Professor Jairo Sinova of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) has been allocated a highly coveted ERC Synergy Grant to carry out spintronics research together with project partners from the United Kingdom and the Czech Republic. The European Research Council (ERC) uses Synergy Grants to make it possible for outstanding scientists to work together on trailblazing projects.
In order to receive the grant, each of the participating researchers needs to be among the best in their specific field and have enormous innovative potential. The money awarded to the project "Spin-charge conversion and spin caloritronics at hybrid organic-inorganic interfaces" will total EUR 9.7 million over six years to February 2020. In addition to Jairo Sinova of Mainz University, the team also includes Henning Sirringhaus of the University of Cambridge as the coordinator for the group, Jörg Wunderlich of Hitachi Europe Limited and the Institute of Physics of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, and Iain McCulloch of the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine in London.
Jairo Sinova moved from Texas A&M University to Mainz University in January 2014 after being awarded a renowned Alexander von Humboldt Professorship, one of the best endowed German research prizes. Sinova is considered to be one of the leading researchers in the area of theoretical solid-state physics. At Mainz, he has been appointed to a professorship in Theoretical Physics with a focus on electronic and magnetic properties of condensed material.
In the ERC-approved research project, physicists from Germany and the United Kingdom will work together to develop new spintronics concepts. In the field of spintronics, it is the intrinsic angular momentum of electrons that is exploited rather than their electrical charge as in the case of electronic silicon chips. The research team hopes that by combining principles of inorganic spintronics with organic materials they will achieve better results than if they used purely inorganic systems. The advantages of using polymers include the flexibility of the material, control over the physical properties, and the fact that they are relatively easy to produce. Within the joint research project, Sinova will be specifically responsible for theory and simulations.
The ERC Synergy Grant and the associated tasks represent a supplementary element of and ideal addition to the planned "Spin Phenomena Interdisciplinary Center" (SPICE), which is also supported by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. It is here that Sinova plans to bring together theoretical and experimental groups from various disciplines to Mainz to research spin phenomena.
Up to now, ERC Synergy Grants have been awarded in two pilot submission rounds. It is the largest EU grant, worth up to EUR 15 million per project. Of the about 450 submissions in the second round, 13 proposals were accepted. A total of only 24 projects in all of Europe received support after the two submission rounds. The funding is awarded for innovative research being conducted by groups of two to four Principal Investigators and their teams. Only researchers with a proven record of significant accomplishments and who have successfully worked at the highest international level for at least ten years are eligible to receive the grants. The only criteria considered when deciding to award ERC funding are the scientific excellence of the researcher in question and the nature of their research project. For this reason, an ERC grant is to be seen as recognition of the individual work of the recipient.