Kristian Thygesen from CNG receives the Elite Research Prize 2019

06. March 2019

Professor Kristian Sommer Thygesen, from the Center of Excellence CNG, is among this year’s five prize winners of the prestigious Elite Research Prizes. The prizes are given annually by the Ministry for Higher Education and Science to outstanding researchers under 45 years of age and of international excellence.

Kristian Sommer Thygesen.
Kristian Sommer Thygesen. Photo: Søren Kjeldgaard

Kristian Sommer Thygesen is a professor at the DNRF’s Center for Nanostructured Graphene (CNG), at the Technical University of Denmark and one of this year’s five recipients of the Elite Research Prize, for his research on two-dimensional materials. Professor Thygesen received the prize because, over the last couple of years, he has built the world’s most extensive library of two-dimensional materials – a library that adds up to 4000 materials today. Furthermore, Professor Thygesen has published more than 150 scientific articles, has been quoted 8000 times by other researchers, and has received a number of grants, including an ERC Consolidator Grant in 2018.

Through quantum physics and the university’s supercomputer, containing thousands of internally connected calculations, Professor Thygesen discover new possible materials. That way, he is able to determine the different properties of the materials and thus gain important information and indicators on whether the materials will be suitable for different purposes.

However, a lot of the materials Professor Thygesen works with in his research do not exist. They are, in fact, hypothetical, just like graphene was until 2004, and only exist inside the supercomputer. But according to Professor Thygesen, about 1000 of the theoretical materials will most likely be manufactured and perhaps used within fields such as electronics, batteries, and solar cells, or will be used to catalyze the manufacturing of sustainable energy or in components that can be used in quantum computers.

“Computers have become so fast and the methods so accurate that we can make calculations of the properties of these materials in the computer with an accuracy comparable to that achieved in a laboratory. And—mind you—we can do it much faster. It’s a huge advantage—and a major step forward—because it means that the researchers who are to develop the new technologies can save a lot of time and focus exclusively on the materials that can potentially be used for something,” said Thygesen.

Watch Prof. Thygesen talk about his research in a video from the Ministry for Higher Education and Science here (in Danish).

The prize ceremony was held on February 28 and was awarded by HRH Crown Princess Mary and the Minister for Education and Science, Tommy Ahlers, in the Copenhagen Opera House. The prize includes a monetary award of 1.2 million DKK, where 200,000 is a personal award and 1,000,000 goes to research activities.

“Today we honor the best, the most talented within their research field. The recipients work to solve big societal challenges, make us healthier and increase our knowledge of ourselves and society. The researchers receive the Elite Research Prizes for their outstanding results and for their unbreakable motivation to reach these results despite obstacles and detours, which are fundamental circumstances when one wants to create something new,” said the Minister for Higher Education and Science, Tommy Ahlers, at the ceremony.