ERC Consolidator grants for detection of microwave photons and X-ray microscopy

Lund University

Ville Maisi and Martin Bech have been awarded prestigious ERC Consolidator Grants. Over a five-year period, the two researchers will conduct projects focusing on the detection of microwave photons and X-ray microscopy.

Ville Maisi, senior lecturer at the Deparment of Physics at Lund University’s Faculty of Engineering (LTH) and researcher at NanoLund, is to receive SEK 28 million for his project, which concerns the building of microwave detectors. Most people associate microwaves with the small ovens found in many kitchens. Within quantum technology, however, tiny microwave signals, consisting of elementary particles called photons, can be utilized in diverse areas. The project will involve the design of ultra-sensitive microwave detectors. These sensors can measure and count microwave photons – and thus provide new insights into how measurement processes work in small nanoscale systems.

Ville Maisi says that microwave photons are difficult to detect due to their miniscule energy, but they play a considerable role in majority of the solid-state devices used in quantum technology, for example in superconducting quantum bits and many quantum sensors.

“Traditional technology based on classical physics cannot perform certain calculations or provide sufficiently sensitive sensors for the most demanding measurements. The detection of microwave photons opens up new application areas in quantum technology through the improved sensitivity and new functionality of the detectors,” says Ville Maisi.

One of the hopes for the project is that it will increase knowledge about our universe.

“Perhaps our detectors will enable to answer what dark matter is – currently one of the biggest mysteries in our universe,” he says.

Developing a modern lab for X-ray microscopy

Martin Bech, senior lecturer in medical radiation physics, is to receive SEK 20 million for his project, which aims to create a modern laboratory for X-ray microscopy in Lund. Over the past decade, the use of X-ray microscopy has increased in the world of research. In contrast to standard light and electron microscopy, X-ray microscopy can be used to generate 3D images. The method, which is used in medical research, makes it possible to produce 3D images of human tissue – something that can make it easier to study cells in detail and how they relate to each other.

“It feels great. We can now update our existing lab by purchasing new x-ray optics and a new detector and launch several new studies,” says Martin Bech.

The ability to generate high-contrast 3D images gives the researchers far more detailed knowledge about tissue at the micro level. This could be used for numerous purposes including the development of new medicines and treatments for diseases. Previously, Martin Bech and his colleagues have conducted their research projects at synchrotron radiation facilities in Europe. Thanks to the grant, it will be possible to carry out similar investigations, within several disciplines, in Lund.

“In one of the projects I am collaborating with Karin Tran Lundmark, who is involved in cardiopulmonary research and examines how blood vessels are connected to lung tissue,” he says.

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