Professor Christopher Elles named July 2022 Sutton Family Research Impact Award Recipient

The Department of Chemistry congratulates Professor Christopher Elles on receiving the July 2022 Sutton Family Research Impact Award!

The Sutton Award is a monthly competition among chemistry faculty. Every month, the Chemistry Department Chair and Associate Chairs review the peer-reviewed papers published by chemistry faculty from the three previous months to select a winner. The recipient receives a $500 cash prize and is featured on the departmental website.

For a full list of winners, visit our Sutton Family Research Impact Award webpage.

Ultrafast Excited State Dynamics of Spatially Confined Organic Molecules

By Vaidhyanathan Ramamurthy, Pratik Sen, and Christopher G. Elles

Published in: J. Phys. Chem. A 2022, 126, 46814699

The outcome of a chemical reaction often depends on the surrounding environment. For example, molecules in the active site of a protein are sometimes distorted in ways that promote the desired outcome of a reaction, even when that outcome might not be favorable for the same molecule freely dissolved in solution. Teasing out the influence of a confined environment is not always easy, but the Elles group has been working with a team of collaborators to probe chemical reactions inside of a rigid molecular capsule. The molecular capsule provides a well-defined container that fits only one or two molecules at a time, and therefore restricts the motions available to the reacting molecules. The team has studied a wide range of reactions inside the capsules, including structure-changing photo-isomerization reactions of stilbene and azobenzene derivatives, as well as bimolecular and charge-transfer reactions. The work at KU uses ultrafast laser spectroscopy to monitor the evolution of the molecular structure on a timescale as short as femtoseconds, or less than a trillionth of a second. These measurements show remarkable differences between the reactions of the molecules inside the capsule and in solution, including new reaction channels that were not previously observed for azobenzenes. A comprehensive review of the research was published as a Feature Article in the Journal of Physical Chemistry A and was highlighted in the cover artwork for that issue of the journal.