PhD thesis on molecules’ fingerprints defended in Russia and France

An early-career scientist from Tomsk Polytechnic University Kirill Berezkin defended his PhD thesis in accordance with the requirements of two countries – Russia and France. The thesis was devoted to the study of spectra that are literally fingerprints of one of the modifications of ethylene. This data will enable researchers to detect these molecules both in the atmosphere of the Earth, where they get due to industrial emissions, and other planets and space objects. The defense was held last week in Tomsk, on this purpose scientists from France arrived in Russia. 

The scientist conducts his research at the basis of two universities – Tomsk Polytechnic University and the University of Burgundy Franche-Comté (UBFC). In Russia, Kirill Berezkin works under the scientific supervision of Prof Elena Bekhtereva from the Research School of High Energy Physics and in France – under the supervision of Prof Claude Leroy. The PhD defense became the first under the joint supervision of scientists from TPU and UBFC.

Kirill Berezkin tells:

‘Our team is working in the field of rotational-vibrational molecular spectroscopy. Now we conduct a large study of ethylene. It is of interest because it is the simplest unsaturated hydrocarbon and the most produced organic compound that underlies organic synthesis. Its production constantly grows and, therefore, emissions into the atmosphere also increase.

Besides, ethylene is a hormone in plants and it was discovered at the giant planets, their satellites, and interstellar space. In order to study ethylene in all its aspects, it is necessary to be able to detect it and know its properties. Absorption spectra are more than helpful in this work.’

The spectra of a molecule are a collection of frequencies at which the molecule absorbs or emits radiation. They are some kind of fingerprints of the molecule, each one is unique. According to them, one can determine the most important properties of a molecule and predict how it will react in certain conditions. Besides, spectra are the only way to study the composition of space objects remotely. They make it possible for scientists to draw conclusions about which molecules and compounds are, for example, at other planets.’

Kirill Berezkin’s thesis is devoted to the study of one of the ethylene modification – a twice-deuterated asymmetric ethylene. According to the scientist, the study of various isotopic modifications of compounds is important to understand the nature of an initial molecule.

‘We study infrared spectra of molecules. In the long term, it is important for the investigation of space using the most state-of-the-art orbital infrared telescopes. Receiving data from such telescopes, astrophysicists including using our data will understand which compounds they found,’

clarifies the researcher.

Using the equipment of the Russian and French universities, as well as of the Technical University of Braunschweig in Germany he obtained a new experimental information on the modification of ethylene.

‘We obtained something new. For example, we detected and studied two times more spectrum lines than it was previously known. We also measured new parameters, i.e. intensity and half-width of the lines. These parameters are of interest because knowing them we can model the spectra under any conditions that cannot be reproduced in the laboratory,’ notes Kirill Berezkin.

After settling all formalities, the TPU researcher will be conferred the degree of a candidate of sciences in physics and mathematics in Russia and a PhD degree in France.

Prof Claude Leroy from the University of Burgundy Franche-Comté says:

‘My area of expertise is theoretical physics. Additionally, at our University there is a large Data Center for the most complicated computing and processing of data obtained. We work with a scientific team that includes Kirill Berezkin and has good competencies both in theoretical and experimental physics.

Such a combination of our competencies helps to implement really interesting and significant projects in molecular spectroscopy.’