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Innovation Stories about knowledge transfer by Valorisation Centre

The strength of transparancy The glass bridge to The Green Village

Partners in building a quantum computer QuTech and Intel

Sports and science: a winning combination Sport Engineering Institute partnering with Giant-Alpecin


Home of

Innovation Stories about knowledge transfer by Valorisation Centre

Colophon Contents Production Malou Spruit, Valorisation Centre TU Delft

Valorisation at TU Delft

Text and Editing


Marietje BĂśhmer, Agaath Diemel, Jurjen Slump Lay-out Liesbeth van Dam, Media Solutions Print Edauw en Johannissen

Partners in building a quantum computer QuTech and Intel


Š Valorisation Centre TU Delft 2017

The strength of transparancy The glass bridge to The Green Village

Thirsty plants and quantum drums Vidi Grants for Excellent Researchers

12 15

RoboValley leading in tech transfer


Biotech means business at new YES!Delft Labs incubator


Smart robots from Delft conquer the world

Opening of YES!Delft Labs with biotech lab facilities



Thinking big with nanoparticles Start-up VSParticle

The world today faces challenges such as depletion of materials, climate change, urbanisation, biodiversity, health and safety and


mobility. They all have

Solar energy through transparent windows

impact on society. At TU

PowerWindows from PHYSEE

and developing technological solutions for these

Delft, we are committed to doing ground-breaking research challenges. Our research focuses on contributing to sustainable and global solutions.


We ensure that our technological expertise is

Bridging the gap for disaster resilience BRIGAID awarded as Horizon2020-project

translated into products, services, processes and new businesses. In partnership with start-ups, small, medium and corporate enterprises, governments and not-for-profit organisations. TU Delft’s Valorisation Center assists in bringing TU Delft’s internationally renowned research and the innovative products and services that derive from that to market. In cooperation with the private and public sector


Sports and Science: A winning combination Sport Engineering Institute partnering with Giant-Alpecin

and other knowledge institutes, we aim to accelerate innovation. By developing and showcasing these examples in new building materials, nanotechnology and quantum computing. By supporting start-ups such as PHYSEE and VSParticle. By initiating consortia like BRIGAID. By supporting various institutes and programmes such as QuTech, RoboValley, Medtech and Sports Engineering that work closely together


with top scientists and leading entrepreneurs in the

ALLEGRO, ma non troppo

world. Through providing facilities like YES!Delft Labs

ERC award for research into traffic theory for pedestrians and cyclysts

its partners can achieve. We hope that our multi-

and the Green Village. The stories in this magazine showcase successful examples of what TU Delft and faceted approach will inspire you to join TU Delft’s contributions to innovation. You are very welcome in our Home of Innovation. Paul Althuis Director Valorisation Centre and Delft Enterprises

Save the date Research Exhibition 6, 7 & 8 June 2017 @ TU Delft Library





Tec cele hnolog y fo bra of TUting 175 r Life y inno Delft an ears vatio d n!


Photo by Kim Liong van Dam

Get a taste of our cutting edge technology and meet our brilliant minds! • 175 visual & interactive research presentations • Visits to research facilities • More than 20 inspiring speedlectures The TU Delft Research Exhibition is about finding ways to work with the private & public sector, to bring new innovation to society. During the TU Delft Research Exhibiton the International Festival of Technology takes place at the campus. So even more reason to come!

Valorisation at the TU Delft The Valorisation Center of TU Delft assists scientists and supporting staff in bringing innovations to the market. TU Delft harnesses its technological knowledge for economic and social purposes and ensures that this knowledge is translated into products, services, Project Development processes and new businesses. The Valorisation of TU Delft assists scientists and Project Center Development & Coordination Project Development Coordination supporting staff in bringing innovations to&the market. It uses a multi-faceted approach. & Coordination

Research funding NL & EU

1. RESEARCH FUNDING NL AND EU Advisors from the Research Funding Teams assist academics in obtaining research Intellectual grants. They also engage in dialogue with industry, policyProperty makers and politicians of the Netherlands and the European Union. The Funding Teams and academic staff have jointly been successfully engaged in agenda setting for research investment policies Entrepeneurship and the development of its large-scale and Delft programmes Enterprises (flagships) long-term research at the Dutch governmental bodies and the European Union.

Project Development Business & Coordination Relations 2. PROJECT MANAGEMENT The Project Management Team consists of experts in large-scale project development Research funding and project management. NL & EU The team explores, initiates, implements, coordinates and manages research and innovation projects, which are often formed in consortia. Through these projects, experts Intellectual from TU Delft, other knowledge institutes Property and public and private organisations jointly respond to global challenges of sustainability, including energy use, urban water management, health, mobility and water and waste management. The projects aim to accelerateEntrepeneurship innovation by (startDelft Enterprises up) companies in both The Netherlands and abroad. In its living labs, all parties contributing to these developments can

Business Relations

Research funding test and demonstrate their innovations, small medium and large enterprises Research funding NL & EU NLinnovations & EU and introduce the to potential and researchers. To initiate and facilitate Project Development customers, decision makers, investors, sustainable collaborations, the team media and end users.& Coordination continuously searches for key-partners in multidisciplinary settings, resulting in research frame agreements in a later phase. Intellectual Intellectual Along with its TU Delft colleagues they host Property events such as the CTO diners and the TU Property Research funding Delft Research Exhibition. NL & EU 3. INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

Licence agreements and partnerships are an important part of the valorisation Entrepeneurship of inventions and technical know-how Delft Enterprises developed at the university. The Intellectual Intellectual Property Team explores the various Property possibilities, protects the intellectual property and gives advice on the commercialisation process to the employees Business and students of TU Delft. They also advise Relations on compliance with national regulations Entrepeneurship and compatibility with national and Enterprises international researchDelft programmes.


Business Relations Team Business Relations has an extended network both inside and outside TU Delft. The team members are well informed on the latest scientific research at TU Delft, and they know the needs from the private sector. This enables them to contribute to very effective market research, business development and matchmaking between

Entrepeneurship Delft Enterprises

5. DELFT ENTERPRISES B.V. Its Holding Delft Enterprises is committed to this process by facilitating and investing, Business mainly through TU Delft originated Intellectual Property, in companies that Relations valorise the knowledge of the university. Delft Enterprises stimulates the initiation of these spin-offs from the university into innovative start-ups, in order to accelerate technical progress. As a shareholder, Delft Enterprises aims to increase the chances of success for the company, for example by supporting the search for follow on funding and connecting the entrepreneurs to its network both inside and outside the university.


Partners in building a quantum computer QuTech and Intel 8

TU Delft is the front runner in developing the science of quantum physics and technology towards the actual engineering of the quantum computer and its network. In 2013 the university joined forces with the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO). Together, they formed the quantum technology institute QuTech. The research institute currently employs over 150 researchers. Text: Marietje Böhmer


uTech aims to get quantum technology implemented globally through working with existing or new industries. For this, the consortium collaborates with industrial partners that work on different areas of quantum technology. QuTech offers future opportunities for new innovative start-ups, as well as for high-tech small and medium companies and large corporations. Anouschka Versleijen, co-initiator of QuTech together with Leo Kouwenhoven and Lieven Vandersypen, explains QuTech’s high ambitions to make the very first actively functioning quantum computer: “It is exciting to do extremely novel science while working with the industry. We showcase that working with the industry does not hamper the excellence of science, and doing excellent science does go well with doing something useful for the industry.”

(Photo: Kim van Dam)

PARTNERS WITH INTEL QuTech entered into a collaboration with Intel in 2015. With the process technology of the world’s largest and highest valued semiconductor chip maker, QuTech can speed up the development of quantum computing. Intel contributes expertise, manpower, facilities and financial support to QuTech, with a planned total amount of $50 million during the ten year collaboration. Through this partnership, Intel will be able to have access to the long history of expertise in quantum computing of the TU Delft. James Clarke, Director of Quantum Hardware Intel, states that a partnership with QuTech is an obvious step: “Delft is world leader on quantum computing and the ancillary topics.” The institute combines knowledge of the laws of physics with electrical engineering, computer science, mathematics and material science. “We did take a look at multiple places. Delft is not only the frontrunner in the areas at which Intel is partnering, but also in other areas of quantum information. The academics we work with continue their open work within the

larger academic community of QuTech. This was of great appeal to us.” QuTech focuses on the integration of all engineering angles, on scalability, on fabrication ability and has actively addressed control electronics and quantum chips architecture. “QuTech’s research facilities also showcase its unique position in quantum computing research, the raw capability for measurement is really unmet elsewhere.” James Clarke refers to the large number of fridges, where measurements of the qubit performance take place: “In these 55 gallon drum dilution refrigerators, the qubit chips are kept at less than one Kelvin. That is almost absolute zero degrees Celsius, even colder than outer space.” Leiden Cryogenics, a local business, formerly part of Leiden University, is one of the leading manufacturers of these fridges. Their cooling hardware can be tailor-made to meet the specific requirements of innovative experiments. QuTech’s clean

‘It is crucial to work with world leaders like Intel and other industrial partners to succeed in manufacturing this computer’ room facility and the experiment facilities have very high standards, through which the staff can achieve highly efficient turnover rates. A quantum design can be fabricated immediately; the experimental set up and fridge are ready to put the chip to the test. If an idea fails, the researchers have a quick cycle for adjustments, which supports high-speed progress.

PROUD OF PROGRESS Anouschka Versleijen and James Clarke are happy about the progress of their first year of the partnership. By working together, both organisations are more effective. >>


The Valorisation Center of TU Delft assists scientists and supporting staff in bringing innovations to the market. It uses a multifaceted approach. The partnership between QuTech and Intel showcases successful examples of what the Valorisation Center can offer. INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY TEAM Licence agreements and partnerships are an important part of the valorisation of inventions and technical know-how developed at the university. The Intellectual Property (IP) Team explores the various possibilities, protects the intellectual property and gives advice on the commercialisation process to the employees and students of Delft University of Technology. For the research collaboration agreement between Intel and QuTech, the IP team and the Legal team assisted in defining conditions for the use of existing TU Delft quantum computing knowledge and of the intellectual property that results from the collaboration. They also advised on compliance with national regulations and compatibility with national and international research programmes.

TNE NL AND EU RESEARCH FUNDING TEAMS Through the teams of NL Research Funding and EU Research Funding of TU Delft, the academics of QuTech received help in obtaining research grants, and in engaging in dialogue with industry, policy makers and politicians of the Netherlands and the European Union.

NATIONAL ICON In 2014 the NL Research Funding Team assisted QuTech with acquiring the status of ‘National Icon’ in a competition organised by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. The Dutch government defines these national icons as innovations that contribute to the solution of global issues by Dutch leadership. As a result, the Minister of Economic Affairs Henk Kamp has been an ambassador for QuTech in the Netherlands and abroad. This approach has proven to be very instrumental in QuTech’s networking. Scientific Director Leo Kouwenhoven and Henk Kamp have built a network with important key players in quantum research such as the Niels Bohr Institute in Denmark and Waterloo University in Canada. Additionally, Freeke Heijman of the Ministry of Economic Affairs was appointed as special envoy to work with Delft University of Technology to foster a strong position in Europe.

Lieven Vandersypen, Roadmap leader Fault-tolerant Quantum Computing. (Photo: Kim van Dam)

Intel’s process technology combined with QuTech’s quantum computing expertise can make their joint work on superconducting and silicon qubits go faster. Both organisations are excited about the future of computing and even though one is a corporation and one is a research institute, they have the same goals: “Our different ways of thinking and working can be seen as both a challenge and an opportunity. We were able to find a way of working together that would benefit both.” Quantum computing cannot solve all of the world’s problems, but with their calculating power, they will provide completely new angles for looking at a certain set of issues, and as such do hold the promise of solving problems that seem unsolvable at the moment. Both agree that working together leads to new observations and ideas: “It makes us optimistic about successfully realising our joint ambitions. We are all scientists at heart.”

GLOBAL SOLUTIONS THROUGH QUANTUM COMPUTERS EUROPEAN FLAGSHIP The EU Research Funding Team and QuTech staff have both been successfully engaged in European agenda setting on quantum technology. Together, they have an active role in advising the European Union on defining its research investment policy and the development of its third flagship. European programmes with the status as flagship are large scale and long term. This flagship programme for quantum technology is estimated to invest one billion euro’s over the duration of 10 years.

The calculation power of current-day computers can approximate the calculations of how molecules act. However, even if all current computers and supercomputers in the world were to be combined, they would not be able to calculate the exact behaviour. A quantum computer will carry out calculations in a way that is very different from current computers, with exponentially improved calculating capacity. A quantum computer holds the promise to provide a high degree of accuracy in the understanding of molecular systems. This

enhanced modelling offers opportunities to positively impact the environment and society. Pharmaceuticals may use it to improve treatment, environmentalists may develop harmless and yet more effective fertilizers and suppliers of energy may come up with solutions that contribute to reducing global warming. As such, with realising a quantum computer, scientists and entrepreneurs aim to contribute to solutions for global challenges such as health and safety.

FASTER THROUGH ENTANGLEMENT A quantum computer can calculate in a different way, because of quantum mechanics; instead of having a regular transistor in a computer, with a gate that is either open or closed, (either 1 or 0), a quantum computer uses a qubit, which functions as a gate that can hold a 1 and 0 at the same time. When two bits are used, they can be in a super position, meaning that they can be 1 and 0 at the same time, and they can be entangled. That means four combinations are possible: 1+0, 1+1, 0+1 and 0+0. If a third qubit is introduced into the entanglement, eight simultaneous combinations are possible, and so on. The speed of the quantum computer is exponentially greater with the number of qubits that are added, enabling the computer to do much greater and complicated types of calculations.

SECURE INTERNET BY QUANTUM TELEPORTATION At present, files that are shared over the internet are encrypted to ensure that they are secure. However, this security system is fallible, and with enough computing power, the codes can be cracked and data accessed. Quantum internet uses teleportation to securely transfer data or encryption keys over distance. It is not possible to intercept this teleportation process, therefore this network promises to guarantee security by applying the laws of quantum mechanics. Such a quantum internet could run parallel to the regular internet, and be used for applications that require increased security, e.g. banking.


superconducting and silicon qubits, the knowledge institute is also known for scientific breakthroughs in other areas of quantum research. Leo Kouwenhoven’s group at QuTech found the first evidence of Majorana fermions. This has laid the foundation for an expanding collaboration with Microsoft on topological quantum bits. Ronald Hanson and his colleagues at QuTech succeeded in becoming the first in the world to move data reliably from one quantum bit to another over the distance of three meters without the information travelling through the intervening space. This was followed by the first loophole free Bell test at a larger distance. This method of teleportation represents a major step forward in the development of device-independent secure communication and the quantum internet. In a typical academic setting, scientists build ten quantum chips, and try all of them. When during testing one of them works, and shows the phenomena that the academics are trying to prove, the experiment has succeeded. A typical researcher will then go on to the next challenge and designs a new experiment. However, building a quantum computer is different. A successful fabrication percentage of at least 99 out of 100 chips is required. All of them have to work and all of them have to work in exactly the same way. Anouschka Versleijen explains that QuTech has already proven at an academic level that it can master important building blocks that are needed for a quantum computer: “It is crucial to work with world leaders like Intel and other industrial partners to succeed in manufacturing this computer.”

COMMERCIALISATION OF QUANTUM COMPUTERS Quantum computing might still be over a decade away from manufacturing commercially, and it is likely that initially consumers will be affected by the technology, rather than owning the technology in home devices. In the way that the first super computers were typically bought by national laboratories, universities and large companies, the commercial market for quantum computers will evolve in a similar manner. <<

Beside the work QuTech is doing with Intel on

QUTECH ACADEMY With its interdisciplinary approach, QuTech is breeding a new technology workforce and providing students the opportunity to work in a unique and exciting field. From September 2016 TU Delft students in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Embedded Systems, Applied Physics, Applied Maths and Electrical Engineering are able to join the QuTech Academy. The academy offers a Master’s Program in

Quantum Technology and Quantum Information with four courses available, including fundamental concepts in quantum computing, communication and cryptography to practical implementations of qubits and electronics for quantum computers. Students completing all four courses (20 ECTS) will be optimally prepared to undertake research on an MSc thesis at QuTech. Some of the companies

that QuTech works with have internship available for students and people with a PhD position. Through their partnership with QuTech, Intel provides many ways for quantum students of TU Delft to engage with them and learn about business approaches to research. This includes visits, internships and future potential employment.



The strength of transparency The glass bridge to The Green Village

Glass is clearly beautiful, transparent and infinitely recyclable. It does not corrode, rust or rot. Glass is made from sand, an abundant resource and is therefore a very sustainable material. And glass can be made to be strong under compressive pressure. Very strong. Text: Marietje Bรถhmer


esearchers from the faculties of Architecture and Civil Engineering of TU Delft are jointly developing a glass bridge to demonstrate that glass is very suitable for building structures. The researchers design their glass bridge for the entrance of The Green Village, an experimental site to test innovative and sustainable designs at the TU Delft science park. Joris Smits, senior architect and programme manager of the Bridge Project at the testing site, views designing bridges as an act of connecting people and places. He is excited to use glass as new building material. Ate Snijder, PhD researcher Architectural Engineering, and co-initiator, adds that “by creating an archetypical load-bearing structure, people can experience first-hand that glass can carry weight.” Telesilla Bristogianni, PhD researcher Civil Engineering, loves the beauty, strength and invisible functions of cast-glass just as much as Smits and Snijder. She researches the production of prototypes of cast glass bricks, and spends many hours a day working with a hot oven developing the novel building components. The three researchers, along with the Glass and Transparency Research Group of TU Delft, contribute to designing the innovative glass bridge.

(Photo: Kim van Dam)

INSPIRATION The idea for this bridge was inspired by the Hollywood characters Loki and Thor dueling on the Bifrost Bridge in the movie Thor (2011). Triggered by this mythological, sparkly and transparent bridge, a friend of Smits started calculating whether building a transparent structure of that type would be possible to build in the real world. He worked out that it could be done if built out of solid diamond. Later when Smits saw the Chanel glass façade in Amsterdam, engineered by his colleagues from TU Delft, he got the idea to use cast glass as an affordable alternative to the strength and clarity of a diamond. Snijder had been equally captivated by the possibilities of glass as a building material. He had been enchanted by Tokujin Yoshioka’s

glass chair which seems to ‘disappear’ in the rain. He thought the concept of the movable bridge through, with the aid of parametric models and digital simulations. Enthusiastic about the possibilities, Snijder and Smits initiated their programme to showcasing glass in a way that has never been done before.

STRENGTH Unlike in the movie, Thor will not be able to break the bridge with his massive hammer. He may be able to cause a crack in a single cast glass stone, but the bridge will remain intact. A cracked brick can be replaced. Snijder explains that the arch shape generates compressing forces: “Glass and steel are of comparable compressive strength.” Bristogianni adds that “by carefully considering the design-calculations you can construct a glass structure with excellent compression to avoid any kind of tension.” Bristogianni gained a lot of experience on working with glass elements when she, along with her colleague Faidra Oikonomopoulou, were responsible for building up the unique and innovative glass masonry façade of the Chanel store in Amsterdam. They proved that the glass facade in Amsterdam was in many ways stronger than concrete. It could withstand a force to an equivalent of two full-sized SUVs.

SUSTAINABILITY At the façade, the cast-glass bricks were held together by glue. The bridge designers have thought of a way of implementing the cast-glass bricks without the need of cement or glue. The geometrical shape of the bricks will hold them in place through the compression force generated by the arch shape. The construction method offers an ideal solution for the circular economy, as the bridge can be disassembled and rebuilt on

another site. By leaving out any form of adhesives, Smits and Snijder’s new bridge design is only and entirely made out of cast glass bricks. This is important, because the use of glass as building material is a significant step toward minimizing waste of materials. Glass components can be totally melted down and re-molded. While it still takes energy to recycle, it requires far less energy than other commonly used structural materials. For example, while steel is three times denser than glass, it recycles at a much higher temperature, requiring a 10:1 ratio use of energy. Compared to steel, glass recycling is very efficient, when taking circular economy into account.

CAST GLASS BRICKS In order to get insights in the production process, the researchers have developed the brick shapes themselves, first through computer simulations and 3D printed plastic models before actually casting them in glass. Glass casting is historically performed by artisans. The casting process is often based on experience and is passed on through generations, while the engineering knowledge and data have frequently not been documented. To gain systematically documented insight into the knowledge from the artisans and the glass industry, the researchers started the production for prototyping the bricks for compression testing at the university lab. To Bristogianni, casting the bricks was a very personal process: “I am making this with my own hands. It has been a struggle to get the brick right, beautiful and safe, so after finally getting the right one, it was exciting. It is like spending hours in the kitchen getting the best cake perfectly done.” Once they are sure that they have created the perfect shapes, they will bring their designs to high-quality glass-casting companies to produce them. When the stones >>

‘It has been a struggle to get the brick right, beautiful and safe, so finally getting the right one was exciting’


are ready, the research group plans to assemble the bridge with students. Snijder is very much looking forward to that moment: “The moment the supporting formwork underneath is taken away, and the glass bricks form the bridge by themselves will be so exciting!”

RESPONSE The researchers do not yet know how people will respond to the bridge. They find it exciting that this bridge is based at a testing facility, where they can see immediate reactions.

Bristogianni points out that “due to the thickness of the cast glass components, you can see all the lines and the robust structure of the bridge. That will create confidence about the strength, and with the top service of the bridge that will become slightly scratched, the experience will be mostly translucent rather than transparent.” According to Smits, when designing a bridge, architects and engineers have a joint responsibility towards society to create a structure that adds to its surroundings: ”A bridge is automatically a focal

point of public space. This glass bridge will be a one-of-a-kind landmark. By using glass, we are hoping to bestow a sense of bedazzlement.” Bristogianni loves the aesthetics: “Transpiring glass is so beautiful, it has so many layers, it is like a math matrix. Light shining on compiled glass bricks is always changing. Every time when you look at it, you can see something different. How it refracts light is just amazing. The structural part of glass is pure poetry.” <<



The Green Village provides researchers and businesses the opportunity to build, test and demonstrate a prototype of their innovations at a living lab location with end users present. In this living lab setting of The Green Village the aim is to accelerate the development and implementation of radical innovations. The technologies being tested are usually in an early stage of development, the business model is perhaps not yet fully ready, and the application may not yet meet all current regulations. The end users are the frequent visitors and the experimental real-life setting will be open to everyone. From 2017 onwards, the end users will include people working, studying and living on site in The Green Village. Through the commitment of scientists, businesses, government and end users, the stakeholders jointly experience the early application of sustainable solutions. Staff of the living lab filed for the necessary building permits at the municipality of Delft, and prepared the basis for the infrastructure for building the glass bridge. Architect Jos Smits explains that “by building abutments in concrete on the shore, The Green Village provides the foundations (literally) for us to experiment with innovative sustainable

bridge designs.” The building activities for these two bridge platforms were completed in August 2016. The Green Village has made arrangements with other stakeholders to insure that the bridge can be used safely by the people living, working and visiting the living lab. Through this, the researchers can gather feedback from visitors of the Green Village on how they experience crossing a glass bridge. Facility Management of TU Delft will take care of the maintenance of the bridge. As soon as all the societal and technical issues are completed in the live setting of the Green Village with end users present, the glass bridge will be ready for implementation elsewhere. When that moment comes, the researchers will continue to use the abutments for a new series of bridges that the Bridge Project will test at the experimental lab. The Green Village is an initiative of TU Delft and Stichting Green Village. The platform is supported by the European Regional Development Fund, the Province of South-Holland, the municipality of Delft, Alliander, Gasterra, and many others.

Artist impression of the Green Village and how the living lab will be developed in the upcoming year of 2017.

Thirsty plants and quantum drums Vidi Grants for Excellent Researchers In 2010, husband and wife Dr Gary Steele and Dr Susan Steele-Dunne caused a stir at TU Delft by both winning a Veni grant. With more and more researchers applying, success rates for grant applications are now even lower. Yet they have done it again by both receiving Vidi grants. Here they discuss their research, the grant application process and the ups and downs of being a top scientist married to a top scientist. Text: Agaath Diemel

THE RESEARCH Dr Susan Steele-Dunne works at the Water Resources department of the Faculty of Civil Engineering and Geoscience, where she researches the water status of vegetation with the help of radar. “The radar’s microwaves penetrate the vegetation and soil, and the backscatter tells you something about the moisture content”, she explains. “The water in crops or other vegetation affects the signal from the soil, so it gets difficult to work out what the actual soil moisture is.” So far, this has been considered a source of error, complicating soil moisture retrieval. Steele-Dunne takes a different approach: “My idea is that we should focus on the water in the vegetation itself, to understand how that influences radar observations, and then to use that knowledge in water resources management.” After all, it is the state of the crops that is important here. “Even if the soil moisture is low, this does not necessarily mean that the plant is stressed. The plant might not need that much.” This is the first time that radar is used to investigate the dynamics of plant moisture, and Steele-Dunne has to travel to Florida to carry out some of her experiments. “We could not be sure that plants would get water stress in the Netherlands. The weather is too unpredictable. Therefore we are collaborating with the University of Florida, where they have a large research farm. The soil there is really sandy and dries out quickly when it rains, so the plants lose lots of water through evapotranspiration.” That means plenty of water-stressed plants to be getting on with.

DISTRIBUTED TEMPERATURE SENSING Another part of her research is done in Delft, where she recently tested a fibreglass cable for distributed tem-

perature sensing at Flood Proof Holland, the living lab testing facility located at TU Delft’s science park. “If you use remote sensing all the time, you have to validate your outcomes with measurements on the ground”, explains Steele-Dunne. The old-school way of doing that is with point sensing, i.e. taking measurements at fixed locations. “It is difficult to relate measurements with such small probes to observations that cover a surface of 35 km2. These cables can give us a reading every 25 centimetres.” The cables measure temperature, not moisture, so she first had to prove that this was a valid way to retrieve moisture information. “We use data assimilation techniques to extract information about the soil moisture from the soil temperatures. We use our test-bed for new measurement strategies, e.g. to look at the advantage of heating the cable versus relying on solar heating. The next step would be to look at soil moisture scaling to see how our cable’s measurements relate to observations at satellite scale.”

CLIMATE CHANGE “In the next thirty years or so, the problems of water and food security will become more urgent. We will need to feed a growing population, so we need to make smarter water decisions, and only irrigate if we really have to”, she says. “We are also dealing with climatic change, and we will have to be prepared for consecutive years of drought. So we have to learn how to use our resources carefully.” Ultimately, Steele-Dunne’s research will help us make better-informed water management decisions.

QUANTUM PROPERTIES “Quantum science predicts that not just particles can >>


16 Dr Gary Steele and Dr Susan Steele-Dunne. (Photo: Kim van Dam)

be in superposition, meaning in two places at the same time, but physical objects like a coffee cup or a bus as well”, says Dr Gary Steele. “Making large superpositions of objects visible with the naked eye is an open challenge that we are working on in my group.” Steele is researching the quantum properties of macroscopic objects, though rather than coffee cups, he is working with mechanical resonators. “These are things that vibrate when you hit them, like a guitar string or a drum. We want to make them vibrate in a quantum way, bouncing ‘up and down’ at the same time.” Steele is conducting his research at the department of Quantum Nanoscience, Faculty of Applied Sciences, where he can take advantage of all the nanotechnology and quantum techniques that are used there. “Most recently we made devices that are one millimetre in size, so technically it is bigger than nanosize. But they are still only 50 nanometres thick and we use

nanotools to make them”, he explains. “It is a very challenging task, because of the way objects interact with their environment. In particular quantum superpositions are very fragile, and the larger the object you are trying to use, the more fragile they are.”

RANDOM VIBRATIONS To avoid any possible interaction, Steele has to create an experimental environment that is as free from outside influence as possible. “We do that by lowering to extreme temperatures. That means that there are less random vibrations that will hit the resonator in some unexpected way.” But isolation is only the first step, as it turns out. “The next step will be that we have to somehow propel macroscopic objects into being in two places at the same time. That is what we are looking at right now, but we have no answers yet.” For Steele, that is the beauty of freely structured research. “We are exploring various regimes of physics that have not been explored before. Far more

SUPPORT The Steeles were hired independently. However, with dual careers becoming ever more important to attract top talent to the university, Steele believes TU Delft should do more to support this. “If we want to be the MIT of Europe, let’s look at what places like MIT do in that respect, and offer that level of support to the partners of the scientists we try to recruit.” That includes very practical support: “When I came to MIT from Canada, they had a great international office, that would explain how to file your tax return, how the housing system worked and so on”, he says. “’How to survive as an international in Holland’: that is the kind of course people should be offered when they arrive, especially coming from outside Europe.” His advice won’t fall on deaf ears, as the TU Delft Executive Board has recently announced to put some real effort into facilitating dual careers.

structured. “To get the grant, you need to show success, and to be successful you need resources. That is why our department follows the American model, and gives people a starting package when they are hired.”


The instruments are installed in a soybean field. A radar in front of the blue genie-lift, and a radiometer (behind on the vertical mast) operated by colleagues from the University of Florida. (Photo: Susan Steele-Dunne)

often the real scientific breakthroughs come from scientists doing physics, than from engineers doing engineering. So we do not have a roadmap of where we will be in twenty years’ time; we are pushing the boundaries of technology for the purposes of science.”

QUANTUM COMPUTER That doesn’t mean practical application is unfathomable. “Our results could be very useful in the context of a quantum computer. These objects we are working on can have very long-lived vibrations, a bit like when you run your finger over the rim of a wineglass. If I hit my little drums, they will continue to shake for 130 million vibrations”, says Steele. “One of the things that people are working on for the current quantum computer, is a technology for storing information for a long period of time. If we could use our technology, we would have a way of storing information tens or hundreds of times longer than the current state of the art.”

THE GRANT PROPOSAL “Grants from the European Research Council and Veni, Vidi, Vici grants are the only avenue for doing science for science’s sake”, says Steele. “And getting one is far less time-consuming than putting together a consortium for an EU Flagship, for example.” Steele finds the criteria for writing a proposal very clear: “You need an excellent idea, excellent science and an excellent track record.” SteeleDunne sees things in a somewhat different light. “It takes a couple of months to write a grant proposal. That is a lot of time to spend writing something that only stands a small chance of getting funded. The process of writing, however, makes you think carefully about what you want to do and why. It really focusses the mind.”

SUCCESS RATES “Last year, our department had a hundred percent success rate with the ERC grants we submitted”, Steele says. He believes that is due to the way the QN department is

Did they get any help from TU Delft’s Valorisation Centre with their winning Vidi proposals? “Not the first time. I thought it was like a Veni grant and I could do without it”, admits Steele. “But then my interview did not go well and I did not get the grant, despite excellent evaluations of the proposal. I have a strong personality, and I may have come across as arrogant.“ The second time around, the Valorisation Centre arranged an external trainer. “She immediately pointed out my mannerisms and what could have gone wrong in the first interview. That kind of non-scientific input was very good for self-reflection.” The Valorisation Centre also made him do practice runs for his talks, in front of an audience of TU Delft scientists. “Practice runs with very critical people is really the key to success. I have also been involved with these practice runs for other people. Having been through it myself many times, I am now at the opposite side of the table. I now can immediately identify when people are not addressing what the committee would want to hear.” Steele-Dunne got feedback from the Valorisation Centre during the writing phase. “They went through the draft proposal for me, and later on when the reviewers response came back, they also helped me with that.” She also had some interview training. “Two actors came by for that. That was mostly about communication in general, such as how you come across and your body language.” She agrees about the importance of practice runs. “Doing a mock interview is the best thing you can do. You give your presentation to people who have been on such committees before. You then have an idea what to expect.” She would advise anyone to get as much input from others as possible. “Run your idea buy people with a broad background, because the committee is going to be made up of people outside of your field. It is very useful to find out what people with a different perspective would think about your proposal, and the kind of questions they could ask.”

THE DUAL CAREER So what is life like for a top scientist married to another top scientist? “It can be chaotic”, says Steele. “We basically spend our lives working and looking after our two children. For that, we have some strict rules. If the kids are awake, we do not read or write email. But especially during term time, we usually work all evening when the kids are asleep.” Steele-Dunne agrees their life is challenging. “We both have demanding jobs and we are both ambitious and driven. We have to balance a lot of work commitments with our family life. Sometimes, when we have conferences in the same week, we have to decide who travels and who stays home.” She sees a silver lining too: “The advantage is that if you have to write a proposal or you have to teach, you do not have to explain things to each other. It is not a source of tension between us, we both know what it means.” <<


Smart robots from Delft conquer the world RoboValley leading in tech transfer


Winning the Amazon Picking Challenge showed the world that something special is happening in Delft when it comes to intelligent robots. One of the driving forces behind this success is Professor of Biorobotics Martijn Wisse (1976), one of the founding fathers of RoboValley. He outlines a fascinating long-term vision, in which smart robots from Delft conquer the world. Text: Jurjen Slump


ow, that was impressive!” The jury member from Amazon was expressing his amazement at the robot arm designed in Delft, after it was first demonstrated in the Leipzig conference centre where the RoboCup was taking place. The Yaskawa arm with its specially designed ‘gripper’ had just clocked the fastest time of all sixteen robots in the final of the Amazon Picking Challenge (APC). For the Challenge, robots must sort parcels completely autonomously, in the same way as the people who work in the warehouses of the online seller. Amazon not only praised the speed at which the Team Delft robot arm sorted items, but also the industrial ‘look’ of the machine. While duct tape was clearly visible on most of the other designs, the robot arm from Delft was robust and sleek. In fact, the system looked ready for use. The robot uses deep learning, a form of artificial intelligence, to recognise objects. It was set up and ‘trained’ by the team consisting of staff from the start-up company Delft Robotics

and researchers from the TU Delft Robotics Institute. In Leipzig, they competed against, and beat, teams from several renowned universities including the American MIT. Wisse was the one who decided that Delft should take part in the APC. “I watched the contest last year and having seen what our team is capable of, I thought: this title should be ours for the taking.” The software was the decisive factor in the team´s triumph. “We have fantastic software developers. Their software turned out to be perfect for the various tasks the robot had to perform.”

FACTORY-IN-A-DAY The win at the APC is the most important success to date in the EU Factory-in-a-Day project, also conceived by Wisse. The project, which involves several universities and companies working together under his leadership, aims to reduce the time taken to integrate robots into production processes to just a single day. At present, this can take months. These plug-and-work robots will mainly benefit medium-sized and small businesses, which are currently unable to afford robotic solutions.

19 Martijn Wisse, Professor of Biorobotics, explains biorobotics at the Cyber Zoo in Delft. (Photo: Michiel Wijnbergh)

“Factory-in-a-Day is actually the result of a valorisation activity,” explained Wisse. “We had done some research into mini-grippers to be used in processing vegetables and fruit. Lacquey, a company that produces robot grippers, evolved from this project, but it was a long time before the company was able to produce a complete robot. So I thought: perhaps this needs more research. I started looking and soon realised that almost the entire small and medium enterprises sector had the same problem.” With help from the Valorisation Centre of TU Delft, a grant application was submitted and honoured, and Wisse went in search of European parties to work as partners on the project. They included the Technical University of Munich and the electronics concern Philips. It was a great success. “We’d hit the nail on the head. Requests for affordable

robot systems poured in.” Many of them involved concrete requests from companies wanting to implement robot systems. But this was not in the university’s remit. So having said ‘no’ three times, they decided to set up the Delft Robotics company.

WORLD TOP “Winning the Amazon Picking Challenge shows that we currently lead the world in system integration,” says Wisse. This is difficult to gauge and only becomes obvious in contests of this kind. “It’s not top-end science, because we don’t publish in Science. But it’s not a huge commercial success either, because if it were, we’d be installing systems at companies rather than taking part in contests like this. We’re right in the middle: it shows that we are extremely active precisely in the field of tech transfer.” Both parties are now working to capitalise on their win. >>

ROBOVALLEY More than 170 robotics researchers from a range of disciplines work in RoboValley, alongside experts, entrepreneurs and decision-makers from both the public and the private sector. The result is a unique network, with the TU Delft Robotics Institute as the nerve centre. RoboValley leads the way in designing nextgeneration robotics. Some 30 startup companies are based in RoboValley, alongside established robotics companies. The expectation is that in the next ten years, some 15,000 to 25,000 jobs will be created in RoboValley and between 250,000 and 360,000 m2 in office and lab space will be required for these companies. The Canadian Chrysalix recently announced its intention to invest € 100 million in RoboValley.


The Yaskawa arm holding on to its Amazon picking Challenge 1st price award.

The researchers are busy writing papers about the software used for the Amazon Picking Challenge, and Delft Robotics is letting potential customers know what it is capable of. This is attracting new customers. There’s also been another success: Wisse has just heard that the European Union awarded his team with a Horizon2020 grant to continue developing the underlying open source software system.

ROBOVALLEY The step from ‘tech transfer’ to RoboValley was soon made. Wisse was one of the driving forces behind the ‘Silicon Valley of robotics’, set up almost a year ago. But working in such an exciting environment isn’t just ‘cool’; RoboValley is a vital way of introducing robotics into society. “Robotics is a highly

multidisciplinary, extremely complex field, and it will only be successful if everyone (and I mean everyone) works well together. This requires a solid network.” There is a huge social demand for robotics. “We really need to get a move on developing these robots. If we don’t, we’ll soon find ourselves in the situation where the population has aged so rapidly that our workforce simply isn’t big enough.” A number of different partners are needed if RoboValley is to be a success. “You need someone for business development, someone who can identify opportunities and knows which players you must put in touch with each other. And then of course you need someone willing to invest, someone with a long-term vision: the Valorisation Centre. Paul Althuis has taken this on, and I’m very grateful to

him for taking such a broad view and having the courage to invest.”

DRONES RoboValley showcases all the ‘invisible technological feats’ taking place at TU Delft. The drones and MAVLab of Bart Remes and Guido de Croon, who have been at the top of their game in scientific research for many years, are a good example. “They produce fantastic miniature auto-pilots (one of their more powerful technologies), but thanks to the involvement of RoboValley, it is now so much more than just a lab,” explains Wisse. “It’s a hive of activity. Seven or eight startup companies are all working to get this technology onto the market, leaving the researchers to get on with their side of the work.”

TU DELFT ROBOTICS INSTITUTE The nerve centre of RoboValley is TU Delft Robotics Institute, a common ground for all the researchers working on robotics within TU Delft. They develop the new robot technology and train new engineers. But it would all grind to a halt without RoboValley. “People would spread themselves throughout the industry, and you’d be lucky to end up with any kind of network. RoboValley strengthens their ties with the institute. Most of the startup companies you come across in Delft are in some way connected to one of the researchers from TU Delft Robotics Institute.”

INTELLIGENT ROBOTS The world of robotics is developing rapidly, particularly the field of artificial intelligence. “This field is growing exponentially. Today’s fast computer is tomorrow’s slow telephone, as it were.” It’s becoming easier and cheaper to produce intelligent machines, making them a logical alternative to manpower for many applications. “There will be a lot of new applications that hadn’t been worth developing before.” Data collection is a good example. “Drones have provided us with heaps of information about the condition of the dykes and water levels, and about animal populations in the wild.” All kinds of new applications will

emerge during the next decade. “You can’t say: first this sector, then that one. That’s not how it works. One or two worthwhile applications will suddenly be developed in every sector.”

INTERACTION BETWEEN MAN AND MACHINE One of the main topics being researched concerns how to operate these new, intelligent machines. “If a machine is autonomously intelligent and makes its own decisions, it will become increasingly difficult for man to understand and operate it.” A lot of research is needed before we can operate them easily and intuitively. “This is something that TU Delft is working on. The field of robotics is immense, but the interaction with man is one of the biggest scientific challenges.” RoboValley is set to lead the way in the field of applications that have not yet been invented. Wisse predicts that the startup companies currently focusing on niche applications will eventually expand to become leading companies. “In the long term, I expect to see the maritime sector, the agricultural sector and logistics making the switch to robotics.” Although Germany and Japan will still lead the way in the field of ‘traditional robots’ such as those used in the automotive industry, we have now entered an era of

intelligent robots, and RoboValley has a good chance of taking the global helm. To achieve this, it is important not only for new companies to come to the region, but also to raise awareness in Delft. This is a task for RoboValley. In turn, this will secure more involvement from the local government and attract new talent to TU Delft. “These aspects enhance each other and enable new growth, which is valuable and essential.”

COMMERCIAL SUCCESS The Factory-in-a-Day project is due to run for another year and a half. Despite the successes, Wisse is not entirely satisfied. “I still want to see a demonstration in which we actually develop a robot system in a short space of time.” There are still issues with the software, so this will be the main focus in the near future. Wisse also hopes that Philips will implement the robot system developed by Factory-in-a-Day for its shaving device production line. “The research is finished. That’s great, but I won’t be happy until it’s commercially up and running.” Another way of measuring success is to see Delft Robotics growing by double-digit figures. “If it doubles every year because you have so many customers, then you’ll know that you’re making a serious impression on the market.” <<

FACTORY-IN-A-DAY European small and medium-sized businesses rarely make use of advanced robot technology. The EU ‘Factory-in-a-Day’ project is an attempt to change this situation by developing a robotics system which can become operational within 24 hours and is flexible, inexpensive and can be leased. The project was awarded € 11 million over four years, € 7.9 million of which came from the European Union as part of the FP7 programme ‘Factory of the Future’. The international consortium consists of sixteen partners led by TU Delft. Dunja Swierstra from the Valorisation Centre is the project manager in charge of the administrative, legal, financial and organisational support aspects of the project. The Valorisation Centre has vast experience with large-scale projects of this kind, involving multiple partners. Thanks to the broad network of the project management team, the Valorisation Centre has managed to unite all the partners in a highly successful consortium. Swierstra and her team provide timely reports and ensure that all the partners comply with the EU guidelines, and she herself acts as contact person for the EU. (Photo: TU Delft, Robotic Institute)


Biotech means business at new YES!Delft Labs incubator Opening of YES!Delft Labs with biotech lab facilities


YES!Delft Labs was officially opened in September 2016. The building, with 2,500 m2 of space and 900 m2 of laboratories, especially suitable for biotech start-ups, follows on from the success of business incubator YES!Delft. According to Paul Althuis, director of TU Delftsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Valorisation Centre, the building forms part of a master plan that should ultimately benefit the universityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s campus, the city of Delft, and the entire region. Text: Agaath Diemel

(Photo: Kim van Dam)


ven before the official opening, more than half of the available office space and two thirds of the lab space had been rented out. Clearly, YES!Delft Labs is meeting a demand. There were two reasons for that. The original YES!Delft incubator proved to be such a success that another building for start-ups was urgently needed. “With YES!Delft full to capacity, and a growing demand for suitable lab space for biotech startups, we decided to kill two birds with one stone”, says Paul Althuis. However, so far, the chemical technology businesses outnumber the biotech start-ups at the new facility. That has to do with the closing of the university’s old Chemistry building. Quite a few chemical start-ups had taken up residence in nearby buildings and were able to use lab space at the Chemistry building. The Chemistry building has since closed, and the new Faculty of Applied Sciences building does not include lab space for start-ups. The chemical businesses found alternative office and lab space at YES!Delft Labs. Moreover, YES!Delft Labs and the Faculty of Applied Sciences are only a few hundred metres apart, so there is still ample opportunity for the young entrepreneurs to interact with their research groups at TU Delft.

BIOPROCESS PILOT FACILITY For YES!Delft Labs, biotech remains a priority: “Biotech start-ups can settle in our Labs building, and get the same support that businesses in YES!Delft get, plus lab facilities. Once they are ready to upscale their processes, they can use the Bioprocess Pilot Facility (BPF) right here in Delft”, says Althuis. The BPF is a unique open access facility for the scale-up of sustainable production processes from lab scale to commercial scale. TU Delft is one of its founders, together with partners from industry and knowledge institutions. The specific combination of YES!Delft Labs and the BPF has attracted at least one business already. Rumanian born Vladimir Vlad has set up his company V2Tech in the LABS building. A seasoned businessman, he first looked at Switzerland, Sweden

Official opening of YES!Delft Labs bij Pieter Guldemond (Director YES!Delft), Adri Bom-Lemstra (provincial executive), Bart van Limpt (CEO at Delft IMP and representative tenant YES!Delft Labs), Paul Althuis (Director Valorisation Centre), Anja Stokkers (Manager Facility Management and Real Estate TU Delft), Karel Luyben (Rector Magnificus), Cees van Laren (Director Technostarters Delft Real Estate), Ferry Forster (alderman City of Delft). (Photo: Kim van Dam)

and the United Kingdom, but settled on Delft because of the proximity of the BPF. Ideally, once the biotech start-ups outgrow the YES!Delft Labs building, they will move to the biotechnology park that is arising on the north side of the campus. Here, they can join

‘If we can combine the buzz in robotics with economic activity, we’re on to a winning combination’ Dutch biotechnology multinational DSM and the BPF. “Just like in our original incubator, after about five years businesses should be ready to move on. Naturally, we would like them to stay on in Delft. Althuis cites the example of Ampelmann, the provider of high-tech offshore personnel transfer systems which was founded in 2008 as a spin-off of TU Delft. “Ampelmann was first located in YES!Delft, and when they outgrew the incubator, they took up three floors in the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering. They are soon leaving there, but they will remain in Delft. That is the kind of development I have in mind.”

TECHNOPOLIS There has been quite a building boom on the South side of the campus, where you also find Technopolis, the university’s science business

park. Developments include the new building of the Faculty of Applied Sciences, YES!Delft labs and Holland PTC, the proton therapy and research centre that is set to open in 2017. “Such a lot is going on there, that it will soon become the ‘place to be’. We are now still actively trying to bring new businesses to Technopolis, but in the future they might be queuing up to expand or relocate here.” As Althuis well knows, these things don’t happen overnight. He has invested a lot of time in stimulating entrepreneurship in innovative technology over the years, and will continue to do so. He is not alone in his efforts. Together with the City of Delft and InnovationQuarter, the regional development agency for West Holland, they are aiming to make the region one of the most innovative regions in Europe.

ROBOVALLEY Meanwhile, elsewhere on the campus, other exciting developments are taking shape. “We are creating a RoboValley to the North of the campus, adjoining Delft’s city centre”, says Althuis. TU Delft, with its Robotics Institute and facilities like a CyberZoo for experiments with robot swarms, is a leading player in robotics research and development. Again, it is part of the masterplan. “At TU Delft we are always looking to improve our interface with the City. If we can combine the buzz in robotics with economic activity, we’re on to a winning combination.” <<


Thinking big with nanoparticles

(Photo: Kim van Dam)

Start-up VSParticle has taken up residence at the new YES!Delft Labs facility. From here, the young machine-building company aims to spread their technology for the synthesis of nanoparticles all over the world. While taking part in MIT’s Global Founders’ Skills Accelerator last year, they learned to think big: “American investors expect your business to be potentially worth billions”, says cofounder Aaike van Vugt. And VSParticle’s technology might be just that. Text: Agaath Diemel


utting a golden ring in two will not influence the properties of the gold it is made of, though it may adversely influence the value of said ring – or your relationship. However, at the nanoscale, inorganic materials exhibit size-dependent properties that are different from the properties of the bulk material. These properties can be physical, chemical, mechanical or optical. For example, nanoparticles have a very high surface area compared to the same mass of bulk material, making them ideal for use as catalysts to speed up chemical reactions. Other potential applications for nanoparticles include targeted drug delivery or highly efficient solar devices. But how can a material’s properties differ at nanoscale? Van Vugt explains this phenomenon with the help of an analogy: “Imagine you are in an empty room and someone enters. Immediately you change your behaviour, in reaction to the other person’s presence. The same thing happens when a third or fourth person enters, and so on”. According to him, the effect continues up to a group of some thirty people. “On a festival terrain full of people, you won’t notice one extra. However, within a certain range, behaviour in a group is influenced by the number of people in it.”

ATOMIC LEVEL Something similar occurs in materials at atomic level. “An atom of gold, say, has a certain colour, conductivity etc. If I add another atom, the two will react and will then exhibit different behaviour. Adding a third atom also influences the properties. This will continue up to a couple of thousand atoms.” Such a number of atoms still only measure nanometres in size, hence nanoparticles. Like with human beings, within a certain range the properties of the particle are determined by the number of atoms in it. Above that range, the material will exhibit its bulk properties. The properties of nanoparticles are also influenced by their composition. “A particle consisting of ten atoms

of gold behaves differently from a particle consisting of five atoms of gold and five atoms of silver. Compare it to a group of ten men, or a group of five men and five women. So if you are able to control the number and composition of the atoms in a particle, you also control the properties of the particles.”

SCALING-UP As promising as this all sounds, two factors are holding up the largescale application of nanoparticles. The first factor is the production of samples for research, since making specific particles can take up to months, even years in the lab. “You have to experiment with chemical synthesis until you get the desired result”, says Van Vugt. This means that a biologist working on new methods of medication, or a researcher in electrical engineering who wants to improve photovoltaic cells, effectively has to become a particle specialist first. This often eats into the time available for a PhD project too. The second factor is the scaling-up of the production process once a researcher has come up with a new material or product. “Right now, new nanoproducts are not reaching the marketplace, because they cannot be manufactured at an industrial scale.” VSParticle is about to solve both problems. Its secret lies in the use of a purely physical gas phase process, rather than a chemical process. “If you make particles the chemical way, you have to develop the process step by step for every particle. Depending on size and composition, each particle has its own particular recipe.” In contrast, VSP’s physical production process can be used for a large variety of particles. By creating an electrical spark between two conductive rods of the desired material, plasma is formed, which causes the local temperature to increase to up to 20.0000 degrees Celsius. This causes the material to evaporate, and the individual atoms are then carried off by a carrier gas. Inside the gas, the atoms will cool off and form particles, which are then immobilized on a substrate. “By varying the speed of the carrier gas or the energy

of the spark, you can control the size of the particles”, explains Van Vugt, “and by combining various elements as electrodes we can alter their composition.” All conductive materials are suitable for the process, meaning VSParticle has quite a large part of the periodic table at their disposal. VSParticle has already launched its VSP-Generator One, a device that enables researchers to produce nanoparticles at the push of a button. Settings such as the spark’s energy level still have to be controlled by hand. Next generations of the device will be fully programmable as to the specific particle. This will greatly improve the possibilities for further nanoparticle research. Indeed, numerous scientific publications have already shown the potential benefits. It is also the scaling-up of the production process that is keeping nanomaterials from reaching the market place. The entrepreneur explains: “So far, nanoparticles have been produced in the lab using chemical processes. However, the scaling-up of such processes is not straightforward.” For example, the heating up of a large volume may take much longer than in the test setup, causing unexpected and unwanted processes to take place in the reactor. Yet successful scaling makes all the difference between invention and innovation.

SEMI-CONDUCTORS VSParticle’s process of creating particles by way of the purely physical steps of evaporation and condensation, does not suffer from scaling problems. It is, simply put, a matter of building a bigger machine. “We can increase our number of sparks a hundredfold. In addition, you can line up a number of systems and combine them at the output level.” This being a continuous rather than a batch process, further simplifies scaling. The start-up is currently developing such a larger system for industrial use, aimed at the production of copper based conductive circuits. The production of electronics is currently a multistep process: >>


Entrepeneurship Delft Enterprises



Ties with the university Business remain close. “We have Relations recently had a TU Delft intern, who interviewed potential users to find out how we can suit our system even more to their needs. And an MSc student is about to graduate on our system, after having researched exactly what particles it could produce. “ Delft Enterprises B.V. from the Holding of Delft University of Technology is one of the shareholders. “For many years, the research we are building on has been financed from public means. If we make successful business out of this, I believe it is no more than right that some of our profits should flow back into research.” VSParticle has recently taken up offices in YES!Delft Labs, the new building of TU Delft’s business incubator. “YES!Delft is great. You are surrounded by fellow-entrepreneurs, so you are immediately part of a business network. You can get advice on contracts and legal matters. It also helps that you can get acquainted with entrepreneurship while still studying”, says Aaike van Vugt, co-founder of VSParticle. “So you are still on campus, but because you are in a dedicated start-up building, you can profile yourself as a business.”

“You first have to cover the surface with copper or aluminium, and then you have to use chemicals and a lithographic tool to cut out the bits you do not need.” For many years, the industry has set its hopes on a method to produce electronics in an additive manner. Printed electronics made with conductive ink, composed of metal particles and chemicals, are only thing coming close so far. However, this process is not yet applied at an industrial scale, because the resulting products lack in quality. That means companies like Applied Materials, Samsung and Canon are still producing different machines for the various steps of production. VSParticle chemical-free alternative could change all that. “With our systems we can deposit copper particles straight onto the surface in the desired pattern.” Moreover, their process, at any scale, is very clean. The technology behind VSParticle is the brainchild of TU Delft’s Professor Andreas Schmidt-Ott, who works at the department of Chemical Engineering at the Faculty of Applied Sciences. Schmidt-Ott has dedicated years researching the gas phase production of nanoparticles. Tobias Pfeiffer worked on the scaled-up version of the technology during his PhD. When Van Vugt joined the department for his Master’s research project, he was immediately taken with the subject. Pfeiffer and Van Vugt decided to bring the patented technology to market; to help researchers, but also to see if we could produce nano particles on an industrial scale. For this they founded their start-up in 2014. The name VSParticle they came up with, does not only stand for Very Small Particles, but also encloses their initials: Vugt, Schmidt and Pfeiffer, thus honouring their Professor.


(Photo: Kim van Dam)

Then, later that year, the fledgling company got a unique opportunity. TU Delft organised a contest for start-ups, who could compete for a place at MIT Global Founders’ Skills Accelerator that the university had acquired. “The jury must have thought we needed it most”, jokes van Vugt.

“We had a promising TU Delft-based technology, but we could do with some help on the business front”, he continues more seriously. So what has their stint at MIT brought them? “It has taught us the way American investors think, and how American start-ups see themselves. In The NEtherlands, you usually try to conquer the Dutch market first, and then perhaps branch out to Germany next. In the States, you have less geographical constraints, so you have a lot more potential for growth. Investors expect start-ups to realise that potential; they think in billions, rather than millions. If it has taught us one thing, it is to make plans on a larger scale.” “The business landscape is not exactly the same here”, says van Vugt, “but I believe it can be really worthwhile to infuse a bit of the American business mentality into your enterprise.” Meanwhile, the entrepreneurs are about to sell their first systems for use in research laboratories. “Next year, we want to branch out to the United States and Asia. After all, research is a worldwide effort, so we shouldn’t limit ourselves to just the Netherlands or Europe.” From universities, the technology should finds its way to researchers in other institutes and eventually reach industrial R&D. “Universities are usually more open to new things, but it is our intention to help all researchers.”

AMBITIONS Meanwhile, they are continuing to develop their industrial system aimed at the electronics market, though the same principles could also be applied to other industrial processes. What remains to be done to bring this to market? “We already have a working prototype in the lab, but to bring this to the level of an industrially accepted technology, will take a few more years”, says Van Vugt. They will also be looking for partners and/or investors. “This kind of development costs a lot of money. We are also not familiar with the electronics business, and we certainly do not have a name in that field.” That does not dampen their ambitions: “Who knows, maybe in the near future one of our system will be making parts for the next iPhone.” <<

Solar energy through transparent windows PowerWindows from PHYSEE Glass windows reflect about 30 percent of sunlight. Start-up PHYSEE developed a PowerWindow that utilises these sunrays. A special and invisible coating in the glass, developed by TU Delft, guides that part of the light to the frames. Solar cells in the window frame then transform the light into electricity. A battery stores the reprocessed energy, after which it can be used.

The energy is generated through transparent, affordable and bright glass windows. This is how founders Ferdinand Grapperhaus and Willem Kesteloo of startup PHYSEE apply their vision that sustainable products can be made without compromise on functionality, design or costs. Text: Marietje Bรถhmer


(Photo: Kim van Dam)

(Photo: Kim van Dam)


ith their ecological, economic and aesthetic innovation, the young entrepreneurs are realising their dream to have social impact with technology. The transparent windows contribute to creating an energy-neutral built environment. Large buildings with a lot of window surfaces can be cleverly used for PHYSEES’ innovation. It is expected that in existing buildings after renovation, PowerWindows can supply up to 50 percent renewable energy of the total energy demand. In new buildings this can even reach up to 100 percent. PHYSEE has calculated that the windows will pay themselves back in 3-5 years’ time.

INCUBATION With their PowerWindow, the entrepreneurs build upon the findings of their professor Erik van der Kolk of the Faculty of Applied Sciences of TU Delft. Kesteloo and Grapperhaus developed Van der Kolk’s innovation further into a product and a company. To prepare themselves for entrepreneurship, the two physicists followed the minor Economics, Management and Law (Grapperhaus) and a specialisation in Sustainability and Entrepreneurship (Kesteloo). At the start of their adventure as entrepreneurs they wanted a compass to direct their efforts; they found that in YES!Delft. Kesteloo and Grapperhaus appreciate the strategy of the Delft incubator: “The advisors offer many workshops, training programmes and consultancy trajectories, without becoming meddling, imposing or controlling. That is very valuable.” The consultants of

YES!Delft advised the entrepreneurs to not only focus on technical development in their lab, but also to go and speak with the whole value chain as soon as possible. Those conversations with stakeholders have greatly accelerated and enhanced the commercial development and product-market fit of PHYSEE and PowerWindow.

PROTOTYPE PHYSEE succeeded in demonstrating its first prototype in March 2016. This energy-generating window was 50 by 50 centimetres. The glass was transparent and guided energy to the battery in the frame. The idea of the innovative PowerWindow and the news of the first prototype was very well received. Many enthusiastic businesses and individuals have been asking the entrepreneurs if they can install the windows in their homes and buildings ever since. Encouraged by this milestone, PHYSEE is building larger versions of the window, and is working on increasing the voltage. This first amounted to 5 watts per square meter. After further development of the coating in cooperation with industrial partners, it can yield four times that amount of voltage, while maintaining full transparency. Once the coating process is fully mastered, it will be possible to inversely and proportionally scale transparency to efficiency. This will lead to the availability of dark tinted glass windows with 50 watts of power per square meter. The Netherlands Enterprise Agency (Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland) provided an ‘Early Stage Financing’: a subordinated loan for the scaling up of the PowerWindow prototype. PHYSEE also won the Postcode

Lottery Green Challenge, the largest international competition for start-ups in the energy sector in September 2016. The loan combined with the prize money gives the young company ample room to further develop the PowerWindow and to make the product ready for the market.

FIRST CUSTOMER In their search for a suitable launching customer for PowerWindows with sizes suitable for office buildings, PHYSEE looked for a project developer with a clear sustainability strategy. Grapperhaus and Kesteloo talked to major parties in the Netherlands. OVG Real Estate had just received the BREEAM Excellence rating, the highest sustainability certification for building, for The Edge as the most energy-neutral building. The Edge is a 40,000m² office building in the Zuidas business district in Amsterdam. Wouter Blom, Developer at OVG Real Estate, first heard about PowerWindows when Kesteloo and Grapperhaus were interviewed on Business News Radio. Coen van Oostrom, Executive director of OVG Real Estate, happened to take part in the same broad cast. The men called each other and not long afterwards Kesteloo and Grapperhaus were standing between the solar cells on the roof of The Edge, drinking champagne with OVG Real Estate to celebrate their cooperation in making the PowerWindow ready and available for the market.

NEXT STEP Since then, PHYSEE and OVG Real Estate have been further developing the technical innovations for energy-generating glass: “We can generate energy while simultaneously measuring how much sunlight is coming in through the windows. With these data, we hope to optimize the climate control of the buildings. Consequently, we add more and more functionalities to glass, which will increase sustainability.” In order to demonstrate how these technical innovations work, the developers of PHYSEE built a Mobile Lab. In this mobile home, the engineers assembled various PowerWindows and the necessary equipment which enables them to analyse the real time data and demonstrate the windows to potential users. PHYSEE’s mobile demonstration facility is ideal for reaching potential customers in the Netherlands and abroad. Their Mobile Lab is currently parked at The Green Village, a testing ground for sustainable innovations, based at the campus of TU Delft. The start-up also installed the first PowerWindow of 1.8m to 1.8m in the redevelopment project OVG Real Estate in Fellenoord, which will function as the future regional headquarters of Rabobank.

COLLABORATION PHYSEE and OVG Real Estate enjoy working together on the challenges that product development brings. Kesteloo and Grapperhaus experience OVG Real Estate as an ideal launching customer. They appreciate OVG’s extensive experience in technical processes and in working with start-ups, and its broad view of possible applications.

The Delft entrepreneurs see that OVG Real Estate has a realistic outlook on what it actually entails to transform very good ideas to tangible products for the market. Blom from OVG Real Estate, also an alumnus of TU Delft, finds the possible technical applications that PowerWindow offers very inspiring. He hopes that PowerWindows will generate more data that will provide further insight into

‘Contrary to the materials that competitors use, PHYSEE’s technology uniquely offers the fundamental advantage that the windows just need the sun to generate electricity’ the use of energy and the climate in and around buildings. OVG therefore views the product development of PowerWindow, given the potential of varied applications in the future, of high added value. PHYSEE finds the collaboration very useful: “You learn to work most quickly by working with market participants in the real world. Especially at this stage of product development, where we incorporate certification, regulation and the checks of the safety standards in practise – even further.” The road to bring the PowerWindow to the next Technology Readiness Levels is full of adventures and challenges. The start-up owners realize very well that their product has a lot of value. In their efforts to make their PowerWindow ready for the market, they go through a steep learning curve as a team. During critical moments Kesteloo and Grapperhaus feel encouraged by quotes, such as Reid Hoffman. The founder of LinkedIn once said that “If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”

POSITIONING The founders believe in their success, because they believe in their people and in their product PowerWindow. Kesteloo and Grapperhaus are proud of their open communication, commitment and trust. With that as starting point for their company, they have built a team with ten colleagues: “Making something that has never been done before requires smart people that have guts. Delft Enterprises has been a shareholder in PHYSEE from the beginning. It helps us enormously as a start-up to have Delft Enterprises and the internationally respected TU Delft behind us.” The entrepreneurs know the growing market of integrated solar solutions. The other parties who develop products to generate energy through glass work with different materials to making the process work. Contrary to the materials that competitors use, PHYSEE’s technology uniquely offers the fundamental advantage that the windows just need the sun to generate electricity. And for their young company, the sun is shining. <<


Bridging the gap for disaster resilience BRIGAID awarded as Horizon2020-project


Recent studies indicate that many regions are prone to increased risks of floods, droughts and extreme weather. The disrupting damages from these natural hazards affect lives and are expected to accumulate even further in the coming decades. This trend calls for effective, affordable and scalable technology. Text: Marietje Böhmer


s climate adaptation is a growing market, hiccups in the innovation cycle mean that companies miss business opportunities. The gap has been wide between scientists and entrepreneurs who come up with good ideas and the market who needs effective solutions. TU Delft contributes to accelerating the development of these new technologies and bringing them to the market. As part of its efforts, the university designed the project “BRIGAID: Bridging the gap for innovations in disaster resilience” with 23 partners. The European Union awarded the proposal with € 7,7 million funding from its Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. Bas Jonkman, professor of Integral Hydraulic Engineering at TU Delft is project coordinator of BRIGAID. Jonkman is proud that the project received this support: “BRIGAID is

well positioned to bridge the gap in the innovation cycle for disaster resilience.” The multi-disciplinary consortium is composed of some key academic institutes and small and medium businesses in Europe with excellent experience in innovation development, testing, business development and launching innovations to the market. “Policy and decision makers of local governments are committed to working together with us, by providing a playing field where new things are possible.” Their involvement is important, since weather hazards bring along issues of safety and law making. Local governments are motivated to contribute to the climate challenges as well as strengthening regional economy. The close collaboration between the private and public sector will fasten the process of climate adaptations becoming available in the markets in Europe, its associated countries and overseas territories.

Getting new technology for climate adaptation implemented has proven to be difficult. This has multi-faceted causes. The intensity of climate hazards and the vulnerability of societies vary per region. Impacts of climate-related hazards are therefore heterogeneous. The different local conditions make the designing and testing of effective solutions more complex. Policy and decision makers and the societies that are affected by the hazards may feel resistance to changing old technology for newer ones. The innovators need a field in which they can test in a real-life setting and demonstrate their solutions to investors, clients and citizens. With the support of the European Commission’s Horizon2020 program BRIGAID will provide that.

TESTING FACILITIES Through BRIGAID, technology will be developed and implemented in different parts of Europe simultane-

Extreme weather, floods and droughts

Extreme weather and floods

Floods and droughts Extreme weather (wildfires)

Floods Droughts and extreme weather (heat)

ously. “We, together with our partners from 12 countries, will build 8 testing facilities in Europe for 75-100 innovations in total. Out of those innovations, the consortium aims that, within four years, 30 inventions for climate resilience will be ready for the market.” Due to the typical local geographical and climate conditions, each testing facility provides different benefits for the testers. At Flood Proof Holland (FPH), the testing facility in

Local governments are motivated to contribute to the climate challenges as well as strengthening regional economy the South West of The Netherlands, the entrepreneurs and academics can test their technology in a situation to up to 1,5m water depth. In Romania, the facility to test flood defences

Extreme weather and floods

Israel (not on map) Droughts

will be constructed downstream of a dam, so that high flow velocities can be generated. This provides chances for testing climate resilience innovations under different conditions. Dan Constatin from the Rumania Water Authority is project manager for the local implementation of Flood Proof Romania (FPR). “The building of this facility will be finished within a year. It is great that we can showcase the flood defences in action. These products are not something you order online.” TU Delft has already proven that these living labs are effective. FPH is a successful lab facility for temporary flood defences. It is developed by the valorisation programme VP Delta Dutch Water Innovations at the science park of TU Delft. Here, academics, entrepreneurs and local governments frequently involve users and media through demonstration events. These defences shown in a real life pilot setting hold the promise to efficiently prevent floods in an inexpensive way. Many of the innovations at FPH are the result of partnerships and

cooperation between businesses, entrepreneurs, educational institutions, governments and end-users. This living lab for climate adaptation functioned as showcase for the concept of BRIGAID and will be followed for the three climate hazards in other European countries. VP Delta shared their expertise and network and assisted in initiating the proposal for BRIGAID. The new demonstration projects are expected to receive international attention and will attract (foreign) talent.

STOCKTAKING INNOVATIONS The consortium is in the process of selecting the 75 – 100 innovations that are ready for life demonstrations at the different testing facilities. The partners are stocktaking a large variety of climate adaptation innovations that can be tested. “We have room for some more entrepreneurs with smart ideas, who want to use the testing facilities and that are not yet part of the project.” Bart de Wever, mayor of Antwerp, expressed his willingness to provide a residential setting >>




Bridging the Gap for Innovations in Disaster Resilience




Extreme weather

testing facilities


products ready for market in 4 years

8,813,996.51 Countries

for testing innovations for BRIGAID. Jonkman is very enthusiastic about the opportunity to also test in residential areas. Like many parts of Europe, the Belgian city frequently gets challenged by flooding from heavy rainfall. Local authorities are exploring if these flood risks can be reduced by ruling that new and renovated flat roofs must be vegetated. The green roofs allow uptake and temporary storage of rain water, that otherwise would fall on the ground. “We would like to explore a new smart system that is able to temporarily store water on the roof, when the system capacity to deal with the amount of surplus water on the street and sewage system is limited. This smart version of the green roof knows through sensors when there will be enough uptake capacity in the street and sewage system, to release the water from the temporary storage.”

In order to help the startups and the small and medium enterprises with their testing procedures, BRIGAID is developing tools. The knowledge institutes that take part in the consortium will design standardised academic and independent methods for testing temporary flood defences, measurements for droughts and extreme rainfall. These evaluation frameworks focus on the technological effectiveness of the innovation, as well as on the organisational and governance conditions. The consortium will also develop a business model specifically for climate adaptation innovations. These tools will be validated throughout all the steps of the projects: from reviewing the 75-100 promising innovations on floods, droughts and extreme weather towards bringing the top 30 with the highest socio-technical and investment readiness to the market. Through this, BRIGAID strives to become the quality label for climate adaptation in Europe and beyond. With the goal to attract investors in climate adaptation.

pean network that meets regularly in project meetings, demonstration events and on conferences. Because BRIGAID focuses on multiple hazards, there will be ample opportunities for mutual learning about innovative solutions across hazard domains, and across disciplines. It also functions as a conjunction to potential investors and co-creators. “We are working together with construction companies and other multinationals that could be useful for the startups in the living labs. Large companies that are interested in investing in the development stages of the innovations, such as construction companies and others. One of the startups uses geotextiles. One multinational with a huge network of clients that produces geotextiles offered to jointly improve the product.”



BRIGAID gives a boost to the Euro-

In the Netherlands, the government




financed by

Horizon 2020

protects its citizens against floods through constructions such as dikes and pumping stations. In many parts of the world there is no such system-wide solution for water management. Many private parties arrange their own local solutions. In New York for example, large office buildings may have their own flood protection or sewage system. This brings along a need for solutions that protect local businesses and homes effectively, and with something that is not too expensive. With a much stronger social media use, citizens express their needs and wishes on disaster resilience. Their input is valuable for designers. BRIGAID appreciates the involvement of stakeholders in the early stages of the innovation life cycle. The consortium acknowledges all forces that have an influence on the uptake of these products in the market. A valuable partner in this technological consortium is the anthropologist Steve Rayner.

Bas Jonkman standing on one of the innovative flood defences that is being tested and demonstrated at Flood Proof Holland. (Photo: Alwin Wink)

The professor of Science and Civilization at Oxford University, and his PhD students will study the social and political aspects of the acceptance of new technology. Rayner emphasizes that “it is very useful to have a good understanding of institutional cultures and how this influences policy and decision makers in their uptake of new climate adaptation technology. In this process, elements such as their span of control and institutional flexibility are vital.” With their findings,

they will advise the innovators on how to effectively incorporate these dynamics in the innovation life cycle.

ROLE OF DELFT Jonkman is excited that TU Delft contributes to this project with multiple types of expertise. Academics from hydraulic engineering focus on large scale flooding, researchers from water management specialise in localised rainfall flooding and drought, and the scientists from the faculty of Technol-

ogy, Policy and Management (TPM) target risk management and ethics aspects. Staff from the Valorisation Center add extensive experience in involving innovative start-ups’ and small and medium enterprises, establishing living labs, obtaining research funding, managing large scale projects, and the already established Flood Proof Holland as a successful living lab and meeting ground for stakeholder engagement for weather resilience in The Netherlands. <<

PROJECT MANAGEMENT The Valorisation Center Project Management Team of TU Delft supports the scientific coordinator with the administrative, legal, financial and organisational aspects of both obtaining and leading this project. Their experts on how to structure, budget and govern large scale projects assist all partners of BRIGAID. The team initiates steering committee meetings, monitors the time line for the delivery of management reports of each partner, provides handbooks to all partners about governing the

project in compliance to Horizon2020 requirements and acts as liaison with the European Union. Bas Jonkman is very happy with the support of the Valorisation Center: “The unifying role between all partners, with cultural differences and language barriers, is essential. Through the well-connected network of the project management team, we, together, succeed in creating a unified consortium of all partners.”


Sports and science: a winning combination Sport Engineering Institute partnering with Giant-Alpecin


Scanning Tom Dumoulin to make a 3D mannequin of the Dutch cyclist in order to research the aerodynamics of his suit. (Photo: Marco de Swart)

TU Delft’s Sports Engineering Institute made Dutch headlines with its wind tunnel research on a mannequin of team Giant-Alpecin’s top cyclist Tom Dumoulin. However, behind the scenes the collaboration between the professional cycle team and the university covers a much wider area of expertise. Giant-Alpecin’s scientific expert Teun van Erp and TU Delft’s Daan Bregman wholeheartedly agree that sports and science can be of mutual benefit to each other. Text: Agaath Diemel


s Giant-Alpecin’s scientific expert, it is Van Erp’s role to warm his riders to a more scientific approach to cycling. By making them eat slush puppies, for example, as unscientific as it may sound. “Australian researchers looked at the benefits of this for the 2008 Olympics, and it turned out to be a very good way to prepare for a race, especially on hot days.” Van Erp dove into the matter and decided to introduce it to his team. How did they take it? “Most of them were enthusiastic. Of course, it helps if they see a rider like Tom Dumoulin do it and then go on to win a race. Even so, you have to do this kind of thing on an individual basis. Not everyone can stand ice-cold foodstuffs on an empty stomach.” Having a positive attitude towards innovation is certainly an advantage when you want to join the Giant-Alpecin team. “It’s our mission to progress the sport of cycling. We are pushing the limits of technology, innovation and athletic achievement”, it says on the team’s website. That statement did not go by unnoticed by Daan Bregman, coordinator at TU Delft’s Sports Engineering Institute: “Giant-Alpecin is clearly a team with a long-term vision. Next year, they are even starting a special development programme for young talent. At TU Delft we had a lot of fundamental knowledge on cycling that was not being applied in practice.” Dr Arend Schwab runs the bicycle dynamics lab at the Faculty of Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering. Years ago, it was Schwab who unravelled the mystery of how

a bicycle stays upright, and that is just one scientific example. Bregman decided to contact Van Erp, and the partnership was born. “We started off low-key, with a few student projects”, says Bregman. “One thing led to another and eventually we decided to formalise our collaboration.” This led to the signing of an official agreement between the professional cycle team and the university in September 2016.

AERODYNAMICS The agreement covers four areas of expertise: aerodynamics, bicycle stability and handling, optimal power distribution, and the application of data science. Aerodynamics has so far delivered the most tangible results, helped by all the publicity surrounding Tom Dumoulin’s new time trial skin suit. This project shows the multidisciplinary approach that is typical of most research at TU Delft. Sitting in a time-trial position, Tom Dumoulin’s body was scanned at all possible angles, and the resulting scan was used for a 3D printed mannequin. This part of the project was led by Dr Jouke Verlinden of the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering. The mannequin was then used for experiments in one of the university’s wind tunnels. Here, in a unique process developed by Professor Fulvio Scarano of the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, the airflow around the cyclist’s body was visualised with the help of helium-filled soap bubbles. Based on the outcomes, a new suit was designed. Tom Dumoulin went on to win the individual time trial and a silver medal on the Olympics, the latter despite

racing with a broken wrist. Although the time trial suit is only one factor in such a prize-winning performance, the results are encouraging enough to continue this line of research. “Normally, wind tunnel tests only tell you something is good or bad. With these helium-filled soap bubbles, you can really tell why. I have high expectations that this can bring us a lot further”, says Van Erp. He is not worried that next season all time trial riders will have a similar suit. “TU Delft is currently the only place in the world where they can perform these experiments. Besides, I don’t think there are a lot of teams out there who are as focussed on innovation as we are.”

BICYCLE HANDLING The right suit can help you win a time trial, but knowing how to descend can make or break your chances of winning a multiple stage bicycle race, as we also saw recently. “A downhill steering mistake cost Steven Kruiswijk his Giro d’Italia win”, says Bregman. “In contrast, Chris Froome took the yellow jersey in this year’s Tour de France after a surprisingly daring descent.” Descending is all about bicycle dynamics. “We are trying to help our riders improve their descent with the help of a ‘sensor bike’”, says Van Erp. The ‘sensor bike is TU Delft’s tool to help riders gain insight into the way they steer, brake, handle their bike in corners, and so on. “We want to invest in a number of these, so we can use them extensively and then apply the data from the riders who are good at descending to teach the others how to do it.” >>

SPORTS ENGINEERING INSTITUTE TU Delft set up its Sports Engineering Institute in 2014 to cluster all its activities related to sports. Whereas the visibility of sports makes this a great platform to share science with a wider audience, the ultimate aim of the Institute is to contribute to a healthier society. Coordinator Dr Daan Bregman believes this research can play a part in this. “Results of the research into bicycle handling can be applied to electrical bicycles too, for example”, he explains. “You could help stabilise electrical bikes with the help of the motor. With the enormous increase in serious, one-sided bicycle accidents we have seen in the past few

years, there is a lot to be gained here.” Bregman believes that the interface between sports and technology can be explored to further advantage: “There’s still real potential here.” For its innovative sports technology project ‘Faster and safer cornering with the sensor bike’ with Team Giant-Alpecin and Koninklijk Gazelle, TU Delft’s Sports Engineering Institute received the Sports Innovator award in October 2016. The Jury, consisting of representatives of sports federations, government, science and technology gave the prestigious award because of the projects added value to both elite sports and society.




Teun van Erp studied physiotherapy at the THIM University of Applied Sciences in Physiotherapy, and did a Master’s degree in human movement science at the VU Amsterdam. “I then had a traineeship at the Dutch Olympic Committee*Dutch Sports Federation. There I met the trainer of what was at the time the SkillShimano team. They were looking for someone with my background, and gave me the chance to prove myself as an intern for a year. I have been officially employed with professional cycle team Giant Alpecin since 2012. Sports Science is a fantastic field to work in, but unfortunately there are not a lot of jobs going round. So I consider myself lucky.” Dr Daan Bregman also studied human movement science at the VU Amsterdam. In 2011, he obtained a doctorate with his thesis on The Optimal Ankle Foot Orthosis. He has been employed at TU Delft’s Valorisation Centre since 2011, and has been coordinator at the Sports Engineering Institute since its foundation in 2014. “When Giant-Alpecin comes to me with a question, it is up to me to decide whether it lies in the field of mathematics or materials science, or so on. With my background, I also understand the physiological side of things. I’m a distribution centre for science, as it were.”

The sensorbike. (Photo: Wouter Roosenboom)



Another factor playing an important part in especially time trials is optimal power distribution. Van Erp: “You only have a certain amount of energy as an individual. What is the best way to expend this during the race, so you give your best performance?” This is the kind of question that researchers at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science can help with. Bregman explains: “The norm is to look at this as a physiological challenge, and to try and improve the maximum power output of riders. Our scientists look at it from a mathematical point of view, and see this as an optimisation problem.” Van Erp gives an example: “Say you have to ride uphill for five kilometres and then descend for five. Should you cycle 25 km/h uphill and 70 km/h downhill, or should you go 26 km/h uphill and take it easy on the descend? Intuitively you would say the first option is the fastest, but doing the maths, it turns out to be the second. So you can rest on the downhill stretch and still be faster.” These are important insights in the world of professional cycling. Scientifically, these are also interesting questions. “You start with a well-defined problem that can then be expanded gradually in your predictive models. First, you look just at the speed data, later you can factor in the steering behaviour, and then you can see how this relates to such issues as the choice of materials. Finally, you can work on optimising time trial performances for each individual rider”, says Bregman.

As team scientific expert, Van Erp is also in charge of the data. “Every bike is kitted out with a power meter that measures everything during every second of training. Add to this the information from logbooks, matches and so on, and it is a huge amount of data.” Van Erp can analyse these data up to a point, but he stresses he is no data scientist. “I have lots of questions I want to try and answer with the help of these data, but I have no idea what the possibilities are.” Help is at hand, because TU Delft has its own data science centre, Delft Data Science. During a workshop Giant-Alpecin and data scientists discussed if data science could help answer such questions as whether there is a connection between training intensity and chances of illness or injury, or whether it is possible to predict which young talent will go all the way to the top. So far, the collaboration has been very fruitful. Van Erp motivates GiantAlpecin’s choice to partner with TU Delft: “I’ve worked with other universities, but that was always on an individual and one-off basis. The Sports Engineering Institute is really my portal to all the knowledge at TU Delft. I don’t have to find out for myself who is an expert in what. That is a real positive.” Bregman is enthusiastic too. “We have a good and open relationship with Giant-Alpecin. They understand that science is a longterm business. They are also setting longterm goals for their team, and they are not afraid to go off the beaten track.” <<

ALLEGRO, ma non troppo ERC award for research into traffic theory for pedestrians and cyclysts In 2015, TU Delft’s Professor Serge Hoogendoorn was awarded an ERC Advanced Grant for his five-year ALLEGRO research project into traffic theory for pedestrians and cyclists. A year on, he looks back on the grant application process and forwards at the potential results of his project: “It is great to receive such a prestigious grant, but the most important thing is that it enables me to do ground-breaking research with a team of fellow-enthusiasts in my field”, he says. Text: Agaath Diemel


he ALLEGRO Project is almost a year underway. The name is an unorthodox abbreviation of unrAvelLing sLow modE travelinG and tRaffic – with innOvative data to a new transportation and traffic theory for pedestrians and bicycles. So what research goes on under that denomination? Professor Serge Hoogendoorn: “We try to understand the behavior of cyclists and pedestrians at all relevant levels. That includes, among others, how people acquire the necessary knowledge about the network they travel, such as routes, travel times and distances, the state of the foot or bicycle lanes, and so on. We would also like to know how and why they then make their travel choices, and what the resulting traffic flow looks like.” The outcomes of this research will be used to develop new simulation models and tools to support planning, design, management and control. “That will enable us to design more sensible cycle routes, for example, or to improve the phasing of traffic lights.” The project is a joint undertaking of TU Delft and AMS, the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions. For this project Hoogendoorn received an Advanced Grant from the European Research Council (ERC). ERC Advanced Grants are awarded to proposals for innovative and ground-breaking research by excellent researchers. Fundamental research in other words, a category for which funding has considerably decreased in the Netherlands over the past years, as Hoogendoorn can confirm. “The ERC finances high-risk, high-gain research, where

37 application can be years into the future – if at all. It is true that the chances to get such proposals funded are few and far between. Utilisation of knowledge plays an ever more important role in academic funding”, he says. As it happens, Hoogendoorn scores high on both counts: his work is both scientifically and societally highly relevant. Or as he describes it “fundamental research from an application-oriented perspective.” An expert on all traffic flows, Hoogendoorn focuses on pedestrian and cyclist flows for his current project, a subject in urgent need of scientific knowledge. “Slow, or what we rather call active, traffic is becoming increasingly popular in our evermore congested cities. If we want to keep our cities liveable, we should encourage that. However, from a scientific standpoint we still know too little about these kinds of transport, or about their interaction with motorised traffic.” Therefore, he aims to develop a comprehensive theory describing and explaining the behaviour of these active modes of transport. The ERC Grant is enabling him to do that in style. “It is a considerable amount of money, so we can set up our data collection and experiments on a grand scale. We can also organise international workshops and other events to create a stir over this subject.”

RED TAPE So the hard work of the application process has paid off? “It is certainly a slog. The competition is so fierce that an excellent CV is just the beginning. You need a cracker >>

38 Professor Traffic Flow theory, Simulations and management, Serge Hoogendoorn stands in front of the AMS Institute in Amsterdam. (Photo: Kim van Dam)

ABOUT SERGE HOOGENDOORN Serge Hoogendoorn holds the chair in Traffic Operations and Management at the Transport and Planning department at the Faculty of Civil Engineering and Geosciences of TU Delft. He is also Principal Investigator Mobility with the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions. He holds honorary professorship positons at the South-East University (Nanjing) and at Swinburne University of Technology (Melbourne). In 2016, TU Delft appointed Hoogendoorn Distinguished Professor in the field of Smart Urban Mobility a title reserved for full professors who are important figureheads in specific fields both at and outside the university.

of a proposal and writing that took me a lot of time”, Hoogendoorn says. “You have to be able to pinpoint your proposed contributions within the existing research, and really justify the funds you are requesting. Then there is all the European red tape, such as writing an Ethics Self-assessment. All in all, it is a huge demand on your already precious time as a researcher.” Nevertheless, he was at first convinced he could write the proposal under his own steam. Here, he was pleasantly surprised by the help he got from TU Delft’s Valorisation Centre. “I received some really good feedback from them on how to streamline the document and specifically on how to present the ‘gaps and challenges’ section”, he says. “Their contribution was definitely worthwhile, though when in doubt, I would still trust on my gut feeling”, he admits.

TEAMWORK Hoogendoorn’s first task was putting together a team of nine PhD and three Postdoc researchers. “The team is now

complete. We have a great mix of people from a variety of scientific backgrounds”, he says. So far he is extremely happy with the chemistry in the group, who jointly put their shoulders to anything from setting up experiments to organising social outings. “I am pleasantry surprised. I must say, I have never before encountered this level of team spirit within a scientific programme. Of course, it is early days yet, but I am already very proud of this team and the way they have thrown themselves into the project.”

DATA COLLECTION Important part of the project is the gathering of data from practice to help develop or underpin any new theories and models. With this, ALLEGRO has made a flying start. Hoogendoorn and his colleagues have developed a Crowd Monitoring Dashboard that was piloted during last year’s SAIL, the crowdpulling maritime event that takes place every five years in Amsterdam. “We have since refined the system and used it

during this year’s Koningsdag and Europride celebrations in Amsterdam. We use a number of data collecting techniques, such as counting cameras or Wi-Fi sensing, to get more insight into how crowds form during such events, also with the aim of becoming better at predicting crowds. We combine this information with data from social media, so we learn more about visitors’ backgrounds and the prevailing mood at the event.”

MYSTERYLAND ALLEGRO also put in an appearance at Mysteryland, Europe’s biggest dance event. “We developed an app to monitor the distribution of visitors over the festival terrain. We also experimented with crowdsourcing by asking visitors to give their opinion on certain performances and what they were planning on doing next. We hope this also contributes to our understanding of crowd formation, and we are keen to find out how the data we collect relates to social media activity on Twitter and Instagram.” Other activities so far include collecting field data on cyclists’ behaviour with the help of advanced video techniques, and a survey to understand the difference between people’s perceived distance between points A and B, and the actual distance. Even this early on in the project, Hoogendoorn and his colleagues have already gained new insights. “We’ve analysed data from the national bicycle counting week to find out why cyclists choose or avoid certain routes. The first results show that distance is not the only important factor in such decisions. For example, during morning rush hour, cyclist are much more likely to avoid busy crossroads, even if that adds substantially to their journey’s distance. And surprisingly, separate cycle paths seem to be less attractive than we would have thought, given our preliminary results.” Other insights concern pedestrians and cyclist network knowledge: “We’ve found that people are not very good at judging short distances; they generally believe they have to walk a lot further than is actually true. This has its consequences for our models, since the attractiveness of a

AMSTERDAM INSTITUTE FOR ADVANCED METROPOLITAN SOLUTIONS (AMS) AMS aims to become an internationally leading institute where engineers, designers, digital engineers and natural/ social scientist jointly develop and valorise interdisciplinary metropolitan solutions. AMS is centred on applied technology in urban themes such as water, energy, waste, food, data and mobility, and the integration of these themes. Researchers at TU Delft, together with their colleagues of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Wageningen, take part in the AMS consortium of public and private partners.

certain route turns out to be dependent on the perceived, rather than the actual length.”

SHARED SPACE All these new insights find their way into the models the researchers are developing. “We’re working on a model of cyclists’ behaviour. This model describes for example where and why cyclist ride in single file, or when they overtake each other. It also looks at how they interact with other road users, especially pedestrians. This will help us to further investigate mixed forms of traffic, a.k.a. ’shared space’, and the conditions under which this might work or not.” On the pedestrian front, Hoogendoorn is working on a macroscopic model describing the behaviour of crowds of pedestrians. “This model resembles the kind of models that are used in fluid dynamics. Unique about our model is that it shows the self-organisation of pedestrians. For example, if you have two groups approaching each other, you see them form lanes of uniform walking directions.” On the other end of the spectrum, they are also already working on the application of their new insights. “Together with the City of Amsterdam we are working on how to better include cyclists and pedestrians in the city’s planning models. We are also looking at helping the city with the development of their cycle infrastructure and other design issues.” All in all, fast work from the ALLEGRO project team, which is perhaps the real reason behind the name. Though as with all scientific research the best course of action is ‘allegro, ma non troppo.’ <<



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