rather than phonons. This is a promising approach, as the thermal conductivity of graphene electrons can be another order of magnitude larger than that of graphene phonons, as we recently demonstrated in our ERC-funded research. Furthermore, it allows for direct electronic heat dissipation without the intermediate step via phonons.