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

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

Published Deadline Location
26 Apr 23 Oct Amsterdam

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Job description

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.




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

Conditions 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.


Ultrafast Spectroscopy

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.


  • PhD
  • 1209448


Science Park 104, 1098 XG, Amsterdam

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