Optical Condensed Matter Science

Mission statement

The aim is to identify, understand, and control the nature of various physical phenomena and functionalities of condensed matter systems. We approach this problem using a variety of linear and non-linear optical techniques and by developing microscopic models to describe the observed phenomena.


The research group Optical Condensed Matter Science is part of the Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials, a research institute within the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences of the University of Groningen. For education the group resorts under the school of Natural Sciences and Technology and actively takes part in the Physics Bachelor and Master programs, and in the Topmaster NanoScience.



Chemists and materials scientists from the University of Groningen and the FOM Foundation have found a way of ‘harvesting‘ infrared light more efficiently. For this they use special molecules, which act as light antennae to capture the energy from weak infrared light. The antennae transmit the energy to the nanoparticles they are attached to. These particles subsequently convert two weak captured photons into a single strong, energy-rich photon, a process termed upconversion. The new antennae molecules amplify this process 3300 times, which represents a considerable improvement for solar cells or medical imaging techniques, for example.

"Broadband dye-sensitized upconversion of near-infrared light"
Wenqiang Zou, Cindy Visser, Jeremio A. Maduro, Maxim S. Pshenichnikov & Jan C. Hummelen
Nature Photonics (2012). Online doi:10.1038/nphoton.2012.158

University press release

The paper was recently reviewed by News and Views of Nature Materials and Biophotonics

  We published, in coorporation with the universities of Cambridge (UK) and Mons (Belgium), an article in Science on the physics behind functionality of plastic solar cells. A crucial step in the charge transfer process was discovered that explains why this transfer is only partially efficient. This new knowledge paves the way to higher electricity yields of this sustainable source of energy.

"The Role of Driving Energy and Delocalised States for Charge Separation in Organic Semiconductors",
Artem A. Bakulin, Akshay Rao, Vlad G. Pavelyev, Paul H.M. van Loosdrecht, Maxim S. Pshenichnikov, Dorota Niedzialek, Jérôme Cornil, David Beljonne, and Richard H. Friend.
Science 335, page 1340-44 (2012)


Cover story Advanced Functional Materials Cover story Journal Physical Chemistry A

The cover picture of Advanced Functional Materials (Vol. 20, Issue 10, 2010), based on our publication :
"Bulk Heterojunctions: Ultrafast Hole-Transfer Dynamics in Polymer/PCBM Bulk Heterojunctions"
by Artem A. Bakulin, Jan C. Hummelen, Maxim S. Pshenichnikov and Paul H. M. van Loosdrecht.

"The active layer of the currently most efficient plastic photovoltaic cells is a blend of polymer and methanofullerene molecules. In their article M. S. Pshenichnikov et al. show that hole transfer upon methanofullerene excitation operates simultaneously with electron transfer as the charge generation process in plastic photovoltaics, at a staggering timescale of 30 fs."

The cover picture of Journal of Physical Chemistry A (Vol. 115, Issue 10, 2011), based on our publication :
"Hydrophobic Molecules Slow Down the Hydrogen-Bond Dynamics of Water"
Artem A. Bakulin and Maxim S. Pshenichnikov (Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials, University of Groningen)
Huib J. Bakker and Christian Petersen (FOM-Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics, the Netherlands)

"Two-dimensional vibrational spectroscopy reveals that water molecules possess much slower hydrogen bond dynamics in the hydration shell of hydrophobic molecular groups than in the bulk."

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