What Are Free Radicals?
Free radicals are species that contain an unpaired electron. This unpaired electron makes them, in general, highly reactive and damaging species. There is now widespread evidence that these species, and other related agents, play a key role in damaging other molecules. The high reactivity of these species can be of considerable industrial, biological and medical importance, both in terms of the damage that they can induce to important structural and functional components in chemical and biological systems, but also in terms of the destruction of unwanted materials such as invading micro-organisms and tumour cells. The high reactivity of free radicals also makes these species of great use in a number of industrial processes such as in the formation of polymers (via radical-mediated chain reactions) and in the synthesis of complex chemical molecules. They also play a key role in atmospheric and photochemistry and the damage induced by volatile pollutants.
The interests of the Society are broader than those of just free radicals. A range of related highly reactive species are also the subject of considerable interest including (to name but a few): excited states of oxygen and other molecules, reactions of hydrogen peroxide and related peroxides (which can act as both precursors of radical formation, and are products of many radical reactions), redox-active metal ions, the formations and reactions of hypochlorous acid and peroxynitrite, the effects of antioxidants, and the modes of action of various enzymes and electron transport chains that generate or remove radicals, or their precursors and their products. This list is not all encompassing and the society welcomes input and contact with any researcher involved, or interested in, reactive intermediates and their effects.