17 March 2014
Supersubtle gadget opens research field for colour geek
Chemical processes in the body are hard to follow because structures are small and things happen quickly. But attach fluorescent colour to the biological molecule of interest, and you might get to sneak a peek after all. A group of researchers at the Nano-Science center at the Department of Chemistry, University of Copenhagen have just received funding from the Carlsberg Foundation to acquire a revolutionary piece of equipment.
Thomas Just Sørensen has the enviable job of procuring the new device which is central to his work on new and better dyes for diagnosis and research. The funding of DKK 500.000 will go towards buying an FT300 Picoquant fluorescence lifetime spectrometer.
Will follow molecules in transition
The new spectrometer will enable Sørensen and his colleagues to record time resolved fluorescence spectra. In ordinary language that means, that they can look at how chemical compounds change their molecular structures over time. And that is essential to the work he is about to embark on.
Time sliced very very fine
Fluorescing dyes work very much like the luminous hands on a wristwatch. Shine a light on them and they shine right back for a while. Since graduation Thomas Just Sørensen has investigated luminous dyes that keep shining for a very long time. This is useful for example if you want to follow a new drug as it enters a cell or any other biological process that elapses over time.
The timeframes investigated by Sørensen however are not for the faint of heart. Blink and you miss it. The new device is capable of following events on the scale of seconds but can also slice time as fine as picoseconds: That is. A millionth of a millionth second.
Carlsberg support for many chemists
Concurrent with the support for the spectrometer Carlsberg also financed the hiring for a year of post-docs Thomas Just Sørensen, Jens Bæk Simonsen and Tao Li and further supported four other researchers at the Department of Chemistry and the Nano-Science Center: Matthias Arenz, Gemma Solomon, Bo Wegge Laursen and Tom Vosch with a million DKK worth of devices and computers.