How do clouds form? Why are viruses transmitted? These simple questions are major scientific challenges, and they might be tightly connected! It is well known that water droplets and ice nucleate at mineral dust and salt particles, but onlyrecently it became clear that also biological micro- and nanoobjects should play a role, e.g. bacteria and even viruses in sea spray. We will have a physics-based view on model biosurfaces (e.g. proteins), exposed to similar conditions. Our aim is to investigate nanostructures that water and ice form on protein (and other) assemblies. For this, we have set up various electron microscopes: An environmental scanning electron microscope (ESEM) that works under conditions of ice and liquid water (-20oC to +10oC, up to 20 mbar water vapour), a “wetSTEM” for the same conditions, and a vacuum high-resolution SEM. We
will also establish a new correlation microscopy, which marries the SEM techniques with scanning force microscopy: Images of the same biosurface will be taken with in-situ (wet) AFM, and by SEM. Real time movies will give us a nanoscale dynamic view of hydration and wetting events. We investigate faster dynamics, namely of water molecules in vicinity to the biosurfaces, together with the Cerveny group in the neighbouring materials science institute CFM-MPC.
SUPERVISORS: Ikerbasque Prof. Dr. Alexander Bittner, nanogune.eu; Prof. Dr. Silvina Cerveny, cfm.ehu.es; Our partner university is UPV-EHU in San Sebastián.
SHORT DESCRIPTION OF OUR GROUPS: Alexander Bittner’s group focuses on self-assembly of biomolecules, and on confined water. We welcome self-motivated students, who are willing to learn a broad range of new experimental techniques from biochemistry to nanoscale physics. Silvina Cerveny’s group focuses on the dynamics and thermal properties of water and biomolecules.
SUITABLE FOR: Physics or materials science students; chemists and biologists with a keen interest in physics.
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