News of November 7, 2018
HZDR's participation in successful Clusters of Excellence
The German Research Foundation (DFG) confirmed three Clusters of Excellence at the TU Dresden on September 27, 2018. Twice as many application outlines had been approved exactly one year earlier. The Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf is now involved in the following two clusters:
- PoL – Physics of Life
Prof. Karim Fahmy | Institute of Resource Ecology
Dr. Michael Gensch, Dr. Sergey Kovalev | Institute of Radiation Physics
- ct.qmat – Complexity and Topology in Quantum Materials
Prof. Jochen Wosnitza | Dresden High Magnetic Field Laboratory
As from January 2019, the clusters of excellence will be funded by the DFG for a total of seven years. The Helmholtz Association already provided financial support last year: the participating HZDR researchers received funds totaling €350,000 per cluster, for instance for preliminary expert assessments, drafting the full proposal, developing infrastructure, and organizing workshops. The HZDR had to contribute a sum equal to the funds that had been raised. Fresh funding has been pledged for the two clusters selected in September: €500,000 each per year for a total of two years. This money from the Helmholtz Association's Initiative and Networking Fund will be spent on strengthening cooperation with universities in general.
The questions for which the researchers are seeking answers start with molecules and their organization within the cell, concern the interaction of cells in tissue formation, and extend to the growth and self-organization of organs. Biophysicist Karim Fahmy is delighted about the approval, because the research in his department of the HZDR Institute of Resource Ecology fits perfectly into the Physics of Life cluster. He and his team have already been collaborating for some time with spokesperson Stephan Grill, Professor of Biophysics at the Biotechnology Center of the TU Dresden (BIOTEC).
"Life processes are divided into chemical and physical sub-processes that take place in spatially separate reaction compartments of every cell. Contrary to what was previously thought, compartmentalization is not always achieved by means of biological membranes," explains Karim Fahmy. These novel physical phenomena of cellular compartmentalization are being explored in close cooperation with the cluster's steering committee.
Through its use of pulsed intense terahertz radiation at the TELBE facility of the ELBE Center for High-Power Radiation Sources, the HZDR contributes to understanding the structure-forming role of water on the surface of biomolecules. Together with group leader Michael Gensch and terahertz laser expert Sergey Kovalev from the Institute of Radiation Physics, funds from the Initiative and Networking Fund will be used to set up a dedicated experimental laboratory for biological samples at the TELBE facility as part of two doctoral theses.
Scientists from Würzburg and Dresden are cooperating here to investigate fundamentally new states of matter. "We are focusing on materials whose observed properties and functions are driven by quantum mechanical interactions at the atomic level. Topological effects increasingly play an important role for these materials," says Jochen Wosnitza, Director of the Dresden High Magnetic Field Laboratory, explaining the cluster's special focus.
In addition to seeking a fundamental understanding of quantum materials, another goal of the research network, in which the High Magnetic Field Laboratory of the HZDR is playing a major part, is to control functionalities as a basis for future applications. The vision is to develop novel materials that can be used in all modern high technologies – from information processing and energy-supply systems to medical engineering. Jochen Wosnitza is certainly convinced that ct.qmat, as the strongest network in this field in Germany, will make decisive progress in the investigation of topological materials.
Dr. Christine Bohnet
Communications and Media Relations | Head
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