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EPSRC Reference: GR/T05424/01
Title: Orientation-dependent magnetic field effects on electron transfer rates in biradical states of molecular triads
Principal Investigator: Timmel, Professor CR
Other Investigators:
Hore, Professor PJ
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Arizona State University University of Padua (Padova)
Department: Oxford Chemistry
Organisation: University of Oxford
Scheme: Standard Research (Pre-FEC)
Starts: 01 September 2004 Ends: 29 February 2008 Value (£): 337,020
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Chemical Biology Gas & Solution Phase Reactions
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Chemicals Environment
Healthcare Energy
Related Grants:
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
Many animals have the ability to sense the Earth's magnetic field, a process known as magnetoreception, as a source of navigational information. Given that the energy of interaction of this field with almost all types of biological matter is tiny compared to the average thermal energy per molecule at physiological temperatures, it is perhaps not surprising that despite a large number of experimental investigations, a clear picture of the basic mechanism of magnetoreception has yet to emerge. We wish to test the feasibility of a suggestion that the fundamental interaction mechanism could be based on a magnetic-field sensitive photochemical reaction in the animal's retina.It has been known for 35 years that certain reactions of free radicals-highly reactive and short-lived molecular fragments-can be affected by applied magnetic fields. Our aim is to detect, for the first time, the dependence of this effect on the orientation of a model system in a weak magnetic field and so to demonstrate the feasibility of an avian photochemical compass.The project will involve experimental and theoretical investigations of the light-induced reactions of biradicals formed from molecular triads in which an electron donor and an electron acceptor are linked by covalent chemical bonds. The dependence of the lifetimes of these short-lived biradical states on the strength and direction of a weak applied magnetic field will be studied in frozen isotropic and oriented solvents with the aim of understanding the kinetic and magnetic factors that determine the anisotropic magnetic response of a photoinduced biradical.This work will establish the fundamental physico-chemical principles for high-sensitivity photochemical detection of weak magnetic fields. It will prepare the ground for future experimental work on proposed avian magnetoreceptor proteins and will shed light on the principles by which Nature might have been able to tune the sensitivity of a radical pair compass.
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Organisation Website: http://www.ox.ac.uk