Magnetic Field Effect studies

Our research combines the experimental study of magnetic field effects, using a variety of experiments, with theoretical investigations into their origins.

Spin-Correlated Radical Pairs are important intermediates in a wide variety of chemical and biochemical reactions. It is well-established, both experimentally and theoretically, that reactions which occur via the Radical Pair Mechanism (RPM) are sensitive to the application of weak magnetic fields. This can be seen in the rates of recombination of radicals in solution, as well as in modified photosynthetic reaction centres.

Robin playing dice
Do birds play dice? Or is the magnetoreception
mechanism instead based on magnetite?

It is speculated that the RPM underlies the ability of some animals (notably migratory birds such as the European robin) to sense the Earth's magnetic field, a phenomenon known as magnetoreception. Recently we demonstrated that the RPM gives rise to magnetic field effects in DNA Photolyase, a protein very closely related to the cryptochromes. These have recently been speculated to be the molecules at the heart of this avian magnetic compass.


In the group we develop and apply new methodologies to study these magnetic field effects, with particular attention directed to:

The Carotenoid-Porphyrin-Fullerene (C-P-F) Triad molecule Protein Surface Interactions
A molecular compass, a triad molecule consisting of porphyrin, carotenoid and fullerene moieties (Maeda et al., Nature 2008) Magnetic field effects can be used to understand substrate-protein binding properties, as illustrated here (Maeda et al., JACS, 2010)


We enjoy many fruitful national and international collaborations within the chemical and physical communities (Peter Hore (Oxford), Thorsten Ritz (UC Irvine) and Stefan Weber (Freiburg)) as well as with our colleagues in zoology: Henrik Mouritsen (Oldenburg) and Wolfgang and Roswitha Wiltschko (Frankfurt).

Selected References

1 K. B. Henbest, et al., PNAS, 105(38), 14395-14399 (2008). (Link)

2 C. J. Wedge et al., Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 11(31), 6573-6579 (2009). (Link)

3 K. Maeda, et al., Nature, 453(7193), 387 (2008). (Link)

4 Kiminori Maeda, et al., J. Am. Chem. Soc., 132(5), 1466-1467 (2010). (Link