Recent studies in Vienna have shown that surprising quantum phenomena, such as matter-wave interferometry with molecules composed of hundreds of covalently bound atoms, are actually feasible.
PROBIOTIQUS will now be the first project world-wide to develop experimental tools for matter-wave physics with large biomolecules from amino acid clusters up to proteins and self-replicating molecules.
First, we shall exploit the full potential of coherent molecule metrology for biomolecules, and molecules in a biomimetic environment. This research connects quantum physics with chemistry and biophysics, since already a restricted number of precisely determined geometrical, electrical, magnetic or optical properties may provide tell-tale analytical information. Embedding the biomolecules in a hydrate layer will allow us to study their properties in a context that approaches the ‘natural’ environment.
Second, we will develop molecular beam methods, optical manipulation tools and detection schemes to prepare proteins and other large biomolecules for advanced quantum experiments. This includes new laser-assisted acoustic and thermal volatilization methods, slowing and focusing in optical forces, diffraction at ionization and neutralization gratings as well as tagging of proteins with ionizable small biomolecules.
Third, we will prepare a cryogenic biomolecular sample in a buffer-gas loaded ion trap, where optical ionization and neutralization will be optimized in order to enable optical diffraction gratings. The target temperature of 10 K will be the starting point for interference experiments with proteins and self-replicating RNA, on the way towards full viruses.
Quantum interference with large biomolecules at the edge to life has remained an outstanding challenge throughout the last two decades. The ERC advanced grant will now focus on this goal with novel and interdisciplinary strategies, in world-wide unique experiments.
Fields of science
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