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Rienk van Grondelle


  • Fellow
  • Bio-inspired Solar Energy


Google Scholar


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. (2014). Photosynthesis Exploits Quantum Coherence for Efficient Solar Energy Conversion. Nat. Phys. (10), 676–82.
  • Scholes, G. D., Fleming, G. R., Olaya-Castro, A., & Van Grondelle, R. (2011). Lessons from nature about solar light harvesting. Nature chemistry, 3(10), 763.
  • Krüger, T. P., Wientjes, E., Croce, R., & van Grondelle, R. (2011). Conformational switching explains the intrinsic multifunctionality of plant light-harvesting complexes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(33), 13516-13521.
  • Boeker, E., & Van Grondelle, R. (2011). Environmental physics: sustainable energy and climate change. John Wiley & Sons.
  • Romero, E., Van Stokkum, I. H., Novoderezhkin, V. I., Dekker, J. P., & Van Grondelle, R. (2010). Two different charge separation pathways in photosystem II. Biochemistry, 49(20), 4300-4307.

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