During the biomass formation/decomposition cycle, carbon dioxide (CO2), the most important climatic gas, is either released from soils or is stabilized as humic matter in soils, thereby forming soil structure and the biogeochemical soil interface by interaction of the organic matter with the soil mineral phase.
Ingrid Kögel-Knabner’s work is dedicated to understanding the formation and properties of soil organic matter as a major component of soils (humus), and its central role in the terrestrial carbon cycle. The challenge to be coped with is the transition of methods which have been designed and developed for pure systems to extremely complex, often amorphous natural materials.
By applying a wide spectrum of sophisticated techniques (solid-state 13C NMR spectroscopy, chemolytic methods with gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, stable isotopes, radiocarbon dating, scanning electron microscopy SEM and transmission electron microscopy TEM, X-ray Absorption Near Edge Structure XANES) the elucidation of soil organic matter structure and turnover can be brought a step forward.
Specifically NanoSIMS (secondary ion mass spectrometry at the nano scale) will help to unravel the heterogeneous composition and three-dimensional architecture of submicron-sized organo-mineral associations in soils.
Ingrid Kögel-Knabner received her Diploma in Geoecology in 1983 and was awarded her Ph.D. in Soil Science in 1987, both at University of Bayreuth, Germany. In 1992 she qualified as a professor (Habilitation) in Soil Science (topic: "Forest soil organic matter: structure and formation") and was in the same year appointed Professor of Soil Science and Soil Ecology at the University of Bochum; since 1995 she is holding the Chair of Soil Science at the Life Sciences Centre of Technische Universität München in Freising-Weihenstephan. She was visiting scientist at the US Geological Survey/Reston and the Delft University of Technology. Prof. Kögel-Knabner is a member of various national and international academic advisory committees, and has served in the Senate and Joint Committee of the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) as well as in evaluation panels of the Wissenschaftsrat. She is member of the Editorial Board of several high-impact soil science journals. Since 2011 she is Carl von Linde Senior Fellow at TUM Institute of Advanced Study.