Eleonora Hendrika Gertruda Mezger-Backus

© Barbara Mair

Chemist Ellen Backus is investigating the structure and dynamics of water at interfaces. In 2018, she transferred from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Mainz to the Department of Physical Chemistry at the University of Vienna, where she continues working on her ERC project: In this project, she investigates the fundamentals of photocatalytic water splitting. The basic molecular features of the process, in which water is broken down into hydrogen and oxygen with the aid of photons (solar radiation) and a catalyst, are still poorly understood. Ellen Backus uses titanium oxide as a catalyst to artificially split the water. She activates the titanium oxide with laser pulses and observes how the water molecules at the interface react using surface vibrational spectroscopy.