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Counting in femtoseconds

On the trail of biological energy storage

Munich, 05/15/2008

All living things need energy to function and to stay alive. This energy is provided by the breakage of the multifunctional molecule ATP, or adenosine triphosphate. Nature has found several highly efficient pathways to recover this molecular energy currency. In the bacterium “Halobacterium salinarum” this process is mediated by the protein bacteriorhodopsin, a photon-driven proton pump. A research team under the lead of Professor Eberhard Riedle at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) München has now made a direct observation of the first steps of this process with a time resolution that has not been achieved before: 170 femtoseconds, or 0.000000000000170 seconds. As reported in the science journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), emitted Terahertz radiation has been detected that is caused by collective electron and proton transfer in the sample. “This new technique provides entirely new perspectives,” says Riedle. “Scientists can use this to study biological and chemical processes more directly and reliably than before. This could lead to new design strategies for the development of innovative materials for solar cells.”


“THz radiation from bacteriorhodopsin reveals correlated primary electron and proton transfer processes”,
G.I. Groma, J. Hebling, I.Z. Kozma, G. Váró, J. Hauer, J. Kuhl, E. Riedle,
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 105, 6888 - 6893 (2008) / May 13, 2008


Professor Dr. Eberhard Riedle
Department of Physics at LMU Munich
Tel.: +49-89-2180 - 9210
Fax: +49-89-2180 - 9202


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