Rienk van Grondelle



  • Fellow
  • Bio-inspired Solar Energy


  • VU University
Department of Physics and Astronomy


  • The Netherlands


PhD (Biophysics), Leiden University
BSc (Physics/Experimental Physics), VU Amsterdam


Rienk van Grondelle is one of the world’s most influential experimental physicists working on the primary physical processes of photosynthesis.

Using the tools of ultrafast spectroscopy, he has made major contributions to elucidate the
fundamental physical mechanisms that underlie photosynthetic light harvesting and charge separation. He has developed theoretical tools to infer the effective electronic and molecular structure and dynamics from complex spectroscopic data. His work recently led to a fundamental new understanding of light-driven charge separation in the oxygen evolving photosynthetic reaction centre of plants. Using multi-dimensional electronic spectroscopy, he was able to show that, in photosynthesis, ultrafast charge separation is driven by specific molecular vibrations that allow electronic coherences to stay alive. Five years ago, van Grondelle proposed an explicit molecular model for photoprotection and
demonstrated that the major plant light harvesting complex operates as a nanoswitch, controlled by its biological environment. These results, of utmost importance for our understanding of photosynthesis, inspire technological solutions for artificial and/or redesigned photosynthesis, as a possible route towards sustainable energy production on a global scale.


Desmond Tutu professor, 2014

Humboldt Research prize, 2012

ERC Advanced Investigator grant, 2010

Fysica prize, Nederlandse Natuurkunde Vereniging (Dutch Physical Society), 2010

Akademie hoogleraar (Academy professor) of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2009

Relevant Publications

Romero, E. et al. "Photosynthesis Exploits Quantum Coherence for Efficient Solar Energy Conversion." Nat. Phys. 10 (2014): 676–82.

Scholes, G.D. et al. "Lessons from nature about solar light harvesting." Nat. Chem. 3, no. 10 (2011): 763–74.

Krüger, T.P.J. et al. "Conformational switching of a light-harvesting protein suggests multifunctionality." PNAS USA (2011).

Boeker, E., and R. van Grondelle. Environmental Physics. 3rd ed. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons, 2011.

Romero, E. et al. "Two Different Charge Separation Pathways in Photosystem II." Biochemistry 49, no. 20 (May 2010): 4300–4307.

Ruban, A.V. et al. "Identification of a mechanism for photoprotective energy dissipation in higher plants." Nature 450, no. 7169 (2007): 575–79.

van Grondelle, R., and V. I. Novoderezhkin. "Energy transfer in photosynthesis: experimental insights and quantitative models." Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. 8, no. 7 (2006): 793-807.

Boeker, E., and R. van Grondelle. Environmental Science: Physical Principles and Applications. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons, 2001.

van Amerongen, H. et al. Photosynthetic Excitons. Singapore: World Scientific,

Boeker, E., and R. van Grondelle. Environmental Physics. 2nd ed. Chichester:
John Wiley & Sons, 1999.

Boeker, E., and R. van Grondelle. Environmental Physics. Chichester: John
Wiley & Sons, 1995.


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