ERC Advanced Grant: RWTH Professors Receive Prestigious European Award

ERC Grant recipients Professors Leif Kobbelt and Matthias Wuttig Peter Winandy

RWTH Professors Leif Kobbelt and Matthias Wuttig will receive the prestigious ERC Advanced Grant from the European Research Council, ERC for short. Each researcher will obtain funding in the amount of over 2 million euros over a five-year period. The award is presented to established research leaders to pursue ground-breaking projects that open new directions in their research fields. RWTH Rector Ernst Schmachtenberg congratulated the grant recipients on their extraordinary achievements: “We share your pride in securing the ERC grants. These European awards are a recognition of the internationally competitive high caliber research taking place at our University."



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ERC Advanced Grants are intended to support the very best research to be conducted in EU member states and associated countries. They are to allow exceptional, established leaders in research to pursue ground-breaking high-risk projects that open new directions in their respective research fields and blur the boundary between basic and applied research.

The highly competitive, two-stage selection process has confirmed that two RWTH scientists and their research projects meet the demanding requirements: Professor Leif Kobbelt from the Chair of Computer Science 8 – Computer Graphics and Multimedia, and Professor Matthias Wuttig from the Department of Experimental Physics.

Optimization of 3D Models

"The ERC Advanced Grant is to recognize the achievements of scientists and to provide the opportunity to work intensely on a larger research project. This makes me very enthusiastic,” said Professor Kobbelt. “In the next five years, we want to close the gap between the collection and the wide use of geometrical data. Our aim is to develop an entire system of algorithms to automate the processing of the vast amount of data generated when digitizing a 3D object, for example. The long-term funding through the ERC grant gives us the rare opportunity to thoroughly investigate this topic. Enhancing the attractiveness of Aachen as a location for research and innovation, it will also make it easier to recruit international researchers to the university.”

Professor Kobbelt’s research project aims to develop new algorithms for the efficient and intelligent generation and processing of complex 3D models.

Over the last years, digital 3D models have been gaining in significance in several areas of application, such as computer graphics, multimedia applications, computer games, but also in engineering, architecture and medicine. Due to the increased computational power of today’s personal computers and the availability of 3D printers, 3D models are also increasingly being used by private consumers.

Today, efficient methods and technologies for the digitization and reproduction of real-world objects and environments are already available. The main problem, however, is that the geometrical raw data provided by these methods do not meet the quality requirements demanded by most applications, such as computer animations, simulation, and CAD/CAM - it is effortful and costly to create a well-structured 3D models from such raw data.

The project aims to automate the model optimization process as far as possible. The results of the project shall make it possible to utilize 3D models in many new fields of application in industry, science, and entertainment, and finally also to make them available to private users.

Professor Kobbelt: Background and Career

Leif Kobbelt is Chair of Computer Graphics and Multimedia at RWTH Aachen University. His key research areas include 3D reconstruction, i.e. the faithful digital reproduction of three dimensional real world objects; geometry processing, including 3D model optimization for free form design; real-time image generation, e.g. for computer games; and mobile multimedia applications.

Kobbelt has published well over 200 articles in international top-level journals and at conferences. According to Microsoft Academic Search, over the last ten years, he has been one of the most-quoted authors world-wide in the field of computer graphics. He has received several awards, including the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Award 2000, the Eurographics Outstanding Technical Contribution Award 2004, and the Günther Enderle Award 1999 and 2012.

Using Atomic Disorder for Novel Applications

“The ERC Advanced Grant gives us the opportunity to realize a lifetime dream,” rejoiced Professor Wuttig. “It gives us the unique chance to intensively investigate a high-potential topic. Over the last years, we have gained many insights into the characteristics and usability of materials, and particularly into the possible effects and impacts of atomic disorder. In a next step, we will attempt to find ways to control this disorder and thus to utilize it. With the grant, we want to continue our research and translate it into applications. Our work can be compared to an exploration to discover a new continent, and the ERC grant can be seen as our means of travel!”

Professor Wuttig’s project aims to design novel components for the storage and processing of information through controlled manipulation of the atomic disorder in rare materials. Together with researchers from his work group, Wuttig already has created a “treasure map” for tellurium and selenium compounds, which includes many materials with special properties, such as superconductors, phase shift materials, topological insulators, and thermoelectric materials. The exceptional characteristics of these materials are not only due to unconventional chemical bondings in these substances, but also due to extreme atomic disorder. As part of the ERC project, Wuttig seeks to adjust the disorder in this material class, so as to be able to create novel material properties.

This research will not only result in a better understanding of the impact of atomic disorder on solid body properties, e.g. its role in the transition from insulating to conducting behavior. Also, it could result in a paradigm shift in information technology, where, until today, defects jeopardized functionality. The group’s research activities shall make it possible to utilize defects as functional components with which to tailor desired properties. All these research questions are highly relevant for application, and they are being addressed by leading nanoelectronics laboratories worldwide.

Professor Wuttig: Background and Career

Professor Dr. Matthias Wuttig studied Physics at the University of Cologne. Subsequently, he worked at Forschungszentrum Jülich and completed his doctoral studies at RWTH Aachen. Prior to his appointment as Professor at RWTH Aachen, he worked as a research assistant at Forschungszentrum Jülich.

Wuttig participated in several research projects abroad, as a visiting researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and at the Bell Labs, USA; Zhejiang University, China; Kenyatta University, Kenia; the IBM Almaden Research Center, San Jose, USA; and the Data Storage Institute in Singapore.

Wuttig has been presented with the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize, the Gaede Award of the German Vacuum Society, and the Stanford R. Ovshinsky Prize. Also, he is Co-Director of JARA-FIT and spokesperson for the Collaborative Research Centre 917 "Nanoswitches." Furthermore, Wuttig is a member of RWTH Aachen University's Strategy Board.

Recently, he has been investigating and developing phase change materials. This class of materials is characterized by a combination of special characteristics, which makes it a promising candidate for data storage applications, for example.