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Posted: Jan 21, 2013
New research project will provide insight into quantum features of biology
(Nanowerk News) A team of investigators from Germany was recently one of the 11 projects to clinch a Synergy Grant out of more than 700 other proposals. Worth more than EUR 10 million, the grant will help them develop new imaging and sensing technologies for single molecules. The researchers will provide insight into quantum features of biology, particularly with respect to colour centres in nano-diamonds.
These new techniques being developed by the BIOQ ('Diamond quantum devices and biology') project, led by professors Plenio, Weil and Jelezko from the University of Ulm. They will help scientists improve their knowledge of quantum biology and make new quantum devices a reality.
'The award proves the University of Ulm's excellence in research,' said Professor Karl Joachim Ebeling of the University of Ulm. 'The funding enables us to further develop the trendsetting quantum-microscopy for the research of biological processes. We want to set standards and create an internationally leading centre in this field.'
Commenting on the importance of the ERC grant, Professor Martin Plenio said: 'The generous award by the ERC gives us the opportunity to conduct exciting high-risk research.'
In order to be considered for the grant, the BIOQ partners took part in a multistage assessment that comprised an interview and a presentation in the Belgian capital of Brussels. Of all the submissions for the ERC grant, only 11 were chosen. One of the strengths of the BIOQ project was the team's interdisciplinary risk research: the project partners are developing novel sensing-technologies at the frontier between physics, chemistry and biology.
Quantum biology focuses on how quantum mechanics affects biological processes in humans, animals and plants. From improving our knowledge of the high efficiency of photosynthesis to understanding how the avian compass works, for example, researchers believe quantum biology could provide the answers we need to a range of questions.
The technologies to be developed by the BIOQ partners will work at room temperature and under warm, wet and noisy conditions. This is no easy feat. But if their work bears fruit, the project partners will offer groundbreaking means to explore complex quantum phenomena. The end result could lead to drug-design innovations.
'We are a really interdisciplinary group and each team must make their contribution to lead the project to success,' said Professor Plenio. 'Only as a team, we can achieve our aims.'
As an addition to the ERC's core funding schemes (Starting Grants, Consolidator Grants and Advanced Grants), the new ERC Synergy Grant scheme was introduced by the Scientific Council in 2011 as a pilot scheme. The first call was published in October 2011 with a deadline for submissions on 25 January 2012. In this call, 11 projects have been selected to receive funding for up to six years. With a total budget of €26 million allocated, on average a Synergy Grant is worth €11.5 million and each project unites two to four Principal Investigators. 38 excellent scientists are being supported through these 11 grants.