Using X-rays to Uncover the Identities of Molecules
As humans, we are exposed daily to an incredibly complex mixture of molecules, most of which we need for our well-being. But others are less helpful, and some are actually hazardous. Molecules can contain metals and other heavy elements that can range from being essential for health to benign or poisonous.
The identity of these molecules controls every aspect of how chemical elements are transported in the environment and taken up by living organisms, as well as whether they are beneficial, benign or toxic. But to identify and understand them, we need to be able to see them. The intense X-rays offered by synchrotron radiation help researchers do this.
As Canada Research Chair in X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy, Dr. Graham George makes extensive use of synchrotron radiation to answer fundamental chemical questions in the life, environmental and health sciences.
Specific areas of his research range from developing new methods and research tools, to studying the complex chemistry of sulfur in fossil fuels, examining the molecular mechanisms of metal-containing enzymes, and researching the toxic properties of heavy elements, such as mercury and arsenic.
Research by George and his team may lead to a cleaner environment, provide insights into how metals influence health and disease, and yield treatments and remediation strategies in health and the environment.