Using photon momentum to trap viruses
Cool things happen with pure research grants
The European Commission announced the first ten projects to be granted funding as part of the NEST (New and Emerging Science and Technology) programme.
Among the projects given the go-ahead is one that will develop a kind of Optical Tweezer – that is, a way of moving atoms around using the momentum associated with photons. This would allow for trapping and localising tiny biological samples such as viruses and DNA, and has promising applications in fundamental science (optics, atomic physics) and technology, including micro-fluidics.
Also granted funding is a team working to develop the next generation of electron microscopes. Using new experimental results, the team aims to develop a new way of accurately measuring the absorption of circular polarised light. This will provide better measurements of sub surface magnetic properties and in multilayer materials at nanometer resolutions.
Another team whose investigation into producing chemicals from CO2 and H2 under ‘mild’ conditions may have important implications for solar energy and dealing with greenhouse gases was also given the Nod. They plan to use the size selectivity of nano porus membranes in combination with the catalytic properties of noble metals to ‘burn’ the hydrogen without it going bang!
NEST was established to promote high risk interdisciplinary research, the kinds of projects that would not be budget priorities, but could generate exciting new technologies.
Research commissioner Phillipe Busquin said that the focus was on the unexpected, rather than solely on existing successes and consolidated scientific dogma.
The EC has called for submissions to be considered for its next round of funding. More information here. ®