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The JUNIOR STAR Grants, awarded by the Grant Agency of the Czech Republic (GA ČR) on 4 November 2022, are intended to promote excellence in budding outstanding scientists. This will enable two scientists from Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Ing. Jakub Cikhardt, Ph.D. from the Department of Physics and Ing. Robert Pěnička, Ph.D. from the Department of Cybernetics, to fund their basic research projects, which are expected to have a significant scientific impact on a global scale, over the next five years.

Five winners of this prestigious award will be working at the faculty. In 2020, doc. Miloslav Čapek from the Department of Electromagnetic Fields and Dr. Giorgios Tolias, and a year later Dr. Zuzana Kúkelová (both from the Visual Recognition Group of the Department of Cybernetics) have achieved this award.

The five-year projects with a budget of up to CZK 25 million aim to support the best budding scientists within 8 years of obtaining their PhD. They will be able to pursue their own research topics, but also to start their own research group. In the third year of the JUNIOR STAR competition, a total of 23 projects have been recommended for funding, most of which will be carried out at Charles University (5 projects), the Czech Technical University in Prague (4 projects), the University of Chemical Technology in Prague (4 projects) and institutes of the Academy of Sciences (3 projects). More than half a billion crowns are available for these projects over the next five years.

Development of autonomous drones will help save lives

The topic of Robert Pěnicka's project is the research of methods for controlling and planning the flight of autonomous drones in unknown environments with obstacles. His goal is to bring the autonomy of drones to the level of human pilots, so that they can fly even in unknown environments with great agility and incredible speed.

The proposed methods can be used in the search for lost people. "When a child is lost in the woods, time is essential factor. Therefore, deployed autonomous drones must fly through unknown terrain as quickly as possible," suggests one application of his research, Dr. Pěnička, who works in the Multirobotic Systems Group.

For autonomous systems, such tasks are very challenging because with limited on-board computer resources, they have to process large amounts of data to determine their own position, to model the environment, and then to plan collision-free trajectories and fly them accurately. All autonomous flight methods must work very fast to allow, for example, re-planning when a new obstacle is detected.

Basic research on extreme energy density plasma

Intense electromagnetic pulses: generation, characterization and control. This is the name of the supported project of Jakub Cikhardt from FEL CTU, which falls into the field of fundamental research on plasmas with extreme energy density. Such an environment can only be created with the help of pulsed devices operating at the limits of current technological capabilities. Typically, such a device is a terawatt or petawatt laser system, or a pulsed high-voltage generator.

The actual topic of the research is the study of the emission of extremely intense electromagnetic pulses called EMP, which occurs in high energy density plasmas. "Although this phenomenon has been known for quite a long time, its exact mechanisms are still unclear. Clarifying these mechanisms would make a major contribution to controlling and suppressing EMP in applications where it is undesirable, such as laser acceleration of ions in biomedicine, or, conversely, to amplifying it, for example, in electromagnetic compatibility testing and many other applications," explains Jakub Cikhardt.

Both scientists will use the grant funds to build their own teams, ensure quality research and participate in international conferences. In addition, it will open up opportunities for physicist Cikhardt to conduct experiments on foreign equipment.

More information about the JUNIOR STAR grants from GA ČR can be found via the link




Photo courtesy of: Petr Neugebauer, FEL ČVUT