Two from LOE
The value of the grants ranges from SEK 5 million to SEK 15 million, and they have been awarded in the natural sciences, medicine, technology, the humanities and the social sciences. The grants to researchers at Linköping University (LiU) are principally in the field of technology.
Two of the Wallenberg Academy Fellows will work in the Laboratory of Organic Electronics, LOE:
Klas Tybrandt, associate professor at LiU, plans to develop a functional interface between the brain’s nerve cells and new electronic materials. He will develop soft microelectrodes that can evolve into their final shape deep inside the brain. Doctors can use deep brain stimulation to treat Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, depression and chronic pain. However, the electrodes used to, for example, reduce the tremors of Parkinson’s are hard, and often damage the brain tissue, severely limiting the precision of the technique. Klas Tybrandt is developing soft and elastic microelectrodes that are better compatible with living tissue. His aim is to produce a thin probe with many coiled microelectrodes thinner than a human hair. These will be held in place by a biodegradable coating and have been designed such that they can reach the correct position in the tissue, after which the coating dissolves. Further, the new technology allows a larger volume of the brain to be stimulated by electrical pulses. This technology can not only improve the treatment of several neurological conditions: it can also provide an interface through which the brain can control prosthetics and implants.
Simone Fabiano. Photo credit Thor Balkhed
Simone Fabiano, associate professor at LiU, has developed a new method to produce organic conductors, and is now planning to optimise this method. Organic electronics is currently limited by a lack of organic conductors that can conduct current in a stable manner. The normal method for producing a conducting material does not work well with organic polymers. Simone Fabiano recently realised that it was possible to combine two organic semiconducting polymers in such a way that they dope each other. The method involves mixing the semiconductor with a substance that either contributes an electron (n-doping) or that removes an electron (p-doping). Simone Fabiano now plans to explore this revolutionary method and develop organic conductors that can be used in the flexible solar cells and nerve-compatible chips of the future.
Two of the researchers appointed as fellows have been recruited to LiU from universities abroad:
Silvia De Toffoli.
Professor Silvia De Toffoli, currently working at Princeton University in the US, is to explore the fallibility of mathematics and human weaknesses. Mathematics is often considered to be infallible and fully objective. Silvia De Toffoli points out, however, that the axioms of mathematics have been constructed by humans. She now plans to conduct a project at LiU in the borderline region between the perfection of mathematics and the social world that mathematicians inhabit. One of the topics she will analyse is how different methods are used to legitimise the methods used to establish new mathematics. Her aim is to develop a theory of how mathematical knowledge is generated and shared in practice. She will show how mathematical objectivity can be achieved by human, fallible subjects. Silvia De Toffoli will work at the Department of Culture and Society.
Elena Bykova is currently working at the University of Bayreuth, Germany. At LiU, she will construct a high-pressure laboratory in which she can develop advanced technology to produce new materials. She will use equipment that places existing materials under extreme pressure, hundreds of thousands of times greater than atmospheric pressure. The pressurised material is then heated by infrared light. These extreme conditions change the material so that it gains new, as yet unknown, properties. New materials produced by research can form the basis for totally new areas of technology. Steel, plastic, asphalt and semi-conducting silicon are examples of materials that we now regard as normal, but once fundamentally changed society. New materials that Elena Bykova expects to discover include superconducting materials. The long-term aim is to provide humanity with materials with properties that can contribute to a more sustainable society. Elena Bykova will work at the Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology.
In addition, Daniel Aili, professor of molecular physics at LiU and Wallenberg Academy Fellow since 2016, will have his fellowship extended by five years. He is developing a material that can support cells when forming new organs. One important goal is to enable 3D printing technology to create new organs.
This is the eighth round in which young scientists are appointed as Wallenberg Academy Fellows. A total of 27 people have received such appointments, more than half of them women.