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Sense Jan van der Molen appointed as Professor Physics of Condensed Matter

As of 1 June, Leiden University has appointed Sense Jan van der Molen as Professor Physics of Condensed matter. He investigates the unique electronic properties that arise when atomic thin layers are stacked on top of each other into new materials.

Ben Feringa

Van der Molen studied physics in Groningen, after which he obtained his PhD at the Vrije Universiteit (VU) in Amsterdam. He returned to Groningen as a postdoc where he worked on molecular switches and machines that are driven by light, amongst others with Nobel Prize winner Ben Feringa. After his second postdoc in Switzerland, he started his own research group in Leiden in 2007.

Sense Jan van der Molen

World record

With his group, Van der Molen dedicated to studying charge transport in molecules and more recently on research to the properties of two-dimensional substances – materials with layers of only one atom thick. For this he uses Low-Energy Electron Microscopy (LEEM), with which his group holds the world record in terms of resolution: 1.4 nanometers.   

Materials of the future

In the past years, his group developed several novel LEEM-based measurement techniques, in order to investigate the atomic and electronic structure of extremely thin materials in detail. Through these new techniques he can determine both the properties of single atomic layers, as the combined ‘cake’ of these layers. Due to quantum mechanics these properties are not merely the sum of the individual layers. By understanding these new properties on a fundamental level, scientists are able to work on the materials of the future.

Leiden tradition

‘The beauty of our research is that it combines fundamental physics and chemistry with the development of new measurement techniques. We follow the long tradition of experimental physics in Leiden, which was once shaped by Heike Kamerlingh Onnes.'

Inspired by the many wall poems that decorate the center of Leiden, Van der Molen and his colleague Ivo van Vulpen (UvA) ensure that also physics formulas are now featured on Leiden walls. This way passers-by are given a touch of science and at the same time get an insight into the rich scientific history of Leiden. The artists of the foundation TEGENBEELD (Ben Walenkamp and Jan-Willem Bruins) take care of the design of the illustrations and the painting. The project ultimately comprises more than ten wall formulas, all with a Leiden connection; six of which can already be admired in the center of Leiden. See www.muurformules.nl

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