State Secretary Dekker opens new DIFFER building

November 20th 2015

20 November 2015
On Thursday 19 November, Sander Dekker (State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science) and Ellen Williams (director of ARPA-E) opened the new building of the energy research institute DIFFER. In this highly sustainable building, the institute can expand its research into solar fuels and fusion energy with new scientific teams and new facilities.

See the opening ceremony and the scientific symposium on Youtube.

Ellen Williams (director of ARPA-E, left) and Sander Dekker (State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science, middle) opened the new the new building of the energy research institute DIFFER. With heavy flashlights and the help of the audience, they fed power to a solar panel and started the opening act - photo: Bram Lamers

Magnet for energy research

State Secretary Dekker: "The researchers here are working on clean energy for the future. With its unique facilities, this institute is a magnet for scientific talent to come do their work here in Eindhoven." The State Secretary calls on DIFFER to use its central new location on the TU/e Science Park to perform its research in close collaboration with research, education and companies. "The best findings result from a collaboration between different disciplines."

Ellen Williams, director of the US government's agency for energy research ARPA-E, sees a large role for government in energy research. "Fundamental research into technology that can solve the climate and energy challenges will not happen spontaneously in the private sector. There must be a first impulse to build on. I cannot imagine a worthier goal for our greatest minds and our public resources."

New building DIFFER in Eindhoven - photo: Petra Appelhof

Expanding research

When DIFFER started its mission of fundamental energy research in 2011, it was clear that the institute would need a new home base for its work. As the first research institute in the Netherlands, DIFFER has taken a societal challenge as the focus of its research: "a deliberate choice to contribute to solving one of the world's grand challenges", stresses chairman Niek Lopes Cardozo of DIFFER's parent organisation FOM. To execute this mission, the institute would need space to grow with new research groups and facilities, but also a closer connection to the university environment. Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) was chosen as the best possible location for the energy researchers.

Mr. Loet Visschers, director of Economics and International Affairs at the Provincie Noord-Brabant: "Brabant is proud to welcome DIFFER in our province. Our ambition is to be fully sustainable in 2050, a goal we can only achieve by working hard and working together. DIFFER's research will play an important role here."

Frank Baaijens, Rector Magnificus of Eindhoven University of Technology - photo: Bram Lamers

Rector Magnificus Frank Baaijens of TU/e: "It is a pleasure to welcome the institute to this dynamic campus environment, with ambitious and entrepeneurial students. TU/e and DIFFER are already working together - for instance, Spinoza Laureate René Janssen is setting up a research group on sustainable fuels within DIFFER as an extension of his work at TU/e. In the upcoming years, the number of joint appointments will only grow further. I see many opportunities for us to make the difference in energy research."

In 2015 the successful research group of Jaime Gómez-Rivas moved to DIFFER to work on control of light at the nanoscale. Research company Syngaschem BV will move its offices and laboratory to the DIFFER building in Januari 2016 to strengthen the work on sustainable fuels. Finally, DIFFER and Fontys Hogescholen are preparing a memorandum of understanding about joint research and teaching positions at DIFFER and Fontys, and to create internship positions for Fontys students at DIFFER.

Expanding experiments

In the new building, DIFFER's facility Magnum-PSI for plasma-surface interactions will be augmented with a superconducting magnet system. Magnum-PSI is already the only laboratory experiment which can expose materials to the extreme plasma's near the wall of fusion reactors. To move from the existing short plasma pulses to a long-lasting plasma beam, a superconducting magnet will be installed. "This way we follow plasma-materials interactions over longer timescales, even nearing the entire lifetime of materials in ITER", sketches DIFFER's director Richard van de Sanden. "A unique experiment, to which we will couple many different diagnostic tools to see material properties evolve."

The experiment Magnum-PSI allows DIFFER to investigate wall materials for fusion reactors - photo: Bram Lamers

One of the new facilities is a 3.5 MV ion accelerator, which DIFFER is installing in the hall next to Magnum-PSI. This 'super microscope' allows researchers to follow surface and subsurface properties and processes in materials for fusion and for solar fuels.

First Dutch research building to reach 'excellent' sustainability

As the Netherlands' national institute for fundamental energy research, DIFFER wishes its home base to be as sustainable as possible. With its new building, it is the first research building in the Netherlands to meet the high standards of the sustainable building code BREEAM-Excellent. Examples of sustainable elements in the building are the way the facade manages daylight entry, efficient energy management, use of sustainable materials, attention to the surrounding ecosystem and a park of 922 PV panels on the roof of the building, producing 189.000 kWh annually. On behalf of the Dutch Green Building Council, Guido Slokkers awarded the certificate for this achievement to Wim van Saarloos, programme director of the transition of NWO (Netherlands' Organisation for Scientific Research) and chairman of DIFFER's new building steering group.

Guido Slokkers (DGBC) awards the Breeam-Excellent certificate for DIFFER's new building to Wim van Saarloos (NWO) - photo: Alex Poelman


For more information please contact DIFFER's info [28] differ [368] nl (subject: Opening%20DIFFER) (communication department).