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Department of Physics

The Cavendish Laboratory
Portrait photo of Eloy De Lera Acedo on the left and Akshay Rao on the right

Two researchers from the Cavendish Laboratory have won European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grants

Eloy De Lera Acedo and Akshay Rao are two of the eight Cambridge awardees to receive the ERC Consolidator grants, given to excellent scientists who have 7 to 12 years’ experience after their PhDs, to pursue their most promising ideas.

The ERC is the premier European funding organisation for excellent frontier research. This year it has awarded €657m in grants to 321 researchers across Europe.

“ERC Consolidator grants support researchers at a crucial time of their careers, strengthening their independence, reinforcing their teams and helping them establish themselves as leaders in their fields,” said President of the European Research Council Professor Maria Leptin. “And this backing above all gives them a chance to pursue their scientific dreams.”

Dr Eloy De Lera Acedo, of Cavendish Astrophysics, has been awarded a grant for REACH_21: Probing the Cosmic Dawn and Epoch of Re-ionization with the REACH experiment.

De Lera Acedo said: “REACH_21 aims at unveiling the mysteries of the infant universe, when the cosmos evolved from dark and simple after the Big Bang to the complex and luminous realm of celestial objects we can see today from Earth. How did this happen?

“This unknown missing piece in the puzzle of the history of the universe is now closer to be understood thanks to a new experimental approach attempting to observe extremely faint radio signals emitted nearly 13.5 billion years ago by the most abundant element at the time: Neutral Hydrogen.

“This funding is amazing news for the REACH collaboration. We have been working for over 5 years designing our experiment, currently awaiting start of scientific observations in South Africa, and this ERC grant is now going to allow us to use the REACH telescope, analyse its data, and hopefully access a whole new world of information about the early evolution of the cosmos “.

Akshay Rao, Professor of Physics at the Cavendish Laboratory, has been awarded a grant for SPICE: Spin-Exchange and Energy Transfer at Hybrid Molecular/Lanthanide Nanoparticle Interfaces to Control Triplet Excitons.

Rao said: “Our project, SPICE, will explore the physics and chemistry of a new class of hybrid materials, organic molecules connected to lanthanide doped nanoparticles.

“Although we are still at an early stage of research, if we succeed it may create transformative applications in areas ranging from optoelectronics, data communication, photocatalysis, optogenetics and 3D bio-printing. Over the long term this kind of blue-sky science is what drives technological innovation helping to drive improved productivity in industry, but also directly tacking major societal challenges such as climate change and health.

“We are delighted that our project has received the support of the European Research Council. This is a great opportunity for us to pursue high-risk high-gain blue-sky science and push the limits of our understanding of these materials and take them towards application. The award also serves as recognition of the excellent science done by our PhD students and postdoctoral researchers, who’s tireless efforts to push the scientific frontier have made possible the breakthroughs that have brought us here."