Marco de Baar appointed new director of DIFFER

Published on May 26, 2020

The board of the Institutes Organisation of NWO has appointed Prof. Marco de Baar as director of DIFFER, the Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research, for a period of two years. With effect from mid-2020, he will succeed Prof. Richard van de Sanden, who will continue to work at the institute as DIFFER group leader in the theme Solar Fuels.

Prof. Marco de Baar
photo: Bart van Overbeeke

After a national and international recruitment process and positive recommendations from the works council and the search committee, the board of the Institutes Organisation of NWO has decided to appoint Prof. Marco de Baar for a period of two years in the position of general director/scientific director of the DIFFER Institute.

As the DIFFER building is currently closed due to the COVID19-related measures, the starting date of the appointment will be decided in agreement with Marco de Baar and the current director Richard van de Sanden. The aim is to make this effective as of July 1, 2020.

Marco de Baar knows DIFFER extremely well. Since 2007, he has been active in the institute as a group leader and since 2014 as theme leader Fusion Energy and a member of the management team. De Baar shall mainly focus on the positioning of DIFFER in national and international energy research. De Baar: “DIFFER has an incredible amount to offer in terms of research and research infrastructure. The challenge is to strengthen our national role in the highly diverse landscape of energy research.”

De Baar studied experimental physics at Utrecht University and obtained his doctorate in 1999 from Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) for his thesis entitled ‘Electron transport barriers in tokamak plasmas’. From 2004 to 2007, he led the operational section of Europe’s largest nuclear fusion experiment JET, where he was responsible for the operation and development of the reactor. Besides his position at DIFFER, De Baar is a professor in the group Control Systems Technology of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at TU/e. As theme leader at DIFFER, he was the Dutch representative in EUROfusion, the European Consortium for the development of nuclear fusion by operating the ITER reactor and preparing for the demonstration reactor DEMO.

De Baar describes himself as a physicist with a strong interest in control engineering. “A physicist wants to understand the very essence of a single phenomenon, whereas a control engineer tries to describe and optimize an entire system. These are two very different ways of tackling a problem, but they are enormously powerful if you know how to combine them. This is how we want to understand and control the fluctuating plasma in future fusion reactors. I look forward to further developing the combination of process and systems thinking at DIFFER in the themes Fusion Energy and Solar Fuels.”


NWO institute DIFFER carries out fundamental scientific research into materials, processes, and systems for worldwide sustainable energy infrastructure in close collaboration with Dutch and international academia and companies. DIFFER’s research is organized within the research themes Fusion Energy and Solar Fuels and contributes to the societal challenges in the areas of energy and sustainability.

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