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Liquids in the Synchrotron: Investigating the Function of Materials with Soft X-Rays

Karl Scheel Prize for 2011 Will Be Awarded by the Physical Society in Berlin to Prof. Dr. Emad Flear Aziz from Freie Universität Berlin and Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB)

№ 158/2011 from May 25, 2011

Emad Aziz's research focuses on the electronic structure of systems in solution, especially the interface between solid and solvent, and the influence of environmental parameters such as temperature is of interest. The substances investigated are often proteins, molecular complexes essential for life. It is difficult to investigate proteins in their natural environment that is liquid because the usual X-ray methods require an ultrahigh vacuum, which cannot be achieved in an environment of liquid samples.

With his young investigator group at the synchrotron radiation source BESSY II at Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB), Emad Aziz is developing new methods by which he can examine biological and biochemical materials in solution. During the past three years, he has developed a series of techniques to meet this challenge. For example, Emad Aiziz succeeded in applying high-resolution X-ray emission spectrometry to a liquid jet. This made it possible to study the electronic structure of dissolved ions and molecules as a function of different parameters, without causing any disruptive membrane effects.

The Physical Society in Berlin is awarding the 2011 Karl Scheel Prize to Prof. Dr. Emad Flear Aziz "in recognition of his outstanding work on the structure and dynamics of functional materials in solution." Furthermore, in a statement made by the Physical Society in Berlin, “Over the last three years Mr. Aziz has made several breakthroughs in research with soft synchrotron radiation. For example, he was able to answer the long open question of why hydroxyl ions move faster than other halides in water. Furthermore, Mr. Aziz has shown that proteins can be studied in physiological media using absorption spectroscopy with soft X-rays. He also discovered a charge-transfer mechanism that takes place between ions and solvents, and between ions and ligands in complex compounds. This induced process takes place within a few femtoseconds and provides information on the interaction of materials with the solvent. Emad Aziz was able to find on a microscopic scale how dissolved biochemical substances exert their function in their natural environment. His group also found the origin of the high enyamatic activity of catalase.”

Prof. Dr. Anke Kaysser-Pyzalla, executive director of Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin, emphasized: “Emad Aziz is an outstanding young scientist. Working in cooperation with Freie Universität Berlin and Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin, he has significantly expanded the range of methods for the study of biochemical substances using synchrotron radiation. We are pleased that the Helmholtz Association supports him as the head of a young investigator group and that the Physical Society in Berlin is recognizing his achievements with the Karl Scheel Prize.”

Since September of 2010 Prof. Dr. Emad Flear Aziz has been a junior professor in the Department of Physics at Freie Universität Berlin, and since the beginning of 2009 he has headed a young investigator group at Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin. The group focuses on functional materials in solution. Through numerous publications in prestigious journals that have drawn worldwide attention, a research stay in Switzerland, lectures at international conferences, and a number of collaboration partners Emad Flear Aziz has already developed a considerable scientific reputation. He is one of the promising young scientists in Berlin.

As part of this year's Karl Scheel Meeting on Friday, June 24, 2011, at 5:15 p.m. in the auditorium of the Magnus-Haus, Am Kupfergraben 7, 10117 Berlin, Prof. Aziz will give a talk on "Structure and dynamics of functional materials in solution" about his award-winning work. He will then be awarded the 2011 Karl Scheel Prize.

The entire program of the event can be accessed at Journalists are welcome to attend.

Founded in 1845, the Physical Society of Berlin is one of the oldest scientific associations in Germany. Today it is a regional association of the German Physical Society and is dedicated to sharing information about physics research, including through regular lectures, and by awarding various prizes to outstanding physicists.

The Karl Scheel Prize is awarded for outstanding research work, usually in the postdoctoral phase, performed by a member of the society. Through an endowment by the German physicist Karl Scheel, the award winner is honored at the annual Karl Scheel Meeting and is presented with the Karl-Scheel-Medaille (Karl Scheel Medal) cast in bronze and 5,000 euros.

Further Information

Prof. Dr. Holger Grahn, Executive Director, Physical Society of Berlin

Award winner:

Prof. Dr. Emad Flear Aziz

Freie Universität Berlin, Department of Physics, Structure and Dynamics of Functional Materials in Solutions Group, Tel.: +49 (0)30 838-75438,  Email:

Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie, Young Investigator Group for Functional Materials in Solutions, Tel.: +49 (0)30 8062-15003,  Email:

For a high-resolution photo, see:, Source: HZB