Healing of tendons and catalysis for sustainability – ERC grants awarded to MAX IV users

European Research Council (ERC) have recently awarded prestigious grants to Professor Hanna Isaksson from Biomedical Engineering, Lund University and Associate Professor Wei Cao from the Nano and Molecular Systems Unit, Univerity of Oulu. We asked them a couple of questions on how their grants will further enable their research at MAX IV.

Professor Hanna Isaksson, Lund University

photo: Kennet Ruona

What is your area of research?

I lead a research group in Biomechanics of musculoskeletal tissues – the skeleton, cartilage and tendons. We work with issues related to various diseases and regeneration of tissues after injuries. For our experimental work, we use imaging, scattering and spectroscopic methods. 

What will the ERC grant enable you to do?

The ERC project focuses on biomechanics and mechanobiology of tendons. We will primarily examine the tissue’s inhomogeneity to understand how this affects the tendon’s elastic and viscoelastic ability. We study both intact, healthy tendons and healing tendons after a rupture. Our experimental measurements will form the basis for the development of computational models of the healing process, how load affects it, and how the tissue’s internal structures are restored.

What role does MAX IV play in your research?

Synchrotron light gives us fantastic opportunities to study how the tissues withstand the load, by providing higher resolution, less noise and fast imaging. Many of the experiments will be performed as ‘in situ’, where we mechanically load the tissue at the same time as we probe it on different length scales with for example high-resolution tomography, small-angle scattering, or spectroscopy. 

What are you most excited about?

It’s incredibly exciting and inspiring to start this large scale project. The ERC grant provides financial stability for our research and means that the research group can be expanded by a few more people in the coming years. The ERC grant is also seen as a high-quality stamp, which will open doors for us in many other contexts as researchers.


Read more about Hanna Isaksson and the research project in the Lund Univerity news post here



Associate Professor Wei Cao, University of Oulu

photo: Juha Sarkkinen

What is your area of research?
I am dedicated to materials physics, with special emphasis on studies of photocatalysis, bio-inspired surface patterning, and advanced metals. Photocatalysis, in an analogy to photosynthesis, is converting sunlight into chemical energy that can either be stored in hydrogen fuel or used to purify water. Bio-inspired patterning refers to using the naturally evolved structures to enhance solar energy conversion efficiencies on solar panels. Both plants and animals have the ability to use surface structures to enhance sunlight harvesting efficiencies.

What will the ERC grant enable you to do?
The ERC project is entitled “Cross-dimensional Activation of Two-Dimensional Semiconductors for Photocatalytic Heterojunctions” (CATCH). The project is aimed at activating dimensionally unique 2D semiconductors as high-performance photocatalysts and break the deadlock of practical photocatalysis for sustainability. The grant enables me to tackle the problem with engineering sophistication through investigating materials properties at the fundamental level.

What role does MAX IV play in your research?
MAX IV plays an irreplaceable role in revealing the underlying mechanisms. Thanks to its in/ex situ (spectro-)microscopic characterization powers, I am able to determine electronic structures on various materials and heterojunctions in different environments. These are critical steps for mechanism studies. 

What are you most excited about?
As an experimentalist, my greatest excitement in research comes from experimental verifications of a hypothesis given by computations, theoretical deductions, or even just empirical intuitions.  


Read more about Wei Cao and the research project in the Univerity of Oulu news post here



Frontpage photo: Kelly Sikkema, Unsplash