International team put single molecules in super-fridge

An international team of researchers led by our University has for the first time observed how a single two-atom-large molecule rotates in the coldest liquid known in nature.

The international collaboration consists of researchers from our Department of Physics and Astronomy, the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Grenoble, France and the Department of Physics in Kerbala, Iraq.

The interactions of molecules in liquids determines chemical reactions and biological processes. In ordinary liquids the interactions between the molecules is too strong and overshadows the subtle features of rotations.

By choosing a very special liquid composed of helium atoms the researchers reduced the strength of the molecular interactions so that they had the chance to see single molecules rotating.

Dr Klaus von Haeften added: “The results of these studies in liquid helium will be important to understand ordinary liquids, where such observations are impossible to make. This may trigger new applications of drugs for diagnostics and therapy and the development of new materials.”

Two of the international researchers involved in the project have conducted their PhD studies at our University.

Mrs Nagham Shiltagh (Iraq) is currently investigating how the technology developed in this project could be applied in other areas and Luis Guillermo Mendoza-Luna (Mexico) was involved in setting up the experiment and recording the data and has now assumed an academic position in Mexico.

The research was funded by British Council, The Leverhulme Trust, Royal Society, Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research.

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