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During a scientific project meeting held Friday 2 November at the Molecular Photonics laboratories of the University of Amsterdam's Van 't Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences, a unique novel Vibrational Circular Dichroism spectrometer was inaugurated. This one-of-a-kind spectrometer has been developed for the research project 'Development of an analytical Vibrational Optical Activity toolbox' financed by the NWO Innovation Fund Chemistry.

Image: HIMS/BioTools.

Started in 2015, the research project aims at developing VCD spectroscopy into a genuinely widely applicable analytical method. VCD has great potential for determining solution-state structure and conformation as well as absolute configuration of chiral (bio)molecular systems in general, and of chiral components of smart materials in particular.

User-friendly toolbox

Although VCD is a very powerful method to provide this information, it requires extensive computational and experimental efforts. This reduces its ease and range of applicability and thus its perspective for widespread industrial application.

To change this, the HIMS Molecular Photonics researchers led by Prof. Wybren Jan Buma are developing an efficient and user-friendly toolbox for VCD analysis together with the Computational Chemistry group of Prof. Luuk Visscher from VU University Amsterdam, the computational chemistry software company SCM (Amsterdam) and the world leader of VCD equipment BioTools (Jupiter, Florida). Prof. Larry Nafie, CTO of BioTools, is one of the founding fathers of the field.

All people involved with the development and delivery of the brand new VCD spectrometer. Front row left to right: Tiago Quevedo Teodoro (Postdoc, VU), Benjamin Strudwick (PhD student, UvA), Michiel Hilbers (technician UvA, Molecular Photonics). Back row left to right: Larry Nafie (CTO BioTools), Stan van Gisbergen (CEO SCM), Luuk Visscher (VU), Wybren Jan Buma (UvA), Paul Nicu (Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu, Romania – formerly UvA), Marijn Goes (Sr. Policy Officer NWO), Rina Dukor (CEO BioTools), Mark Koenis (PhD student UvA). Photo by Monique Kooijmans.

The project includes the development of novel algorithms to reduce computational turn-around time; of Resonance Enhanced VCD spectroscopy (and implementation of the relevant equations to allow analysis of RE-VCD spectra); and of a general response theory approach to VCD analysis.

The state-of-the-art VCD spectrometer now installed at the UvA/HIMS laboratory will play a key role in the development of the VCD toolbox. To this end supplier BioTools has fitted the apparatus with proprietary features to facilitate the toolbox development. These features make the spectrometer an unparalleled, one-of-a-kind instrument. To mark the 'special delivery' of the VCD spectrometer both Prof. Larry Nafie and the CEO of BioTools, Dr. Rina Dukor, attended the symposium last Friday.