Abel group - Physical Chemistry of Complex Systems and Technology


The Abel group with its focus on "Physical Chemistry of Complex Systems and Technology" investigates the physical and chemical properties of complex materials and systems, often at the intersection of chemistry, physics, and engineering. This multidisciplinary field aims to understand the fundamental principles governing the behavior and interaction of complex systems, and to apply this knowledge in developing new technologies and materials. Specific research areas (sub-groups) are:

1) Chemical Sensing and Space Chemistry Technologies

The team "Chemical Sensing and Space Chemistry Technologies" focuses on several specialized and interdisciplinary areas. The main objectives and activities include:

Development of Chemical Sensors for Space Applications: Designing and optimizing sensors that can detect and analyze chemical species in the harsh environments of space. This includes sensors for detecting water, organic compounds, and gases in planetary atmospheres or on surfaces.
Space Chemistry Studies: Investigating the chemical processes that occur in space, including the chemistry of interstellar clouds, planetary atmospheres, and surfaces. This research helps in understanding the formation and evolution of celestial bodies as well as the potential for life elsewhere in the universe.
Instrumentation for Space Missions: Creating and improving instruments that can withstand the extreme conditions of space travel and operation on different celestial bodies. This involves the integration of chemical sensing technologies into space probes, rovers, and landers.

Scientists in this sub-group are engaged in a wide range of activities, including:

Experimental Research: Conducting laboratory experiments to simulate space conditions and test the durability and efficiency of chemical sensors and instruments.
Data Analysis: Analyzing data collected from space missions or telescopic observations to identify chemical signatures and understand the chemistry of different space environments.
Interdisciplinary Collaboration: Working with engineers, astronomers, planetary scientists, and other specialists to design missions, develop technologies, and interpret findings.
Innovation in Materials and Methods: Discovering and developing new materials and methodologies that enhance the sensitivity, selectivity, and durability of chemical sensors and instruments for space exploration.

The primary objectives of the group is to advance our knowledge of space through chemical analysis, contribute to the development of technologies for future space missions, and potentially identify conditions suitable for life beyond Earth. This involves a blend of chemistry, physics, materials science, and engineering, all aimed at exploring and understanding the vast and varied chemical compositions and processes occurring in space.

Recent Publications:

1. Spesyvyi, A.; Zabka, J.; Polasek, M.; Charvat, A.; Schmidt, J.; Postberg, F.; Abel, B., Charged Ice Particle Beams with Selected Narrow Mass and Kinetic Energy Distributions. J Am Soc Mass Spectr 2023, 34 (5), 878-892.

2. Sanderink, A.; Klenner, F.; Zymak, I.; Zabka, J.; Postberg, F.; Lebreton, J. P.; Gaubicher, B.; Charvat, A.; Abel, B.; Polasek, M.; Cherville, B.; Thirkell, L.; Briois, C., OLYMPIA-LILBID: A New Laboratory Setup to Calibrate Spaceborne Hypervelocity Ice Grain Detectors Using High-Resolution Mass Spectrometry. Anal Chem 2023.

3. Postberg, F.; Sekine, Y.; Klenner, F.; Glein, C. R.; Zou, Z.; Abel, B.; Furuya, K.; Hillier, J. K.; Khawaja, N.; Kempf, S.; Noelle, L.; Saito, T.; Schmidt, J.; Shibuya, T.; Srama, R.; Tan, S., Detection of phosphates originating from Enceladus’s ocean. Nature 2023, 618 (7965), 489-493.

4. Dannenmann, M.; Klenner, F.; Bönigk, J.; Pavlista, M.; Napoleoni, M.; Hillier, J.; Khawaja, N.; Olsson-Francis, K.; Cable, M. L.; Malaska, M. J.; Abel, B.; Postberg, F., Toward Detecting Biosignatures of DNA, Lipids, and Metabolic Intermediates from Bacteria in Ice Grains Emitted by Enceladus and Europa. Astrobiology 2023, 23 (1), 60-75.

5. Mayer, M.; Vankova, N.; Stolz, F.; Abel, B.; Heine, T.; Asmis, K. R., Identification of a Two-Coordinate Iron(I)-Oxalate Complex. Angew Chem Int Edit 2022, 61 (16), e202117855.

6. Klenner, F.; Umair, M.; Walter, S. H. G.; Khawaja, N.; Hillier, J.; Nolle, L.; Zou, Z. H.; Napoleoni, M.; Sanderink, A.; Zuschneid, W.; Abel, B.; Postberg, F., Developing a Laser Induced Liquid Beam Ion Desorption Spectral Database as Reference for Spaceborne Mass Spectrometers. EARTH AND SPACE SCIENCE 2022, 9 (9), 1-11.

7. Klenner, F.; Postberg, F.; Hillier, J.; Khawaja, N.; Reviol, R.; Stolz, F.; Cable, M. L.; Abel, B.; Noelle, L., Analog Experiments for the Identification of Trace Biosignatures in Ice Grains from Extraterrestrial Ocean Worlds. Astrobiology 2020, 20 (2), 179-189.

8. Klenner, F.; Postberg, F.; Hillier, J.; Khawaja, N.; Cable, M. L.; Abel, B.; Kempf, S.; Glein, C. R.; Lunine, J. I.; Hodyss, R.; Reviol, R.; Stolz, F., Discriminating Abiotic and Biotic Fingerprints of Amino Acids and Fatty Acids in Ice Grains Relevant to Ocean Worlds. Astrobiology 2020, 20 (10), 1168-1184.

9. Klenner, F.; Postberg, F.; Hillier, J.; Khawaja, N.; Reviol, R.; Srama, R.; Abel, B.; Stolz, F.; Kempf, S., Analogue spectra for impact ionization mass spectra of water ice grains obtained at different impact speeds in space. Rapid Commun Mass Spectr 2019, 33 (22), 1751-1760.

10. Postberg, F.; Khawaja, N.; Abel, B.; Choblet, G.; Glein, C. R.; Gudipati, M. S.; Henderson, B. L.; Hsu, H. W.; Kempf, S.; Klenner, F.; Moragas-Klostermeyer, G.; Magee, B.; Nolle, L.; Perry, M.; Reviol, R.; Schmidt, J.; Srama, R.; Stolz, F.; Tobie, G.; Trieloff, M.; Waite, J. H., Macromolecular organic compounds from the depths of Enceladus. Nature 2018, 558 (7711), 564-568.

11. Mitri, G.; Postberg, F.; Soderblom, J. M.; Wurz, P.; Tortora, P.; Abel, B.; Barnes, J. W.; Berga, M.; Carrasco, N.; Coustenis, A.; de Vera, J. P. P.; D'Ottavio, A.; Ferri, F.; Hayes, A. G.; Hayne, P. O.; Hillier, J. K.; Kempf, S.; Lebreton, J. P.; Lorenz, R. D.; Martelli, A.; Orosei, R.; Petropoulos, A. E.; Reh, K.; Schmidt, J.; Sotin, C.; Srama, R.; Tobie, G.; Vorburger, A.; Vuitton, V.; Wong, A.; Zannoni, M., Explorer of Enceladus and Titan ((ET)-T-2): Investigating ocean worlds' evolution and habitability in the solar system. Planet Space Sci 2018, 155, 73-90.


2) Microfluidics and Mass Spectrometry

Activities in this group are centered around the development, integration, and application of microfluidic technologies and mass spectrometry for analyzing complex chemical systems.

Core Activities and Objectives

Microfluidics Technology Development: Designing and fabricating microfluidic devices that manipulate small volumes of fluids on a microscale. This includes the creation of lab-on-a-chip systems that can perform a series of chemical or biological processes in a compact, automated fashion.
Integration of Mass Spectrometry: Coupling microfluidic systems with mass spectrometry (MS) to enhance the capabilities of chemical analysis. This integration aims to streamline the preparation, separation, and detection of chemical species, increasing the throughput and sensitivity of MS analyses.
Complex Sample Analysis: Utilizing the combined microfluidics-MS platform to analyze complex chemical and biological samples. This can involve identifying and quantifying thousands of different molecules within environmental samples, biological fluids, or synthesized chemical mixtures.
High-throughput Screening: Developing methods for rapid screening of chemical reactions, biomolecular interactions, and drug discovery assays. The microfluidic systems allow for the handling of multiple samples simultaneously, significantly reducing the time and reagents needed for experiments.

Scientists in this sub-group engage in a variety of interdisciplinary activities:

Innovative Device Design and Fabrication: Creating new microfluidic devices that can precisely control fluid dynamics at the microscale, integrating them with MS for enhanced analysis capabilities.
Analytical Method Development: Developing protocols and methods to utilize these technologies for the specific needs of complex chemical analysis, including separation techniques, sample preparation, and detection strategies.
Data Analysis and Interpretation: Employing advanced data analysis techniques to interpret the complex datasets generated by microfluidics-MS analyses, identifying chemical signatures, and understanding the chemical composition and dynamics of samples.

The integration of microfluidics with mass spectrometry offers a powerful platform for analyzing complex chemical systems with unprecedented precision, efficiency, and scale. Applications can range from pharmaceutical development, where rapid screening of potential drug compounds is critical, to environmental monitoring, where detecting trace levels of pollutants is essential for public health. Additionally, this sub-department's work is vital for advancing research in fields such as metabolomics, proteomics, and chemical ecology, where understanding the intricate details of chemical compositions and interactions is crucial.

Recent Publications:

1. Zuhlke, M.; Koenig, J.; Prufert, C.; Sass, S.; Beitz, T.; Lohmannsroeben, H. G.; Thoben, C.; Zimmermann, S.; Urban, R. D.; Abel, B., Complex reaction kinetics of a Mannich reaction in droplets under electrospray conditions. Phys Chem Chem Phys 2023, 25 (16), 11732-11744.

2. Yang, F.; Urban, R.; Lorenz, J.; Griebel, J.; Koohbor, N.; Rohdenburg, M.; Knorke, H.; Fuhrmann, D.; Charvat, A.; Abel, B.; Azov, V.; Warneke, J., Control of Intermediates and Products by Combining Droplet Reactions and Ion Soft-Landing. Angewandte Chemie International Edition 2024, 63, e202314784.

3. Garmasukis, R.; Hackl, C.; Dusny, C.; Elsner, C.; Charvat, A.; Schmid, A.; Abel, B., Cryo-printed microfluidics enable rapid prototyping for optical-cell analysis. Microfluidics and Nanofluidics 2023, 27, 5.

4. Garmasukis, R.; Hackl, C.; Charvat, A.; Mayr, S. G.; Abel, B., Rapid prototyping of microfluidic chips enabling controlled biotechnology applications in microspace. Current Opinion in Biotechnology 2023, 81, 102948.

5. Lee, C.; Pohl, M. N.; Ramphal, I. A.; Yang, W.; Winter, B.; Abel, B.; Neumark, D. M., Evaporation and Molecular Beam Scattering from a Flat Liquid Jet. J Phys Chem A 2022, 3373-3383.

6. Yang, F.; Behrend, K. A.; Knorke, H.; Rohdenburg, M.; Charvat, A.; Jenne, C.; Abel, B.; Warneke, J., Anion-Anion Chemistry with Mass-Selected Molecular Fragments on Surfaces. Angewandte Chemie International Edition 2021, n/a (60), 24910-24914.

7. Appun, J.; Stolz, F.; Naumov, S.; Abel, B.; Schneider, C., Modular Synthesis of Dipyrroloquinolines: A Combined Synthetic and Mechanistic Study. J Org Chem 2018, 83 (4), 1737-1744.

8. Zitzmann, F. D.; Jahnke, H. G.; Pfeiffer, S. A.; Frank, R.; Nitschke, F.; Mauritz, L.; Abel, B.; Belder, D.; Robitzki, A. A., Microfluidic Free-Flow Electrophoresis Based Solvent Exchanger for Continuously Operating Lab-on-Chip Applications. Anal Chem 2017, 89 (24), 13550-13558.

9. Zitzmann, F. D.; Jahnke, H. G.; Nitschke, F.; Beck-Sickinger, A. G.; Abel, B.; Belder, D.; Robitzki, A. A., A novel microfluidic microelectrode chip for a significantly enhanced monitoring of NPY-receptor activation in live mode. Lab Chip 2017, 17 (24), 4294-4302.

10. Stolz, F.; Appun, J.; Naumov, S.; Schneider, C.; Abel, B., A Complex Catalytic Reaction Caught in the Act: Intermediates and Products Sampling Online by Liquid mu-Beam Mass Spectrometry and Theoretical Modeling. Chem Plus Chem 2017, 82 (2), 233-240.

11. Charvat, A.; Abel, B., How to make big molecules fly out of liquid water: applications, features and physics of laser assisted liquid phase dispersion mass spectrometry. Phys Chem Chem Phys 2007, 9 (26), 3335-3360.

12. Charvat, A.; Stasicki, B.; Abel, B., Product screening of fast reactions in IR-laser-heated liquid water filaments in a vacuum by mass spectrometry. J Phys Chem A 2006, 110 (9), 3297-3306.

13. Charvat, A.; Gessler, F.; Niemeyer, J.; Bogehold, A.; Abel, B., Rapid quantitative detection of bovine serum albumin in blood serum with seeded liquid beam desorption mass spectrometry. Anal Lett 2006, 39 (10), 2191-2203.

14. Charvat, A.; Bogehold, A.; Abel, B., Time-resolved micro liquid desorption mass spectrometry: Mechanism, features, and kinetic applications. Aust J Chem 2006, 59 (2), 81-103.


3) Energy Conversion

A third team within the Abel work group is engaged in a variety of research, development, and innovation activities aimed at enhancing the efficiency, sustainability, and practicality of fuel cell technologies. Fuel cells are devices that convert chemical energy from a fuel into electricity through a chemical reaction with oxygen or another oxidizing agent. Here's what the group is interested in:

Research and Development Focus:

Fuel Cell Materials: Investigating and developing new materials for electrodes, electrolytes, and catalysts to improve the efficiency, reduce costs, and extend the lifespan of fuel cells. This includes exploring novel nanomaterials, polymers, and composites.
Catalysis: Enhancing the performance of catalysts used in fuel cells, particularly those involved in the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) and hydrogen oxidation in proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs). Research aims to find alternatives to expensive platinum-based catalysts.
Membrane Technology: Developing high-performance, durable, and selective membranes for different types of fuel cells, such as PEMFCs and solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs). This includes research on proton-conducting membranes and oxygen ion conductors.
System Integration and Optimization: Working on the integration of fuel cell systems into various applications, including portable power sources, stationary power generation, and transportation. This involves optimizing the design and operation of fuel cell stacks and systems for specific applications.
Durability and Lifetime Analysis: Studying the degradation mechanisms in fuel cells to enhance their durability and operational lifetime. This includes research on material stability, corrosion, and mitigation strategies.
Hydrogen Production and Storage: Exploring efficient, sustainable methods for hydrogen production, including electrolysis powered by renewable energy sources. Additionally, developing safe, compact, and efficient hydrogen storage solutions to complement fuel cell technologies.
Isotope separation: Through membranes hydrogen isotopes penetrate differently, which can be employed for isotope separation - also in fuel cell setups.

Scientists and engineers in this sub-department are involved in:

Experimental Research: Conducting laboratory experiments to test new materials, catalysts, and designs for fuel cells.
Simulation and Modeling: Using computational models to predict the behavior of fuel cell components and systems under various conditions, aiming to optimize performance and identify areas for improvement.
Prototype Development: Designing and constructing prototype fuel cells and systems to demonstrate new technologies and assess their practicality for real-world applications.
Collaboration: Working with industry partners, other academic departments, and government agencies to advance fuel cell technology, address technical challenges, and promote the adoption of fuel cells in various sectors.
Sustainability Assessment: Evaluating the environmental impact and sustainability of fuel cell systems, including lifecycle analysis and assessment of carbon footprint reduction potential.

The main objectives of this group are to contribute to the development of more efficient, cost-effective, and sustainable fuel cell technologies that can play a crucial role in the transition to a low-carbon energy system. This involves not only enhancing the technical performance of fuel cells but also addressing economic and environmental challenges to facilitate their widespread adoption in energy systems, transportation, and portable power applications.

Recent Publications:

1. Hatahet, M. H.; Bryja, H.; Lotnyk, A.; Wagner, M.; Abel, B., Ultra-Low Loading of Iron Oxide and Platinum on CVD-Graphene Composites as Effective Electrode Catalysts for Solid Acid Fuel Cells. Catalysts 2023, 13 (8), 1154.

2. Wagner, M.; Lorenz, O.; Lohmann-Richters, F. P.; Varga, A.; Abel, B., Study on solid electrolyte catalyst poisoning in solid acid fuel cells. J Mater Chem A 2021, 9 (18), 11347-11358.

3. Hatahet, M. H.; Wagner, M.; Prager, A.; Helmstedt, U.; Abel, B., Functionalized and Platinum-Decorated Multi-Layer Oxidized Graphene as a Proton, and Electron Conducting Separator in Solid Acid Fuel Cells. Catalysts 2021, 11 (8), 947.

4. Wagner, M.; Lorenz, O.; Lohmann-Richters, F. P.; Varga, A.; Abel, B., On the role of local heating in cathode degradation during the oxygen reduction reaction in solid acid fuel cells. Sustain Energ Fuels 2020, 4 (10), 5284-5293.

5. Lu, X. B.; Yang, X.; Tariq, M.; Li, F.; Steimecke, M.; Li, J.; Varga, A.; Bron, M.; Abel, B., Plasma-etched functionalized graphene as a metal-free electrode catalyst in solid acid fuel cells. J Mater Chem A 2020, 8 (5), 2445-2452.

6. Wagner, M.; Dressler, C.; Lohmann-Richters, F. P.; Hanus, K.; Sebastiani, D.; Varga, A.; Abel, B., Mechanism of ion conductivity through polymer-stabilized CsH2PO4 nanoparticular layers from experiment and theory. J Mater Chem A 2019, 7 (48), 27367-27376.

7. Naumov, O.; Naumov, S.; Abel, B.; Varga, A., The stability limits of highly active nitrogen doped carbon ORR nano-catalysts: a mechanistic study of degradation reactions. Nanoscale 2018, 10 (14), 6724-6733.

8. Lohmann-Richters, F. P.; Odenwald, C.; Kickelbick, G.; Abel, B.; Varga, A., Facile and scalable synthesis of sub-micrometer electrolyte particles for solid acid fuel cells. R S C Adv 2018, 8 (39), 21806-21815.

9. Lohmann-Richters, F. P.; Abel, B.; Varga, A., In situ determination of the electrochemically active platinum surface area: key to improvement of solid acid fuel cells. J Mater Chem A 2018, 6 (6), 2700-2707.

10. Lohmann, F. P.; Schulze, P. S. C.; Wagner, M.; Naumov, O.; Lotnyk, A.; Abel, B.; Varga, A., The next generation solid acid fuel cell electrodes: stable, high performance with minimized catalyst loading. J Mater Chem A 2017, 5 (29), 15021-15025.

11. Abdelrahman, A.; Abel, B.; Varga, A., Towards rational electrode design: quantifying the triple-phase boundary activity of Pt in solid acid fuel cell anodes by electrochemical impedance spectroscopy. J Appl Electrochem 2017, 47 (3), 327-334.

12. Suryaprakash, R. C.; Lohmann, F. P.; Wagner, M.; Abel, B.; Varga, A., Spray drying as a novel and scalable fabrication method for nanostructured CsH2PO4, Pt-thin-film composite electrodes for solid acid fuel cells. R S C Adv 2014, 4 (104), 60429-60436.

13. Riyad, Y. M.; Naumov, S.; Schastak, S.; Griebel, J.; Kahnt, A.; Haupl, T.; Neuhaus, J.; Abel, B.; Hermann, R., Chemical Modification of a Tetrapyrrole-Type Photosensitizer: Tuning Application and Photochemical Action beyond the Singlet Oxygen Channel. J Phys Chem B 2014, 118 (40), 11646-11658.

14. Abel, B., Hydrated Interfacial Ions and Electrons. Annu Rev Phys Chem 2013, 64, 533-552.

15. Vohringer-Martinez, E.; Hansmann, B.; Hernandez, H.; Francisco, J. S.; Troe, J.; Abel, B., Water catalysis of a radical-molecule gas-phase reaction. Science 2007, 315 (5811), 497-501.