Dr. Marijn van Huis is head of the electron microscopy center EM Square of Utrecht University, and is Associate Professor in the Soft Condensed Matter group of the Debye Institute for Nanomaterials Science. He is an expert both in transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and density functional theory (DFT) calculations, and uses these experimental and simulation tools to study nanoparticles and nanocrystals with novel physical properties. Please follow the link for an overview of the ERC Consolidator Grant program NANO-INSITU. Dr. van Huis is leading a small research unit dedicated to revealing the atomic structure of nanomaterials using experimental and simulation tools.
Colloidal heterogeneous nanostructures are novel materials with outstanding, and often tuneable, physical and chemical properties. These nanoparticles are synthesized under wet chemical conditions and undergo structural and chemical transformations upon heating at low temperature, upon irradiation with light or electrons, or upon exposure to gases or liquids. Currently, these effects are not well understood. It is my goal to identify and develop physical mechanisms that can be employed for the manipulation of heterogeneous nanostructures inside and outside the solution in which they are synthesized. For that purpose, we perform experiments inside the transmission electron microscope (TEM), so-called in-situ TEM. Through recently developed ground-breaking technology, transitions at elevated temperatures can now be imaged with atomic resolution and in real time, and it has also become possible to monitor changes in liquids (chemical transformations, self-assembly of nanoparticles) using Liquid Cell TEM methodology.
In conjunction with the experiments, detailed quantum mechanical and semi-empirical atomistic simulations are conducted to unravel the energetics of the atomic-scale reconstruction mechanisms. In particular density functional theory (DFT) calculations on defects, surfaces, and 2D materials provide valuable insight into their equilibrium structure, energetics, and electronic and magnetic properties. I strongly feel that experiment and theory need to be combined in an adequate way in order to establish structure-property relationships and to identify the relevant driving forces for the transformations. Understanding of these nanoscale transformations will enable finding and designing new types of nanostructures with novel functionalities that can help in the transition towards a more sustainable society.