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Strukturdynamik of molekulära reaktioner

Start- och slutdatum
Beviljat belopp
9 837 300 kr
Förvaltande organisation
Göteborg University


Direct observation of molecular dynamics will lead to enormous scientific advances and it will lay the foundation for control of atomic motion. Connecting biology, physics and chemistry I propose research with the overall goal to measure structural dynamics of molecular systems. The specific goals are: (1) To visualize the structural relaxation of photoexcited organic photovoltaic molecules. New ground will be broken in solving this classical photophysical question. The need for alternative energy sources is imminent and this research will provide important feedback to the next generation of organic solar cells. (2) To uncover the structural dynamics of membrane fusion, a process fundamental to all life. The intermediate states of lipid bilayer fusion have been predicted but we seek to visualize them experimentally for the first time. Control over these dynamics and studies on systems with reconstituted fusion proteins are also important objectives. If successful, this research lays the foundation for future health care applications. Both projects realize unused potential of time-resolved wide-angle x-ray scattering, which is an emerging technique and has been co-developed by the applicant. The applicant’s strong cross-divisional track record at the interface of biology, chemistry and physics will be a solid basis for success. Strategic impact is optimized by choosing projects so that they open new avenues to potentially revolutionary future technologies.

Populärvetenskaplig beskrivning

The cell is the basic structural and functional unit of all living organisms. Cells are like miniature buildings: They have outer walls, termed cell membranes, which protect them from their surroundings. They also have inner walls, separating the cell into several rooms, which are called cell compartments. To be able to grow and survive, cell membranes have to merge their own compartments, or with parts of other cells. This implies that two cell membranes fuse into a single one, which is called membrane fusion. Membrane fusion is widely studied, because many diseases are connected to it and it could provide new opportunities to develop smart health care applications, such as to deliver drugs into specific compartments of cells. It is an extremely important process in our nervous system as it enables us to think, breath, and feel. A problem in all these investigation is, however, that it is today not possible to watch membranes fuse. The objects are simply too small, even for the best microscopes. This research is designed to overcome this limitation and aims at filming membrane fusion. We will make use of a new technique where x-ray scattering of the membranes is recorded while the fusion reaction occurs. The technique requires highly intense x-ray sources, called synchrotrons. One large scale infrastructure, where this research could be done, will be build in Lund during the coming five years. From the scattering pictures that we record, the structures of the membranes can be reconstructed using computer routines. Uncovering the secrets of membrane fusion is not the only problem that can be solved using the new technique. We will demonstrate this by investigating structural evolutions within a novel class of solar cells. These cells, which are made from plastics with semiconducting properties, can be made as ultrathin and flexible sheets and, most important of all, they are much cheaper to make than traditional solar cells. At present, they are not commercially used, because their efficiency is too low. If successful, this research will provide a basis for understanding and bettering the output of these solar cells. Possibly, this research will deliver just the spark that is needed to improve the efficiency of these cells such that they become a solution to the global energy crisis.