A team of graduate students along with a chemistry professor at Tulane University, New Orleans, LA, say that they have invented a new scientific instrument—the world’s first fully automated dual-frequency, two-dimensional infrared spectrometer.

Known as 2DIR for short, the instrument can give scientists a powerful new method to study DNA and other complex molecules by measuring distances and angles between molecular substructures, thus unraveling three-dimensional molecular structures while tracking changes at an ultra-fast time scale, they say.

No such instrument is currently available on the market and the spectrometer developed at Tulane will be used as a prototype for commercialization. The sensitivity and ease of operation of the instrument make the 2DIR method accessible for researchers in various areas of science.

Funded with grants from the National Science Foundation and the Louisiana Board of Regents, the instrument will be made available to a broad group of researchers across the country, including those at universities, national laboratories and corporations. Among the universities collaborating with Tulane and incorporating the 2DIR spectrometer in their research are the University of Texas at Austin, Georgia Institute of Technology, Duke University, Xavier University, Scripps Research Institute and the University of Colorado–Denver.