Three researchers of the University of Twente, Bram Nauta, Arjen Hoekstra and Andrew Skidmore, will receive an ERC Advanced Grant by the European Research Council. The ERC announced the latest awarded grants today. In total, 222 researchers will receive a financial contribution to their research, with a maximum of €2.5 million per grantee.
It is clear that we should be more careful with our planet. We should responsibly use natural resources land and water, in our production and consumption. We should share resources in a fair way. And: we should get more resilience in dealing with shocks. There is research going on, in all of these separate fields, Arjen Hoekstra says, but often not in connection. He is a Professor of Water Management. In his new research proposal, he wants to integrate all aspects.
This is needed, as all factors influence each other: sometimes there is synergy, sometimes a trade-off is necessary. He is going to do research on ecological sustainability, economic efficiency, social equity and societal resilience in a ‘connected’ and multidisciplinary way. For a start, he is going to map our use of land and water for food and energy, on a world scale and with unprecedented precision. Based on an analysis of the past decades, and in combination with new models, this will lead to alternative scenarios that are not only based on economic conditions, but also take the cultural and political aspects into account. For the first time, Hoekstra will integrate methods from various disciplines, including environmental footprint assessment, life cycle analysis and input-output analysis. An important element is the way different types of societies deal with risk and uncertainty. Arjen: “This broad approach is the only way we can understand what is needed for reaching UN’s Sustainable Development goals.”
Most of the electronics inside a smartphone or wireless device is digital. But starting at the antenna picking up all signals and the receiver, it is analog electronics. This has become a very complicated part of a chip. Out of many very strong signals, the receiver must be able to select just that one, maybe much weaker signal and process it. The solution seems simple: just use an amplifier to enhance that specific signal. The problem with amplifiers, however, is that they are not ideal at all: they take a lot of chip space, because they need extra components, and they consume much energy. Nauta’s ‘high risk’ idea is therefore: forget about the amplifier - ‘no gain’ -and introduce an extremely sensitive filter instead. Nauta, Professor of Integrated Circuit Design, wants to introduce a so-called ‘N-path filter’ for this, N being the number of paths the filter consists of. This filter type was already introduced in 1947, the same year the transistor was invented – the most important building block in electronics.
The idea was forgotten for a while, until recently, when Nauta’s group demonstrated its potential use for modern receivers. In practice, there will only be a filter (typically 4 to 8 paths) between the antenna and the circuit converting analog signals into digital ones. This AD converter has to be a very sensitive one. And a basic N-Path filter may look simple, but the timing has to be at a level of precision that has not been realized yet, according to Bram. His goal is realizing receivers capable of getting a high data rate out of a very crowded radio spectrum, consuming a minimum of energy, even resulting in sensor networks without the need for battery power. Back to the essence.
In the project named BIOSPACE, a fundamentally different approach to terrestrial biodiversity monitoring will be developed, coupling next generation satellite remote sensing with environmental DNA (eDNA) profiling, complemented where available by legacy human-observed datasets.
“The exciting idea proposed here is that the DNA of species extracted from environmental samples at a very local scale, combined with insights provided through remote sensing, will allow us to understand the abundance and change in biodiversity at regional and eventually global scale”, Andrew says. He is Professor of Spatial Environmental Resource Dynamics. “The project builds on more than two decades of research at ITC in hyperspectral remote sensing, and combines this work with the rapidly emerging field of environmental DNA; merging two extremes in scale in an exciting bid to advance biodiversity modelling.”
ERC Advanced Grants are the largest of the three personal grants that are awarded by the European Research Council annually. They are designed to support excellent scientists in any field at the career stage at which they are already established research leaders with a recognized track record of research achievements in the last ten years.
Since the ERC Grants were introduced in 2007, twelve UT researchers have been successful in their application for the Advanced Grant. All faculties of the UT have now received the major grant, with prof.dr. Andrew Skidmore being the first successful applicant for the ITC Faculty of Geo-information Science and Earth Observation.
Thom Palstra, Rector Magnificus of the University of Twente. "I am proud of this outstanding achievement. We do put a lot of effort in writing research proposals and receiving three ERC Advanced Grants is a great reward for that. In practice, the writing of research proposals is time-consuming and takes a lot of work. These efforts also lead to a better understanding of the ground-breaking objectives for the research area in which we are active. Even if a proposal is unsuccessful, we get great added value from the work delivered, because it makes opportunities within the field visible.”