Manchester Centre for Biophysics and Catalysis (MCBC)

Laser facilities

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We have installed laser flash photolysis which is one of the most effective methods for studying the reactions of transient species such as radicals, excited states or ions, in chemical and biological systems. Samples are excited with a 6-8 ns laser pulse and any spectroscopic changes measured with nanosecond time resolution. Laser flash photolysis has been used increasingly in the area of bioinorganic reaction mechanisms, for example, studies on electron transport in cytochromes or ligand binding by haem containing proteins.

We have also installed ultrafast transient absorption spectroscopy for the study of molecules on extremely short timescales (femtoseconds to nanoseconds). We have a broadband pump-probe transient absorption spectrometer (HELIOS), which is designed to investigate the dynamics of electronically excited states with femtosecond time resolution. In addition, we can also integrate this instrument with a state-of-the-art broadband sub-nanosecond flash photolysis spectrometer (EOS) to extend the time window to seconds.

The Centre also has laser equipment for the study of magnetic field effects in small molecule and macromolecular systems.

Related technologies:

[-] Raman spectroscopy

We use a range of Raman spectroscopies (conventional Raman, Raman optical activity and surface enhanced Raman scattering) to study the structure and behaviour of biological molecules. These Raman methods are powerful vibrational tools for studying the conformations, and conformational changes, of proteins, nucleic acids and viruses. Two inherent advantages of these methods are their sensitivity to biomolecular structure (tertiary fold, secondary structure motifs, specific residues) and their wide applicability (solutions, solids, films, living cells, tissue samples, no molecular size limits, no crystals required).

[-] Single molecule approaches

MCBC is developing novel single-molecule methods to study the dynamics of macromolecular systems. We use fluorescence microscopy (including confocal and TIRF) to study the static and dynamic heterogeneity of single biomolecules in vitro and in vivo. Single molecule instrumentation is located in both the Photon Science Institute and the Manchester Interdisciplinary Biocentre..

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[-] Advanced fluorescence techniques

Fluorescence spectroscopy is a powerful research tool that we use in MCBC to probe a wide range of molecular processes, including the interactions of fluorophores with the solvent, conformational changes, binding interactions, rotational diffusion of biomolecules, distances between sites on biomolecules and also the rate of chemical reactions.

As well as our conventional fluorescence techniques we also use a variety of more sophisticated fluorescence methods to obtain dynamical information about the molecules of interest. These include fluorescence lifetime measurements, fluorescence resonance energy transfer, fluorescence anisotropy and time-resolved fluorescence. In addition, we also use fluorescence spectroscopy for our single molecule studies (see single molecule approaches).