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Major grants to bold engineering projects

Nine researchers at Aarhus University have received foundation grants from the Villum Experiment Programme under the Villum Foundation for their daring and innovative projects. The Villum Experiment Programme donates money for ‘bold ideas for research’.

[Translate to English:] Lektor Jakob Juul Larsen er én af modtagerne af fondsmidler fra Villum Experiment. Foto: Lars Kruse, AU Foto.

A total of 51 bold technical and natural science projects all across Denmark have just received funding amounting to a total of DKK 100 million under Villum Experiment, a programme that pays tribute to founder Villum Kann Rasmussen and his tireless experimental approach to life.

Two of the projects, totalling approx. DKK 4 million, are based at the Department of Engineering, Aarhus University, where researchers will challenge the limits of state-of-the-art technology within green fuels and groundwater measurement.

Green transition news

Assistant Professor Jacopo Catalano has received DKK 1.8 million for his project: Electrochemical Hydrogenation of biO-crude (ELHYOs).

"Together with Assistant Professor Konstantinos Anastasakis I’ve proposed a possible new way to upgrade biofuels produced from biomass. The idea is to use electrochemistry and high pressure to transform the bio oil produced through HydroThermal Liquefaction (HTL), a technological process used to convert wet biomass into raw bio oil," says Jacopo Catalano.

If the experiment is successful, it will have far-reaching consequences for the green transition, because the technology will be able to greatly reduce the costs of upgrading bio oil to a useful replacement for fossil fuels. Furthermore, the bio oil requires no pre-treatment.

“Apart from the broad perspectives, we’re also delving into an area of electrochemistry that has never been explored before. It's very exciting," says the assistant professor.

Game changer for Surface NMR?

Associate Professor Jakob Juul Larsen is heading the other project at the Department of Engineering that received significant funding from the Villum Foundation.

Together with the Department of Geoscience at Aarhus University, Jakob Juul Larsen has developed a technology that can be used to map hydrogeological and geological structures in the subsurface. The researchers use NMR measurements, a technique by which a man-made magnetic field on the ground is used to influence hydrogen atoms in water molecules in the soil.

The new project is called ‘Surface NMR with long excitation pulses - technicality or game changer?', and the associate professor has received DKK 2 million for the project to go deeper underground with the NMR measurements:

"With the current technology, we give the hydrogen atoms in the ground a very swift kick in the form of an very short pulse in the magnetic field. We will now change the design of this pulse, so that the kick becomes 'slower', so to speak. The hypothesis is, that this will allow us to go deeper into the ground with our measurements and give us very accurate and detailed knowledge about the water content of the soil layers," says Jakob Juul Larsen.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained

Since the Villum Experiment Programme was launched in 2017, a total of 195 researchers have received grants.

This year, a total of DKK 99,604,815 will be allocated to 51 researchers at Danish universities. The range of experiments is very broad – from lowering methane production from dairy cows to the mysterious methane gas on Mars. The only common denominator for the researchers is that their projects are original and based on technical and natural sciences.

"Nothing ventured, nothing gained, is the maxim at Villum Experiment. The purpose of the programme is to find and fund very special technical and natural science research projects that challenge the norm and have the potential to change the world and our knowledge of the world," says Thomas Bjørnholm, Director of Science at the Villum Foundation in a press release.

The researchers behind the 51 experiments range from PhD students to professors and represent a wide range of different nationalities. In addition to Aarhus University, grants have been awarded to the University of Copenhagen, the Technical University of Denmark, the University of Southern Denmark and the IT University.


Read more about the grant and about this year's award on the Villum Foundation website (external link)


Jesper Bruun
Journalist, Department of Engineering
Mail: bruun@eng.au.dk
Tel.: +45 42404140