Two AS researchers to lead new NWA programmes

News - 07 June 2019 - Communication TNW

Researchers Nico de Jong (Imaging Physics) and Toeno van der Sar (Quantum Nanoscience) have received funding from NWO within the National Science Agenda programme: Research on Routes by Consortia (NWA-ORC). Both researchers will lead an interdisciplinary consortium that focuses on a particular scientific and societal challenge.

Below is a brief description of the two projects which TU Delft (TNW) will lead:

Bubbles and protons against cancer
X-ray therapy is an important weapon in the fight against cancer. Approximately 50 percent of patients are cured with this technology. Unfortunately, the use of X-rays does not prevent damage to surrounding tissues. Proton therapy, another form of radiation, is a better choice in this respect. The depth of penetration and energy delivery of the radiation dose can be set very precisely, so that the damage to healthy tissues is minimal.

Unfortunately, it is still very difficult to determine for each patient what the ideal dose is at what time, and at what specific place in the body the dose should be delivered. Just like organs, tumours do not stay where they are, they move around. In addition, different types of tissue inhibit the protons that are sent into the body in different ways, which makes it difficult to predict how deep the protons will penetrate.

Nico de Jong and colleagues want to combine so-called 'micro-bubbles' (gas-filled bubbles that are used as a contrast agent in ultrasound) with a highly sensitive optical-acoustic receiver. Through the interaction of protons with the bubbles, weak acoustic high-frequency (2 MHz) pressure waves are created, which can be measured with such a receiver. This allows doctors to monitor in real time whether the protons are getting to the right place in a patient's body. The receiver is being developed in collaboration with the Acoustics and Sonar departments, and Optics of TNO.  The operation of bells and receivers will be validated at the proton centres of HollandPTC and ZonPTC.

Project leader: Prof. Dr. N. de Jong (Delft University of Technology)
Erasmus MC, TNO The Hague, TNO Rijswijk, TNO Delft, HollandPTC, Bracco, Maastro Clinic, Maastricht University, Smart Photonics, ZonPTC. 

A microscope for the quantum world
Quantum is going to change the world, that much is clear. The development of new technologies based on quantum mechanics has gained momentum in recent years. But in order to actually bring about the intended 'quantum revolution', it is necessary to have far-reaching insight into (and control over) the behaviour of electrons, spins and electric currents in quantum materials and nano-devices.

The possibility to measure individual spins and electrical currents of a few nano-amperes in quantum systems would provide access to the underlying physics and is necessary to take quantum technology a step further. A so-called 'quantum microscope' will be able to use a diamond magnetic field sensor to map the behaviour of electrons at the nanoscale, both near the absolute zero point and at room temperature.

Together with the other members of this consortium, Toeno van der Sar will develop such a quantum microscope. The microscope will lead to new discoveries in quantum research, and will also bring new technologies based on the laws of quantum mechanics closer. 

Project leader: Dr. T. van der Sar (Delft University of Technology)
Participants: TNO Delft, Leiden University, Applied Nanolayers BV, Leiden Spin Imaging BV

Research on Routes by Consortia
Commissioned by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW), NWO has been funding research within the framework of the National Science Agenda (NWA) since 2018. The aim of NWA research is to make a positive, structural contribution to the knowledge society of tomorrow, by building bridges today and by tackling scientific and social challenges together. One of the ways in which this can be achieved is through an annual funding round for the NWA-ORC. This science-wide funding round is aimed at facilitating interdisciplinary research and innovation that brings social and scientific breakthroughs within reach.