Picture of four researchers granted funding, October 2020.
​Ross King, Elin Esbjörner, Riccardo Arpaia and Philippe Tassin are four of the 43 researchers at Chalmers University of Technology who received funding from the Swedish Research Council.
 Johan Bodell, Martina Butorac och Anna-Lena Lundgren.
Photos by: Johan Bodell, Martina Butorac och Anna-Lena Lundgren.​

43 Chalmers researchers receive funding for more research

​​43 Chalmers researchers have now learned about new grants after the Swedish Research Council published the successful applications. The Swedish Research Council will distribute a total of SEK 1.1 billion in natural and engineering sciences. The grants are for the period up to 2024.
​​The Council’s funding mostly goes to research in biology, physics and chemistry, which receives nearly half of the research grants. The information released by the Swedish Research Council in the last week of October revealed that SEK 149 million of this year’s project grants will go to researchers at Chalmers. 

Here is the reaction of four of the 43 Chalmers researchers who have had their projects and research funded.

Philippe Tassin, Department of Physics

What is your project about?
We want to use artificial intelligence in the development of nanophotonics, which is about how light can be used in various ways. Computer algorithms that can identify patterns in large volumes of data have advanced greatly in recent years. For example, neural networks, which function in a similar way to the human brain. Technology is as good as or better than people at things like face recognition or driving cars. We want to use similar algorithms to design metasurfaces, optical components that are much thinner than a hair. Using neural networks, we will design new metasurfaces with shapes that we cannot even imagine that will have entirely new optical properties. 

Why is it important to research this?
The big challenge with photonic metasurfaces is that extremely powerful calculations are needed to find the structure that gives rise to a metasurface with the desirable properties. Even the most powerful computers in the world are often inadequate. Using neural networks, we will be able to develop new optical components, for example metasurfaces for optical tweezers that make it possible to hold and move small objects like cells and viruses with just light. Metasurfaces that are good at absorbing light can give us better solar cells, and thin optical membranes with extremely high reflection may be an important component of the quantum computers of the future.

Elin Esbjörner, Department of Biology and Biological Engineering

What is your project about?
Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease are examples of common diseases that break down the brain. A typical characteristic of the diseases is that abnormal protein lumps are formed in the regions of the brain affected. This is linked to neuronal cell death. The protein lumps consist of fibres – amyloid fibrils. Previous research has taught us much about how they are formed and the focus has been on stopping the formation of fibrils and neutralising small protein lumps (oligomers) which have been shown to be particularly dangerous to the brain. Our previous research into the Parkinson’s protein alpha synuclein showed that fragments of fibrils are more toxic than long fibrils.  Consequently, this project will focus instead on the fibrils that have already been formed. We want to study how stable they are, the circumstances under which they can be broken down and whether unstable fibrils are more dangerous to the brain than stable fibrils. 

Why is it important to research this?
There are currently around 160,000 dementia sufferers in Sweden, and around 20,000 people with Parkinson’s. It is expected that, in the future, more than 50% of Swedes may suffer from a neurodegenerative disease. So we need better medicines. Our aim is to map the factors that control the stability of the fibrils to see whether stabilisation of fibrils could be a successful treatment strategy for Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.  

Riccardo Arpaia, Department of Microtechnology and Nanoscience

What is your project about?
A superconducting material has infinite electrical conductivity at very low temperatures. The discovery of high-temperature superconductors in 1986 showed that a material can be superconducting at temperatures above the boiling point of liquid nitrogen (-196°C). But no one has yet been able to explain why. It is obvious that we need an entirely new type of experiment to understand the mechanism behind high-temperature superconductivity. We want to solve the mystery by focusing on the charge order in these materials and its role in determining the properties of a material. Using experiments with synchrotron light, which makes it possible to measure the charge order of unique samples, we will check how the charge order can be changed by varying certain parameters such as mechanical strain and confinement.
Why is it important to research this?
The unique electrical conductivity of superconductors, in which resistance and energy losses are zero, permits many technical applications. However, as superconductors require very low temperatures, they have to be cooled with liquid helium, which makes them expensive and difficult to use. The discovery of high-temperature superconductors was a great boost for superconductor research as, for the first time, it was enough to use liquid nitrogen to maintain the superconducting state. A superconductor that can function close to room temperature would have enormous potential. Consequently, there is great interest in improving understanding of how high-temperature superconductors work.

Ross King, Department of Biology and Biological Engineering

What is your project about?
We aim to develop an AI system, Genesis, to automate the understanding of human cells. Genesis is a robot scientist, a laboratory system using artificial intelligence to perform automated repetitions of scientific experiments. The robot scientist creates hypotheses, selects effective experiments to distinguish between hypotheses, conducts experiments by using automated laboratory equipment and analyses the results. Genesis will have the capacity to perform 10,000 parallel cycles to create and test hypotheses. Our robot scientist will work with yeast cells. Most elements of yeast function as in humans, but yeast cells are much easier to work with. It is also easier to understand the mechanisms in yeast. So to find out how human cells function, it is best to understand how yeast functions first.

Why is it important to research this?
AI systems have superhuman powers that supplement the work of human researchers. They are able to remember a large number of facts without errors, execute logical arguments without mistakes, execute almost optimum probability arguments, learn from large volumes of data, extract information from millions of scientific journals, etc. These powers mean that AI has the potential to change science and, via science, to make a difference in society, for example through better technology, better medicines and higher food safety. 

Here are all researchers at Chalmers University of Technology who was granted funding – sorted by department:

Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering: Eleni Gerolymatou

Department of Biology and Biological Engineering: Elin Esbjörner, Ross King, Johan Larsbrink, Ivan Mijakovic, Mikael Molin, Lisbeth Olsson, Santosh Pandit, Fredrik Westerlund

Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering: Maria Abrahamsson, Martin Andersson, Ronnie Andersson, Ann-Sofie Cans, Bengt Nordén, Martin Rahm, Xiaoyan Zhang 

Department of Computer Science and Engineering: Robert Feldt, Morten Fjeld, Miquel Pericas, Alejandro Russo

Department of Electrical Engineering: Alexandre Graell i Amat, Christian Häger, Max Ortiz Catalan

Department of Industrial and Materials Science: Kenneth Runesson

Department of Mathematical Sciences: Annika Lang, Hjalmar Rosengren

Department of Microtechnology and Nanoscience: Riccardo Arpaia, Thilo Bauch, Attila Geresdi, Helena Rodilla, Elsebeth Schröder, Victor Torres Company

Department of Physics:​ Andreas Ekström, Paul Erhart, Henrik Grönbeck, Patrik Johansson, Mikael Käll, Eva Olsson, Philippe Tassin, Andrew Yankovich

Department of Space, Earth and Environment: Tobias Mattisson, Pär Strand, Wouter Vlemmings

Text: Anita Fors
Photo:  Johan Bodell, Martina Butorac och Anna-Lena Lundgren.​

Published: Mon 09 Nov 2020.