Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Research team from Münster develops innovative catalytic chemistry process


Inspired by the chemistry of the eye: Münster University chemists have succeeded in turning to their advantage a chemical reaction which takes place in the eye and enables us to see light and dark. It can be used to create important carbon compounds which need a lot of energy to be produced by other means.

Nature can do it, and chemists in the lab often dream of doing it: producing substances simply and ecologically – as far as possible without any undesirable side-products.

Inspiration to the chemists: the eye

Photo: Tiplyashin (Permission for photo use only in connection with this press release and with indication of photo credit)

A team of researchers from Münster University has now succeeded in turning to its advantage a chemical reaction which takes place in the eye and enables us to see light and dark.

This process, say the researchers, is of great interest for the chemical industry because it could be used to create special variants (isomers) of important carbon compounds which need a lot of energy to be produced by other means.

In the eye, the light-absorbing pigment rhodopsin plays an elementary role as a light sensor. When light enters the eye, rhodopsin triggers a chemical signal chain, thereby activating the photoreceptor cells. “We were inspired by this process,” says Jan Metternich, a doctoral student of chemistry who carried out the study together with Dr. Ryan Gilmour, Professor of Chemical Biology in the “Cells in Motion” Cluster of Excellence at Münster University.

One of the central components of the light-absorbing pigment rhodopsin is retinal (“Vitamin A”). To activate the photoreceptor cells, however, a very special variant of the retinal molecule is needed. As a result of light entering the eye, it is converted into a second, very similar form, thereby starting off the chemical signal chain. “Isomers” are what chemists call the different forms of a molecule.

“The selective formation of isomers is important not only for our ability to see, but also, for example, for the production of medicines, and agrochemicals,” says Ryan Gilmour. “Our innovative method has provided us with a simple way of selectively producing these valuable isomers that are needed for both academic and industrial chemistry.”

The reaction is triggered by light – just as in the eye. The so-called catalyst which the reactions require – which increases the speed of the reaction – is a cheap and ecological molecule: riboflavin, a B vitamin which is also used, for example, as a food colour additive.

Original literature:

Jan B. Metternich and Ryan Gilmour (2015): A Bio-Inspired, Catalytic E → Z Isomerization of Activated Olefin. J. Am. Chem. Soc.; DOI: 10.1021/jacs.5b07136

Weitere Informationen: Original publication CiM Professor Ryan Gilmour

Dr. Christina Heimken | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Signaling Pathways to the Nucleus
19.03.2018 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht In monogamous species, a compatible partner is more important than an ornamented one
19.03.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Ornithologie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Development and Fast Analysis of 3D Printed HF Components

19.03.2018 | Trade Fair News

In monogamous species, a compatible partner is more important than an ornamented one

19.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Signaling Pathways to the Nucleus

19.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>