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Billions to materials science for a sustainable world

Photo of one of NanoLund’s windows
“We get a giant boost! The funding will make it easier to attract younger, excellent researchers who fit in well with the faculty’s ambition for renewal and strengthening”, says Anders Mikkelsen, director of NanoLund.

The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation is investing over SEK 3 billion in research that creates the conditions for a sustainable society. This will be done by developing new and improved materials and manufacturing processes, which, among other things, aim at better technology for the energy systems of the future and the control of pollution and toxic emissions. In addition, an increased investment in renewable materials of forest products is included. For Lund University, this means around SEK 500 million in the coming years.

The investment consists partly of the new research program Wallenberg Initiative Material Science for Sustainability to which the Foundation now allocates SEK 2.7 billion during the period 2022—2033 and partly of an additional SEK 380 million to the Wallenberg Wood Science Center for research of renewable materials of forest products within the program “New materials from trees for a sustainable future”.

“This is a fantastic addition that is directly in line with LTH’s research strategy. We have strong research groups in a number of the areas described in KAW’s investment, and it will be possible to make strategic new recruitments to develop new areas of strength. Lund University’s plans to establish research and education in the Science Village are strongly linked to materials science and will receive a significant boost through this investment, says Heiner Linke, deputy dean at LTH.

Easier to attract younger researchers

The Faculty of Science is also looking forward to the new giant investment. Just like at LTH, there are several research groups in materials science that will benefit. Anders Mikkelsen, professor of synchrotron light physics and director of NanoLund, believes that the investment of course also means a lot to MAX IV:

“We get a giant boost! The funding will make it easier to attract younger, excellent researchers who fit in well with the faculty’s ambition for renewal and strengthening.”

In addition, the infrastructure will be strengthened. Anders Mikkelsen mentions Nanolab Science Village where researchers can have better opportunities to create and shape materials that can then be studied in MAX IV. On the whole, the KAW investment means that Lund University can further sharpen its already sharp research in materials science.

“The KAW initiative has elements of research that directly help the climate and the environment, as well as the opportunity for basic research in completely new processes and materials that can revolutionize our society in the long run”, says Anders Mikkelsen.

Solar cells and fuel cells

Every year, 90 billion tons of raw material are extracted in the world, mainly metals, minerals, fossil fuels and biomass to create various materials. World production of materials accounts for about 25 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions, and the production of metals consumes about 8 percent of all energy produced.

The Wallenberg Initiative Material Science for Sustainability research program focuses on four areas: the conversion, storage and distribution of clean energy; to replace rare, energy-intensive and toxic materials with circular durable materials; to combat pollution, cleanse and protect the atmosphere, soil and watercourses; and to promote discoveries of entirely new materials for the sustainable technologies and applications of the future.

The areas of strong research at Lund University include materials for solar cells and fuel cells, energy-efficient electronics, ”green” production of, for example, bio-based materials and circular processes in industry and the construction sector.

MAX IV and Science Village

The funds will largely be distributed in various applications over the next 10 years, where Lund researchers can apply in competition with researchers from the other five host universities. Exactly how much this is about for Lund University’s is thus not clear.

“It is reasonable to believe that approximately 1/6 of the funds will end up in Lund, somewhere around SEK 400 million for new recruitments, doctoral students, postdocs and equipment, spread over 10 years. In addition, we expect an investment aimed at MAX IV. Given the large investments that Lund University is making at Science Village, and which directly support the investment's goals, we can possibly hope for an even larger share”, says Heiner Linke.

Participating universities are Lund University, Uppsala University, KTH, Chalmers University of Technology, Stockholm University and Linköping University, which is also the host university.

Read more at the Knut and Alice Foundation website