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News | December 15, 2008

X-Ray Absorption Spectroscopy Captures Molecular Motion

December 15, 2008 - A novel X-ray technique developed by a team of researchers from EPFL and the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) in Switzerland allows researchers to see molecular motion on a time scale, reported an article published in the journal Science, online Dec. 11, 2008.

The study, led by Professor Majed Chergui, head of EPFL's laboratory of Ultrafast Spectroscopy, was conducted in collaboration with the FEMTO group at PS. This technique opens prospects for the study of chemical and biological systems, could lead to applications in magnetic data storage or solar energy as well as providing new perspectives in biology, because the molecules studied are analogous to the active center in hemoproteins (haemoglobin, myoglobin).

In order to capture the molecular structure, Chergui’s team combined lasers delivering femtosecond pulses of ultraviolet-visible light with a source of femtosecond X-ray pulses, in a technique now known as ultrafast X-Ray Absorption Spectroscopy.

Using the femtosecond X-ray pulses extracted from the Swiss Light Source synchrotron in a technique developed at the PSI, the researchers were able to follow in real time a structural change of the molecule in 150 femtoseconds. This method is a tool for analyzing reactions in liquid and disordered environments that characterize many biological and chemical systems.

For more information: www.epfl.ch

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