Scientists at USC and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab have discovered a new route by which a proton (a hydrogen atom that lost its electron) can move from one molecule to another – a basic component of countless chemical and biological reactions.
"This is a radically new way by which proton transfer may occur," said Anna Krylov, professor of chemistry at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. Krylov is a co-corresponding author of a paper on the new process that was published online by Nature Chemistry on March 18.
Krylov and her colleagues demonstrated that protons are not obligated to travel along hydrogen bonds, as previously believed. The finding suggests that protons may move efficiently in stacked systems of molecules, which are common in plant biomass, membranes, DNA and elsewhere.
Armed with the new knowledge, scientists may be able to better understand chemical reactions involving catalysts, how biomass (plant material) can be used as a renewable fuel source, how melanin (which causes skin pigmentation) protects our bodies from the sun's rays, and damage to DNA.
"By better understanding how these processes operate at molecular level, scientists will be able to design new catalysts, better fuels, and more efficient drugs," Krylov said.
Hydrogen atoms are often shared between two molecules, forming a so-called hydrogen bond. This bond determines structures and properties of everything from liquid water to the DNA double helix and proteins.
Hydrogen bonds also serve as pathways by which protons may travel from one molecule to another, like a road between two houses. But what happens if there's no road?
To find out, Krylov and fellow corresponding author Ahmed Musahid of the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab created a system in which two molecules were stacked on top of each other, without hydrogen bonds between them. Then they ionized one of the molecules to coax a proton to move from one place to another.
Ahmed and Krylov discovered that when there's no straight road between the two houses, the houses (molecules) can rearrange themselves so that their front doors are close together. In that way, the proton can travel from one to the other with no hydrogen bond – and with little energy. Then the molecules return to their original positions.
"We've come up with the picture of a new process," Krylov said.
This research was performed under the auspices of the iOpenShell Center and supported by the US Department of Energy, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, and the National Science Foundation.
Robert Perkins | EurekAlert!
Molecular evolution: How the building blocks of life may form in space
26.04.2018 | American Institute of Physics
Multifunctional bacterial microswimmer able to deliver cargo and destroy itself
26.04.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Intelligente Systeme
Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, is a widely used medical tool for taking pictures of the insides of our body. One way to make MRI scans easier to read is...
At the Hannover Messe 2018, the Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und-prüfung (BAM) will show how, in the future, astronauts could produce their own tools or spare parts in zero gravity using 3D printing. This will reduce, weight and transport costs for space missions. Visitors can experience the innovative additive manufacturing process live at the fair.
Powder-based additive manufacturing in zero gravity is the name of the project in which a component is produced by applying metallic powder layers and then...
Physicists at the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics, which is jointly run by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, have developed a high-power laser system that generates ultrashort pulses of light covering a large share of the mid-infrared spectrum. The researchers envisage a wide range of applications for the technology – in the early diagnosis of cancer, for instance.
Molecules are the building blocks of life. Like all other organisms, we are made of them. They control our biorhythm, and they can also reflect our state of...
University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.
Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.
Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.
Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
09.04.2018 | Event News
26.04.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering
26.04.2018 | Life Sciences
26.04.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering