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Grant Funds Ultrafast Laser Development

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NORWICH, England, March 6, 2012 — University of East Anglia scientists are developing ultrafast laser equipment capable of generating femtosecond-scale intense light pulses from the ultraviolet to the infrared for 2-D electronic spectroscopy experiments. 

Funded by a £466,000 (about $734,000) grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the laser will be used for 2-D electronic spectroscopy experiments that look at the very fastest reactions. By studying how energy transfers in natural and artificial systems such as proteins and molecular materials, researchers will be able to help the design of new nanomachines and solar power collectors.

“With this equipment, we will be able to develop experiments which probe in exquisite detail the link between the efficiency of light-driven processes in natural and synthetic systems and the underlying molecular architecture,” said Steve Meech, a chemistry professor at UEA.

Two-dimensional electronic spectroscopy is analogous to the 2-D nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) method. The technique uses ultrafast visible light pulses to reveal coupling between electronic states, whereas NMR uses radio-frequency pulses to measure couplings between nuclear spins.

Most ultrafast experiments 20 years ago relied upon amplified dye lasers, which were difficult to use and unstable. With the discovery of the Ti:sapphire laser, a new family of experiments became possible.

“It is because of the amazing stability and reliability of these modern devices that we can even consider 2-D optical experiments, which may take days to run,” Meech said.

“The grant for equipment made by our strategic equipment panel will give UEA the tools they need, but EPSRC has also allocated a further £613,000 for staff and collaborations to drive this research forward,” said Lesley Thompson, the council’s director of research base.

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Mar 2012
solar radiation
Radiation from the sun that is made up of a very wide range of wavelengths, from the long infrared to the short ultraviolet with its greatest intensity in the visible green at about 5000 Å. The solar radiation the earth receives is more restricted, generally to the visible and near-infrared, as the air strongly absorbs the wavelengths located at either end of the spectrum.
2-D electronic spectroscopy2-D nuclear magnetic resonanceamplified dye lasersBasic ScienceBusinessenergyEngineering and Physical Sciences Research CouncilEnglandEPSRCEuropegreen photonicsLesley ThompsonnanomachinesNMRsolar power collectorssolar radiationspectroscopySteve MeechTi:sapphire laserUEAultrafast lasersUniversity of East Anglialasers

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