The European Research Council awards the ERC Starting Grant for top-level early-career scientists to Ellen Backus, who is working at the MPI-P. The physical chemist will receive funds for her scientific work amounting to 1.5 million euros for the next five years.
To do this she uses laser pulses to cause a vibration of the molecules, and then she measures the resonance of the molecular vibration. This allows conclusions to be drawn about the dynamics and interaction of the molecules. In a second step, a further laser pulse takes over the sun’s task: It splits the water molecules.
The pulses are comparable to the flashes of a stroboscope, but with durations of femtoseconds, which are 10-15 of a second. With these ultra-short time intervals it is now possible to sequentially record how the molecules move on the one hand and how they split on the other.
The photocatalytic splitting of water has great potential to produce hydrogen in an ecological and economic way. As previously forecasted, hydrogen as a source of energy will play a decisive role for covering energy requirements in future; however fewer losses have to be achieved during the reaction for it to become economical. Ellen Backus’ scientific work is concentrated on the fundamental processes that occur during splitting in order to understand the energy transport, and the molecules’ bond behavior.ERC Starting Grants are among the most prestigious grants awarded by the European Research Council for world-class researchers. They give the opportunity for top-level early-career scientists to conduct fundamental research and establish or consolidate their own research team. According to the ERC, last year, 500 research scientists and their projects were funded with a total of about 800 million euros.
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