Sign-Posting Electrons

University of Sheffield scientists, Dr Anthony Meijer and Professor Julia Weinstein, have published new research that takes an important step forward in advancing the techniques used in creating molecular devices.

Molecular fork illustration for Julia Weinstein and Anthony Meijer's research

In the work, published this week in the journal Nature Chemistry, they demonstrate the control of electron transfer through use of a transition metal complex and ultrafast mid-infrared pulses.

Working with collaborators at the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Central Laser Facility (CLF), Professor Weinstein and Dr Meijer studied a new ‘fork’ molecule that can direct the destination of an electron in a precise manner when a particular infrared light pulse is applied.

Professor Weinstein explained, “Previous research has enabled us to switch electron transfer on or off. What makes our new research so exciting is that, via our synthetic molecule, we can now direct the path of an electron in a very specific and controlled way.”

Electron transfer is an important part of many natural processes, including the light harvesting process by which plants create and store energy through photosynthesis. Professor Weinstein explains, “In creating this ‘molecular fork’, we now have the ability to model natural molecular processes, such as photosynthesis. If we can replicate how energy is stored and utilised, then we have the basis to develop exciting new molecular technologies for the future.

“From new ways of capturing and storing the energy coming to us from the Sun, to developing new forms of computing technology, this research opens up some exciting new opportunities.”

The research was supported by EPSRC and STFC and the full publication is available in Nature Chemistry.

For further information about the research, please contact Professor Julia Weinstein via

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Image: Illustration by Helen Towrie at the CLF.