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In total, four University of Oxford researchers, two of whom are from MPLS, have been awarded ERC Advanced Grants of up to €2.5 million each to explore their most innovative and ambitious ideas. These grants recognise leading researchers who have a proven track record of significant achievements.

Professor Jin-Chong Tan and Professor Véronique Gouverneur

The ERC is the premier European funding organisation for excellent frontier research, and the ERC Advanced Grants are amongst the most prestigious and competitive EU funding schemes. These provide leading senior researchers with the opportunity to pursue ambitious, curiosity-driven projects that could lead to major scientific breakthroughs. The new grants, worth in total nearly €652 million, are part of the EU’s Horizon Europe programme.

This latest call for proposals attracted over 1,800 applications, of which around 14% were selected for funding. The successful projects will carry out cutting-edge research in a wide range of fields, from life sciences and physical sciences to social sciences and humanities.

Iliana Ivanova, the European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education, and Youth, said: ‘To all the new ERC grantees, my heartfelt congratulations! These grants will not only support leading researchers in pushing the boundaries of knowledge, but also create some 2500 jobs for postdoctoral fellows, PhD students and other research staff across Europe. This investment nurtures the next generation of brilliant minds. I look forward to seeing the resulting breakthroughs and fresh advancements in the years ahead.’

The two MPLS recipients are:

Professor Véronique Gouverneur, Department of Chemistry

Professor Véronique Gouverneur will use the ERC Advanced Grant to develop ground-breaking new methods for fluorine chemistry that will convert naturally occurring fluorspar into critically-needed fluorine-containing molecules. Her project will apply innovative techniques she has developed that are energy-efficient and which bypass the production of dangerous hydrogen fluoride gas.

In this new work, her team will focus on creative ways to release the fluorine content of fluorspar using solid-state chemistry techniques as well as solution-based methods. With circular fluorine chemistry in mind, her team will also investigate new methods to recover the fluorine content of waste and harmful fluorochemicals for upcycling. Professor Gouverneur said: ‘I am delighted to receive this award as it will enable my team to tackle some of the most pressing problems facing the fluorochemical sector. Ultimately, this work will benefit the wide range of industries that depend on fluorochemicals, including polymers, agrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, and the production of lithium-ion batteries for electric cars and smartphones.’

Professor Jin-Chong Tan, Department of Engineering Science

Professor Tan will use his ERC Advanced Grant to explore how to engineer resilient and durable triboelectric nanogenerators that can harvest energy from the environment and day-to-day activities, then convert this into useful electrical energy. By developing novel composite materials, the project aims to solve the long-standing problem of current nanogenerators only generating low-density power outputs; a major constraint toward practical applications. Ultimately, this work could improve the performance of various applications including lightweight energy harvesters, touch-sensitive sensors in soft robots, and portable devices that can power themselves without use of batteries.

Professor Tan said: ‘This ERC Advanced Grant will enable me and my team to discover exciting new triboelectric materials targeting a wide range of disruptive technologies. I am excited by the prospect of uncover the hidden mechanisms behind the functioning of triboelectric generators, by leveraging innovative techniques such as nearfield nanospectroscopy and broadband nanoimaging.’

See the full story on the four Oxford researchers awarded ERC Advanced Grants.

See further information about the ERC Advanced Grants.