We are exploring one of the most exciting frontiers of modern chemistry - the nanoworld. Advances in microscopy mean that we can now easily see objects as small as just a few nanometres in size. Meanwhile, advances in chemical synthesis, and the control of interactions between molecules, mean that we can construct such systems more easily than ever before. We are using this powerful combined approach to explore the structures, properties and applications of unique chemical systems which self-assemble on the nanoscale. Nanochemistry - the synthesis and study of nanoscale architectures, is a fundamental part of nanotechnology, as both materials and biological applications will depend on the new structures which chemists can generate.
We are interested in the unique properties and behaviour of branched macromolecules - dendrimers. In particular we are interested in assembling dendritic building blocks using non-covalent interactions to generate supramolecular dendrimers. This is a synthetically easy way of exploiting the unique properties and behaviour of branched molecules.
A Supramolecular Dendrimer
By the self-assembly of carefully designed dendritic building blocks, we can generate intriguing soft materials - gels. The individual molecules assemble into nanoscale architectures such as long fibres as a consequence of specific non-covalent interactions which occur between the individual dendritic assemblies. Gels are of great interest because they can be applied in areas as diverse as drug delivery, separations science and catalysis.
Self-Assembly of a Fibrillar Gel-Phase Material
The branched surface groups of dendrimers are ideal for forming multiple interactions with large biological molecules, and this leads to extremely strong binding. We are particularly interested in binding DNA. Binding DNA, and compacting it into nanospheres, is a key step in the delivery of genetic material into cells. We are therefore exploring applications of our dendrimers as nanotherapeutics for the protection and delivery of genetic information - so-called gene therapy.
Using Dendrimer Surfaces to Bind Biological Molecules
We are also interested in investigating the fundamental host-guest binding processes which can be used to underpin new developments in nanochemistry. We are especially interested in binding anions. Anions are of great importance in many biological processes - for example the misregulation of chloride channels causes cystic fibrosis. We are therefore particularly interested in developing simple, cost-effective anion binders, transporters and sensors, which will have applications in improving human health.
A Selective Optical Sensor for Fluoride Anions