Yang Bai received significant ERC funding

The European Research Council has announced the winners of the latest call. Following the first call for proposals under the EU’s new R&I programme, Horizon Europe, €619 million will be invested in excellent projects dreamed up by scientists. ERC Starting Grant has been awarded to assistant professor Yang Bai for the project UNIFY (1,5 ME). Bai works in Microelectronics research unit at the University of Oulu, and he is specialized on energy harvesting and functional materials.
Assistant Professor Yang Bai received significant ERC funding
Assistant Professor Yang Bai received significant ERC funding

Electronic devices and components are getting extremely miniaturized. To make the devices even smaller and ubiquitous in the future, it will be insufficient to just squeeze as many components as possible into a small space because there is a physical limit of the space and there will be inevitable interference between components if they are placed too close to each other. Bai´s project is called UNIFY: Unification of the best piezoelectric and photovoltaic properties in a single photoferroelectric material.

”This project will contribute towards solving the problem by fundamentally unifying two significant but contradictory components, piezoelectrics and photovoltaics. Piezoelectrics convert energy between its kinetic and electrical forms and photovoltaics convert energy between its optical and electrical forms. They are widely used in modern electronics of energy, smart sensing, medical, automotive, space industries and so on”, Yang Bai explains the importance of the research topic and continues:

”These two types of components have not been believed to be able to reach top performances simultaneously in the same component. My project attempts to replace the ever-separate components with a single, universal one, where a success will revolutionize the field from a potentially fourth dimension – material composition and microstructure.”

It is hard to get ERC grants so the significancy of the funding is clear. Bai underlines the importance of a multidisciplinary approach when creating new solutions. ERC Starting Grant enables him to build a research team.

”In general, I want to make better devices by creating better materials and thus to provide future industries more options when building better systems. My expertise is piezoelectric materials and devices and in recent years I gained some experience in photovoltaics as well. It has been intriguing for me to find out that these two ever-separate fields can actually go hand in hand with the latest developments in both the fields. I then decided to bridge these two fields.”

”Both the fields are well established and have their own communities. Collaboration between the two communities is rare due to many reasons, for example, the different scientific languages we use, different theories and different applications. Because of the fact, this grant ends up one of the only chances that my research idea bridging both the research fields can get a comprehensive and rigorous peer review.”

Yang Bai says that the ERC Starting Grant provides not only financial but also spiritual reinforcement to the research target and progress. In this phase of his research the grant is a dream that came true.

”It has been my dream grant for over 4 years since I tried to apply for the first time. At my career stage, it is one of the few opportunities that prefers a high-risk research and supports me to explore challenging topics that could change the science of my field. Making change has been my reason for choosing an academic career since the first day of my PhD study. Changing is always difficult and I will need experts with different academic backgrounds to share the journey with me.”

Bai emphasizes the importance of the team and shares praise for the co-workers and colleagues.

”I want to firstly to thank my former PhD supervisor who informed me such a grant opportunity and encouraged me to apply many years ago. I also appreciate the ERC reviewers who provided a consistent standard of reviews over the years which allowed me to improve my proposal constructively. I would like to sincerely thank my current research unit and research group, especially those colleagues for helping me to go through the five and a half years since I moved to Oulu, and for useful, encouraging and inspiring discussions about my research, proposal and ideas. My thanks also go to my collaborators and friends in academia who helped to comment on my different versions of proposals over my three attempts in total to apply for the grant.”

”Trying to get an ERC grant is a tough journey, along which my wife is the last and most important person I want to appreciate because outside my daily work and academia, she brought me mental strength and full recovery from each halt and setback.”

ERC calls are open to researchers of any nationality. This call for proposals attracted over 4000 proposals, which were reviewed by panels of renowned researchers from around the world. In total 397 early-career researchers won European Research Council Starting Grants. The laureates of this grant competition proposed to carry out their projects at universities and research centres in 22 EU and associated countries, mostly in Germany (72 projects), France (53), the UK (46) and the Netherlands (44). There are nationals of 45 countries among the winners of this call.

The ERC, set up by the European Union in 2007, is the premier European funding organisation for excellent frontier research. It funds creative researchers of any nationality and age, to run projects based across Europe. The ERC offers four core grant schemes: Starting Grants, Consolidator Grants, Advanced Grants and Synergy Grants.

Watch the video “The Energy Catcher” from this link.

Researcher profile of Yang Bai is here.

Yang Bai´s web page.

Additional information about the European Research Council and (ERC) Starting Grants from here.

Last updated: 10.1.2022