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|Fig.: The orientation of the molecules decides whether they will reach the end of this open tube. The electric field between the four metal rods changes constantly so that only conformers with the correct mass-to-dipole-moment ratio can pass through the open tube.
Image: Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society
Scientists in Berlin sort particles according to their structure
Many of the larger molecules have something in common with dolls - movable limbs. Physicists at the Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society in Berlin can now sort molecules according to the direction in which their "arms" and "legs" point. Normally, it is almost impossible to distinguish between these conformers - molecules with different orientation - and, in any event, molecule limbs usually flap about wildly. Nevertheless, orientation is important for biomolecules: they can only do their job when they point their limbs in the right direction. (PhysicalReviewLetters 100, 133003, April 4, 2008)
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