An international team of researchers are the first to demonstrate that a synthesized photochemical molecule composed of linked carotenoid (C), porphyrin (P) and fullerene (F) (CPF) units can act as a magnetic compass. When excited with light, CPF forms a short-lived charge-separated state with a negative charge on the ball-like fullerene unit and a positive charge on the rod-like carotenoid unit. The lifetime of the charge-separated state before it returns to its lowest energy or ground state is sensitive to the magnitude and direction of a weak magnetic field similar to Earth's.
This image accompanied NSF press release, "Research Team Is First to Model Photochemical Compass for Bird Navigation."
Credit: Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation