Christian Schärf, Paul Rathke, and Friedrich Wanierke, from Germany, are the winners of the 2016 EUCYS EuChEMS Award with their project entitled “Alpha-aluminium oxide-based gemstones: Development of a chemical synthesis process prompted by current mining conditions”.
Mining gemstones damages the environment and often occurs under dehumanising conditions. Christian Schärf, Paul Rathke and Friedrich Wanierke hypothesised that, because rubies and sapphires are a mixture of aluminium oxide and certain metals, it might be possible to produce the gemstones themselves. The trio experimented with various melting and crystallisation processes, and thoroughly analysed the synthesis progression and the powder particles and crystals that formed. The young researchers succeeded in creating tiny ruby monocrystals but the path to creating a large gemstone in the lab proved more difficult than anticipated.
EuCheMS special prize for best chemistry contribution at the European Union Contest for Young Scientist, is attributed every year at EUCYS to a young scientist for hers/his research work in the field of chemistry. EUCYS, an initiative of the European Commission that was set up in 1989 with the goal of promoting cooperation and interchange between young scientists and guiding them towards a future career in science and technology.