The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation has granted a total of SEK 131 million to research projects at Stockholm University. The projects were considered to be of the highest international level and have the potential to lead to future scientific breakthroughs.

A new method to make chemical products without handling dangerous intermediary chemicals

Professor Belén Martín-Matute, Department of Organic Chemistry, got 35.785 million kronor for her project “Catalytic Composites for Sustainable Synthesis.”

The world has an abundance of water and carbon dioxide, but they are too stable to be of interest to industry. However, with one oxygen atom removed, they become hydrogen gas and carbon monoxide respectively. Both of these are extremely useful in plastics, agricultural chemicals and lubricants. The problem is that hydrogen gas is extremely flammable when mixed with air and that carbon monoxide is deadly when breathed. But, if you could use them as soon as they’re made you could sidestep that dangerous middle stage.

“By using a porous composite material, hydrogen gas and carbon monoxide can be used in the next chemical process immediately. So we can use renewable resources without needing complicated experimental setup while also minimising the risk to people who work with the chemicals,” says Belén Martín-Matute.

A new instrument will explain how the sun’s magnetic field heats its atmosphere

Jorrit Leenaarts, The Institute for Solar Physics, Department of Astronomy, got 33.95 million kronor for his project “Fundamental Magnetic Processes in the Solar Chromosphere.”

Contrary to what you might think, it actually gets warmer when you move outward from the surface of the sun. Jorrit Leenaarts, together with the Max Planck Institute in Germany, is building HeSP, a new instrument which will allow researchers to study the sun’s magnetic field in 3D for the first time.

“Our measurements will become more effective and have less static than today. When we can combine the data from HeSP with those from other instruments, we will be able to clarify and explain how the magnetic field heats up the sun’s chromosphere,” says Jorrit Leenaarts.

X-ray lasers can help solve energy and climate problems

Professor Anders Nilsson, Department of Physics, got 32 million kronor for his projects “Probing Catalysis in Operando Conditions and Real Time.”

Theoretical and experimental physicists from Stockholm University and Stanford combine forces to study the conversion of carbon dioxide to chemicals like ethane and ethanol, processes which may prove important in the development of fuel cells.

“No one knows the details of how carbon dioxide is converted to a chemical like ethane. With an X-ray laser we can study the transformations in real time and find what controls the pathways as well as looking at the molecules in different states,” says Anders Nilsson.

A new way to measure makes a better climate model

Professor Michael Tjernström, Department of Meteorology and Bolin Centre for Climate Research, got 29.2 million kronor for his project “Arctic Climate across Scales.”

“We don’t know currently which processes are causing rapid climate change in the Arctic. The estimates of the Arctic’s future climate are uncertain even with today’s best climate models,” says Michael Tjernström.

Equipping the Swedish icebreaker Oden with an automated atmospheric observatory is just one part. The project focuses on three main areas of the Arctic climate: the impact of large-scale weather events in the atmosphere, how clouds form in the Arctic, and finally the energy exchange among the sea, ice, and atmosphere. The new knowledge of these processes in the Arctic will be used to improve current climate models in order to better answer future climate questions.

Grant to Uppsala project with Stockholm University researchers

The research project “1000 Ancient Genomes,” led by Mattias Jakobsson, Professor of Genetics at Uppsala University, has also received a grant from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation. The project includes Anders Götherström, professor at the Department for Archaeology and Classical Studies and Jan Storå, professor at the Department for Archaeology and Classical Studies and Osteoarchaeological Research Laboratory, both at Stockholm University.

The project seeks to better understand humanity’s genetic variations by analysing evidence from Europe and Asia ranging in age from 1000 to 50,000 years ago. The study will provide a unique insight into Eurasia’s prehistory and promises new insights on how mobility and migration affected ancient cultures.