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ERC Starting Grant for VUB Brussels Photonics researcher Martin Virte


B-PHOT and Vrije Universiteit Brussel researcher Martin Virte has been awarded a European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant for his project COLOR’UP. Virte will investigate how multi-color lasers could be exploited to perform all-optical processing of sub-THz signals. “I was shaking with excitement when I received the positive news from the European Commission”, Virte says. “Now we have five years and the financial means to get the project done.”

The ERC Starting Grant is a highly-coveted funding that helps individual scientists to build their own teams and conduct pioneering research across all disciplines. This year, Virte’s application has been acknowledged by the ERC as one of the top projects proposed by outstanding researchers. He will receive around 1.5 million euro to complete the project.

Exciting work ahead

“When I received the news, I was literally shaking with excitement”, Virte says. “Today, an ERC grant is one the best types of funding a researcher can ask for: a committee of experts is listening to our most ambitious ideas and are then fully supporting us to give it our best shot”, Virte says. “Now, I have 5 years and all necessary means to build a team and to make the idea work. There is a lot of exciting work ahead. Now, I also start to feel the stress building up as I want to live up to the expectations.”

The goal of the COLOR’UP project is to investigate how multi-color lasers can be made and used to process optical signals at ultra-high frequencies. What we call the mm-wave frequency range - from 100 to 300 GHz - is a promising candidate to go beyond the 5G technology (which only goes up to 40 - 50 Ghz). The main issue is that mm-wave signals are very difficult to manipulate with electronics, but this roadblock can be overcome by using optical signals. That is how the field of ‘Microwave Photonics’ has emerged: to develop light-based solutions to help overcome the limitations of electronic systems.

The ideal framework

On the other hand, lasers are often seen as “special” light bulbs that you just switch on or off. But, in fact, lasers are dynamical devices which can exhibit various kinds of complex behavior: from controlled pulses, oscillations to full-blown chaos. In multi-color lasers different wavelengths are generated by distinct emission processes, yet they are all nonlinearly coupled. By exploiting this coupling mechanism, it becomes possible to perform various data processing tasks via the laser’s own physical behavior.

With the Starting Grant from the ERC, Virte and his team will be able to design, realize and investigate the capability of such a system in processing sub-THz signals. Obviously, this is a high-risk project because of the numerous challenges that occur. But the support of the ERC provides the ideal framework to succeed.

Right now, Virte is looking for excellent PhD students and Post-Docs to work with him on this project as soon as the project is officially launched late 2020.

Open PhD and Post-Doc positions at B-PHOT!

Martin Virte is looking for excellent PhD students and Post-Docs to work with him on this project as soon as the project is officially launched late 2020.

Related people

Contact Martin Virte for inquiries.