Experimental Physicist Robert Bittl Receives ERC Synergy Grant Together with an International Team of Researchers

European Research Council grants international research team almost nine million euros / Experimental physicist at Freie Universität Berlin receives a share of over two million euros

Professor Robert Bittl, an experimental physicist at Freie Universität Berlin, is to receive over two million euros through an ERC Synergy Grant from the European Research Council (ERC) as part of a joint international research project. Four other researchers from four different countries will receive funding for the "Chirality and Spin Selectivity in Electron Transfer Processes: From Quantum Detection to Quantum Enabled Technologies - CASTLe" project. The ERC’s funding will amount to almost nine million euros in total. This is the first time that Freie Universität Berlin has received part of an ERC Synergy Grant.

Robert Bittl is an experimental physicist and expert in electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy and spin dynamics in biophysics as well as light energy conversion materials. He earned a doctorate in theoretical physics at Technische Universität München and was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Illinois and University of Stuttgart. He was awarded his postdoctoral university instruction qualifications in physical chemistry at Technische Universität Berlin and has been a professor of experimental physics at Freie Universität Berlin since 2001.

The research project, which is set to last six years, will begin work in spring 2023. In addition to Professor Bittl, the principal investigators include Italian chemist Roberta Sessoli from Università degli Studi di Firenze, American physical chemist Michael R. Wasielewski from Northwestern University, and Italian physicist Stefano Carretta from Università degli studi di Parma. The group will also cooperate closely with the Israeli physicist Ron Naaman, a pioneer in CISS research from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel. Bittl’s working group at Freie Universität Berlin includes three other research assistants who will also be working on the CASTLe project.

ERC Synergy Grants support small groups of two to four principal investigators to jointly address ambitious research problems that could not be addressed by the individual researchers and their teams working alone. The projects should enable substantial advances at the frontiers of knowledge, stemming, for example, from the cross-fertilization of scientific fields, from new productive lines of enquiry, or new methods and techniques, including unconventional approaches and investigations at the interface between established disciplines.

Bittl’s working group at Freie Universität Berlin applies methods from EPR spectroscopy to questions from fields as diverse as medical physics, molecular biophysics, and solid-state physics. The researchers gain profound insights into how solar cells work on a microscopic level and a molecular understanding of the principles behind functionality of biomolecules. The EPR methods are used to study paramagnetic centers that arise from unpaired electrons in the different sample types.