Chemical compass

The mechanism of a chemical compass

In the enchanting world of nature's mysteries, many migratory animals possess a remarkable compass-like sense known as "magnetoreception." This extraordinary ability enables them to embark on epic journeys guided by the Earth's magnetic field. Imagine songbirds taking to the skies, their internal compasses attuned to the subtle dance of our planet's geomagnetic forces. Recent behavioural experiments have unveiled a fascinating facet of this avian talent: some songbirds possess a light-activated magnetoreception. What makes this discovery even more captivating is that these birds rely on something other than traditional magnetic minerals for their celestial navigation. Instead, they seem to wield a chemical compass, a marvel rooted in quantum physics. At its core lies the enchanting concept of the "unstable radical-pair reaction," where two molecules come together to share a pair of electrons with correlated spin states. This reaction, like a finely tuned instrument, is exquisitely sensitive to the Earth's gentle magnetic whispers and can function as a celestial compass, allowing the birds to gauge their orientation with respect to the geomagnetic field.

With advanced computational techniques, we embark on a thrilling journey to explore the intricate dynamics of these chemical reactions. We study how they unfurl their secrets under ever-changing environmental conditions. At the heart of this research lies the promise of unlocking the hidden intricacies of our feathered friends' celestial navigation, bringing us one step closer to comprehending the mesmerizing mysteries of the animal kingdom.

Recent Publications

Understanding the Red Shift in the Absorption Spectrum of the FAD Cofactor in ClCry4 Protein, Katarina Kretschmer, Anders Frederiksen, Peter Reinholdt, Jacob Kongsted, Ilia A. Solov'yov, Journal of Physical Chemistry B, 128, 5320-5326, (2024)
Structural Rearrangements of Pigeon Cryptochrome 4 Undergoing a Complete Redox Cycle, Fabian Schuhmann, Jessica L. Ramsay, Daniel R. Kattnig, Ilia A. Solov'yov, Journal of Physical Chemistry B, 128, 3844-3855, (2024)
Tracking the Electron Transfer Cascade in European Robin Cryptochrome 4 Mutants, Daniel Timmer, Anders Frederiksen, Daniel C. Lünemann, Anitta R. Thomas, Jingjing Xu, Rabea Bartölke, Jessica Schmidt, Tomáš Kubař, Antonietta De Sio, Ilia A. Solov'yov, Henrik Mouritsen, Christoph Lienau, Journal of the American Chemical Society, 145, 11566-11578, (2023)
Dimerization of European Robin Cryptochrome 4a, Maja Hanić, Lewis M. Antill, Angela S. Gehrckens, Jessica Schmidt, Katharina Görtemaker, Rabea Bartölke, Tarick J. El-Baba, Jingjing Xu, Karl-Wilhelm Koch, Henrik Mouritsen, Justin L. P. Benesch, P. J. Hore, Ilia A. Solov'yov, Journal of Physical Chemistry B, 127, 6251-6264, (2023)
Mutational Study of the Tryptophan Tetrad Important for Electron Transfer in European Robin Cryptochrome 4a, Anders Frederiksen, Corinna Langebrake, Maja Hanić, Georg Manthey, Henrik Mouritsen, Miriam Liedvogel, Ilia A. Solov'yov, ACS Omega, 8, 26425-26436, (2023)