Prestigious ERC grants for new Covid test and spectrometer

Christelle Prinz, professor of solid state physics, and Edouard Berrocal, researcher in combustion physics, will each receive EUR 150 000 to further develop research results deemed by the European Research Council funding body to have great innovative potential.

Traces viruses in the body in a new way

For several years, physicist Christelle Prinz has been developing nanotechnology to diagnose and study diseases such as cancer in various ways. In an ongoing ERC project, she and her colleagues are developing a method to study cancer cells at an individual level, and it is for this project that she is now receiving extra funding.

The aim, however, is completely different: One of the technologies used to study cells has been shown to be useful in detecting viruses – including Covid-19.

In contrast to the current PCR test, results can arrive in a few minutes, according to Prinz. In addition, they will be cheaper to manufacture and read.

If everything goes to plan, this kind of test could be used a year from now at the earliest.

“There is a great need for testing even once the vaccination has started. For example, home-help staff or others who work with the elderly need to be able to get a test quickly and easily before they start a work shift”, explains Prinz.

Christelle Prinz has previously received an ERC Consolidator Grant.

Hopes to reveal the content of turbid liquids

Medical analysis of blood or new drugs, production of new drinks, purification of dirty water… completely different industries, but they are all aided by methods that can easily analyse the content of liquids.

Researcher Edouard Berrocal hopes to be able to offer a solution in the form of a spectrometer which, unlike ordinary spectrometers, is able to analyse turbid liquids. (A spectrometer is an optical instrument that divides white light into different wavelengths, or colours, which in the long run can make it possible to draw conclusions about the content of the constituent parts of what is being irradiated.)

The origin of the idea comes from Berrocal’s previous research that aims to enhance the efficiency of fuel injection in internal combustion engines.

“The aim is to develop a commercial product. We have started a company that we call Spec-Imaging, and the idea is that both researchers and companies should be able to use it. There may end up being two variants”, he notes.

A first prototype will be completed in the summer of 2021.

This is Edouard Berrocal’s second Proof of Concept Grant; he has previously also received a starting grant.

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