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‘Filming’ excited state structural dynamics in photosynthesis and organic semiconductors (StructDyn)
Start date: Feb 1, 2012, End date: Jan 31, 2017 PROJECT  FINISHED 

I wish to record ‘atomic movies’ of the structural quantum response in photoexcited chromophores.The structure of molecules relaxes as a response to photoexcitation. Coherent atomic relocations are thought to be important in photosynthesis and they ‘wire’ together distant electronic systems on conjugated polymer chains. The structural details of such atomic motions remain today elusive, because experimental techniques to visualize them are simply not available.I will pioneer femtosecond time-resolved X-ray scattering at state-of-the-art European synchrotrons and free electron lasers to directly visualize the atomic details of such motions.The specific objectives of my challenging research plan are to measure the excited state structure of conjugated molecules; to film solvent structural dynamics on femtosecond time-scales; to directly visualize the coherent structural photoresponse of photosynthetic proteins and conjugated polymers; and to find out how nature uses structural dynamics for directed energy transport in photosynthesis.This research program builds on my strength in organic semiconductor photophysics and time-resolved X-ray scattering. I have pioneered a description of exciton energy transfer in conjugated polymers beyond the state-of-the-art and have mapped the complete photocycle of organic solar cells for the first time. Proving that I can successfully change research fields and produce high quality results, I have been the first to apply time-resolved wide angle X-ray scattering to the study of membrane protein structural dynamics.Femtosecond time-resolved X-ray scattering is a new generic approach with applications in physics, chemistry and biology. My work will open new horizons in quantum chemistry, photophysics, and structural biology.
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