Here you will find some suggested projects. For further information, contact the persons responsible for each project.
We are interested in revealing molecular scale processes influencing the climate. The main subject of our investigations in this field are aerosols. These are particles with a wide range of diameters immersed in gas. Aerosols are released into the atmosphere in large amounts from e.g. vegetation, dust, combustion engines or sea spray. Thus, aerosols play an important role in atmospheric science since they impact the climate in various ways. On one hand they scatter sunlight as well as infrared radiation from the earth’s surface, they act as seeds for cloud condensation and they facilitate chemical reactions at their surface. All these aspects happen on a big scale in the atmosphere and are complex. Many methods nowadays used in atmospheric science do not deliver molecular-level information and thus our knowledge about processes in aerosol particles on the microscopic level is still limited. We utilize photoelectron spectroscopy to aerosol particles to obtain molecular level information about selected aspects of aerosols and thus contribute to an overall understanding of their impact on the climate.
Our experiments are usually conducted at the synchrotron light sources SOLEIL (Paris, France), BESSY II (Berlin, Germany), SIRIUS (Campinas, Brazil) and MAX IV (Lund, Sweden). The teams working on these projects consist of researchers with various skills and cultural backgrounds to cover as many aspects as possible of such a broad subject. Therefore, interested students should be open to acquire knowledge from various scientific fields during the project work and ideally have a background in chemistry, physics or a related field.
Fundamental Processes in Liquids
Our research addresses questions that are at the very basis of e.g. atmospheric chemistry, biophysics and our renewable energy related projects. This work focusses on intermolecular interactions in liquids (e.g. hydrogen bonds in water) and how they react to changes of the system like the solution of salts or varying temperatures. We aim to understand how such changes take effect on the molecular level and the tool for our investigation is photoelectron spectroscopy. This technique allows us to obtain spacial and temporal information about our samples. Thus we can investigate the surface propensity of solutes in a liquid or investigate dynamics on a femtosecond timescale. Since we strive for a holistic understanding, we also combine our experiments with investigations on clusters or molecules in the gas phase.
Our experiments usually take place at the synchrotron light sources SOLEIL, Paris (France), BESSY, Berlin (Germany), MAX IV, Lund (Sweden) or LNLS / SIRIUS, Campinas (Brazil). During the experiments we work closely together with scientists from other institutions with diverse scientific backgrounds.
Interested students ideally have a background in chemistry, physics or a related subject and should be open to acquire knowledge from other scientific fields since our projects often use methods from physics applied to questions motivated from chemistry.
Biophysics and Biochemistry
Our group addresses how biological processes work on the molecular scale and we employ photoelectron spectroscopy to obtain the desired, molecular-level information. Currently, we are working on two main topics:
- Radiation-induced damage to biologically relevant molecules
- The surface propensity of organic molecules in aqueous solutions
Whenever we travel in high altitude (e.g. flying in a plane) or receive an X-ray of the skeleton, we are subjected to radiation induced damage. If high-energy photons interact with matter they can trigger a multitude of reactions we currently lack detailed knowledge of. Consider two cases: A photon hits a biomolecule directly and ionizes it. The molecule may either dissociate directly or undergoes further relaxation and then breaks apart. Which of the two cases takes place? That is determined by which molecular level has been initially ionized and the structure of the molecule. However, we are currently not able to predict precisely which parameters favour one over the other process and that’s what our research focusses on.
Surface propensity of molecules
The biological relevance of the second aspect of our research, the surface propensity of biomolecules, becomes apparent when considering all the interfaces between aqueous solutions and e.g. protein surfaces or cell membranes in the body. We try to learn under which conditions ions and molecules are either repelled or drawn to these interfaces and what the driving forces for these dynamics are. By understanding these, we contribute to resolving questions about e.g. protein folding and the transfer of molecules through membranes. This aspect of our research is closely related to the fundamental properties of solutions, which is another one of our research topics.
We use synchrotron light sources in Europe and abroad for our experiments. The most commonly used synchrotron facilities by our group are SOLEIL (Paris, France), BESSY II (Berlin, Germany), MAX IV (Lund, Sweden) and SIRIUS (Campinas, Brazil). The research projects are carried out in collaboration with other researchers from all around the globe and with very different scientific backgrounds. Therefore, interested students should be open to acquire knowledge from other scientific fields but their own as part of the project work and should have a background in biology, chemistry, physics or a related field.
Catalysis and Renewable Energy
The earth receives more energy from the sun through radiation than we need – even in our energy-hungry technological society. Methods for harvesting this energy are in development but the efficient storage of the harvested energy is a major challenge. One obvious approach is to transform electrical energy into chemical energy e.g. by splitting water or carbon dioxide. In order to use these electrochemical reactions efficiently and on a large scale, we need cheap catalysts with high turnover rates and a long lifetime.
In order to develop the next generation of efficient and durable catalysts, our research group collaborates with other researchers from Uppsala University and the University of Sao Paulo (Brazil). We strive to obtain a molecular level understanding of the function of the catalysts and all the individual steps of the catalytic process. In order to achieve this we employ photoelectron spectroscopy to investigate catalysts. The sample environment during the investigation ranges from solid state samples, gaseous samples to complexes dissolved in water.
Our experiments are conducted at synchrotron light sources SOLEIL (Paris, France), BESSY II (Berlin, Germany), MAX IV (Lund, Sweden) and SIRIUS (Campinas, Brazil). The experimental teams are composed of researchers with varying professional and cultural background.
Interested students ideally have a background in chemistry, physics or a related field and should be open to acquire knowledge from other scientific areas since our projects reach across the borders of traditional scientific subjects.
Design, construction and implementation of a XUV-spectrometer for characterization and optimization of harmonic generation
In this project you will be responsible for the design and construction of a grating based spectrometer in the XUV region. You will evaluate a couple of different design proposals, and based on your evaluation you will purchase the parts needed to construct the spectrometer. With our help you will then implement your solution in our existing experimental setup.
Implementation and initial testing of an experimental chamber for ultra-high vacuum (UHV)
You will be responsible for ensuring that an (already existing) experimental chamber for studies of clean surfaces is fully functional. You will be working mainly with experimental equipment, especially for UHV experiments, where you will learn about the different components, their function and different critical parameters. Once the chamber is operational for UHV experiments you will be conducting the first measurements using our new photon source HELIOS.
Molecular dynamics simulations of protein molecules in laser fields
Simulation study of how the native atomic structure of a protein is affected as it is exposed to a laserfield. Lasers are used as optical tweezers and this study aims to understand how the electric field, the laser field, actually affects the protein structure. The project will involve learning how to use the molecular dynamics program GROMACS.
Validating water models for molecular modeling
In molecular modeling water is often present in one way or another. There are over 50 different water models used by scientists when modeling different phenomena. This project is about comparing the physical and chemical properties of a subset of all the available models to decide which models that are good at what. The project will involve learning how to use the molecular dynamics program GROMACS and learning how to evaluate simulations.
RF-filtering and impedance matching for electron lenses used in time-of-flight spectroscopy
We want to convert a scientific apparatus, running adequately with short X-ray pulses with a repetition rate of 1.25 MHz into an instrument that can handle the load from an X-ray source with much higher repetition rate having occasional “lone” pulses at 1.25 MHz. If you want to take part in this development (with first results already achieved) you should be ready to, together with us, develop, build and try out devices that minimizes the RF-interference due to oscillating electric fields inside our instrument.
Shockwaves in materials induced by an X-ray laser
X-ray lasers are new types of lasers, which produce extremely intense and short X-ray pulses. In this project you will use computer simulations to study how shockwaves can be created in a material (e.g. metal) when it is hit by a focused laser beam and turns into a plasma. This will help us understand how the structure of the material changes and how to control such an extreme process.
Nanoscale Device Physics
Device physics forms the foundation for modern day electronic marvels. Understanding the charge and spin transport, their manipulation in new functional materials is key to the future electronic devices, energy and sensing applications. Nanoscale device Physics is an exciting area of research, where we fabricate nanoscale devices with innovative designs, through state-of-the-art nanofabrication techniques in cleanroom and perform charge/spin transport experiments to uncover the prospect of novel materials and their devices for future applications. The following is a brief outline of the current projects.
Novel graphene spintronic devices
Experimentally realized in 2004, graphene, a one atom thick crystal of carbon atoms placed in a honeycomb lattice, is a material with superlative properties and holds promise for next generation electronics. Spin of electrons, a quantum mechanical property, is responsible for magnetism in solids and forms the basis for an evolving field called ‘Spintronics’. Most successful existing applications of spintronics are the high capacity memory storage devices such as hard disks and MRAM. Research in spintronics is a way for future low power, faster electronic devices. Graphene is prime to spintronics, because it is the best known material for transporting spin information of electrons over long distances. It is anticipated to play a major role in the future of spin based devices in electronics. In this project, our aim is to investigate new spintronic devices of graphene with an aim to enhance their performance with novel device schemes like graphene devices on new substrates that have never been explored before.
Charge and spin transport in new 2D crystals
Two dimensional crystals (2D) are a new class of materials which show special properties for their confined geometry. These crystals are like atomic planes pulled out of bulk crystals having layered structure (stacks of 2D crystals). Graphene, an atomically thin semi-metal is one such crystal that is widely studied and reported in the last decade. In addition, there are semiconducting crystals such as MoS2, WS2, Black Phosphorus which are promising for future transistors, insulating crystals such as h-BN, Fluorographene promising for substrates and tunnel barrier applications, and there are other crystals with exotic properties like topological insulators such as Bi2Se3, Bi2Te3 etc. The number of materials in 2D crystal library is increasing continuously, making the field a lot to be explored. In this project, going beyond the existing crystals, we will investigate the charge and spin transport in new/emerging 2D crystals that show long term promise for applications in nanoelectronic and spintronics.
Magnetic domain wall based devices
A magnetic domain wall separates two domains (regions in space having different directions of magnetic moment) of magnetization in a magnetic material. In the past decade a significant understanding has been developed about the manipulation of domain walls using charge or spin current and their prospect for memory and logic applications. It is now possible to engineer magnetic nanostructures with specific magnetic orientation and domain walls, which can be further manipulated by external magnetic, electrical or optical stimulus. In spite of previous developments, there is plenty of room for new developments that can form the basis for newer technologies. In this project, our aim would be to engineer magnetic nanowires with domain walls, image the domain walls using Magnetic force microscopy and manipulate them using charge and pure spin currents. The nanowires will be fabricated using the state of the art e-beam lithography technique at the Ångström Microstructure Laboratory, which will be followed by the said experiments. In the next step such magnetic structures will be integrated with non-magnetic spin current carriers such as aluminum or graphene nanowires in pursuit of novel spintronic devices.
Molecular dynamics of organic molecules on water surfaces
The behavior of small organic molecules on water surfaces is important for atmospheric chemistry. Molecules that show surface preference have a larger possibility to interact with the surrounding atmosphere. We have studied how small organic molecules such as carboxylic acids and alcohols behave in a water/gas interphase both experimentally and using molecular dynamics. This project is focused on doing a simulation study of how the structure of different organic molecules affect the molecules surface preference. Simulations will be done using the molecular dynamics package GROMACS and will be strongly connected to experimental results that from studies at synchrotron source such as MAXlab.
High-resolution imaging of single particles using X-ray Free Electron Lasers by reducing the background scattering of gases
Structure solution from single particles such as proteins is the holy grail of structural biology. This was one of the goals in mind during the development of X-ray free electron lasers (XFELs). XFELs with their intense brilliance and pulse length on femtosecond scale mean a paradigm shift for structural biology.
So far high-resolution single particle imaging (SPI) has not been achieved. Compared to other methods, SPI suffers from low signal intensity, which is determined by the sample properties and the XFEL parameters. In order to improve the signal to noise ratio the sample environment must be improved. With our current setup, an electrospray aerosolizer used for sample delivery in combination with the ‘Uppsala injector’, we are able to deliver particles of 70-2000 nm diameter into the XFEL-beam.
The project aims at reducing the background noise created by various gases used for aerosol injection, by using specially a designed capillary head to reduce the mass flow of sheath gases required to maintain a Taylor cone. And to track particles down to 20 nm using Rayleigh-scattering microscopy as they exit the injector.
Interested students ideally have a background in engineering, physics or a related field and have some knowledge coding in python not compulsory. Also, should be open to acquire knowledge from other scientific areas since our projects reach across the borders of traditional scientific subjects.
Tej Varma Yenupuri