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16.11.2018 – 12:10

Jacobs University Bremen

Why geckos can stick to walls: Scientists at Jacobs University Bremen explore the chemical basis of London dispersion forces

It enables geckos to adhere to walls and ceilings, is involved in the formation of membranes in cells as well as in the docking of drugs to enzymes in the human body. Dispersion, i.e. the "weak interaction", is omnipresent in chemistry. A team of scientists at Jacobs University Bremen headed by Dean and Chemistry Professor Dr. Werner Nau has now succeeded for the first time in experimentally quantifying the "London Dispersion", named after the German physicist Fritz London, in solution. The results of their fundamental research have now been published in the renowned journal "Nature Chemistry".

The scientific work on the project started more than three years ago and dates back to a priority program of the German Research Foundation (DFG) in which working groups from various universities throughout Germany are involved. In addition to the University of Leipzig and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), scientists from the USA, Israel and England were also involved in the research project. The international cooperation was coordinated by Jacobs University, where the groundbreaking experiments were also carried out.

"It was a particular challenge to distinguish the dispersion interaction from other interactions," says Nau. This is easy to distinguish between attractive and repulsive effects, but difficult for effects within a group. There are a number of competing attractive interactions such as electrostatic or hydrophobic ones. The scientists have developed a system that allows their differentiation. "By using noble gases such as helium, neon and xenon, we were ultimately able to isolate the dispersion force," explains Nau.

These findings from basic research are important, for example, in the development of new drugs or for hydrogen storage materials. It has also been discovered that an interaction that has so far received little attention, namely the energy required to displace solvent molecules, plays a much more important role than previously thought.

The scientific journal "Nature Chemistry", published in Great Britain, is regarded as one of the most important and respected publications in its field. Nau and his team are continuing their research on dispersion, and this year the DFG project was extended once again, now covering two funding periods with a total volume of more than 600,000 euros. The future focus will also be on systems for binding methane using dispersion, which in turn is important for the next generation of energy-storage technologies.

Article in Nature Chemistry:https://www.nature.com/articles/s41557-018-0146-0

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41557-018-0146-0

About Jacobs University Bremen:

Studying in an international community. Obtaining a qualification to work on responsible tasks in a digitized and globalized society. Learning, researching and teaching across academic disciplines and countries. Strengthening people and markets with innovative solutions and advanced training programs. This is what Jacobs University Bremen stands for. Established as a private, English-medium campus university in Germany in 2001, it is continuously achieving top results in national and international university rankings. Its almost 1,400 students come from more than 100 countries with around 80% having relocated to Germany for their studies. Jacobs University's research projects are funded by the German Research Foundation or the EU Research and Innovation program as well as by globally leading companies.

For more information: www.jacobs-university.de

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Thomas Joppig | Jacobs University Bremen gGmbH 
Corporate Communications & Public Relations 
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