A contribution to curiosity

Maksym Kovalenko receives an ERC Consolidator Grant 2018. Image: Empa

Maksym Kovalenko receives an ERC Consolidator Grant 2018. Image: Empa

The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded Maksym Kovalenko an ERC Consolidator Grant 2018. His application convinced the jury to give him the opportunity to tackle an ambitious new research topic in the field of highly luminescent, molecular solid-state based compounds, together with his team at Empa and ETH Zurich.

Maksym Kovalenko is one of 291 researchers to receive this year’s Consolidator Grant from the European Research Council (ERC), selected out of 2389 submitted proposals. In particular, his grant is amongst only 13 funded projects in the category Synthetic Chemistry and Materials. "It is a great honor to receive an ERC grant, especially a second in a row," says Kovalenko, meaning also his ERC starting Grant 2012. "I feel that this is both the recognition of the recent accomplishments of our team and the strategic support of our vision and research field by the ERC."

The grant is intended to fund the new SCALE-HALO project, which aims to advance the development of highly luminescent, molecular solid-state based compounds. Metal halides - compounds comprising a metal bonded to a halogen - are a central focus of the project; they will be engineered as versatile photonic sources in devices such as displays and lighting as well as in future quantum technology applications. The main task here is to discover and develop new, preferably non-toxic compounds, that are stable and easy-to-synthesize and that show the desired luminescent properties. Once in hand, the researchers have to work out the best methods for producing practically useful forms of these materials, such as thin films, nanocrystals or composites. Kovalenko and his team are also conducting initial trials for various real-world optoelectronic applications. Amongst these are light-emitting diodes (LED) with novel metal halides, produced and tested by the Kovalenko team.

A step towards independence

Thanks to the ERC Grant Maksym Kovalenko now has two million Euros available for his research. This is a great honor, as Pierangelo Gröning, member of Empa’s Board of Directors and head of the department "Modern Materials, their Surfaces and Interfaces", confirms. "We are delighted that one of our researchers has received this great recognition," said Gröning. The ERC Consolidator Grant is one of the greatest recognitions a researcher can receive in Europe. It is designed to help young mid-career researchers conduct independent research and will be awarded to those applicants who have excelled in research to date. Kovalenko, who heads the group of functional inorganic materials at Empa’s "Thin Films and Photovoltaics" lab as well as at ETH Zurich’s Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences, is now part of this prestigious group.

Successful collaboration

This cooperation between Empa as a research institution and ETH as a university allows Kovalenko to benefit from both sides and offers excellent conditions for exciting research. "The ERC Grant will mainly be used to finance my PhD students," said Kovalenko. Two of them will be working at Empa. The development of his research activities and his double affiliation both with ETH Zurich and Empa clearly show how successful such a cooperation between two institutions with a somewhat different orientation can be. "With this grant, Maksym Kovalenko now has the opportunity to further develop his own skills independently and can thus fully follow his scientific curiosity."