The work, titled Measuring the Elasticity of Poly-l-Proline Helices with Terahertz Spectroscopy was highlighted on the cover of Angewandte Chemie. In the study, it was determined that the terahertz vibrational motions of two forms of poly-L-proline were prototypical spring-type motions. This led to the discovery that the vibrational force constants could be related to Young's modulus, yielding a new method for interpreting terahertz spectroscopic data.
The research utilised a combination of experimental terahertz spectroscopy and powder X-ray diffraction, data that was then coupled to theoretical solid-state density functional theory simulations to ultimately yield the crystal structures and lattice dynamics of these materials in new detail. The results called into question the longstanding assumption that poly-L-proline helices are uniquely rigid, with the data suggesting that they are rather flexible compared to other biopolymers such as cellulose and poly-glycine.
Overall this study highlights another utility of terahertz spectroscopy, expanding its capabilities and opening the door for further innovations.