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Rienk Van Grondelle

Rienk van Grondelle is one of the most influential experimental physicists working on the primary physical processes of photosynthesis world-wide. 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 center 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 he 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.

Recipient of 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

E. Romero et al, "Photosynthesis Exploits Quantum Coherence for Efficient Solar Energy Conversion," Nat. Phys., vol. 10, pp. 676-682, 2014.

G. D. Scholes, "Lessons from nature about solar light harvesting," Nat. Chem. vol. 3, no. 10, pp. 763-774, 2011.

T. P. J. Krüger et al, "Conformational switching of a light-harvesting protein suggests multifunctionality," PNAS USA, pp. 13516-1352, 2011.

E. Romero et al, "Two Different Charge Separation Pathways in Photosystem II," Biochemistry, vol. 49, no. 20, pp. 4300-4307, May 2010.

A. V. Ruban et al, "Identification of a mechanism for photoprotective energy dissipation in higher plants," Nature, vol. 450, no. 7169, pp. 575-579, 2007.

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


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

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

H. van Amerongen et al, Photosynthetic Excitons, Singapore: World Scientific, 2000.

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

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



Senior Fellow Bio-inspired Solar Energy


VU UniversityDepartment of Physics and Astronomy


PhD (Biophysics) Leiden University

BSc (Physics/Experimental Physics) VU Amsterdam


The Netherlands

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