Four researchers at Valencian Universities awarded prestigious ERC Consolidator Grants

Four researchers from the Valencian Community have been awarded highly-competitive Consolidator Grants by the European Research Council to carry out cutting-edge research in their respective fields. 

ERC grantees at Valencian UniversitiesThis year the ERC awarded a total of 314 Consolidator Grants, a funding programme aimed at supporting scientific excellence and the career development of promising researchers. Of these, 24 went to Spanish research centres (behind the UK, Germany, France and the Netherlands), including four to Valencian researchers:

  • Ivana Gasulla Mestre, of the Universitat Politècnica de Valencia, for her project InnoSpace
  • Guillermo Mínguez Espallargas, of the Universitat de València, for his project S-CAGE
  • Ivan Mora Seró, of the Universitat Jaume I de Castellón, for his project No-LIMIT
  • Rafael Sanjuan Verdeguer, also of the Universitat de València, for his project Vis-a-Vis

Here we give a brief introduction to each.

Super-strength optical fibers for the wireless systems of the future
Ivana Gasulla Mestre, UPV, InnoSpace

The full title of Gasulla’s project is «InnoSpace – Revolutionizing fibre-wireless communications through space-division multiplexed photonics». In layman’s terms, the project aims to increase the speed of Internet access, and anticipate the emerging needs of 5G communcations and the Internet of Things on the short- to mid-term. Specifically Gasulla is working on the latest generation of optical fibers, applying the spatial multiplexing techniques mentioned in the project’s title, which have received increasing attention within the international research community over the past five years. The new «multi-core» fibres being designed will be able to transmit in a single fiber what current technology needs up to 36 separate fibers to achieve, significantly reducing the weight and bulk of the materials needed. But beyond this, and crucial to the ERC’s funding decision, they will also offer new processing capabilities that will vastly improve and extend the application of wireless communications technologies.

Talking about the project, Gasulla tells us: «Standard optical fibers, the kind we are all familiar with, we might even have them in our homes, have a limited capacity. So it is important that we research new technologies in order to get ahead of the future, if you like, and devise solutions to the challenges that will be faced by communications systems in the coming years. This is the raison d´etre of the project». She goes on to say that «ultimately we are talking about completely new designs that have never been studied, much less implemented, before. As with all ERC projects, the risk factor is high, but the potential gains are much, much higher».

Source: Universitat Politècnica de València

Advanced materials for use in energy and the environment
Guillermo Mínguez Espallargas, UV, S-CAGE

Led by Guillermo Mínguez of the UV’s Institute of Molecular Science (ICMoL), this project has received two million euros from the ERC to develop second generation porous materials. The focus of this research, metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), have already revolutionised materials science over the past 25 years thanks to their many applications in such as gas storage and biomedicine. This new project, «Smart Coordination Polymers with Compartmentalized Pockets for Adaptive Guest Entrance», or S-CAGE for short, aims to take MOFs to the next level.

Source: Universitat de València

More efficient solar technology
Iván Mora Seró, UJI, No-LIMIT

The first Consolidator Grant to go to an UJI researcher, in his project No-LIMIT Mora will be developing a new kind of solar cell based on the interaction of halide perovskites and colloidal quantum dots… Wait, what? Okay, so current solar cells can only harness light emitted over a relatively narrow band of wavelengths; the rest is unexploited. By reversing an interaction observed between halide perovskites and a family of semi-conductor materials known as colloidal quantum dots when you add electricity, Mora aims to develop solar cells that can transform more of the Sun’s light into electrical energy.

For a little bit about how they intend to achieve this, see our article from last February.

Source: Universitat Jaume I de Castellón

Understanding the social nature of viruses
Rafael Sanjuán Verdeguer, UV, Vis-a-Vis

The researcher behind the project «Collective Infectious Units and the Social Evolution of Viruses» has similarly been awarded two million euros from the ERC. Sanjuán will develop the project at the Institute of Integative Systems Biology, a new research centre jointly run by the Universitat de València and the Spanish Research Council (CSIC).

See our article from last April on his research into the social behaviour of viruses.

Source: Universitat de València