Alexander von Humboldt Professorship 2024

J. Daniel Prades

The physicist and electrical engineer, J. Daniel Prades, is an expert on semiconductor technologies and metrology. He is invited to Braunschweig to establish a research focus on ubiquitous metrology with the aim of developing highly sensitive quantum and nano sensors that can be used to reliably and comparatively measure the tiniest particles outside the lab.

  • Nominating University: TU Braunschweig
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Electronic technology

Air pollution is one of the greatest challenges facing humankind. According to the WHO, in 2019, 4.2 million people around the world met an early death due to external air pollution. A kind of early warning system – a network of sensors that could be deployed anywhere to detect individual molecules of harmful substances – would greatly benefit preventive healthcare and digital data collection.
In the last few years, science has indeed made enormous progress in developing highly sensitive sensors which can detect the very smallest particles. They are based on quantum and nanotechnology. However, there are still some obstacles to be overcome before these sensors can be deployed for everyday purposes outside the lab. At the moment, these sensitive quantum and nano sensors require major lab set-ups, a stable environment and a great deal of energy. They are consequently extremely expensive. But, more than anything else, what are missing are measuring systems to enable the sensors in miniature form to deliver comparable, reliable results.

J. Daniel Prades is an expert on sensors based on nanotechnology and semi-conductor quantum systems. These technologies exploit the fact that the property of nano-sized matter changes when it interacts with the tiniest orders of magnitude, for example when it encounters photons, light particles. In the single digit and low ten-digit nanometer range as well as in semiconductors, quantum effects dominate the behaviour of the material used. It obeys the laws of quantum mechanics which means that its electrical, magnetic and optical properties change. Depending on the way a quantum system changes when variables in its environment alter, for instance in the presence or absence of a certain molecule or light particle, the change in the quantum system can indicate changes in the environment fairly accurately.

In Braunschweig, J. Daniel Prades is invited to develop new measuring systems by building a bridge between semiconductor technology and quantum metrology; such systems will make it possible to read, scale and reliably compare changes in the relevant quantum system. The goal is to develop sensors that can be deployed anywhere, for instance in the form of nanowire chips. This new research focus, ubiquitous metrology, should produce easily transportable quantum and nano sensors that can be used in every conceivable field.

Brief bio

Joan Daniel Prades Garcia completed his doctorate at the University of Barcelona, Spain, in 2009. After a brief postdoctoral stint at the Institut de Recerca en Energia de Catalunya in Barcelona, he became an assistant professor  at the University of Barcelona in the same year. In 2014, he was made an associate professor and has held a full professorship there since 2019. Amongst others, he received an ERC Starting Grant in 2014, was a Eurosensors Fellow in 2017 and an ICREA Academia award winner in 2018.

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