New Zealand Embassy Berlin, Germany

New Zealand based scientist wins prestigious Humboldt Prize

Scientist Professor Peter Schwerdtfeger, whose research has helped explain the physics and chemistry behind the colour of gold, has been awarded a prestigious Humboldt Research Award.

The award, also known as the Humboldt Prize, is given by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, in Bonn, Germany, to academics whose new theories, discoveries or insights have had a significant impact on their discipline and who expect to continue producing cutting-edge research in the future.

Professor Schwerdtfeger is Director of the Centre for Theoretical Chemistry and Physics at Massey University's Institute for Advanced Study in Albany.

He plans to continue his work in little researched areas "beyond conventional quantum chemistry", including complex interactions that underpin real life scenarios such as the recent Pike River mine disaster caused by a methane gas explosion. "The reaction of methane with oxygen is not well understood and molecular dynamics simulation would help to understand these complex chemical reactions," he says.

His work on the chemistry and physics of gold over the past 20 years has led to new understandings of what gives gold its unique yellow colour. "The understanding of the chemistry of the elements changed substantially over the last three decades, as chemists slowly realised that Einstein's Theory of Relativity cannot be neglected anymore for heavy elements [like gold]," he says.

The Humboldt Research Award, named after the late Prussian naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt, is valued at 60,000 Euros.

 

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