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Research

Interaction Chamber
For the past 15 years, Dr. Jason Greenwood and Prof. Ian Williams with their research group ‘Ultrafast Belfast’ have been researching ultrafast molecular dynamics using femtosecond and attosecond lasers. This work started off with a specific focus on fundamental ionisation/fragmentation processes of atomic and simple molecular systems in intense fields, and has evolved to include time-resolved ultrafast dynamics of more complex molecules.

Recently, having developed new techniques for generating and analysing large, non-volatile molecules in the gas phase, Ultrafast Belfast has opened a number of collaborations to study ultrafast processes in a range of systems, such as:

Multiphoton chiral analysis

Chiral molecule L
Chiral molecule R
Chirality, the property of being distinguishable from ones mirror image, is an essential and defining feature in the chemistry of life. Pharmaceutical drugs exist as chiral molecules, with the two mirror images described as left- and right-handed. The efficacy of these drugs is determined by the 3-D molecular structure fitting into receptor sites in the human body – much like a left-hand fits into a left-handed glove, but not a right one. The production of pure drugs with a single molecular mirror image is critical in providing a desired pharmacological response. 
We are currently developing an instrument which will provide a highly sensitive and efficient means of differentiating left- and right-handed chiral molecules by interaction with ultrafast lasers.

Intramolecular ultrafast charge dynamics

Many biological processes such as photosynthesis, cellular respiration or conductivity in peptides are based on ultrafast charge dynamics in molecular systems. The understanding of these processes ultimately relies on explaining how the electron distribution evolves in time and in space within the biological compound. Indeed, the electron distribution is strongly related to the reactivity of each molecular site, therefore leading to the breaking and making of molecular bonds. 
Charge Dynamics Process
The combination of the attosecond laser technology and of a reliable molecular source able to produce neutral gas-phase compounds opened up the possibility to access the timescale of the electron motion in relatively complex system, such as DNA nucleosides and amino acids.