Scientific Laboratories at SNS and HFIR

Scientific Laboratories at SNS and HFIR

Located adjacent to SNS in the UT-ORNL Shull Wollan Center — a Joint Institute for Neutron Sciences, the Biophysical Characterization Laboratory (BCL) provides state-of-the-art instrumentation for the physical characterization of biological molecules and their interactions. The BCL is made available to all users of ORNL’s neutron scattering facilities. Applications to use the BCL can be submitted in parallel with neutron beam time proposals.

Enabling a deeper exploration into these biological systems and their behaviors, the laboratory’s core technologies include calorimetry (DSC and ITC), light scattering, densitometry, UV-Vis-near-infrared spectroscopy, fluorescence spectroscopy, monolayer preparation and characterization, gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, and chemical deuteration. These technologies are applied in several areas:

Biomembranes: Membrane biophysics is a specialty of the BCL. The facilities are ideally suited for the preparation and characterization of membrane models for neutron scattering and other techniques. Routine model systems include large and giant unilamellar vesicles, monolayers and Langmuir-Blodgett films. Techniques for the preparation of asymmetric vesicles are under development.

Protein Biochemistry: The BCL's capabilities are broadly applicable to characterizing protein behavior and reaction kinetics (folding, conformational change, binding and complex formation), especially using calorimetry, light scattering and various fluorescence techniques (emission spectra, lifetime, anisotropy and stopped-flow). Overall, these capabilities are highly complementary to neutron-scattering.

Soft Materials: Polymers, colloids, and thin films can all be studied and in some cases prepared in the BCL.

Deuteration: The BCL can provide access to deuterated small molecules for neutron scattering experiments. While our focus is on lipids (fatty acids, phospholipids and sterols), we have also deuterated sugars, enzyme inhibitors and other small molecules. GC/MS analysis of deuteration is routine for fatty acids, with analysis of amino acids and carbohydrates under development.

For further information, contact the BCL Director Bob Standaert.