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ERC Starting Grant to Jana Jágerská

Dr. Jana Jágerská at the Department of Physics and Technology has received a prestigious Starting Grant from the European Research Council.


Geir Antonsen 15.08.2017 16:03   (Last updated: 16.08.2017 10:56)

Prestigious funding from the European Research Council

Dr. Jana Jágerská has obtained funding from ERC of up to 14 mill. NOK over a 5-year period, allowing her to build a strong research team and acquire crucial equipment. The project is entitled "Cryptophane-Enhanced Trace Gas Spectroscopy for On-Chip Methane Detection (sCENT)".

Dr. Jana Jágerská

The highly prestigious ERC Starting Grant aims to encourage the highest quality research and support innovative frontier research by recognising the best ideas and the most talented early-career scientists. It therefore attracts a large number of excellent applicants from all over Europe, making the competition tough, with a success rate of only about 10 %.

- "Hard to get, but certainly worth to try," Jágerská comments. "I am very proud that the ERC has selected my project, and I cannot wait for the work to start."

Jágerská is originally from Slovakia, she graduated from Czech Technical University in Prague and obtained her PhD degree from EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland. She has been working as a researcher in Zürich at Empa, Laboratory for Air Pollution Monitoring, before becoming a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at UiT.

Development of new optical sensor for sensing of gases

The aim of the project is to explore a new concept of combined chemical and spectroscopic detection for on-chip sensing of methane, the principal component of natural gas and a potent climate forcer, and further to develop and demonstrate an on-chip sensor that will increase the methane gas detection sensitivity significantly. The sought-after sensitivity will be achieved by pre-concentrating gas molecules directly on a chip surface using cryptophanes, and subsequently detecting them using slow-light waveguides and mid-infrared laser absorption spectroscopy.

- "It certainly is a high-risk project," Jágerská remarks. "But, if successful, the sensors will revolutionize current methods of atmospheric monitoring, enabling large-scale networks of integrated sensors for better quantification of global methane emissions."

The proposed sensor is the only methane sensor of its kind that aims at achieving sensitivities below atmospheric concentrations and providing for absolute, calibration-free detection. Such sensors can be organized in networks to monitor methane emissions over large areas, from both natural sources and oil and gas industry. They can be placed on aircraft, marine vessels, and ground transport vehicles to directly measure methane concentrations at different locations and altitudes around the globe, creating denser and more accurate methane concentration maps as input data for atmospheric modelling and climate research.

- "Beyond measuring methane, the method can be extended to the detection of other gases," Jágerská explains. "There are many relevant applications in other domains: for example, a miniature CO2 sensor can become an important tool in medical diagnostics, able to determine microbial infections from human breath. Even missions in outer space to measure trace gas signatures of other planets can be considered."

Photonic crystal waveguides (left) can slow down the speed of light, which then interacts more efficiently with the surrounding environment. In combination with methane preconcentration in the waveguide cladding (right), an unprecedented detection sensitivity can be achieved. Image: Jana Jágerská and Alice Polenghi

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