It seems a bit like rush hour at the office of Sonia García Blanco these weeks. The researcher, who works for MESA+ and the TNW-group Optical Sciences was awarded a prestigious ERC Consolidator Grant in February. The final grant agreement was finalized last week. Together with the projects already running, every single minute is utilized to get all the work done.
With the Consolidator Grant, the European Research Council (ERC) facilitates excellent researchers who have proven they are able to lead their own research group. García Blanco, who received her PhD at the University of Glasgow at the Optoelectronics Group, and thereafter carried out her Postdoc at the University of Toronto followed by almost six years as scientific staff at INO (Québec), had a successful grant application for the project RENOS (Rare-earth doped novel on-chip sources).
The ultimate goal of RENOS is the development of compact, low cost, power efficient, tunable lasers and frequency combs working at frequency ranges not easily achieved with current technology. A successful development of this technology will pave the road to great scientific advancements as well as a new generation of compact on-chip solid-state laser sources that will open new horizons in optical sensing, spectroscopy, metrology and telecommunications.
The material proposed for this research is rare-earth-doped potassium double tungstate. It is foreseen to exploit both its excellent optical gain properties as well as its large non-linear index of refraction in very small optical waveguides to generate novel frequencies both in the near and mid-infrared.
Research activities will start in October. The grant is two million euro's, paving the way for a significant project in which García Blanco will start this new research direction with a team of three PhD-students.
Simultaneously to the start of the RENOS project, another remarkable project will start: Glass-Laser Multiplexed Biosensor´s (GLAM). GLAM will develop groundbreaking technology that will help oncologists to make better treatment decisions, approaching personalized medicine, in a cost-effective and non-invasive manner. Coordinated by LEITAT Technological Center in Spain, the 4-year project joins recognized organizations all over Europe like the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) and the Radboud University Medical Center (Nijmegen).
GLAM will design and develop a new diagnostic tool to detect cancer biomarkers from biofluids obtained in a non-invasive manner, focusing on urine and genitourinary cancers, to help oncologists to make better treatment decisions towards personalized medicine. The project will develop an integrated device based on novel label-free photonic biosensors with ultra-sensitivity, simplicity of use, portability, multiplexing capacity and low cost.
García Blanco, originally from Spain, hopes to conclude her Tenure Track in the forthcoming weeks. She is a member of the scientific staff leading the Integrated Optical Sciences Group (IOS) of the Optical Sciences Chair of MESA+. Their research focuses on Integrated Active Nanophotonic Devices, including the development of novel on-chip active devices (lasers and amplifiers) based on heterogeneous integration of rare-earth doped gain materials on passive photonic platforms, integrated optical sensors and novel devices based on the combination of plasmonics and integrated optics.
They are interested in exploring and exploiting the physical phenomena that arise as the electromagnetic field intensity increases inside very small optical waveguides as well as on the enhancement of the device behavior by introducing metallic layers and nanoparticles. These fundamental studies set the basis for the development of novel integrated optical devices to address different application fields, such as telecoms, datacoms, healthcare and sensing.