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Irradiation of model biomolecular nano-systems (RAD-NANO-BIOMOL)
Start date: 01 Feb 2008, End date: 31 Jan 2011 PROJECT  FINISHED 

"This project is centered upon the experimental study of ionization induced processes in mixed clusters as model systems for complex environments. The first objective is to compare the irradiation of a molecule within a cluster with the case of the molecule in isolation, extending to the investigation of different types of radiation upon clusters of different sizes, compositions, and charge. In addition to their relevance to fundamental aspects of molecular and statistical physics, these experiments will help to bridge the “complexity gap” between the current understanding of radiation effects in the gas phase and in a biological medium. This represents a major current research challenge for physicists, chemists, and biologists, with important applications in quantifying the effects of radiation exposure, in particular during cancer therapies. A mobile cluster source will be constructed at the Open University (UK) in order to carry out 2-photon ionization experiments which probe the effects of solvated water molecules upon the excited states of DNA and RNA base molecules and the associated dissociation pathways. The apparatus will be transported to Queen’s University Belfast to perform the first ion impact experiments upon these model systems, enabling analogies to be drawn with processes initiated in hadron-therapy treatments. Further novel experiments will be carried out at the Nuclear Physics Institute of Lyon probing collisions between protons and mass-selected nucleobase-water cluster ions. The integrated research program will advance the understanding of the roles of specific molecules and inter-molecular processes in radiation induced damage to DNA and can thereby improve the reliability of bio-medical simulations. An MC reintegration grant is sought for the acquisition of a state-of-the-art mass spectrometer and to finance a PhD studentship in partnership with the Open University: key elements to enhance the development and impact of this research."
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