Niels J. Bjerrum: If you have the abilities, you also have the obligation to use them

Friday 28 Oct 16


Niels J. Bjerrum
DTU Energy
+45 45 25 23 07

More than 7,000 citations

Niels J. Bjerrums complete list of publications, patents, and invited runs to more than 600 items, including more than 200 publications in major peer-reviewed international journals which intotal have been cited more than 7,000 times. He is the co-inventor of 18 patent applications, 8 of which have led to international patents.

Bjerrum, a family of researchers

Janniksen, Niels Bjerrum (1879-1958) was the son of an ophthalmologist, Professor Jannik Bjerrum. In 1914 he became Professor of Chemistry at the Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Copenhagen. He is particularly well known for his work with aqueous electrolytic solutions.

Jannik Bjerrum (1909-1992) was the son of the above. In 1948 he became Professor of Chemistry at the University of Copenhagen. He worked within the field of coordination chemistry.

Niels Bjerrum Janniksen (1940-), Professor of inorganic and materials chemistry at DTU Energy, is the son of the above and his interests cover a wide range of applications from the fields of thermodynamics, molten salt chemistry, spectroscopy, electrochemical methods and electrolysis, fuel cells and energy technology, materials science and tribology.

Niels Bjerrum Janniksen’s older brother Ole Jannik Bjerrum (born 1944) has been a professor in pharmacology at University of Copenhagen. His younger brother Morten Jannik Bjerrum (born 1957) is a professor in bioinorganic chemistry at the Chemistry Department at University of Copenhagen.

Niels J. Bjerrum, Professor dr. techn. of inorganic and materials chemistry at the Department of Energy Conversion and storage at the Technical University of Denmark celebrates his 50th work anniversary on November 1, 2016.

The 76-year-old professor's research career started at University of Copenhagen, but it took flight after a stay at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the USA, where he as a young postdoc in 1964-66 studied low oxidation state of bismuth and tellurium.

The project was an offshoot of the Manhattan project, so he conducted research with the best of the best, and it allowed him to step out of the shadow of his grandfather and father and grow as a researcher on his own merits. Both his grandfather, Niels J. Bjerrum, and his father, Jannik Bjerrum, were internationally recognized chemists, and among the friends of the family were the physicist and Nobel Prize winner Niels Bohr and other heavyweights within the Danish science. So young Niels was predestined to step in his forefathers’ footsteps, and he accepted it.

Niels J. Bjerrum has always felt that if you have good abilitiess, you are also under an obligation to use them. It is this approach to science that has made him a leading researcher within molten salt chemistry.

"Good research requires a lot of effort, but the joy of achieving results, see them communicated and possibly used has all been worth it."
Prof. Niels J. Bjerrum, DTU Energy

"I have always wanted to solve the hard things, to solve fundamental problems. It takes time, it is often difficult and sometimes you just don’t have the resources, but you must never give up. Sometimes good enough just isn’t good enough, and then we're obliged to give it a little extra and solve the fundamental problems," says Niels J. Bjerrum. "This commitment to the fundamental things in science has driven me my entire life as a researcher. If I see a problem, I feel also an obligation to attempt to solve it."

The research stay at Oak Ridge resulted in employment as a junior researcher at the Chemistry Laboratory A at the Technical University of Denmark where he quickly gained fame for his ability to both have an excellent overview over the situation and the ability to go deep into the details of a problem. This has led to many ground-breaking breakthroughs in inorganic chemistry.

Niels J. Bjerrum was in 1982 awarded a doctoral degree in technical science, Dr. Techn. (the highest Danish academic award), for the thesis "The Chalcogens in Chloroaluminate melts".  That same year he was involved in establishing the Danish Academy of Natural Sciences where he is still secretary. In 1994 he co-founded Danish Power Systems, a still thriving startup company, where he was CEOr from 1994 to 2003. In 1998 he became a professor at Chemistry Laboratory A, DTU.

"No one knows what the future will bring, but I am still of good health and I still have a desire to continue researching, and so I feel an obligation to do so. I have always been like that, and I still am," says the 76-year-old professor. It is not for him to retire and relax back home. No, he is still busy researching in batteries and high-temperature polymer fuel cells at DTU Energy.


2012-          Professor at DTU Energy

2012           Head of Section at DTU Energy Conversion

2010-13      Head of Danish-Chinese Center for Intermediate Temperature Proton Conducting Systems (PROCON).

2007-11      Head of Center for Renewable Hydrogen Cycling.

1999           Chairman for the  Society of Professors at DTU

1998-12      Professor in Inorganic Materials Science at Department of Chemistry, Technical University of Denmark.

1996           Received The 1996 Max Bredig Award in Molten Salt Chemistry in Los Angeles, California.

1995-1994  Foreign Member of The Norwegian Academy of Technological Sciences.

1994           Cofounder of Danish Power Systems (Director 1994 – 2003)

1994           Awarded The Højgaard & Schultz Jubilee Prize.

1992-93      Accepted for Professorship in Inorganic Chemistry, University of Odense, Denmark.

1992           Foreign Member of The Ukrainian Academy of Sciences.

1991-          Chairman of the Board of Ellen and Niels Bjerrum Prize in Chemistry

1989-98      Reader ("Docent"), Chemistry Dept. A, Technical University of Denmark

1988           Adjudged qualified as a Professor in Chemistry, University of Odense, Denmark.

1984           Adjudged qualified as Professor in Inorganic Chemistry, DTU

1982-          Founder and Secretary of the Danish Academy of Natural Sciences ("Danmarks Naturvidenskabelige Akademi").

1982           Doctor of Science (Dr. techn.), Technical University of Denmark. Thesis entitled "The Chalcogens in Chloroaluminate Melts".

1979           Awarded the Ellen and Niels Bjerrum Prize in Chemistry

1976           Awarded Honorary Prize of the Ole Rømer Foundation.

1971-89      Associate Professor ("Lektor"), Chemistry Dept. A, Technical University of Denmark.

1967           Postdoctoral appointment, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, USA.

1966-71      Assistant Professor (Amanuensis), Chemistry Dept. A, DTU

1964-66      Postdoctoral appointment, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, USA.

1964           Master of Science (Mag. scient.) in chemistry, Copenhagen University.

1961-62      Exchange Scholarship study at University of Lund, Sweden.

1958           Undergraduate at University of Copenhagen.

1940           Born October 6th in Copenhagen, Denmark.

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