Light unlocks fragrance in UC laboratory

Light unlocks fragrance in UC laboratory

4:11 PM, 10th August 2011
Light unlocks fragrance in UC laboratory
Anna Gudmundsdottir, Researcher, University of Cincinnati.

 

CINCINNATI, US: At a recent Gordon research conference, Anna Gudmundsdottir described the work of her research team, including efforts to build organic magnets, and systems using light to release chemicals, including fragrances.

Highly reactive radicals are atoms, molecules or ions frantically trying to become something else. Their lifetimes are measured in fractions of seconds and typically occur in the middle of a chain of chemical reactions. They are also known as reactive intermediates. Much of Gudmundsdottir’s work has focused on a family of radicals known as triplet nitrenes.

“Triplet nitrenes are reactive intermediates with high spin. They live for milliseconds and that’s when we got into this idea can we make them stable enough for various investigations,” said Gudmundsdottir.  

The potential uses of relatively stable radicals have excited interest from industry. The high spin Gudmundsdottir describes suggests that triplet nitrenes, for example, might be ideal candidates for creating organic magnets that are lighter, more flexible and energy-intensive than conventional metal or ceramic magnets.

Gudmundsdottir described how her team used radicals to create a specific trap for a fragrance, which is then slowly released when exposed to light. “The question was, can you actually tether a fragrance to something so that it will release slowly?” said  Gudmundsdottir. “It turned out that a precursor similar to the ones we used to form the nitrenes could be used it as a photoremovable protecting group.”

The “photoprotectant” acts as a sort of cap, containing the fragrance until the cap is pried off by a photon of light. For this particular purpose, Gudmundsdottir said it was important to design a photoprotectant “cap” that was somewhat difficult to pry off. For household products, such as a scented cleaning fluid, consumers want fragrance to be released slowly over a long period of time. That requires what is known as a low “quantum yield.” In other words, how much fragrance gets released by how many photons.

The difficulty, Gudmundsdottir said, is that different applications need different rates of release. Gudmundsdottir’s research group studies the release mechanism, locates where there are limitations and tries to determine what controls the rate.

Much of this understanding develops from watching how radicals form and decay. Gudmundsdottir’s group uses a laser flash photolysis system to track the spectrum of radiated light as the radicals decay.

“Going forward, we probably want to do more applied study with our photo protective groups, to collaborate with someone to see them in some other applications,” she said. “I’m interested in how they act inside cells.”

Gudmundsdottir’s team has received research support from the National Science Foundation, the American Chemical Society-Petroleum Research Fund, UC’s University Research Council, Ohio Supercomputer Centre and the English Speaking Union.

© University of Cincinnati News

 

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