Raoul Frese – assistant professor at the Faculty of Science, Biophysics Photosynthesis/Energy at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam – has received the last Physics2Market subsidy to further develop material to substitute mineral wool in greenhouses.
Greenhouse horticulture is a highly controlled way to grow crops and flowers in a semi-artificial environment. This main industry in the Netherlands is driven by efficiency and low margins for the grower. It is also in need for sustainable solutions for energy usage, transport and materials.
All plants grown in greenhouses are connected to a substrate through which the roots receive water and nutrients. This substrate is made from mineral wool, a fibrous material also known as insulating building material which is energy costly to produce, human unfriendly and a health hazard above certain thresholds. It is also non degradable and is generally not recycled.
Fibrous material is also ubiquitous in nature, and can have very similar characteristics, or even improved ones compared to mineral wool. This intrinsically bio-friendly materials Raoul Frese uses an alternative in his lab. With the physics2market fund, Frese will set-up a professional field test for the material with players in the agricultural sector which were introduced to Raoul by https://amsterdamgreencampus.nl/.
Frese studied physics at the University of Amsterdam, received his PhD at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and did a postdoc at the Twente University (nanobiophysics). In the years coming, he carried out his own research at the biophysics group at Leiden University and later became a research associate in the lab of Bob Niederman at Rutgers University (NJ, USA). After receiving an experienced investigator grant from NWO, (Vidi) he and his family returned to Amsterdam. At Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam he has currently established his workgroup ‘biohybrid solar cells’, where he and his team investigate the possibilities to interconnect photosynthetic materials to (semi-)conducting substrates for biosensors and solar energy harvesting. Next to this, Frese actively investigates a new transdisciplinary research methodology, called artscience, in collaboration with artists and designers.
With the physics2market fund, IXA stimulates the receiver to validate physics related research towards exploitation in cooperation with an industrial partner. This is part of the IXA-Next program funded by the city of Amsterdam. Since the IXA-Next program finishes early next year, the fund is not accepting new applications anymore.
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