ERC Advanced Grant for Nanomagnets

(Originally published by TU Delft)

December 10, 2012

Physicist Prof. Herre van der Zant has been awarded an ERC Advanced Grant from the European Research Council for his research entitled Controlling Molecular Spin at the Molecular Scale. ERC Advanced Grants are awarded for a period of five years to outstanding scientists who lead an independent team and an ambitious, world-class programme. The grant is worth up to 2.5 million euros.Prof. van der Zant will use the grant to focus on magnetic molecules and nanoparticles. In theory these allow a radical new approach to nanotechnology and nanoelectronics through the utilisation of their spin (in simple terms, the spin of an electron in the molecule). The integration of these single-molecule magnets in devices still poses problems, however. That is why currently nanotechnology does not fully utilise the great potential of molecular magnetism.

Due to their structure, magnetic molecules and nanoparticles offer a new range of functionality that cannot be realised using conventional semiconductor electronics. An example of this is ‘spintronics’: electronic devices that use spin to record and manipulate information. Until now, spintronics has been studied in metals and semiconductors.

This ERC project combines the fields of molecular magnetism, molecular electronics and nanotechnology, with the aim of producing nanodevices that contain individual magnetic molecules or magnetic nanoparticles. Spin transistors will be built in which the electrical current running through the individual molecule (or nanoparticle) is dependent on the spin properties.

This should constitute a significant step towards developing a better understanding of the interplay between molecular magnetism and quantum transport in molecular circuits, as well as new strategies for controlling the spin in situ. The results are a precondition for the future use of individual magnetic molecular components as building blocks in electronic circuits.

Prof. Herre van der Zant (1963) works at the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience at TU Delft and has numerous publications to his name, including a number in Nature. Van der Zant studied Applied Physics at TU Delft (1987) and obtained his doctorate there in 1991. After this he worked as a researcher at MIT, among other things. He returned to TU Delft in 1995. In 2006, he was awarded a VICI grant for his research by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) .

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