Focus: Two-dimensional electron-electron double resonance and molecular motions: The challenge of higher frequencies

John M. Franck, Siddarth Chandrasekaran, Boris Dzikovski, Curt R. Dunnam, Jack H. Freed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The development, applications, and current challenges of the pulsed ESR technique of two-dimensional Electron-Electron Double Resonance (2D ELDOR) are described. This is a three-pulse technique akin to 2D Exchange Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, but involving electron spins, usually in the form of spin-probes or spin-labels. As a result, it required the extension to much higher frequencies, i.e., microwaves, and much faster time scales, with π/2 pulses in the 2-3 ns range. It has proven very useful for studying molecular dynamics in complex fluids, and spectral results can be explained by fitting theoretical models (also described) that provide a detailed analysis of the molecular dynamics and structure. We discuss concepts that also appear in other forms of 2D spectroscopy but emphasize the unique advantages and difficulties that are intrinsic to ESR. Advantages include the ability to tune the resonance frequency, in order to probe different motional ranges, while challenges include the high ratio of the detection dead time vs. the relaxation times. We review several important 2D ELDOR studies of molecular dynamics. (1) The results from a spin probe dissolved in a liquid crystal are followed throughout the isotropic → nematic → liquid-like smectic → solid-like smectic → crystalline phases as the temperature is reduced and are interpreted in terms of the slowly relaxing local structure model. Here, the labeled molecule is undergoing overall motion in the macroscopically aligned sample, as well as responding to local site fluctuations. (2) Several examples involving model phospholipid membranes are provided, including the dynamic structural characterization of the boundary lipid that coats a transmembrane peptide dimer. Additionally, subtle differences can be elicited for the phospholipid membrane phases: liquid disordered, liquid ordered, and gel, and the subtle effects upon the membrane, of antigen cross-linking of receptors on the surface of plasma membrane, vesicles can be observed. These 2D ELDOR experiments are performed as a function of mixing time, Tm, i.e., the time between the second and third π/2 pulses, which provides a third dimension. In fact, a fourth dimension may be added by varying the ESR frequency/magnetic field combination. Therefore, (3) it is shown how continuous-wave multifrequency ESR studies enable the decomposition of complex dynamics of, e.g., proteins by virtue of their respective time scales. These studies motivate our current efforts that are directed to extend 2D ELDOR to higher frequencies, 95 GHz in particular (from 9 and 17 GHz), in order to enable multi-frequency 2D ELDOR. This required the development of quasi-optical methods for performing the mm-wave experiments, which are summarized. We demonstrate state-of-the-art 95 GHz 2D ELDOR spectroscopy through its ability to resolve the two signals from a spin probe dissolved in both the lipid phase and the coexisting aqueous phase. As current 95 GHz experiments are restricted by limited spectral coverage of the π/2 pulse, as well as the very short T2 relaxation times of the electron spins, we discuss how these limitations are being addressed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number212302
JournalJournal of Chemical Physics
Issue number21
StatePublished - Jun 7 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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