PhD-student: Femtosecond study of molecular cages and photocatalytic water splitting

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Molecular cages are self-organizing supramolecular systems that act as molecular sieves, allowing specific molecules/ions to enter the cage while blocking most other molecules and ions. This selectivity is of crucial importance in catalysis. Up to now, the molecular-scale structure and dynamics of molecular cages are not well understood. For instance, there are indications that these cages can contain highly organized water molecules that may play an important role in the selectivity of the molecular cage, for instance in the binding of the molecule/ion that enters the cage.

In this project you will study the structural dynamics of molecular cages using femtosecond two-dimensional infrared spectroscopy, probing the vibrations of the organic molecules and water molecules constituting the cage. In addition, you will study the dynamics of the cage following excitation of a photo-active molecule connected or embedded in the cage, using femtosecond visible/UV pump – infrared probe spectroscopy. These photo-active molecules will include photosensitizers and photocatalystst, for instance hydrogenase catalysts that reduce protons to hydrogen gas. At present several examples of hydrogenases exist, but they are quite unstable and their efficiency is low. We will investigate to which extent the embedding of a hydrogenase photocatalyst in a molecular cage can lead to stabilization (protection) of the photocatalyst and to an increase of the efficiency of hydrogen generation. In this project we will collaborate with the groups of Prof. dr. J. Reek and Prof. dr. S. Woutersen of the University of Amsterdam.

About the group

The Ultrafact Spectroscopy group studies the molecular-scale structural dynamics of complex liquids like water and aqueous solutions, and solids (e.g. ice and metal-organic-frameworks). This research is carried out with advanced (nonlinear) spectroscopic techniques including femtosecond  two-dimensional infrared spectroscopy,  vibrational surface sum-frequency generation, and GHz-THz dielectric relaxation spectroscopy.


You have a Masters degree in physics or physical chemistry. Experience with femtosecond lasers and/or nonlinear spectroscopy is a bonus.

Terms of employment

The position is intended as full-time (40 hours / week, 12 months / year) appointment in the service of the Netherlands Foundation of Scientific Research Institutes (NWO-I) for the duration of four years, with a starting salary of gross € 2,590 per month and a range of employment benefits. After successful completion of the PhD research a PhD degree will be granted. Several courses are offered, specially developed for PhD-students. AMOLF assists any new foreign PhD-student with housing and visa applications and compensates their transport costs and furnishing expenses.

Contact info

Prof.dr. Huib Bakker
Group leader Ultrafast Spectroscopy
Phone: +31 (0)20-754 7100

You can respond to this vacancy online via the button below.
Please annex your:
–  Resume;
–  Motivation on why you want to join the group (max. 1 page).

It is important to us to know why you want to join our team. This means that we will only consider your application if it entails your motivation letter.

Applications will be evaluated on a rolling basis and as soon as an excellent match is made, the position will be filled.

Online screening may be part of the selection.

AMOLF is highly committed to an inclusive and diverse work environment. Hence, we greatly encourage candidates from any personal background and perspective to apply.

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Job details

PhD-student: Femtosecond study of molecular cages and photocatalytic water splitting
Science Park 104 Amsterdam, Netherlands
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AMOLF carries out fundamental physics with an open eye for applications. The researchers work closely with universities, institutes, and companies.

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