Chiral molecules are distinct from their mirror image; much like a human hand. These handed molecules play a vital role in many biological functions. However, the handed properties of chiral molecules are difficult to determine, and the information that conventional chiral spectroscopy can provide is minimal and always incomplete.
For example, standard techniques such as circular dichroism cannot measure oriented properties of molecules (only rotational averages), cannot resolve molecular mixtures and provides sensitivity only for samples with one handed molecule in excess. As a result, academic and industry labs invest much time, effort and money in developing asymmetric synthesis routes to chirally pure samples, while running many sequential characterisation techniques to obtain even only fragmented and patchy information about the molecules they are synthesising or studying.
In this project, you will be at the heart of a collaborative project aiming to develop the next generation analytical measurement tools for chiral molecules. Working with colleagues from the University of Glasgow, this project will develop a completely new measurement approach, one capable of resolving chiral molecular properties even in the most challenging of circumstance, e.g. determining anisotropic properties of molecular mixtures, and even resolving an equal mixture of right and left handed molecules.
The general approach relies on femtosecond pulsed lasers, which can provide electromagnetic fields orders of magnitude larger than by using continuous wave lasers. Using these intense fields, one can manipulate the rotational energy levels of molecules depending on the precise molecular polarisability. Measuring these rotational shifts provides the missing piece of the puzzle: the information required to determine the complete chiral structure of a molecule. Detailed molecular modelling has revealed the feasibility of this approach, and the project here will develop the capability in experimental measurement, and with it a major step change in molecular characterisation and drug development.
See all project and application process details here: http://www.exeter.ac.uk/studying/funding/award/?id=3962
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