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Three awarded research projects in NWO-XS call

Cryogenic memories, antibiotic treatment for urinary tract infections and recycling plastic sustainably. These are the subjects of the three NWO-XS grants awarded to Leiden Science researchers.

The NWO Open Competition Domain Science funds curiosity-driven, fundamental research. The smaller-scale XS grants of 50,000 euros are intended for innovative and high-risk projects.

Jan Aarts - Leiden Institute of Physics

Building a van der Waals supercurrent switch

Cryogenic computers, based on utilising superconductivity, would dissipate much less energy than current ones. Cooling without cryogenic liquids is already the standard and superconducting processors exist, but cryogenic memories are completely lacking. Much researched are superconductor- and ferromagnet devices, where supercurrents read out and manipulate magnetic bits. But with metallic thin films this is challenging. Novel solutions come from Van der Waals materials: atomically thin sheets of encapsulated metal atoms that can be manipulated to build ultrathin hybrid structures. Much is still unknown about the physics of such hybrids. We propose to make a proof-of-principle device that switches supercurrents magnetically.

Suruchi Nepal - Leiden Academic Centre for Drug Research

Rethinking antibiotic therapy of urinary tract infections

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are associated with a high rate of treatment failure, indicating that current antibiotic treatment strategies are not optimal. This project investigates the unexplored hypothesis that urine, the infection microenvironment in UTIs, may lead to distinctly different responses of bacterial pathogens to antibiotic treatments. We will perform unique translational experiments to evaluate to what extent urine can alter antibiotic treatment effects or affect the risk of developing antibiotic resistance. Results from these experiments are then used to design adapted antibiotic treatment strategies for UTIs to reduce treatment failure using mathematical modeling.

Han de Winde - Institute of Biology Leiden

Microbial cell factory for green and sustainable recycling of polyamides and polystyrene

Plastics are man-made polymers that are used for many applications. At the same time, world-wide accumulation of plastics in the environment poses a huge and growing threat. Polyamides, like nylon, polycaprolactam and polystyrene, are among the most abundant and persistent plastics. Their chemical degradation poses an equally high environmental burden. We propose a highly innovative approach towards degradation, recycling and revalorization of polyamides and polystyrene. Mild thermochemical treatment, followed by degradation and conversion of resulting oligomers and monomers by bacteria equipped with the required enzymes will enable sustainable and economically feasible recycling and revalorisation.

The Open Competition Domain Science is a grant programme of the Dutch Research Council (NWO). Within this programme, researchers can submit proposals individually or in collaboration in the fields of earth sciences, astronomy, chemistry, computer science, life sciences, physics and mathematics. The XS grants are specifically designed to enable innovative and high-risk initiatives. The awardees receive 50.000 euros to conduct a one-year project.

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