Scientific prize

Nicolas Vandewalle, winner of the ELGRA medal

Professor of physics and director of the Group of Research and Applications in Statistical Physics (GRASP) of the University of Liege, Nicolas Vandewalle has just been awarded the ELGRA medal for his work in the field of granular materials under reduced gravity.


he ELGRA Medal (European Low Gravity Research Association), awarded every two years, rewards a European scientist for his or her significant contributions to the physical sciences related to microgravity, and thus to experimentation on the International Space Station (ISS).

This year, Prof. Nicolas Vandewalle, physicist and director of GRASP (Research Unit CESAM / Faculty of Sciences) of the University of Liege receives this medal for his research in the field of granular materials under reduced gravity, a crucial subject for the next Artemis missions to the moon. Indeed, most of the celestial objects targeted for future space exploration missions have soils composed of grains and rocks (regolith on the Moon and sand on Mars). Landing on the Moon, digging, extracting materials, or even just driving on dust represent huge challenges because granular materials do not behave the same way under reduced gravity. Examples include the rover stuck on Mars, or the lunar dust covering the spacesuits of the Apollo missions

To overcome these enormous difficulties, Prof. Nicolas Vandewalle is conducting research on the behavior of grains in microgravity. He co-leads with his colleague Eric Falcon (Université Paris Cité) the project SpaceGrains  which gathers 17 international teams around an instrument that will soon be launched on the ISS [1]

[1] S.Aumaître, R.P.Behringer, A.Cazaubiel, E.Clément, J.Crassous, D.J.Durian, E.Falcon, S.Fauve, D.Fischer, A.Garcimartin, Y.Garrabos, M.Hou, X.Jia, C.Lecoutre, S.Luding, D.Maza, M.Noirhomme, E.Opsomer, F.Palencia, T.Pöschel, J.Schockmel, M.Sperl, R.Stannarius, N.Vandewalle, and P.Yu, An instrument for studying granular media in low-gravity environment, Rev. Sci. Instrum. 89, 075103 (2018)

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