Centre for Advanced Study

at the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters

Molecules in Extreme Environments


Former 2017/2018 Natural Sciences - Medicine - Mathematics



Chemistry is the science about matter — its stability, reactivity, transformations, interactions with external electromagnetic fields and radiation. However, we are mostly familiar with chemistry under conditions that can be realized on Earth. Under other conditions, chemistry changes in ways that cannot easily be predicted or understood from our experience with Earth-like chemistry.

For example, in the atmospheres of certain stellar objects such as rotating white dwarfs and neutron stars, extreme magnetic fields exist that cannot be generated on Earth. Knowledge about chemistry under such conditions can only be gained by performing advanced quantum-mechanical simulations, solving the Schrödinger equation for the electrons and nuclei that constitute matter.

Such calculations reveal an exotic, unfamiliar chemistry — molecules become squeezed and twisted, behaving in unexpected, fascinating ways. Even chemical bonding is affected — in a strong magnetic field, atoms are bound to one another by the rotation of the electrons, giving rise to molecules that do not exist on Earth.

In the project Molecules in Extreme Environments, we aim not only to understand chemistry under extreme conditions such as strong magnetic fields, extreme pressure, and intense laser pulses — we also aim to guide experimental work. Our work on magnetic bonding has already triggered experimental investigations on impurities in semiconductors, where similar effects may occur and lead to the design of materials with new properties. Likewise, a recent collaboration with astrophysicists aims to detect molecules in the atmospheres of white dwarfs, guided by quantum-mechanical simulations.


  • Dimitrova, Maria
    PhD Candidate University of Helsinki 2017/2018
  • Gauss, Jürgen
    Professor Johannes Gutenberg – Universität Mainz 2017/2018
  • Klopper, Willem M.
    Professor Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) 2017/2018
  • Pahl, Elke
    Lecturer Massey University Auckland 2017/2018
  • Pasteka, Lukas F.
    Dr. Comenius University 2017/2018
  • Saue, Trond
    Professor Université Toulouse III – Paul Sabatier 2017/2018
  • Schwerdtfeger, Peter
    Professor Massey University Auckland 2017/2018
  • Steenbergen, Krista G.
    Postdoctoral Fellow Massey University Auckland 2017/2018
  • Stopkowicz, Stella
    Senior Researcher Johannes Gutenberg – Universität Mainz 2017/2018
  • Sundholm, Dage
    Professor University of Helsinki 2017/2018
  • Teale, Andrew M.
    Assistant Professor University of Nottingham 2017/2018
  • Werner, Hans-Joachim
    Professor University of Stuttgart 2017/2018

Previous events


Group leader

  • Trygve Helgaker

    Title Professor Institution University of Oslo (UiO) Year at CAS 2017/2018
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