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ERC Consolidator Grant for Dr Massimiliano Esposito

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Published on Friday, 12 February 2016

Dr Massimiliano Esposito, a physicist at the University of Luxembourg, has just been awarded a prestigious “Consolidator Grant” by the European Research Council (ERC). Esposito, a Luxembourgish expert in nanosystems thermodynamics, will receive altogether 1.7 million euros funding over the next five years for his project entitled “Energy Conversion and Information Processing at Small Scales”.

The “ERC Consolidator Grant” is one of the most sought-after competitive research grants in Europe. These grants are designed to support highly promising young researchers at the stage at which they are consolidating their own independent research team or programme. They are awarded to selected top researchers with 7 to 12 years’ experience after PhD. The European Research Council awards these competitive ERC research grants to promote the next generation of innovative top-level researchers and to retain research talents in Europe.

A Luxembourgish scientist

Dr Massimiliano Esposito currently leads a research group in the Physics and Materials Science Research Unit at the University of Luxembourg’s Faculty of Science, Technology and Communication that focuses on the study of complex systems and statistical physics. He earned his PhD from the Université Libre de Bruxelles (Belgium). After two postdoctoral positions at the University of California (USA) in Irvine and San Diego, he left a contract researcher position at the University of Brussels to join the University of Luxembourg. Esposito has been a Fellow on the FNR’s ATTRACT Programme since January 2012.

From theory to synthetic nanosystems

“The fundamental discoveries that we made in the last four years on the performance of small energy converters as well as on the energetics of chemical networks served as the basis to formulate my ERC research proposal,” explains the 38-year-old scientist. “Since the main selection criteria for ERC grants is scientific excellence, this award also indirectly indicates that the University of Luxembourg and the FNR are supporting excellent basic science.”

Massimiliano Esposito wants to use the money to further develop the theory of stochastic thermodynamics describing energy and information transfers in nanosystems. “Small systems are continuously wiggling due to thermal energy fluctuations. In order to control them and make them do things that are useful to us, we need to come up with good strategies. Biological systems, through evolution, found ways to operate efficiently at the molecular scale. I want to use stochastic thermodynamics to understand how they do that, but also to design performant synthetic nanosystems useful for instance for energy-efficient and fast information technologies.” He believes that this new theory has the potential to become as important for nanotechnologies and molecular biology as traditional thermodynamics has been for producing large and reliable sources of energy during the industrial revolution.

After Prof. Stéphane Bordas, an engineering scientist, and Prof. Jan Lagerwall, a physicist and materials scientist, Dr Massimiliano Esposito is the third scientist from the University of Luxembourg to be awarded a highly prestigious ERC Grant.

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© Michel Brumat, University of Luxembourg 2016