Rudolf Mössbauer (1929 – 2011)

  • Author: ChemViews
  • Published Date: 22 September 2011
  • Copyright: Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim
thumbnail image: Rudolf Mössbauer (1929 – 2011)

Rudolf Ludwig Mössbauer, Professor Emeritus, Technical University Munich (TUM), Germany, and the winner of the 1961 Nobel Prize in Physics has passed away. Mössbauer is best known for his discovery of recoilless nuclear resonance fluorescence, known as the Mössbauer effect, which is the basis for Mössbauer spectroscopy.

Mössbauer was born in Munich, Germany, in 1929 and studied physics at the TUM. For his doctorate, he carried out a series of investigations at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research, Heidelberg, Germany. Here, he demonstrated the direct experimental evidence of the recoilless nuclear resonance absorption of gamma rays in 191Ir. After his Ph.D., he spent four years at the California Institute of Technology, USA, where he was made full professor. In 1964, he returned to TUM. Mössbauer succeeded Heinz Maier-Leibnitz as director of the Institut Laue-Langevin, Grenoble, France, and served a five year term before once again returning to TUM where he remained until his retirement in 1997.

The Mössbauer effect involves the resonant and recoil-free emission and absorption of γ radiation by atomic nuclei bound in a solid. Similar to NMR spectroscopy, Mössbauer spectroscopy is used to probe changes in the energy levels of an atomic nucleus in response to its environment. It has been applied to phase transformations that occur in iron catalysts during Fischer–Tropsch synthesis and to determine the structure and function of iron containing enzymes as it is one of the most sensitive techniques, capable of detecting change in just a few parts per 1011.

Image: © Technical University Munich, Germany

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