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Posted: Mar 24, 2012
Forces among molecules: Tiny but important
(Nanowerk News) Forces are not only associated with machines or muscles. You can also find them elsewhere, for instance between molecules. Theoretical chemists like Dr. Lukasz Tomasz Rajchel (University of Warsaw) are familiar with that. However, they – or rather their computers – are not capable of calculating them with high accuracy and efficiency at the same time.
Dr. Lukasz Tomasz Rajchel (l.), Prof. Dr. Georg JansenThe scholarship holder of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation wants to get to the bottom of the computational problem while working in Prof. Dr. Georg Jansen's Theoretical Organic Chemistry team at the University Duisburg-Essen (UDE).
Since intermolecular forces are very small, the computational technique must be very precise. Furthermore, getting significant results by experiment is difficult. For solving the task Lukasz Rajchel refers to various approximations of quantum chemistry. 'They form my theoretical basis and shall help me develop new approaches for calculating intermolecular energies.' The 30 year old chemist solves the underlying equations with the help of self-developed computer codes.
The more Lukasz Rajchel and his colleagues get to know about the interactions between chemical compounds, the better they can understand matter and predict its characteristics. The significance of those tiny forces cannot be stressed enough.
'They are substantial in nature', says Dr. Rajchel. For example: they are responsible for DNA and RNA's stability in genetic information or for the existence of molecular crystals and the proteins' structure. Interestingly, they also let the gecko walk on vertical glass surfaces.