The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) has awarded its Europa-Preis to six young researchers. They were presented with the award at the final of the national “Jugend forscht” competition in Erlangen on 28 May 2017, in addition to their prizes in various competition categories. The aim of the DFG's Europa-Preis is to prepare the pupils specifically for the European Union Contest for Young Scientists (EUCYS), which will be held in September in Tallinn. They also receive prize money of €1,000.
This year the DFG’s Europa-Preis was awarded to one individual researcher and two research teams. Eighteen-year-old Philipp Sinnewe from the Geschwister-Scholl-Gymnasium in Lebach (Saarland) was presented with the DFG award in addition to the “Preis des Bundespräsidenten für eine außergewöhnliche Arbeit” (Federal President's Prize for Outstanding Work). His project “Flying with less fuel” aims to develop more energy-efficient and climate-friendly aircraft engines. For his project, the young man from Saarland constructed a model of a jet engine in order to test a new fuel. Instead of kerosene, Sinnewe used a water-alcohol mixture, with which around one-third of CO2 emissions can be saved – as demonstrated by experiments on the test rig he built himself.
Johannes Waller and Phillipp Kessler from Ludwigsburg in Baden-Württemberg won the first prize in the field of chemistry and the DFG Europa-Preis for their research work into aspects of Fehling's solution. The solution was previously used to diagnose diabetes; today it is considered a textbook example of a pH-dependent redox reaction, in which one reacting agent transfers electrons to the other. The two 17-year-old researchers have now demonstrated with their laboratory tests that Fehling's solution follows a more complex chemistry than depicted in school textbooks. Various interim stages and oxidisation products are created in the reaction; moreover, glucose and fructose react at different speeds. This calls for a reinterpretation of the solution, which has been employed since 1848.
The success achieved by Matthias Grützner, Julian Egbert and Arne Geipel from the Herder-Gymnasium in Berlin was also a team effort. The 16-year-olds were presented with the Europa-Preis as well as first prize in the field of physics. They investigated the water patterns created when a jet of water hits a rough surface. When this happens, spiral-like structures are formed that are reminiscent of the inside of a sunflower. The three young researchers sought – and found – an explanation: the tiny protrusions on rough surfaces, for example on a wooden board. The flowing water breaks up there and forms spiral-shaped patterns. They were able to prove this by means of an experiment and to record it with camera technology.
The Europa-Preis was presented to the six Jugend forscht award winners in Erlangen by DFG Vice President Professor Dr. Wolfgang Ertmer. The aim of the prize, created by the DFG in 2010, is to emphasise the importance of internationalisation for a successful research career. Hence, the young researchers will participate in the European Union Contest for Young Scientists (EUCYS), which will take place this year from 22 to 27 September in Tallinn. In the lead-up, they will be tutored by mentors, who will also accompany them to Tallinn. The mentors are selected by the DFG from a pool of early career researchers supported by the organisation, for example from the Emmy Noether Programme. This has the additional aim of facilitating the development of lasting networks between generations of researchers.