UKRI Molecular Mechanics Initiative

Have you ever wondered about how our bodies might work at the nanoscale, a scale at which we are composed of individual biomolecules? Where individual biomolecules such as enzymes take on the role of molecular machines, and where parts of a protein move like the pistons of an engine? How can one observe and analyse such intricate systems?

My research aims to address these questions. My laboratory develops optical techniques to directly visualise living machinery. We are interested in looking at biological nanomachines, such as motor proteins and enzymes, as they function and while disturbing them as little as possible. Our micro-optical devices and spectrometers have important applications in health, environment, security, and astronomy.

With our optical sensors, processes at the nanoscale can be studied with great precision. The observation of single atomic ions is just a first step towards exploring the ultimate limits of detection. By implementing advanced metrology and techniques from laser interferometry and atomic optics, further breakthroughs in nanoscale precision measurements are anticipated. Techniques from quantum optics combined with novel materials may enable yet unexplored sensing strategies.

Image: "Robot", by XVIVO Scientific Animation

Prof Frank Vollmer

University of Exeter, Living Systems Institute

Exeter EX4 4QD, United Kingdom

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