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Probing Ultrafast Stereochemical Dynamics by Femtosecond Electronic Circular Dichroism Spectroscopy

Project description

Lights, camera, action: watching dynamic molecular interactions in motion

Chirality is an interesting property of many biological molecules in which the mirror images – the same atoms attached to the same places – cannot be superimposed. Human hands are an example of this – mirror images in which the pinkie gets superimposed on the thumb when you put one hand on top of the other. Polarised light can probe chiral molecules with great structural sensitivity, and it is widely used to study biologically important molecules such as proteins, nucleic acids, carbohydrates and drugs. The EU-funded CHIRALSCOPY project is combining this highly sensitive structural probing technique with ultrafast optical spectroscopy to enable "movies" of structural changes during chemical reactions and biological processes.


Since the structure of a (bio)-molecule is crucially linked to its biochemical functions, following its evolution in the course of a chemical reaction or biological process would allow one to gain fundamental insights into the reaction mechanisms and pathways. This calls for optical spectroscopy techniques capable of recording structural dynamics with high time resolution, down to the femtosecond regime. Circular dichroism (CD), i.e. the difference in absorption of left- and right-handed circularly polarised light, is a sensitive probe of the structure of chiral molecules. CHIRALSCOPY aims to develop an innovative time-resolved CD spectrometer which combines the structural sensitivity of steady-state CD spectroscopy with the high time resolution of ultrafast nonlinear optical spectroscopy. CHIRALSCOPY will adopt an innovative approach which directly measures in the time domain the chiral light field from a molecule by combining interferometric detection with optical heterodyne amplification. The state-of-the-art time-resolved CD instrument will be used to elucidate structural dynamics during a prototypical biochemical reaction. CHIRALSCOPY will equip the Experienced Researcher with new knowledge and skills in advanced optical technologies and biophysics, thus broadening his scientific background and enhancing his prospects as an independent researcher. At the same time, the Action and the Host Institution will benefit from the advanced knowledge in ultrafast spectroscopy acquired by Researcher during his PhD thesis. CHIRALSCOPY promises to open new vistas in the field of ultrafast optical spectroscopy enabling one to interrogate molecular dynamics with femtosecond temporal resolution and exquisite structural sensitivity−thus realising the chemist’s dream of a capturing a ‘molecular-motion-picture’ of a chemical reaction.


Net EU contribution
€ 171 473,28
20133 Milano

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Nord-Ovest Lombardia Milano
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 171 473,28