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April 29th 2017

Blank and Rijnders: deposition of thin layers
Blank and Rijnders both belong to the international scientific top in the area of controlled production of thin layers. The research is cross-disciplinary and has built successful bridges between physics, chemistry, material sciences and the then emerging field of nanotechnology. Rijnders and Blank developed a high-pressure RHEED as an analysis method for thin films during their growth by means of pulsed laser deposition (PLD). This analysis method has led to new insights and possibilities for depositing complex materials, including high-temperature superconductors, magnetic thin layers, transparent oxidic conductors and piezo materials with superb properties. The high quality of their work is recognised and valued in both academia and industry. 

The research of Blank and Rijnders has, for example, led to successful spin-off companies. Twente Solid State Technologies BV supplies PLD equipment to academic research groups worldwide, whereas SolMateS BV provides industry with equipment to make sensors, for example. The researchers have also shown a high degree of public engagement. They have given many public lectures about the technology. For example, at the Zwarte Cross festival they jointly organised the 'universitent', in which lectures about passion for science are alternated with music. According to the jury the seamlessness of Blank and Rijnders, their research and valorisation activities is such that it is quite appropriate that they should jointly win the Valorisation Prize. And that is how the researchers experience it as well: "We are good friends and have always operated as a twosome, in which we continuously complement each other", says Rijnders.

The aim of the FOM Valorisation Prize is to encourage knowledge utilisation from physics research. The prize of 250,000 euros is awarded each year to a Dutch researcher (or group of researchers) in physics who has succeeded in making the results from his or her research useful for society.

Blank and Rijnders will use the prize for the development of new research tools and for developing new types of sensors using new materials. "We now have a lead in the production of complex thin layers and with this prize money we can make even faster progress still", says Blank.

Beker: vibration-free measurements of gravitational waves
During his PhD research at FOM Institute Nikhef, Beker studied how seismic ground movements could influence gravitational wave detectors. At low frequencies these movements are the greatest challenge for new detectors. Networks of sensitive accelerometers are vital for excluding seismic and/or Newtonian noise as much as possible.

In his valorisation chapter Beker describes the low-power wireless network developed by his group for such accelerometers, which can be used for oil and gas exploration. Together with his supervisor, professor J.F.J. van den Brand, Beker founded the spin-out Innoseis BV after he had completed his PhD. In this company he is further developing low-power wireless networks and other similar multinode sensor grids and commercialising these for other applications as well. "It is fantastic that my supervisor and Nikhef have helped to create the opportunity for me to do this ", says Beker, who with Innoseis has also developed a vibration-free test infrastructure for characterising sensors for oil and gas exploration. Commercial contracts for these have been directly concluded between Shell and Innoseis. Beker is also talking to various parties about implementing his technology, for example in atomic inferometer setups and the latest gravitational wave detectors. "With his valorisation chapter, Beker illustrates that even in the most fundamental physics research many possibilities for valorisation can be found", says the jury. 

With the annual FOM Valorisation Chapter Prize of 5.000 euros, FOM PhD students are encouraged to dedicate a separate chapter in their thesis to the valorisation aspects of their PhD research

Contact information
Prof. Dave Blank,+31 (0)53 489 27 14
Prof. Guus Rijnders,+31 (0)53 489 26 18
Dr. Mark Beker, +31 (0)6 11 24 75 38

Further information
See the FOM website for information about the FOM Valorisation Prize and the FOM Valorisation Chapter Prize.