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Exploring the Molecular Conformation Space by Soft Molecule-Surface Collision.

  • Anggara, Kelvin1
  • Zhu, Yuntao2
  • Delbianco, Martina2
  • Rauschenbach, Stephan1, 3
  • Abb, Sabine1
  • Seeberger, Peter H2, 4
  • Kern, Klaus1, 5
  • 1 Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research, Heisenbergstrasse 1, Stuttgart DE-70569, Germany. , (Germany)
  • 2 Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, Am Muhlenberg 1, Potsdam DE-14476, Germany. , (Germany)
  • 3 Chemistry Research Laboratory, Department of Chemistry, University of Oxford, 12 Mansfield Road, Oxford OX1 3TA, United Kingdom. , (United Kingdom)
  • 4 Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Freie Universität Berlin, Arnimallee 22, Berlin DE-14195, Germany. , (Germany)
  • 5 Institut de Physique, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Lausanne CH-1015, Switzerland. , (Switzerland)
Published Article
Journal of the American Chemical Society
American Chemical Society
Publication Date
Nov 10, 2020
DOI: 10.1021/jacs.0c09933
PMID: 33167615


Biomolecules function by adopting multiple conformations. Such dynamics are governed by the conformation landscape whose study requires characterization of the ground and excited conformation states. Here, the conformational landscape of a molecule is sampled by exciting an initial gas-phase molecular conformer into diverse conformation states, using soft molecule-surface collision (0.5-5.0 eV). The resulting ground and excited molecular conformations, adsorbed on the surface, are imaged at the single-molecule level. This technique permits the exploration of oligosaccharide conformations, until now, limited by the high flexibility of oligosaccharides and ensemble-averaged analytical methods. As a model for cellulose, cellohexaose chains are observed in two conformational extremes, the typical "extended" chain and the atypical "coiled" chain-the latter identified as the gas-phase conformer preserved on the surface. Observing conformations between these two extremes reveals the physical properties of cellohexaose, behaving as a rigid ribbon that becomes flexible when twisted. The conformation space of any molecule that can be electrosprayed can now be explored.

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