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University of Bayreuth, Press release No. 188/2021, 21 December 2021

High-pressure research: Prestigious awards for three young scientists from Bayreuth 

International recognition for materials science high-pressure research at the University of Bayreuth: Young scientists Dr. Elena Bykova, Dr. Maxim Bykov, and Dr. Dominique Laniel were awarded prestigious science prizes in 2021. They each received funding of € 1.5 to 2.0 million to set up their own high-pressure laboratories in Sweden, Germany, and the United Kingdom. The three researchers are members of the high-pressure research group led by Prof. Dr. Natalia Dubrovinskaia and Prof. Dr. Leonid Dubrovinsky, or are still closely associated with it after previous research stays in Bayreuth.

Successful in high-pressure research: Dr. Elena Bykova, Dr. Maxim Bykov, and Dr. Dominique Laniel (left to right)

  • Dr Elena Bykova has been appointed Wallenberg Academy Fellow 2021 by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, the most prominent private research funding organisation in Sweden. At Linköping University's Faculty of Physics, Chemistry and Biology, she will lead a dedicated laboratory for high-pressure materials science research. In 2015, she received her PhD from the University of Bayreuth, and after postdoctoral stays in Germany and the USA, she is now continuing her research back at the Bavarian Research Institute of Experimental Geochemistry & Geophysics (BGI).

  • Dr. Maxim Bykov recently received funding from the Emmy Noether Programme of the German Research Foundation (DFG). He is the independent head of a junior research group at the Institute of Inorganic Chemistry at the University of Cologne, where he is also setting up a laboratory for high-pressure research. After completing his doctorate at the University of Bayreuth in 2015, he initially conducted research as a postdoc in Bayreuth and the USA.

  • Dr Dominique Laniel has been awarded a Future Leaders Fellowship by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), a public research funding body in the UK. At the University of Edinburgh (the School of Physics and Astronomy and the Centre for Science at Extreme Conditions), he will be responsible for managing a high-pressure laboratory. He currently works as a research associate in the Materials Physics & Technology under Extreme Conditions research group at the University of Bayreuth. After completing his doctorate at University Pierre and Marie Curie (UPMC) in Paris, he came to Bayreuth in 2018 as a fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation to continue his work on high-pressure research.

"We are very pleased that Elena, Maxim, and Dominique will now have the opportunity to set up and be responsible for high-pressure laboratories of their own, where they can develop innovative research ideas and use state-of-the-art technologies specifically for the synthesis of new materials. These materials, which include superconductors, for example, could well form the basis of completely new areas of technology," says Prof. Dr. Natalia Dubrovinskaia. The Bayreuth materials physicist reminds us that innovations in materials science has already had unexpected consequences in the past: "Materials such as steel, plastics, carbon fibres, and semiconducting silicon are now taken for granted as part of our everyday lives, but they also once fundamentally changed society."

In high-pressure research, existing materials are subjected to extreme pressures that are hundreds of thousands of times higher than the pressure of the Earth's atmosphere. Laser light heats the materials under pressure and changes them in such a way that new, previously unknown properties emerge. One example is new nitride compounds synthesised at BGI, which are characterised by high energy density or extreme hardness, for example. "The focus of materials science and technology today is on the research and synthesis of materials that can promote sustainable development, such as recyclable materials or materials for hydrogen and energy storage. Synthesis under extreme conditions, such as high pressure and high temperatures, could play an increasingly important role in this. Our three award-winning young scientists have already made important research contributions to the production of such materials here in Bayreuth," says Prof. Dr Leonid Dubrovinsky from the Bavarian Research Institute of Experimental Geochemistry & Geophysics.

Prof. Dr. Natalia Dubrovinskaia

Material Physics & Technology under Extreme Conditions
Laboratory for Crystallography
University of Bayreuth

Prof. Dr. Leonid Dubrovinsky

Academic Director
Bavarian Research Institute of Experimental Geochemistry & Geophysics (BGI)
University of Bayreuth