30 September 2020

Professor Johanna Rosén, together with colleagues at LiU and Uppsala University, has been awarded SEK 29 million from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation. AI is to be added to the tools used to seek two-dimensional materials with completely new properties.

Professor Johanna Rosén, Linköping University. Magnus Johansson
A 2D material consists of one or a few layers of atoms arranged in a network. The most well-known 2D material is graphene, but Johanna Rosén and her research group in the Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology at LiU have spent several years working with other promising 2D materials known as “MXenes”. These form a large group of materials with a transition metal, M, and carbon or nitrogen, X, usually in the form of carbide.

“We have learnt a great deal about MXenes, particularly how they can be produced. Now we are delighted and grateful for the opportunity to work in an interdisciplinary project and investigate other two-dimensional materials”, says Johanna Rosén.

Two-dimensional materials

The group can see on the horizon the possibility of solving some of the huge challenges of our time, with the aid of new materials. These include, for example, catalysis during the development of new drugs, water purification and desalination, eco-friendly energy storage, and – in the field of biomedical engineering – such topics as the combat of harmful bacteria and improvements in biocompatibility.

Most two-dimensional materials have been created by cleaving three-dimensional crystals of materials that consist of layered 2D structures. MXenes, in contrast, are created through etching, in which selected layers are removed chemically, rather than by cleavage. This is the technology that the scientists want to use for new groups of materials. Initially, they will look at materials in which the carbon has been exchanged for boron, or in other words, borides instead of carbides.“We have started there, and already obtained the first results”, says Johanna Rosén.

Complementary competence

Co-applicants in the project are Per Persson, professor in the Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology, and Fredrik Heintz, associate professor in the Department of Computer and Information Science. Persson is expert in electron microscopy and will carry out the analyses of the materials, while Heintz is expert within artificial intelligence.

Professor Johanna Rosén looking straight into the cameraJohanna Rosén Photo credit Magnus Johansson“My group carries out large-scale theoretical simulations of materials, and have initially analysed 40,000 of them. We hope to be able to use artificial intelligence to find patterns that help us identify the most promising candidates”, says Johanna Rosén.

Another co-applicant is Professor Maria Strömme at Uppsala University, whose group provides great expertise in possible applications of the new materials.

“We will also be able to keep working with our visiting professor Michel Barsoum for a further five years. He was one of the principal authors of the first scientific publication on MXenes in 2011, and it’s just great to have him involved”, says Johanna Rosén.

Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation

Johanna Rosén has been awarded SEK 29 million for five years for the project: “The 2D-Materials Frontier: Pioneering multifunctional 2D materials by chemical exfoliation”.

In this round, the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation has awarded a total of SEK 541 million to 18 excellent projects in basic research within medicine, the natural sciences and technology, all of them believed to have the possibility to lead to scientific breakthroughs. In the period 2011-2020, the foundation has awarded a total of SEK 6.8 billion to 218 projects in basic research.

Translated by George Farrants

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