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EPSRC Programme Grant

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Photoactive UVR8 protein uses ultraviolet light to regulate plant flowering and seedling growth. Tom Oliver and Andrew Orr-Ewing

8 June 2021

Professor Andrew Orr-Ewing and Dr Tom Oliver, both from the School of Chemistry, have been awarded a 6-year, £7.9M Programme Grant by EPSRC entitled 'Ultrafast Photochemical Dynamics in Complex Environments', together with co-investigators from UCL, Imperial College, Oxford, and Durham.

The Bristol-led project will use cutting-edge ultrafast laser spectroscopy methods and quantum dynamical simulations to explore the photochemistry of molecules of biological and atmospheric significance on femtosecond and picosecond timescales.

Photochemical reactions are of vital importance in the natural world, and are exploited in many areas of science, technology, and medicine. For example, they initiate the mechanisms of animal vision, drive photosynthesis, affect air quality in our cities, and are central to advances in cell imaging using fluorescence microscopy. A molecular-level understanding of photochemical processes is essential to address current challenges facing society, such as developing new tools for disease diagnosis, mitigating pollutants in air, sustainably improving crop yields, and efficiently harnessing solar energy. Photochemical reactions begin with absorption of light by molecular chromophores, leading to electronic and structural changes in the absorbing molecules. In natural and artificial systems, these chromophores are often surrounded by a complex environment such as a solution or a protein, with the surroundings playing a crucial role in controlling the photochemical outcomes. The new EPSRC-funded project will explore how molecular-level interactions with the surrounding environment affect the photochemical pathways of molecules of biological, environmental, and technological importance. It will bridge fundamental and applied photochemistry by providing the knowledge needed to accelerate the development of efficient, photoactive molecules with wide-ranging applications in chemical synthesis, photoinduced catalysis, biological imaging, energy conversion, and medical therapies.

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