Our Research Highlights

Annual Report 2019

Chemical reactions at “stardust conditions” are of fundamental importance to primordial molecular evolution. We studied reactions in ultracold helium nanodroplets (near the absolute zero) to mimic these conditions in the laboratory. Our joint experimental/theoretical study showed that HCl dissociation is highly sensitive to the sequence in which molecular aggregation takes place. The dissociation of HCl occurs readily upon stepwise microsolvation with water molecules, whereas no dissociation is found when HCl interacts with preexisting water clusters. These findings unveil that the fundamental question of whether acid dissociation and any subsequent acid/base chemistry can take place at ultralow temperatures does not have a simple “yes” or “no” answer. It is expected that this discovery is also a general feature of chemical reactions at ultracold conditions: Sequence matters!

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Annual Report 2018

Ion hydration is relevant to understand a variety of fundamental processes. THz-FTIR-spectroscopy is an important method to tackle unanswered questions in this research area. We find strong indications of non-additive ionic behavior in salt solutions, thus questioning the simplifying Hofmeister model. For high salt concentrations, THz spectroscopy allows us to observe and to quantify ion pair formation.

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Annual Report 2017

THz spectroscopy was used to probe changes that occur in the dynamics of the hydrogen bond network upon solvation of alcohol chains. The THz spectra can be decomposed into the spectrum of bulk water, tetrahedral hydration water, and more disordered (or interstitial) hydration water. The tetrahedrally ordered hydration water exhibits a band at 195 cm−1 and is localized around the hydrophobic moiety of the alcohol. The interstitial component yields a band at 164 cm−1, which is associated with hydration water in the first hydration shell. These temperature-dependent changes in the low-frequency spectrum of solvated alcohol chains can be correlated with changes of heat capacity, entropy, and free energy upon solvation. Surprisingly, not the tetrahedrally ordered component but the interstitial hydration water is found to be mainly responsible for the temperature-dependent change in ΔCp and ΔG. The solute-specific offset in free energy is attributed to void formation and scales linearly with the chain length.

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Annual Report 2016

Calcium carbonate (CaCO3) is pivotal to a variety of phenomena like rock formation and biomineralisation. Its nucleation process and the influence of soluble additives is also relevant for the development of new materials. However, the mechanism of CaCO3 nucleation is still debated and the role of water remains enigmatic. Terahertz (THz) spectroscopy has proved to be a powerful tool to assess water hydrogen bond network intermolecular dynamics and solvated ions modes in solution. Combined with a quantitative titration assay, this approach reveals the key role of water dynamics in the early stages of CaCO3 precipitation.

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Annual report 2015

Solvation Science is at the very heart of chemistry, chemical engineering and biochemistry. With RESOLV, RUB has launched solvation science as a new interdisciplinary field, providing a molecular, bottom-up description of solvation that is able to predict the properties of new solvent systems. Key to this is the synergy of a broad array of synthetic and engineering techniques with spectroscopic and theoretical methods.

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Annual report 2014

In life science water is the ubiquitous solvent, sometimes even called the “matrix of life”. There are more and more experimental and theoretical evidences that solvation water is not a passive spectator in biomolecular processes. New experimental techniques can quantify how water interacts with biomolecules and differs from “bulk” water. Terahertz (THz) absorption spectroscopy has turned out to be a powerful tool to study (bio)molecular hydration.

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Annual report 2013

Antifreeze proteins (AFPs) are a class of proteins that suppresses ice growth in polar fish, insects, bacteria, and plants and thereby enables their survival in subfreezing habitats. AFPs depress the freezing temperatures of ice growth of a solution without depressing the melting point equilibrium of protein solutions. In one proposed mechanism freezing point depression is achieved by an adsorption-inhibition mechanism, in which the proteins recognize and bind “quasi-irreversibly” to an ice surface.

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Annual report 2012

The details of ion hydration still raise fundamental questions relevant to a large variety of problems in chemistry and biology. The concept of water “structure breaking” and “structure making” by ions in aqueous solutions has been invoked to explain the Hofmeister series introduced over 100 years ago, which still provides the basis for the interpretation of experimental observations, in particular the stabilization/destabilization of biomolecules

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Fischeiweiß statt Frost. Molekularer Tanz lässt Wasser nicht gefrieren

Ein Gefrierschutzprotein aus dem Blut von Fischen verändert die Wassermoleküle in seiner Umgebung so, dass ihnen nicht das Blut in den Adern gefriert.
TV review 3sat/Nano 31th March 2011 (german)

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Antifreeze glycoprotein activity correlates with long-range protein-water dynamics

S. Ebbinghaus, K. Meister, B. Born, A. L. DeVries, M. Gruebele, M. Havenith

Communication, Journal of the American Chemical Society. August 16, 2010, DOI: 10.1021/ja1051632

Press Release: Frostschutz bei Fischen
Artikelin "Die Zeit" from 26.8.2010, Nr. 35, S. 36 (2010)

Secrets of anti-freeze proteins in Antarctic fish unlocked

Download the full interview here

Press Release: Anti-Freeze-Protein beeinflusst die Bewegung umgebender Wassermolekühle" "Press release Ruhr-University Bochum

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Label-Free Imaging of Metal-Carbonyl Complexes in Live Cells by Raman Microspectroscopy

K. Meister, J. Niesel, U. Schatzschneider, N. Metzler-Nolte, D. A. Schmidt, M. Havenith
Angewandte Chemie International Edition 49, 3310-3312 (2010). Supporting Material

Press Release: "Good vibrations" help in research into new bioactive metal complexes - RUB researchers study their intracellular distribution in living cancer cells - "VIP" publication in the professional journal "Angewandte Chemie"

Highlight from P. Hildebrandt
A Spectral Window to the Cell
Angewandte Chemie Int. Ed. 2010, 49 DOI: 10.1002/anie.201001616

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Press release : Observation: Formation of the smallest droplet of acid

06/2009: Press release
- New reaction mechanism at ultracold temperatures - Chemists in Bochum report in Science: 4 water molecules and one HCl are enough

Exactly four water molecules and one hydrogen chloride molecule are necessary to form the smallest droplet of acid. This was the result of work by the groups of Prof. Dr. Martina Havenith(physical chemistry) and Prof. Dr. Dominik Marx (theoretical chemistry) within the research group FOR 618. They have carried out experiments at ultracold temperatures close to absolute zero temperature using infrared laser spectroscopy to monitor the molecules. This has been accompanied by theoretical ab initio simulations. According to their calculations, the reaction at these extremely cold temperatures is only possible if the molecules are aggregating one after the other. Their results will be published in the newest issue of “Science”.

Science Article
A. Gutberlet, G. Schwaab, Ö. Birer, M. Masia, A. Kaczmarek, H. Forbert, M. Havenith, D. Marx
Aggregation-Induced Dissociation of HCl(H2O)4 below 1 K: The Smallest Droplet of Acid
Science 324, 1545-1548 (2009). DOI: 10.1126/science.1171753 - Supporting Material.

Nature Research Highlight in Chemistry
The tiniest acid drop
Nature 459, 1036 (25 June 2009). DOI: 10.1038/4591036d

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Press release :Topographie und Chemie von Nanotexten

05/2008: Press release
Topographie und Chemie von Nanotexten
New combined microscope allows reading and writing awards in two ways with RUB-chemistry poster prize.

Image Information: Nano-Smiley - In a HS-C6H12-OH monolayer was written with single-stranded DNA a face. The line width is 50 nm

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Press release : Protein Folding Modifies the Water in the Environment

02/2008: Press release
Protein Folding Modifies the Water in the Environment - New Knowledge Gained From Terahertz Spectroscopy - RUB Chemistry Observes “THz Dance“ Changes

Just a few weeks ago, teams from Bochum, Illinois, and Nevada were able to prove with terahertz (THz) spectroscopy that proteins do modify water molecules in their environment to a long range extent: The water molecules, which generally move around like disco dancers in their collective network motions behave more like in a neat minuet under protein influence. The group by Prof. Dr. Martina Havenith-Newen (Physical Chemistry II Dpt., RUB) managed to find out more about the rules of this dance. They could show that protein folding changes the dancing steps of the water. A partly unfolded protein will affect water molecules within the dynamical hydration shell to a much less extent than a folded one does. The higher the flexibility of the protein, the less affected is the water. The scientists present their conclusions as a “communication“ in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

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Press release : The terahertz dance of water with proteins

12/2007: Press release
The terahertz dance of water with proteins - PNAS reports: Disco becomes a minuet - Protein influence has a previously unsuspected long reach

It is in particular the type of fold that determines the function of proteins – this is a dynamic process that takes place very quickly. Up to now, the investigation of this protein "dance" has ignored its dancing partner: Water. This interplay between water and proteins has now been observed using terahertz spectroscopy by researchers from Bochum, Illinois und Nevada under the guidance of Prof. Dr. Martina Havenith-Newen (Physical Chemistry II at the RUB). This has enabled them to demonstrate for the first time that proteins influence the movements of the surrounding water network over a broad area. Some 1000 water molecules are "brought into line" by one protein: If their movement without protein more closely resembles a bunch of unchoreographed disco dancers, then in the vicinity of a protein it looks more like they are dancing a minuet. The researchers report on their study in the current edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science PNAS.

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Press release : Der Terahertz-Tanz des Wassers mit den Proteinen

12/2007: Press release
Der Terahertz-Tanz des Wassers mit den Proteinen - PNAS berichtet: Disko wird zum Menuett - Protein-Einfluss hat eine unvermutet große Reichweite

It is particularly the type of fold that determines the function of proteins - a dynamic process that takes place very quickly. An examination of this "dance" of the proteins we have so far ignored the partner: water. This interplay between water and proteins, researchers from Bochum, Illinois and Nevada to Prof. Dr. Martina Havenith-Newen (Physical Chemistry II RUB) is now observed with terahertz spectroscopy. They were the first to show that proteins influence the movements of the surrounding water network over wide areas. Some 1000 water molecules are "brought into line" by a protein: Do they move without protein so muddled as a group of disco dancers, then they go in the vicinity of a protein rather than a minuet. The researchers report their study in the current issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Science PNAS.

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Press release : Mit Terahertzstrahlung uraltes Rätsel gelöst

08/06 Press release
Mit Terahertzstrahlung uraltes Rätsel gelöst - Wasser ist aktiv: RUB-Chemiker beenden Spekulationen

Image: Wasser Moleküle innerhalb einer Solvatationsschale von 4 Ångström um ein Laktosemolekül.
Basis ist ein Schnappschuss eines CHARMM Moleküldatensatzes (D. Leitner) grafisch aufgearbeitet (E. Bründermann).

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