Development of Nano Microscope Awarded

Nanoscientific research is being transferred to technical applications with great economic potential. (Source: G. Georgy Shafeev / Shutterstock)

The Nano Innovation Award 2019 was presented at the CeNS of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) Munich on July 19. Two young researchers from Bayreuth and Munich each received an award that recognizes the promising results of their theses on application-oriented nanosciences. The Bavaria-wide prize is endowed with € 9,000 and is annually awarded by a jury of experts from science and business.

As a whole, the main focus of nanosciences is still on basic research. However, in many areas nanoscientific research is being transferred to technical applications with great economic potential. The Nano Innovation Award focuses specifically on the groundbreaking work by junior researchers that has promising application potential for technology or medicine.

Nano Innovation Award Winners Sabrina Thomä and Thomas Hümmer (Source: Ibidi)

Nanoparticles, finely distributed in solution, are nowadays widely applied in industrial applications, e.g. as catalysts, as a UV-filter in cosmetic products, in sunscreen, or as drug vehicles in biomedical applications. Since experimental access has been very difficult, only little is known about the properties and structure of the interface between nanoparticles and the surrounding water molecules so far. In her master thesis, Sabrina Thomä from the University of Bayreuth succeeded in investigating the arrangement of water molecules in the vicinity of iron oxide nanoparticles with high-energy X-rays. For this work, she was awarded the Nano Innovation Award in the master’s category, worth € 3,000. “I was surprised about the detailed insight into the hydration shells, and that the water structure around 7 nm colloidal particles does not differ significantly from the structure at bulk surfaces“, says Sabrina Thomä, who is currently working as a PhD student in chemistry in the group of Mirijam Zobel at the University of Bayreuth.

The Nano Innovation Award for the best doctoral thesis, endowed with € 6,000, went to Thomas Hümmer from the group of professor Theodor Hänsch at LMU Munich and MPI for Quantum Optics. In his work, Thomas Hümmer has developed a new, highly sensitive microscope to explore the optical properties of nano objects. Using two opposing mirrors, light is reflected back and forth hundreds of thousands of times. If a nanoparticle is placed between the mirrors, its interaction with light will be strongly enhanced. This effect allows the detection of light absorption as weak as one photon in a million.

As one of the mirrors is only the size of a human hair, a scanning microscope can be built that enables highly sensitive imaging and spectroscopy of tiny structures for material research, nanotechnology, and life sciences.

Thomas Hümmer has already developed a portable, fully functional prototype of this new microscope. Currently, he is working on the commercialization of his findings by starting his own company named Qlibri.

The LMU Center for NanoScience awarded the Nano Innovation Award together with four spin-off companies from the CeNS: Attocube Systems, Ibidi, Nanion Technologies, and NanoTemper Technologies. “With this award, we want to emphasize the importance of fundamental research as a basis for industrial applications. At the same time, we would like to encourage researchers to start their own companies with their expertise and ideas, thus making their knowledge applicable for many,” says Dr. Philipp Baaske, CEO and founder of NanoTemper Technologies and member of the jury. (Source: Ibidi)

Links: ibidi GmbH, Gräfelfing, Germany •  LMU, Center for NanoScience, Munich, Germany

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