Collaboration in Research: Nanobic

Funding of the four-year research project resulted in intensive cooperation of scientists at the Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main, the Technische Universität Darmstadt, the GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH (Helmholtz Center for Heavy Ion Research) in Darmstadt and the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies in Frankfurt am Main.

NanoBiC representatives
Representatives of the institutions involved in NanoBiC worked closely together to advance the project. The picture shows (from left to right) Professor Roser Valenti, Professor Michael Huth, Professor Max C. Holthausen, Professor Norbert Auner, Professor Matthias Wagner and Professor Andreas Terfort.

Many chemical compounds show different physical properties on a nano-scale compared to the macromolecular world. The decoding of these processes generates new knowledge that is of essential importance in many areas – for example, in technical applications such as ultrafine sensors, extremely dense data storage devices or novel micro-magnetic and self-illuminating components.

The exploration of the nano-scale worlds requires a multidisciplinary approach. NanoBiC brought together the four key disciplines nanotechnology, biology, chemistry and computing. The four-year research project, which started in 2009, involved scientists from chemistry, physics and materials science at the Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main, the Technische Universität in Darmstadt, the GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH (Helmholtz Center for Heavy Ion Research) in Darmstadt and the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies. Within the framework of NanoBiC (Nano, Bio, Chemistry and Computing) it was possible to offer an ideal setting for a wide range of collaborative sub-projects. The central theme was the effect of high-energy radiation on objects in the nanometer range.

With a total sponsorship of 3.6 million euros over four years, NanoBiC had two main project areas: firstly, to examine how it is possible to construct functional elements exactly according to a blueprint – such as transistors, sensors, quantum dots or storage elements; secondly, to explore the effects of cosmic radiation on human cells in more detail – this is of great significance for manned space missions, for example.

Bridging the gap between chemistry and physics

NanoBiC representatives from GSI
Dr. Maria Eugenia Toimil-Molares (left) and Professor Christina Trautmann supported the NanoBiC project at the GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH (Helmholtz Center for Heavy Ion Research) in Darmstadt.

NanoBiC comprised seven sub-projects each examining how matter in its smallest dimensions reorganizes itself when certain particles are irradiated. The initial results of NanoBiC already showed that the intended interdisciplinary approach was successful and led to unexpected findings. The interim evaluation in September 2011 confirmed the positive results.

NanoBiC involved not only the specific collaboration of scientists, but also resulted in the publication and discussion of the research results. The project initiated, among other things, the Thematic Series “Radiationinduced nanostructures: Formation processes and applications” in the Beilstein Journal of Nanotechnology. Professor Michael Huth from the Institute of Physics at the Goethe University, the spokesman of the research project, was Guest Editor of this series.

NanoBiC was also active in supporting young scientists: 34 scholarships – including 13 post-doctoral and 21 postgraduate students – received funding in 2012 alone. In May 2013, the Beilstein-Institut hosted a scientific colloquium, where the scholars presented their work and discussed it with the auditorium. This proved to be an excellent forum for exchanging ideas and networking.

With the scheduled project funding through the Beilstein-Institut coming to an end, it can be seen that NanoBiC has an important impact spreading on the scientific community: the project has generated more than 100 publications in renowned scientific journals. Numerous presentations at international conferences made references to NanoBiC and a patent was filed. There are nearly 100 scientists across Europe who are associated with NanoBiC. They will continue their joint research in the future.